How to create a digital fundraising strategy [with examples]

Jesper Juul Jensen
CEO
10
Min to read

Fundraising has changed. It's no longer about asking for money and hoping for the best. Today's fundraisers must be data-driven, strategic, digital-first and collaborative — but how do you get there?

In this post, we'll walk through a 7-step process that will help you create a digital fundraising strategy so your organisation can engage with new donors and raise more money than ever before:

What is digital fundraising, and why does it matters

Digital fundraising is a way to raise money online. Digital fundraising has been growing at a faster rate than overall fundraising in recent years, and it’s only going to continue growing in the future. As these trends continue, nonprofits need a digital fundraising strategy that works with their organisation's goals and values.

Most nonprofits see the long-term benefits of investing in digital fundraising. It can help build a strong relationship with supporters, increase donations and lower the costs associated with raising funds.

Moreover, digital fundraising can help nonprofits build a community of supporters who are invested in their mission and want to get involved in fundraising efforts. This is why it’s so essential for organisations to create a high-level digital fundraising strategy that supports their overall goals and values.

We have divided the process of creating an online fundraising strategy  into 7 steps.

  1. Review past strategies and results
  2. Set Goals and KPIs
  3. Make sure your digital fundraising strategy resonates with your target audience.
  4. Create a communication plan that fits the strategy
  5. Identify all relevant channels
  6. Choose the right tools for your strategic fundraising plan
  7. Measure and track performance

And for good measure, we will end with six additional best practices for digital fundraising.

Let's start!

1. Review past strategies and results

Before you start strategising, it's essential to look at your organisation's past strategy. Your fundraising strategy is only as good as the data that informed it. This can be as simple as reviewing old emails or campaign reports, but it can also mean digging into more complex data sets if necessary (such as Google Analytics).

To start, look at what worked: did people tend to open emails with links? Did they click on the donation form in your email? Were there specific images or words that resonated better than others? If something was particularly effective, consider repeating it in later campaigns. Additionally, think about what didn't work - you may notice trends here that can help inform future decisions regarding how you approach digital fundraising strategies.

It is essential not  to figure out why something worked or didn't work, jus because you have been unsuccessful with an area previously doesn't mean you can improve and be successful in the future.

Review learnings

With a better understanding of what has worked in the past, it's time to start thinking about where you want your organisation to go. What do you want to accomplish with this campaign? How will fundraising goals inform your overall strategy? Are there specific metrics you hope to hit (such as total donations or average gift size)? If so, these should be included in your plan.

2. Set goals and KPIs

You will be more successful in achieving your fundraising goal by setting clear, measurable goals and KPIs. Goals and KPIs are also crucial for tracking progress and understanding if your digital fundraising strategy is working or not.

For example, one goal for a digital fundraising strategy could be to gain 1,000 new donors by, e.g. October 31st. The KPI to measure the success of this goal would be the number of new donors who signed up.

The best way to start setting goals for your online fundraising campaign strategy is by asking, “What do we want our organisation to achieve?” And then work backwards from those goals. This will help you create the right online fundraising campaign strategy for your organisation.

You can read our blog post on the P2P fundraising KPIs every charity should track

How to set SMART goals for your digital fundraising strategy

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. These goals should be written down and posted somewhere visible to help you stay motivated.

The first step in creating SMART goals is defining what your goal is. For example, if you want to get more donors, it's not enough to state a goal of 1000 new donors. You have to define what that means for you— In how many weeks or months? recurrent or one-off? any minimum donation amount?

The next step is setting a deadline for when this goal will be achieved by. This can be a great motivator when things get tough and help create some urgency. Remember that it should be realistic; your goal should be realistic given the resources available to you right now (time, money, manpower).

Once you've defined your goal and how you'll measure it, the next step is developing an action plan. What steps do you need to take to achieve your goal? If your goal is gaining 100 donors in 10 weeks, what activities will help keep you on track? Running social media ads? optimising your website? partnering up with influencers? Whatever they may be, write them down and make sure they're realistic—you don't want to set yourself up for failure before even starting!

SMART goals

3. Make sure your digital fundraising strategy resonates with your target audience

When making your action plan to reach your goals, you must ensure that your online fundraising strategy resonates with your target audience.

One way to do this is by using audience research in your design process. You can do this by creating a user persona—a fictional character representing the average supporter. This can be too simplistic, so you might want to create several user personas.

Creating users personas

You'll start by interviewing some of your current or potential supporters. These interviews are important because they allow you to understand not only their needs and goals but their language as well—which will help you create better content later on.

You can also do some desk research into the types of people who might be interested in your organisation's offerings by looking at similar organizations and seeing what kind of people donate money or volunteer time there.

User persona template

4. Create a communication plan that fits the strategy

You’ve already done a lot of the work, which is to say that you have a plan. Now it’s time to start communicating it. This includes developing and implementing the right messaging and marketing tools, like website copywriting, social media posts and email outreach.

Your communication plan should be created as a separate process. This is because it relates to all fundraising communication and not just digital fundraising. Nonetheless, if you don't already have one, you should touch on this in your digital fundraising strategy.

A few key best practices for a communication plan.

