This post was contributed by Donately.
Virtual fundraising has been on the rise for quite a while now, and with the COVID-19 pandemic throwing the world for a loop, nonprofits had no choice but to accelerate their shift to the digital space. So long as social distancing guidelines remain in effect, nonprofits simply don't have the option to put their fundraising efforts on hold waiting for the opportunity to run physical events.
Luckily, many nonprofit fundraisers like yourself were already experimenting with online fundraising and didn't allow the pandemic to completely halt their fundraising. While you have some experience with online fundraising, chances are you may need some guidance to solidify your updated strategy; or, maybe you just need some fresh ideas to keep donors on their toes. Either way, we're here to help!
Here at Donately, we specialize in online fundraising and aim to empower organizations with the tools they need to succeed. With our expertise, we're confident we can provide advice to help your nonprofit navigate these uncertain times. To help, we've compiled a list of top virtual fundraising strategies any nonprofit can pull off.
We'll walk through the following ideas and give you some actionable tips for success along the way:
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
- Online Auctions
- Online Giving Days
- Text-to-Donate Campaigns
Ready to enhance your virtual fundraising strategy? Let's get started!
1. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
At some point, you've likely encountered a peer-to-peer fundraiser, even if your nonprofit wasn't the one hosting it. Peer-to-peer fundraisers are used by a number of organizations and for good reason. They work!
These campaigns can spread like wildfire when they're run effectively because they harness the power of social proof and competition. In short, social proof is the idea that people follow the actions of others because they don't otherwise know what to do.
One example of social proof is the "wisdom of friends.” People trust what their friends trust, or in the case of fundraising, support what their friends support. What this means for you is the ability to expand your donor base through social proof. Add some competition to that amongst your fundraisers and you have a recipe for virtual fundraising success!
So that you can effectively leverage this idea, let's walk through the steps nonprofits need to take to set up a peer-to-peer campaign:
- Set an aspirational fundraising goal.
- Create your main campaign page using your peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
- Recruit volunteer fundraisers to build and personalize their individual campaign pages.
- Encourage your volunteers to share their personal giving pages with family and friends.
- Track overall campaign progress and refine your strategies as you go.
It's as simple as that! Backed by the right tools and a team of passionate supporters, you're sure to secure ample support! Curious and want to learn more about this powerful online fundraising strategy? Explore Donately's comprehensive list of peer-to-peer fundraising best practices. In no time, you'll be a peer-to-peer campaigning pro!
2. Online Auctions
Online auctions are a fantastic way to raise funds. If you've never hosted one before, it may be just what you need to motivate donors to give in a new and exciting way. So long as you're backed by powerful silent auction software, hosting an online auction will be a breeze.
This virtual fundraising idea has the power to captivate your supporters, but only if you approach it with the right attitude and a few best practices. So you're fully prepared to run an online auction, let's walk through some pro tips:
- Live stream during your event. Live streaming can take your auction to the next level! It adds a personal element to your virtual fundraiser by allowing you to connect with your audience and encourage bidding and donations. Make sure your software allows you to stream within the platform, so bidders won't have to access the video feed from a separate screen. Learn about some live streaming best practices with this live streaming guide for nonprofits from re:Charity!
- Actively promote your auction. You should start marketing well in advance to amp up excitement about this engagement opportunity. Share the link to your auction site across all communication channels from social media to email to your website. The more people who hear about it, the better!
- Choose your items carefully. Keep your donors' interests in mind when procuring items for your auction. Since expensive travel packages don't suit every prospect's budget, you should also select items across a vast price range, so there's something for everyone! Finally, if you are not sure where or how to get items, please review this guide on where to find auction items during a pandemic!
Hosting a charity auction may seem daunting considering all the nuances that go into it, but pulling one off doesn't have to be overly difficult. You simply need intuitive tools that will streamline the process. Need a bit of guidance in selecting the right online auction tools? Explore this guide to launch your research into action!
3. Online Giving Days
Online giving days have proven to be a powerful fundraising opportunity for organizations big and small. In short, giving days are 24-hour long fundraising challenges that aim to spread awareness for a cause and capture donations. They work so well because they create a sense of urgency among donors, encouraging them to act now rather than wait.
The most notable giving day out there is Giving Tuesday, which is a worldwide day of charitable giving. This year, they created a second campaign in response to COVID-19, and the PayPal community alone raised $65 million globally. Results like this truly show the power of a well-timed campaign mixed with an accelerated timeline.
So you can harness this power, you'll want to take a proactive approach by leveraging best practices. Let's dive into some actionable tips to try as you get started planning your giving day:
- Solidify your communications plan. The best online campaigns solidify their marketing strategy before launching the campaign. Leading up to the campaign, spread the word far and wide through social media posts, emails, blog updates, and more! On the big day, make sure to provide consistent updates as well.
- Promote matching gifts. Chances are, your donors' employers might offer to match donations to your organization, and an online giving day is an opportune moment to spread the word! Learn all about corporate matching gifts with this guide.
- Offer other engagement opportunities. Not everyone is able to spend their hard-earned cash right now, even though it'd be going to a great cause! Instead, let supporters know other ways they can get involved, such as sharing your campaign posts or signing up for your newsletter.
Remember, you'll want to have an easy-to-use, mobile-responsive donation form so donors can give at any point and from wherever they are throughout your giving day. Otherwise, you may miss out on those extra fundraising dollars.
4. Text-to-Donate Campaigns
Research shows that 81% of Americans own a smartphone (which is an astounding 46% increase since 2011), meaning that mobile giving is a major fundraising opportunity for nonprofits. Much like peer-to-peer campaigns and online auctions, your fundraising tools will do all the heavy lifting!
First, you'll need to set up a mobile-responsive donation page. Then, simply work with a text-to-donate platform to set up a keyword and designated number that supporters can text to receive a link to your donation page. They'll be directed to your mobile-responsive form, and you won't waste texts on those who are unlikely to give! From here, they can contribute directly from their phones while motivation is high instead of waiting until they have access to a computer.
As with any virtual fundraiser, there are some best practices to keep in mind when hosting a text-to-donate campaign. Let's explore a few different options:
- Pair it with another virtual fundraiser. The great thing about text-to-donate is that you can easily pair it with nearly any event. Use it as a form of registration or encourage those who are feeling extra generous to submit an extra donation during the event. This is a great way to pull in some extra donations.
- Keep it simple. The more complicated the process, the more likely prospects will abandon their donations. Make sure to use a simple shortcode such as "donate” or "give.” This eliminates a lot of room for spelling errors and typos.
- Follow up. If the last communication a donor receives from you is a tax receipt, they likely won't give again in the future. You should follow up, whether it's with a shoutout on social media or a quick follow-up text to confirm their donation was received.
Text-to donate has become a real game-changer for nonprofits. It allows organizations to reach donors and secure donations with just a few simple taps, which is especially great for fundraising during the current global pandemic. So long as you keep it simple, you're sure to boost funds!
Online fundraising doesn't have to be daunting. In fact, it can be fun and exciting with a motivated team and the right fundraising idea. Take one (or all) of these ideas back to your team and see if any stick out to them. Chances are, you may very well have your next campaign idea right in front of you.
No matter what idea you choose, be sure to develop a proactive, engaging game plan that prioritizes the donor experience, and you'll be well on your way to virtual fundraising success!
Author: Andrew Berry
Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.