18 Top Things Learned From The 3rd Annual Digital Fundraising Summit

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

2020 is a year of major changes in the fundraising landscape. To help nonprofit fundraisers navigate that change, we hosted our third Digital Fundraising Summit and gave you the tools you needed to raise more funds with less wasted effort. 

If you missed attending the Summit, no problem! These insights will help! 
While we’ve jotted down some insights gleaned from subject matter experts in each of the afternoon sessions, this list is by no means exhaustive. To catch all the “aha” moments on your own time, be sure to grab your copy of all presentations and notes for just $60.

1. Opening Session: What is the Great Convergence?

Why did Causevox decide to have a digital fundraising summit now? It’s something we like to call The Great Convergence. As fundraising becomes more and more digital, fundraising and marketing have moved closer together: great fundraisers are great marketers. This has been kickstarted by COVID-19, which pushed us towards virtual faster than we could have expected.

These Summit sessions are designed help you gain the skills to meet the needs of that Great Convergence so your nonprofit can thrive in today’s fundraising landscape.

2. Cruise Control: 10 Practical Ways To Get More Done In Less Time – Jereme Bivins, Good Dog Strategies


Working in nonprofits means that we wear lots of hats. Wearing lots of hats mean that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things we’d like to do in our marketing, communications, and fundraising. The solution? Shortcuts!

Jereme from Good Dog Strategies shared some great strategies for streamlining your processes. Start by finding out where your time is actually going with tools like Toggl, ToDoist, Asana, or Trello. Then use these strategies to make yourself more efficient:

  • Task Batching: group similar tasks together
  • Time Blocking: block out time on your calendar to get your work done. You can choose to block out time for specific tasks or simply block out time to work on your to-do list. NO emails and meetings
  • NEVER multitasking. Multitasking does not work well for our brains. It’s never the most effective way
  • Use the tools that are available in your email to streamline the process: use labels, filters, and folders so that you know what needs your attention and what doesn’t. 
  • Try an app like IFTTT or Zapier to automate tasks

3. SEO For Nonprofits – John Gibbings, Hive Digital


All of us want great SEO, but learning the basics can feel incredibly daunting. John Gibbings from Hive Digital’s session walked us through everything you need to get started. One of the best tips John shared was Google ad grants, a way for nonprofits to receive free money towards Google ads. This is a free and easy way to improve your SEO.

Of course SEO is more than paid ads. It’s also all the ways you optimize your content to rise through the search pages. A great place to start is the metadata of any post or content (that includes your title tag, URL, and meta description). 

John recommends building up evergreen content that you can update easily by changing dates, updating links, or changing small elements. You can include backlinks to your own site for even more impact. 

4. How To Grow Your Social Media Audience With Ads – Julia Campbell, Consultant and Susu Wong, Tomo360


This hyper practical session gave all the tools for understanding and starting your first ad campaign on Facebook or Instagram. Facebook ads are a great choice for nonprofits because you can carefully target the people most likely to engage while staying within any budget. It’s a low-cost way to expand your audience.

When you’re setting up your ad, you want to ask yourself four questions:

  • What is your goal?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who do you want to reach? (this is Facebook’s strength)
  • What are you offering?

These questions will help you select the right type of ad, put money towards it, and pick your ideal audience. You can do this through seven steps (which Susu discusses in more detail in the session):

  • Choose an objective
  • Select an audience
  • Choose your ad placement
  • Set a budget
  • Choose a format
  • Submit for review
  • Measure your success.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Try out ads and boost posts to see what works best for you. Don’t be discouraged if you spend $50 and get $100 in donations. That gives you data about what works best for your audience.

5. Make Your Website Work For Your Community: How UX Converts More Donors And Supporters – Emily Friedrichs, Elevation Web


In this session, Emily from Elevation Web walked us through best practices for creating websites that guide users to accomplish all of their, and your, goals. In order to accomplish this, she focused on one area: users themselves. Who are they, why do they do what they do? There may be a few different groups that you can imagine with unique personas. 

