You’ve successfully incorporated your new nonprofit and are eager to get started changing the world!
Seriously, congratulations; and, more importantly, thank you for your ambition, for your desire to make real change in the world. There aren’t enough people like you out there, and we’re so glad to have you here with us.
There aren’t enough people like you out there, and we’re so glad to have you here with us.
So, you want to enable your nonprofit to start collecting online donations. And why wouldn’t you?
You might connect your website with PayPal, a credit card merchant processing account, or some other service for payment – however, let’s take a step back and ask, “What’s the real objective here?”
Not long ago it was a major effort to connect such a payment gateway to your organization’s site. Things have changed though, and now there are a plethora of offerings that easily plug in.
Just as the replacement of the horse and buggy with early cars was a major advancement, it didn’t take long before comfort, safety and long-distance capability became a basic expectation of travelers. Same thing with the cultivation of online donations.
So, if your real goal is to raise dollars online, versus simply to connect a service and listen to the crickets chirp, you probably want to consider a solution that’s more integrated, and has the look and feel that donors have come to expect in the face of advances in communications, internet and software.
This post provides a well-rounded introduction to not only online giving, but the best ways to present an integrated offer to maximize what donors are willing to give and keep them coming back.
So, what’s next? Now that your nonprofit is registered and ready to begin changing lives, it’s time to get to the real work:
So, how does all of this get done? I won’t lie to you, there’s some work involved.
By following these best practices, however, you will, in no time at all, be attracting new donors, volunteers, and supporters, and expanding your cause around the globe.
1. Start Building Your Lists
Your email sends will very quickly make up a large part of your overall fundraising efforts, so it’s important to start building your list immediately.
By producing engaging content and sending it out to your supporters, you will be able to send donations asks, event invitations, and more to your loyal and eager base.
First off, you’ll need a way to actually capture people’s email addresses, to add them to your list.
Every page on your website should include an online form to sign up for your email list.
These can be large, small, placed on the sidebar or smack in the center of the page.
The most important thing is that they are omnipresent, so that anyone who visits your site never misses a chance to sign up, and doesn’t have to go hunting around to learn how to engage with your cause.
Additionally, at each and every event you host for your nonprofit, you should aim to have at least one staff member or volunteer armed with a clipboard, ready to collect emails, mobile phone numbers, and full names from any attendees that care to give them to you.
Think about it like “teaching a man to fish.” Sure, an event attendee giving you a $20 donation is nice.
However, acquiring their contact information provides you with the vector to send later donation asks, event invites, and more, so that you can elicit that same $20 donation multiple times a year.
Ok, so you’ve started to grow your list, but how do you manage the data and coordinate sends?
This is where a phenomenal email client comes in.
Email Service Providers (ESPs), like Mailchimp, HubSpot, Constant Contact, and more, will help you keep your data nice and tidy, segment and target your email sends, and serve as a powerful conduit between you and your supporters.
Our recommendation is Mailchimp, so I’ll focus on them for now.
Mailchimp provides powerful email capabilities, such as targeted sends, automation according to basically any parameters you can think of, daily subscribe/unsubscribe reports, detailed statistics and analysis, A/B testing, CRM integrations, and more to help you learn about what messages are salient to your support base.
No idea what I’m talking about? That’s ok!
Check out the full report for a much more in-depth look at each of these features, and explanations for how they can serve to make your life easier, especially when used properly and with fervor.
If there’s one thing I’d like to hammer home in the short version, it’s this: DATA MATTERS. I’ll shout that from the rooftops, until the cows fly and the pigs come home.
Because data will teach you what works and what doesn’t.
The average open rate and click-through rate on an email is 15-30% and 1-3%, respectively.
If one of your emails only gets up to an 8% open rate, don’t you want to know why?
If you skyrocket to 45%, isn’t it worth learning what made that particular email so effective?
Email clients like Mailchimp are exceptional at providing detailed analysis of every aspect of your email sends.
Make sure you’re reviewing your data after every send, to try and identify which variables are impacting your performance.
Email clients provide a great basis for getting your outbound communications off the ground, so start researching!
I promise, they will make everything so much easier for you moving forward.
2. Reaching New Donors
Now that you know what to look for in an email client, let’s discuss other ways to reach new donors and encourage them to engage with your cause.
There are a myriad ways to funnel traffic to your website, engage with new supporters, and motivate them towards long-term support. Thanks to the digital age, many of these technologies are readily available and easier than ever before.
I promise I am not being paid to say this: Google’s support of nonprofit organizations is nothing less than astounding.
Google has shown incredible generosity in offering $10,000 per month in pay-per-click (PPC) web-ads to nonprofits, completely free, as the Google Grants program.
By utilizing this incredible tool, you can place strategically targeted ads all over the net, enticing anyone who searches one of your relevant keywords to visit your site and stay there awhile.
Social Media Ads
In a similar vein (though not free) are social media advertisements.
Did you know there are over 1 billion active profiles on Facebook?
If you haven’t been paying attention for awhile, that’s 1/7th of the entire population of the planet, all using one website. So, basically, you can inform 1/7th of the globe about your cause, for a very small amount of money.
Unlike Google ads, which take the form of simple text and a link, social media posts need the power of exceptional content behind them to really prove effective.
What is good content on social media? I’m glad you asked. You are a nonprofit, and that means that you aren’t selling a traditional material product; rather, your story, the stories of the people you help, are your product.
The best content to put on social media is a great video. I’ve written before about the importance of video in online fundraising, and the natural advantages that it enjoys over other types of media.
Videos are more likely to be watched, provide potent stories and calls to action in multiple mediums (sound, visuals, and text), and allow for a more visceral storytelling campaign than simply hoping someone is willing to read a wall of text under a picture.
