Online fundraising is here to stay – even after live events resume.
Events area the primary drivers of the donations nonprofits need to survive. While online fundraising experiences year-over-year growth, when the pandemic shut down all of our physical venues, they became the only options for nonprofit organizations. As a result, digital marketing became a vital resource for nonprofit sustainability:
- Nonprofit digital ads grew 144%
- 55% of nonprofits ad budgets were directed specifically to fundraising
- Overall online revenue increased by 23%, up from 15% from the previous year
Virtual fundraisers come with many unique benefits:
|Traditional Fundraisers||Virtual Fundraisers|
|Limited to local supporters||Have no geographical limitations|
|Greater financial risk||Less financial risk|
|Donating involves paying by card, writing a check, or donating online||Secure, one-click donations – and reoccurring donations|
|Caters more to traditional donors and older populations||Caters to everyone, and can more easily attract younger donors|
|Events usually require physical attendance||Events are virtual and people from all over the world can attend from their homes|
|Usually have time-constraints, especially have it’s a physical event||More liberal timelines and usually easier to donate at any time|
|Requires the rental of a physical space, setup, takedown, and scheduling constraints||Require some technical skills, but much less setup and takedown|
|Can be difficult to gather contact information and to keep it organized||Easier to gain email and billing addresses, which helps your organize your contacts and campaigns|
Developing a strong online fundraising strategy will help you remain competitive, keep donations rolling in, and bring awareness to your cause. Here’s how to create an online fundraising strategy that will increase profits and activate donors and sponsors:
Your Virtual Fundraiser Checklist
We’ve created a checklist to help you move your fundraising online or to perfect the strategy you already have:
- Budget – What funds do you have available? This will help you determine the kind of event you’re looking to throw, as well as what goals you may have.
- Timeline – How much time do you have to plan this event? Also, will the event be one-time or ongoing?
- Goals – What are your milestones and ultimate target?
- Fundraiser Type – What type of fundraiser are you going to throw? A livestreaming event, a campaign, or combination of the two?
- Platform – What platform(s) will you be using?
- Promotional Strategy – Where and how will you be promoting your virtual fundraiser?
- Audience Engagement – How will you engage and keep your audience engaged during the event?
- Rehearsal Time – Run a dress rehearsal before going live to fix any bugs and make sure that everything is ready
- Launch – Put your plan into action
- Thank Yous and Follow-Ups – Thank your donors and keep them informed and engaged after the event
Budget, Timeline, and Goals
Every fundraiser has a budget, a timeline, and goals, which are based on your nonprofit’s needs and constraints. Determine yours by analyzing the data you’ve been collecting. This can include donor retention rates, attendance and participation in earlier events and campaigns, email open rates, and previous fundraising goals.
Using a data management tool will help you better track this information and make your life a lot easier. You can learn how much you spent on our previous fundraisers, how long they took to plan, how long they lasted, and how much you received in donations.
If you’re starting a new event or don’t have any data collected, some of this process will be guesswork. Here a list of costs you should budget for:
- Marketing costs, both direct and indirect
- Advertising costs
- Content creator costs (web designers, copywriters, video producers, etc.)
- Landing page costs
- Mailing list costs, both email and direct mail
- Fundraising software subscription fees
- Transaction fees
- Credit card fees
Be sure to give yourself enough time to put an online fundraiser together. Also, determine the length of time your fundraiser will take place (more on this shortly).
Lastly, set a realistic goal to reach. Data collection tools will make this much easier. If you don’t have one, look at fundraisers online put on by organizations that are comparable to yours to determine a benchmark for your success. Whatever you goals are, make sure that they are measurable and attainable.
Choosing Your Fundraiser Type
Fundraisers are as diverse and creative as the people running them. When you’re fundraising online, you have two main options to choose from: a live streaming event or a fundraising campaign.
If you’re looking to recreate the live event experience, then livestreaming is for you. Live stream events have the physical event feel, but in a virtual space. Like physical events, live streams may require ticketing, registration, and donations before, after, and throughout the event itself.
Fundraising via livestreaming can lead to more donations and increased exposure to a new target audience. Since livestreaming happens in real time, your audience is engaged and encouraged to make more donations because they’re a part of the action. They can also give instantly without having to worry about missing anything.
Fundraising campaigns time-limited online fundraisers, and perfect for DIY events, telethons, and peer-to-peer fundraising. Instead of there being a virtual event to attend, fundraising campaigns are hosted on a landing page, whether it be on social media, the host’s website, or a similar medium.
Don’t Limit Yourself
If both livestreaming and campaign interest you, incorporate elements of both! Bookend your campaign with livestream events, or plan one in the middle of your campaign to reinvigorate your donators. You have plenty of options, so don’t hesitate to get creative.
Choosing Your Platform
If you decide to incorporate livestreaming in your online fundraising, you’ll need to determine if you want it to be public, semi-private, or private, and what platform to stream it on.