Once you’ve created your user personas, you can think about your organization as a whole, and imagine how your website is an extension of who you are. That means your mission, your values, your goals, and the information you have.

Then you can combine the two! How does your user experience your organization through your website? Think of it as life-hacks; when it’s easier to do, more people will do them. This isn’t the time to break the mold and do something totally new. Instead, think about what will be intuitive to your users. That starts at the bottom-most structure of your website: the sitemap. Think about how you’ll organize your information.

The sitemap leads to user flows, which are when you can ask how you’ll flow through the information, and finally your wireframes: where will you place the information on each page? Throughout the whole process, keep your users and their psychology at the front of your mind.

Emily shared tons of insights about how to optimize each type of page in your website, but for those gems you’ll have to check out the session itself.

6. More Than A Statement: Acting On Commitments To Equity In Fundraising And Beyond – Tristan Penn, NTEN; Jessica Butler, North Lawndale Employment Network; Floyd Jones, Volo Kids Foundation; Minal Bopaiah, Brevity and Wit


This panel discussion, hosted by Tristan Penn from NTEN, was a must-see. Some of our favorite nonprofit practitioners shared how they’ve been approaching equity and diversity in their practice, from challenges to opportunities. We’re at a moment in time when equity needs to be a part of any nonprofit, but it has to be authentic. You can’t just draft a statement and drop it on top of your organization. You have to listen to the community, think about the mission, and make it work together.

That means long, slow, consistent change. All our nonprofit panelists discussed the deep ways they had to engage with their organizations to ensure that equity was a priority, but they also had some quick recommendations for things you can do right now that will improve your practice.

The first recommendation is when collecting beneficiaries’ stories, you need to pay them to share their stories. You are taking their intellectual property and making thousands of dollars off of it. 

Second, work on framing the problems you’re addressing as societal rather than individual. The biggest obstacle to equity in our society is the myth of the self-made man. People attribute individual inequality to the person. You need to help people see how it’s part of a system (e.g. people are unhealthy due to unequal access to food, not people choosing not to look after their health). And you need to take your plan to the people who will be most impacted before you take it to the people in power.

7. Unlocking Generosity With Artificial Intelligence: The Future Of Giving – Allison Fine and Beth Kanter


AI and fundraising? It’s happening faster than you think, and the best people to teach you about it are Allison Fine and Beth Kanter. This session gave an overview of what we can expect post-COVID and how AI is a part of that.

Their first recommendation is to take a look at the AI4Giving Report. But if that’s too much, we’ve got the bullet points here.

When we look at the benefits of AI for Giving, we’re beginning to see how AI can identify patterns to help identify donors and renew donors. It can also help donors better understand their own philanthropy. This will let nonprofits customize service to all donors instead of just high-level donors.

The future of giving is relational. We should be spending our time connecting with our donors instead of managing hundreds of small and irritating tasks. Bots can take up work for us; answer questions that get asked frequently, identifying donors who could be upgraded, etc. so that fundraisers are able to focus on relationship building. AI can also help increase giving through things like real-tie funding for emergencies, lifestyle dashboards (United Way is on the forefront of this for workplace giving), and the idea of purchasing power as a tool for change.

Right now, there are more and more AI coming online and taking over more parts of our lives. The goal for nonprofits is to be ahead of the curve, not behind it.

8. Wellness at Work: Why Self-Care At Nonprofits Matters More Than Ever – Kelly McLaughlin, Your NonproFIT Coach


Self-care is a cute wellness buzzword, but let’s talk about what it should mean in an industry where burn-out rates are high and self-sacrifice is a way of life. Kelly from Your NonproFIT Coach is here to help you fight off burn-out, and her first secret is a reading recommendation: Burnout The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski.