Social media platforms, like Facebook, also afford a convenient platform for building event pages, inviting people to them, and connecting and engaging with your supporters on a platform they likely already use every day.
For much more information on the best way to utilize social media, check out the long version of this article here.
Share campaigns take many forms, but work especially well on social media platforms like Facebook, where a share button is located a few inches away from any content you post.
Consider providing an incentive for sharing; for example, “share this post to be entered to win a free Porsche!”
Now, I’m not suggesting that every campaign you put out needs the strength of a supercar behind it; however, a strong incentive will help skyrocket your engagement, which, regardless of the motivation for sharing in the first place, will help you find new people to engage, and put you on the radar of many more people than you would reach otherwise.
Text to Give
Of course, you will always run into people on the street or at events who are not yet engaged with your cause, and you will want an easy way for them to get engaged when you aren’t armed with your clipboard.
Mobile-phone-centric technologies, like Text to Give, are powerful tools when it comes to engaging people on their own terms. Text to Give, made popular by Michelle Obama’s Red Cross-backed Haiti campaign, is the fastest and easiest way for a brand new supporter to engage and donate to your cause.
Remember earlier, when I mentioned the open and click-through rates of email? Well, buckle up, because this next bit might shock you. The average open and click-through rates for text messages are astounding: 96-99% and 30-50%, respectively.
Basically, if you send a text to your supporters, it is virtually guaranteed to be read, and read quickly. In fact, over 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of receiving them.
This is an incredibly powerful tool and metric. Building a mobile subscriber list, in the same way you’d build an email list, will afford you an extremely reliable vector for getting information out to your supporters, as well as calling on them to act for any future donation asks.
Some services, like mGive, provide multiple packages of Text to Give, depending on your needs, in order to help you get the most out of this relatively new and extremely effective technology.
3. Bringing In Revenue
We’ve discussed this a little bit before, but let’s really dig in now: in the nonprofit world, content is king.
Good content will net you new donors, will motivate your current donors to donate, and will provide the affirmation that your supporters’ money is going to good work.
Indeed, people want to see where their money is going, so show them! A good story is easy for someone like you to find, since you’re the organization making these stories possible.
A campaign can take the form of any of the mediums we’ve discussed. However, your goal should be to release omnichannel campaigns, instead of a simple email campaign, or a social media campaign. What is an omnichannel campaign?
Thanks for asking!
An omnichannel campaign is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a campaign spread via all of the vectors you have available to you: social media, email, text messaging, and anything else you can think of.
Releasing your campaigns across all of the available mediums will ensure that no supporter is left behind, everyone will have the opportunity to donate to you and get involved.
Let’s face it, it stings a little bit to think that a nonprofit that you genuinely care about only likes you for your wallet. So, let’s discuss when to ask for money, and how to split up those asks to prevent donors from getting tired of you.
It should go without saying at this point that not all of your communications should be donation asks.
In fact, I recommend maintaining a 3:1 ratio of non-donation to donation asks, in order to prevent the type of fatigue I’m talking about.
So what else can you offer your donors aside from asks? Simple, for starters, say thank you.
A thank you message is a brilliant way to thank your supporters for sticking them around, making them feel vindicated and appreciated.
For more ideas on other ways to engage your supporters without an ask, check out the long form of this article.
Ask for money during your campaigns, but try to refrain from asking for money in between them.
Also, try to refrain from starting a new campaign too soon after one has finished, as your supporters will begin to wonder if this will just become constant, year-round asks for money.
4. Find Someone to Do It for You
Are you feeling completely overwhelmed by everything we just went through? Do the steps detailed above seem like more work than you can possibly handle, having just started your nonprofit?
I’m here to assure you that you can handle that workload, if you choose to. However, I also completely understand the desire to spend your time focused on your cause, and leave steps like finding an email client, CRM, building your social media, etc. to the experts.
Luckily enough, there are, in fact, agencies for nonprofits, companies that draw together all of the best-in-class technologies detailed above in order to make life easier for nonprofit professionals, allowing them to allocate their bandwidth in the places where it’s needed most.
One such company is Rally4, a digital agency which works exclusively with nonprofit partners.
Rally4 seeks to combine all of the elements I mentioned above, email clients, Text to Give solutions, a robust CRM, a social media publisher, and more, into one, easy to use dashboard specifically built for your new nonprofit, at a much lower cost than it would take to acquire each platform’s capabilities individually.
If technology isn’t your forte, if you don’t know anything about social media, or you just don’t want to spend your time learning about all of these technologies and would instead like to spend your time focusing on other aspects of running your charity, consider hiring a nonprofit agency like Rally4, let them worry about your content and campaigns, and focus your time instead on planning events, expansion, and even more next steps, knowing the wheel of your proverbial nonprofit car is in good hands.
Thanks for hanging in there with me.
We have learned a ton together about how to build your lists, how and when to ask for a donation, how to properly utilize social media, and more.
You’re now equipped with many of the tools you’ll need to turn your nonprofit into an online powerhouse. I know there’s a ton to digest in there, so please, read and re-read, get creative, and take a few notes.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions, or for a consultation on your fundraising strategy.
If you’d like even more detail, please do read the long form of this article.
It’s long… it’s really, really, long, but it’s jam-packed full of all the information you need to get up and running.
Check out my Best Practices for Blastoff now!
There is no wrong way to change the world.
I believe that you’ll accomplish great things, and I can’t wait to see what they are.
Thank you, once again, for being you, for having the courage and ambition to get out there and change lives, and try to make our world a better place.
I’ll see you on the front lines.