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To get you started, here are our 8 best practices for sustainable growth.
It’s never been more important to use sustainable fundraising practices to drive predictable nonprofit fundraising growth.
Online giving is the way of the future. Yet for some of us it can seem unpredictable and fickle. How do you budget for online fundraising? How do you translate your old, event-based fundraising into the world of digital? And how do you feel confident that your strategies will work consistently over time?
The most important thing you can learn about online fundraising is that it should be sustainable and predictable. Not only that, but there are tried and true ways of making it sustainable and predictable. We’ve highlighted 8 of the best practices to help you build your digital fundraising efforts so that you can spend your time connecting with donors and completing your mission instead of constantly brainstorming new projects to bring in money.
At the heart of all of it is one principal: the law of low effort and high return. Pay attention to where you can put your money to get the most return. If you’re not certain, check out this handy little graph:
If you’re not sure how to optimize your fundraising to make that ROI even better, just keep reading.
Best Practice 1: Don’t Be Afraid To Invest
The first and most important best practice for long-term sustainable fundraising is to invest in strong tools. That might seem counterintuitive to your long term fundraising, but putting in a little bit more at the beginning can come with big payoffs in the long term.
Let’s take an example. Say your organization is currently using a basic PayPal donation form, and you decide to invest $1,000 to build a conversion optimized donation page. This page has all of your organization’s branding, donation tiers, saved payment information: the works. Over the course of the year, you raise $20,000 MORE through this expensive form.
You’ve just invested in a much more sustainable long term tool.
Over time, you’ll spend less money on each dollar you get in.
If those numbers seem over the top to you, here’s a nugget of information that might make it more believable: CauseVox users typically raise 82% more when they switch from a generic Paypal donation form, helping organizations raise nearly 2x as much through their website.
A few areas that you might want to consider investing a little more:
- Your website. Make sure your website is mobile-optimized, uses SEO strategies, and has a clear brand voice.
- Your CRM. A CRM that integrates with your donations page will save money and staff time.
- Your donation form. A donation form that has custom branding, donation tiers, and recurring gifts will greatly increase your ROI.
Of course if you’re still nervous about investing, CauseVox offers beautiful donation forms, a fully integrated CRM, and tons of tools for your website. PLUS it’s all without platform fees for nonprofits.
Once you’ve committed to putting in a bit of money up front, you can start to look at some of the other best practices for building your online fundraising.
Attracting New Donors
Digital fundraising works in a cycle of attracting, nurturing and converting donors.
We’re going to start at step number one and walk you through the best ways to use the cycle in making your fundraising sustainable and predictable.
Best Practice 2: Use SEO
Organic search is often one of the largest traffic sources – if not the largest source – of traffic to your site. With that in mind, you’ll want to spend time thinking about how you’re using Search Engine Optimization to bring people to your site (and thus your donation page).
Building up your organic search performance is quite complex but some things that help are:
- Having an SEO friendly, mobile optimized, and well structured website
- Producing great and digestible content (blogs, videos, annual reports, etc.)
- Having a good PR strategy (where you are in the news leading people to search for you)
- Empowering people to share content (which has an ever greater role in Google’s SEO ranking algorithms)
If you don’t have a strong understanding of SEO, make sure you do some reading to find out what you should be focusing on. Adding in good SEO content to your website is not complicated. You just have to be committed to keeping up good habits.
The best part of strong SEO is that it gives you a high return on investment. It costs nothing, and only requires spending a few more minutes when you add content to your website. However it can yield huge returns. Moving your organization to a top search placement means more organic traffic and more donations.
Best Practice 3: Google Ad Grants
Fun fact: almost all US & Canadian nonprofits and charities can receive $10,000 of free advertising through Google AdWords EVERY MONTH with the Google Ad Grant.
There are some limitations on the account like a per day max, a per click max, and number of domains or URL’s you can point ads to (this post covers the program well with additional info). But the great thing about the Google Ad Grant program, is that it allows you to ‘compete’ in the search world with a paid strategy but at no cost.