Of course we’ve also got the quick hits here for you:

  • Stay aware of your breathing: when you’re breathing faster, it’s a key indicator that you’re getting stressed. Notice what else you are feeling if breathing rate is elevated.
  • Take deep breaths: even 10 deep breaths can give you back control.
  • Be mindful: Do a 5 minute meditation. Observe your thoughts like they are cars passing on a street. The Shine App has guided meditations and daily check-ins
  • Get moving: Take a 5 minute walk. It can be in the house or wherever you are. Get up and move your body. Instead of focusing on the thoughts, focus on the sensation of your foot hitting the floor.
  • Tap into your senses: Grab water, tea or coffee, set a timer for 5 minutes and focus on your drink activating 5 senses: how does it taste, smell, etc.

One of the hardest parts of self care is actually sticking to it, so Kelly had a few recommendations for making it last. Habit stacking is a great option: for every task you do daily, pair it with a self-care measure. This goes incredibly well with building strong routines, especially around the morning and evening. You can even use a similar strategy for potentially stressful scenarios: make a list of your big stressors, and pair each one with something you’ll do to recharge if it happens.

9. Become A Graphic Designer With Canva – Brittany LaGanke and Jen Linke, Corporate Giving Connection


Paying for professional graphic design is a huge expense, but there are cheap tools available to help you take on basic graphic design yourself. One great option is Canva, and this session gave a solid intro to the ways you can use Canva.

The first principle to keep in mind as you start designing is uniformity. You can use Canva to create this by building your Brand Kit. This is the section of Canva that lets you save your brand colors, fonts, and images. The Content Planner can help you communicate with your team and keep uniformity between people.

Jen and Brittany from Corporate Giving Connection go over the nitty-gritty of actually creating graphics in Canva, but we’ll focus here on the big takeaways. It’s always a good idea to personalize images with your own colors, photos, or elements. When you’re thinking about the colors or the fonts to use, it can be a good idea to stick within the same family, whether that’s a bold and a regular version of the same text, or multiple shades of the same color. On the other hand, you can also use contrasting colors: remember your color wheel!

Use different sizes, colors, and fonts to pull the eye through information. Simplicity is key – don’t overcrowd images with text. There’s a reason you’re using an image in the first place, and it’s not to include long paragraphs.

10. Harnessing the Power of Live Streaming To Tell Your Nonprofit’s Stories – Alana Jackler, Social Video Guide

Labeled "Content Segments" with slots for a variety of things. Starts with intro, includes "tips and tricks" and "fundraising" in the middle, ends with outro.

While going live is relatively easy, this session discusses some best practices that will help your organization effectively share your stories and create new fundraising opportunities through live streaming that extend well beyond the current pandemic.

Let’s start with the basics: all you need to stream are an internet connection, a camera, a microphone, lights, and a content plan. Alana shares some tips for getting the best of each of these on a budget. 

But the heart of streaming is the content plan. Here are Alana’s top tips:

  • If you do it, you should do it more than once. Divide it into segments.
  • 20-30 minutes is the ideal length. Things that are too long get boring. Things that are too short don’t allow for enough time to get folks tuned in.
  • Intro and outro should be set, and then you can mix-and-match the internal content.
  • Plan and practice! That will make the live stream smoother.

As you think about the bulk of your livestream, there are a few options you can use. Two big ones are interviews and fundraising. Decide which one you want to do, and plan how you’re going to do it. You can also include both!

And then the big question: which platform should you use? Alana recommends Instagram, Facebook, or Youtube. Each one has a unique audience, so think about who you’re trying to reach and choose your platform from there.

11. Want to Run Better Virtual Events? Here’s What 1,000 Other Nonprofits are Doing to Succeed – Tatiana Morand, Wild Apricot

Graphic showing 42% of organizations have run virtual events in 2019 and 2020, and 42% did in 2019 and plan to in 2020.

Wild Apricot ran a survey amongst over 1000  nonprofits to see what tactics they’ve used to attract new attendees, raise funds, and what kind of events they’re running — as well as which of those tactics have been most successful. What did they learn? We’ll tell you!