  1. Define the 'right language'. When writing website copy or social media posts, ensure all your messaging is consistent with the rest of your brand’s voice. Remember that your audience is looking for a reason to believe in what you offer, so they must see themselves reflected in your messaging.
  2. Be consistent. Once you’ve developed a plan for how you want to communicate, stick with it! Don't let your language or plan slip away by lack of discipline. Focus on what you do well and make that clear to your audience.
  3. Create an editorial calendar. Creating an editorial calendar is a great way to ensure that you're posting content and promoting your organisation at the right times. This will help you reach your audience, as well as make sure that your team is working efficiently and effectively.
  4. You should always make sure that your calendar fits with your fundraising cadence. That means if you're going to have a big fundraiser in March, you'll want to start promoting it in February.

5. Identify all relevant channels

The first step is to identify all the relevant channels you are using and have been using to reach your audience in the past. These could include email, social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), direct mail, telemarketing and text messaging. The answer will often be informed by your user personas, as you want to align channels with where your audience is.

In digital fundraising, a key question is whether P2P fundraising is a good channel for you or whether crowdfunding is a better option for your organisation.

Read our post the difference between Crowdfunding and P2P Fundraising.

Once you have identified all the relevant channels, it is time to decide how often you will use each one.

This is where your audience will come in handy again: they can tell you what they would like and do not like when it comes to communication with them.

6. Choose the right tools for your digital fundraising plan

Once you have a solid plan for how you will use your digital fundraising plan, it's time to choose the right tools for your organisation.

First and foremost, it's important to remember that the tools you choose should be easy to use and affordable. In addition to these basic requirements, ensure they integrate with other systems (e.g., CRM or donor database) so that data can be shared between teams within your organisation and across platforms efficiently.

Create an analysis of how your current tools compare to your goals. Are there any gaps between what you want to achieve and what your existing tools enable you to do? Are there any areas where your existing tools hinder you from obtaining your goals?

For example, it could be that you have a goal of getting more Tribute Funds created. In this case, you should probably seek out a P2P Fundraising solution that supports this type of fundraiser.

Own the channel?

In many cases, you will be confronted with whether to own a channel or use a third-party platform. Should you own it using a white-label solution for P2P fundraising like BetterNow, or should you use third-party platforms like Facebook or JustGiving?

Read our FAQ on Facebook vs white-label fundraising solutions for P2P fundraising.

When crowdfunding, a platform like Facebook or BetterNow Crowdfunding is usually the best option. But even here, you can get white-label solutions to implement on your homepage.

7. Measure and track performance

To achieve your fundraising goals, you’ll need to set up a system to measure your progress.

This is particularly important in digital fundraising: if you don’t have a strategy for measuring how well your efforts succeed, you won’t know when (and if) they're working as well as they could be. You may not need anything too fancy or complicated—a simple spreadsheet should be enough for most small organisations—but make sure that whatever approach you take includes the following elements:

  • A list of all the key metrics that matter to your organization and its donors (e.g., average donation size)
  • An explanation of how each metric will be calculated (e.g., by averaging all donations received during X period)
  • A method for keeping track of these metrics over time so that they can be compared against previous periods
Fundraising goal tracker

Additional best practices to build into your strategy

There are a few other best practices that you can incorporate into your digital fundraising strategy to ensure success.

Clear CTA on all pages

Make sure there is a clear call to action on each page of your site. This is also the case if these pages are information about your cause. The most important thing is to have one, as this will prompt visitors to take the next step, whether downloading an e-book or making a donation.

Visual content

Use images that include people from the communities you serve. A picture is worth 1,000 words, which will help potential donors feel more connected to the people who need their help.

Personalised content

Many CMS (content management systems) allows you to target the content of pages based on what the visitor previously looked at on your home page. For example, if someone clicks on an article about water scarcity in Africa and later proceeds to the 'support us' donation page, you can tailor this with information about water scarcity in Africa.

Nurture your leads

Too many organisations are overly occupied with getting leads rather than converting them. Lead nurturing is the process by which you convert donor leads.

A strong donor nurturing program is an integral part of any successful fundraising strategy because it helps your organisation keep the people who have already shown interest in your cause engaged and excited about what you do. It also helps you find new donors by turning passive leads into active ones through repeated communications.

Newsletters for non-donors

Don’t forget to include an email signup form on your site. If someone wants to receive updates from your organisation, then let them know how they can do so by including an email signup form at the bottom of every page. This will help ensure that you don’t lose touch with people who are interested in learning more about what you're doing.

Collect data for segmentation

Segmented donor lists are incredibly valuable. It gives you the ability to target your messages more effectively and get more engagement from your audience.

Segmentation is thought only as good as your data. To ensure you can collect data to segment your supporters for future campaigns. Your future colleagues will thank you for doing this!

Conclusion

In this post, we’ve covered several best practices for creating a digital fundraising strategy. These include reviewing past strategies and results, setting goals and KPIs for your organisation, developing a strategy that speaks to your target audience and developing a communication plan that fits the strategy.

We also discussed identifying relevant channels for your audience, choosing the right tools for your organisation and measuring performance against those goals over time.

Now it is time to execute your strategy, don't let this become a paper exercise!

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