Public events are free to attend with a URL link that is accessible to anyone. Semi-private events requires attendees to register for the events to receive a URL, but that URL can technically be shared with anyone. Semi-private events are comparable to creating an event on Facebook and using the privacy setting “guests can invite friends.” If you’re looking for exclusivity, then a private event is your best bet. Private events require ticket authentication to ensure that they can only be redeemed once.
Once you’ve decided on your event’s level of privacy, here are just a few of the platforms you can use to live stream your event:
Promoting Your Online Fundraiser
It takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase will take place. Promoting a fundraiser isn’t much different. Here are a few strategies you can utilize when promoting your virtual fundraiser. To maximize your results, use as many of them as you think will be effective:
Create a Landing Page
Landing pages are created with a specific event or offer in mind. In this case, that’s your fundraising event. It’s usually just the one page with all of the information your page visitors need to know with a call-to-action encouraging them to register for the event, or to at least give you their contact information.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to generate donor interest. The click-through rate for nonprofit emails is 25.96%, compared to the universal email open rate of 6%. Make the most of your email marketing by personalizing your emails and writing emotionally gripping subject lines and hooks.
Create a Facebook page and invite your friends, family, and anyone else who may be interested in your fundraiser. We recommend creating a regular page as opposed to an event page because regular pages don’t have a definitive lifespan. After the event concludes, you can continue to post updates and future events on your page.
You should also start a hashtag for your event on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and any other platform you consider using. Encourage others to use the hashtag to generate more buzz.
Reach out to your local press, newspapers, helpareporter.com, and all other relevant media sources. Contact companies and magazines within your niche as well to generate more attention.
Google Paids Ads and Organic Content
Purchase ads via Google with savvy keyword optimization so that your potential donors can more easily find you. Starting a blog, vlog, or other forms of content will help improve your organic ranking on Google.
Your Dress Rehearsal
Do a test run of your event before going live – especially if you’re livestreaming it. Ensure that your internet connection, video, and audio are working properly. Test your lighting and make sure that your back drop is in order. Walk yourself or your team through your event’s timeline and think about how your engage with your audience.
Successful events usually have:
- Clear, easy ways for your audience to donor or become repeat donors
- Continuously new, engaging material to support your messaging and cause
- A script and well-prepared speakers
- Pre-recorded videos and upbeat music to play during breaks, transitions, and downtime
- Speaker/donation engagement on the fundraising page or event chat box
- Interactive activities such as polls or quizzes
- Special prizes for donors that donate certain amounts
Your dress rehearsal will help you identify what’s working and what needs to be tweaked. Once your practice run goes smoothly (or at least smoothly enough to your liking), you’re ready to launch!
First things first: don’t stress the hiccups – they’re going to happen. Online events are filled with them, so don’t sweat it. Instead, have fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, your audience will, too – and they’ll be more likely to donate.
One disadvantage virtual events have is limited one-on-one interaction with your audience, so try to be as engaging as possible throughout your event. Recognize people when they donate, thank them, and try your best to keep to your schedule. The better prepared you are, the more successful your virtual fundraiser will be.
Thanks Yous and Follow-Ups
Thank people throughout the entire event. Don’t just thank them when they donate. Thank them for being there, thank them for participating, and thank them after the event.
Shortly after the livestream or campaign concludes, send your audience a follow-up email thanking them again and to inform them of how the fundraiser went. Always have an upbeat, appreciative tone, and use positive language – even if you didn’t reach your goals.
Keep your audience informed and show them where their donations are going. If your fundraiser is for feeding the homeless, highlight how many meals are now possible because of the money raised. If it’s for a new wing for a university, provide them with updates about the construction and when it’ll be open. Also, keep donors in the know about your next fundraising event and how they can continue to give.
While the process of fundraising online has its differences, the act itself is the same. Approach online fundraising as an optimist. It comes with many great new opportunities, and if you’re able to adapt quickly, you’ll be among the pioneers that are enjoying the benefits of virtual fundraising.
Q. How can I give to a nonprofit?
- There are three main ways to donate to a nonprofit, depending on the needs of the cause:
- Financial donations provides an organization with the revenue it needs to operate
- Volunteering your time helps nonprofit staff members more easily accomplish their goals
- Donating products or services saves an organization money that it would otherwise have to spend
Q. Are there rules about how much fundraising a nonprofit has to do?
- Public charities must receive at least a third of their support from the general public, so yes. Your organization can only receive up to two-thirds of their contributions from your board members, founder, and staff.
Q. What is crowdfunding?
- Crowdfunding is a way to raise money from a large number of people passionate about a subject or cause. These large groups pool together small, individual investment to have a company or project get off the ground. Sites like KickStarter and GoFundMe are examples of crowdfunding.
Q. What is peer-to-peer fundraising?
- Peer-to-peer fundraising is similar to crowdfunding. It’s a fundraising strategy that uses your existing support network to raise money for your cause. This means that individuals can create personal fundraising pages for your cause’s behalf, feeding revenue back int your organization or specific campaign you’re running.
Q. Do I need 501(c)(3) status in order to start fundraising?
- You can raise funds without 501(c)(3) status, but careful understanding of tax laws, rules, and solicitation regulations is needed. Consult a professional.