Everyone is transitioning to virtual events, but they aren’t sure what best practices are. If you want to download the report from Wild Apricot’s survey, you can download a copy here. The most successful types of events were guest speakers and panel discussions, which indicates that bringing in someone new can help expand your audience. They also found that more engagement meant better outcomes.

So how do you use that information to increase your revenue? Most organizations are charging less for tickets to virtual events, so you’ll want to think about others ways to bring in revenue. You can add a suggested donation amount, but also think about sponsors, donation pages, merchandise, auctions, peer-to-peer fundraising, and crowdfunding. The most effective choices? Donation pages and merchandise.

To make the most once you’ve got attendees in the door, focus on finding ways to engage attendees. You might break them up into discussion groups, offer question and answer times, or host a happy hour. 

12. CauseVox Crash Course: How To Raise More With CauseVox – Jenna Notarfranceso, CauseVox


If you’re interested in getting started with CauseVox, this session will tell you all you need to know. Causevox is a digital fundraising platform that lets you raise more with less effort. It’s got trons of features including:

  • Donation forms
    • Convert more donors with less clunkiness
    • Replace outdated forms and Paypal buttons
  • Crowdfunding
    • Branded pages
    • Fundraising goals
    • Thermometer
    • Social media integrations
    • Back end automations
  • Peer-to-Peer fundraising and pages
  • Mobile optimization

CauseVox is also committed to teaching fundraisers how to do it better, which is why this session covered the digital fundraising cycle. Digital fundraising happens in three parts:

  • Attract: who is interested in your org and how do you target them?
  • Nurture: engage those people as much as possible. Working with existing donors is more effective than seeking new donors
  • Convert: the call to action

In order to be successful, you’ll need to continuously cycle between these three steps. Check out CauseVox Pricing for more info. Ready to get started? You can sign up for a free account today!

13. Nonprofit Leader Panel: Navigating Digital Fundraising For 2020 + Beyond – Melissa Benjamin, Fiver Children’s Foundation; Matt Gayer, Catalogue for Philanthropy


One of the best ways to learn is by looking at what successful people are doing, and that’s why this panel is fantastic. We asked two leaders in the nonprofit space how they’ve been using digital fundraising and what has worked for them.

As Melissa and Matt have responded to COVID, they’ve found that flexibility and quick response times have been integral. All of us are switching to digital campaigns, and they used a few things to make their efforts successful. First, they provided templates and support to their fundraisers. As Matt said, “No one thinks they are a fundraiser until they do it.” You have to make them feel like a fundraiser, which includes finding the right people, giving them the right tools, and providing them with good incentives.

Beyond peer-to-peer fundraising, they also hit hard the importance of communicating. They suggested these tips:

  • Plan early with donors, sponsors, and stakeholders. Give them one on one and personalized attention.
  • Focus on stewardship and cultivation:  let your community know what you’ve done.
  • Peer-to-peer campaigns have been more successful, especially around new donor acquisition.
  • Don’t stop asking!

14. The Power Of Donor Segmentation – Bradley Martin, Kindful


If you want to know:

  • How to determine what data you should be tracking about your donors. 
  • How to start segmenting the donors you already have. 
  • How to integrate technology to make segmentation easier.
  • How to utilize segmentation to create more personalized messaging. 

Then this is the session for you. Data allows you to tailor your messages to the right people, but where do you start? One great option is to start with email. 

Think about the types of people you have in your email database. It might be “unengaged donors”, or maybe those who have given within the last twelve months. Think about the messaging that each of these groups may need.

Bradley from Kindful offered two major pro tips:

  • Clean out your email database, ideally every 3 months.
    • Keeping unengaged donors in your database can actually skew your mailing stats because your email blasts are getting in less people’s inboxes. 
  • If people don’t open your email in the first 72 hours, it’s probably buried in their inbox or they’ve already deleted it. In this case, try sending the same email twice – it’ll give them another opportunity to open your email.
    • Most engaged/open email should be sent right after donors donate for the first time. These emails have a very high (60-70%) open rate. 

You can also use segmentation to increase recurring gifts. Reach out immediately after your first email to increase the odds of recurring gifts. It may seem counterintuitive but it works.

15. 5 Ways To CRUSH Your Next Fundraising Campaign! – Floyd Jones, Volo City Kids Foundation


This session lead by Floyd Jones from Volo City Kids Foundation addressed 5 essential keys for fundraising campaign success:

1.Timeliness: is there a need that is important right now? Do you have a specific timeline? Meet the moment!

2.Creativity: what makes your campaign stand out?

3.Specificity: have a clear objective with specific goals.

4. Mobilization: know how to get your people out and moving.

5. Follow Up: don’t stop talking to your supporters once the campaign is over. Acknowledge gifts, share the impact, invite folks to upcoming events, and of course, ask again.

Floyd gave some specific ways to get your crew mobilized: focus on the people you already know are on your team. Get buy in from them first and provide them with organization and resources. You can use incentives to help get this group especially fired up.

16. Amplify Your Peer-to-Peer Success By Empowering Your Participants – Kelly McLaughlin, NonproFIT


Kelly took this session to share with us the best ways to bring in more money through your peer-to-peer fundraising. There are essentially two options:

  1. More participants every year
  2. Same number of participants raising more money ← this is easier

She recommends focusing on some campaign materials that can support you and your fundraisers. These include your fundraising site, a fundraising guide, a social media kit, coaching emails, recruiting materials, and post-event materials. 

Throughout all of these you want consistent branding that takes your fundraisers from one step to the next. This keeps your campaign cohesive, and also helps your donors understand what they need to do.

Kelly’s big DO’s and DON’Ts

  • DO focus on top performers (check-in, praise, ask for feedback)
  • DO keep things predictable (make tweaks and adjustments based on progress and feedback)
  • DON’T worry about the people raising $0 (minimal touches here…people raising nothing are probably not interested)
  • DON’T make radical changes in strategy: if you learn something new and awesome, save it for next time.

17. The Mystical Secret For Turning Free Content Into Valuable Donors – Nathan Hill, NextAfter


Everyone wants new donors. Nathan from NextAfter knows how to get new donors: it’s a 4-step method that gets you new emails and helps you convert free content into donations with an “instant donation page”.

It starts by asking potential donors to share their email address in exchange for content that they find valuable. You can do this through an advertisement or a landing page, but make sure you communicate clearly what they’ll get and how.

From here you’ll send them to an instant donation page. An instant donation page is different from your main donation page with four key differences:

  1. Introductory message
  2. Main message – make your ask in context of the offer
  3. In-line premium
  4. Donation tiers

This donation page is what you’ll include in your email campaign, and it is what turns your email campaign from a loss leader to a profit generator. 

18. Donor Engagement In The Era of COVID-19 – Steven Shattuck, Bloomerang


In the era of COVID-19 none of us are entirely certain what we should be doing. Luckily Steven Shattuck has the resources of Bloomerang to find out what is effective. His number one takeaway? Don’t stop fundraising. Of course you may want to change up your approach a little bit, and he’s got tips for that.

In particular, he suggests working on your segmentation. People want to feel as if the messages they receive are personalized. That means not only segmentation but stewardship: calls, exclusive Zoom sessions, and public recognition. 

When it comes to events, they’re still a possibility but you don’t want to be wishy-washy. Everything feels uncertain right now, so be decisive and tell your donors what you’re doing clearly.

If you communicate, you can be successful.

Get More Insights From The Digital Fundraising Summit

The Digital Fundraising Summit might be over, but there’s so much more in store to help you and your team reach your fundraising goals with less uncertainty.

Purchase the full set of notes and recorded sessions, available here. 

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