Even with great SEO, you may just not be able to compete with the heavy hitters in your arena, and Google ads give you another leg up. It can move your search results from pages deep to the top ten.
The best part is that it is absolutely free. If you’re working on making your online fundraising low investment and high return, nothing sounds better than free.
Plus, once you’re set up it’s easy to maintain with minimal work. You get big long term benefits that you can count on.
Once someone has engaged with your website, content, videos or Facebook page, you are able to “retarget” them and nurture them towards becoming a donor. Nurturing is also a major part of how you should be engaging with donors after they’ve made a donation to ensure that they give again.
I often find that nurturing is one of the scariest parts of my fundraising practice. How much communication is too much communication? Should I be spending my whole day reaching out to make sure my donors feel loved? How do I bridge the gap between attracting someone and getting them to click that “donate” button? Here are the best practices that you can use to build a clear pathway from first contact to lifelong donor.
Best Practice 4: Get Information
When someone first comes into contact with your organization, you probably don’t have any information about them. One of the best things you can do for the long term health of your fundraising is to make it easy and enticing for potential donors to share their information.
Create and provide opportunities where people can sign up with your organization through an e-newsletter, a petition or downloadable content. One great option is to have your e-newsletter sign up on every page of your website. No matter what potential donors are doing, they’ll see it and share their information.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to ask every question right away. Start by obtaining someone’s name and email. As they become more connected with your organization, include natural ways for them to share information. If they register for an event you can ask about interests, address, or how they connected with your organization. Each time you make contact, try to get another piece of information and add it to your CRM.
Having robust and easy to access information about your supporters allows you to easily segment them when you want to make asks in the future. It gives you a strong base of potential donors you can rely on.
Best Practice 5: Stay Connected (Automatically)
Once you have someone’s information, it’s time to start using it. Remember what we said up top about investing early so you can get big returns? Having a mass emailing system or CRM that allows you to set up an email series is one of the ways you should invest.
Most bulk emailers will let you create an email (or even an email series) that triggers when someone signs up for your mailing list. This is a great place to share information about your organization and include small calls to action.
Maybe the first email in your series introduces your mission and asks your supporter to follow you on social media. The second shares a major event and asks your supporter to sign a petition. Only on the third email do you make an ask for a donation.
This helps your future donor to feel connected to the organization and lets them buy in to your mission before they have to put money on the table. Making it automated allows you to do the work once, then rely on technology to do the rest.
It’s a great sustainable practice that just requires a little bit of upkeep to ensure your content is up to date and relevant.
You can also use a similar strategy to retain your previous donors. Instead of a welcome series, they would receive a thank you series of emails. This will keep more of your donors around and give you more predictable income over time.
Now is the time to ask for a donation. This is one of the best places to focus a little bit of time and money to make giving a great experience for your donors. In fact the process of actually making a donation can deeply influence a donor’s behavior, even after they’ve decided they want to give. You want it to be easy, inspiring, and ongoing. Here’s how to do it.
Best Practice 6: Optimize Your Recurring Giving/Monthly Giving
You know how this post focuses on both sustainable AND predictable growth? You may have noticed that so far we’ve talked a lot about sustaining and not as much about making it predictable. Here’s where that changes. Monthly giving programs give you income that you can rely on over time. Focusing on a monthly giving program helps you to build up that predictable income.
The best place to start is by deciding which of your existing donors would be a good fit for a monthly program. Here are some good ideas:
- Donors who have given once a year, for the last two or more years.
- Donors who recently made a smaller one-time gift.
- Donors you acquired during year-end (to help support throughout the year).
- Donors who have strong ties to a particular program (think program alumni, former staff, etc) that are poised for ongoing support.
- Donors 35 and under.
Once you have your audience, you can set up your campaign. You want to take a bit of time to spruce up the idea of monthly giving. Simply adding the option to your donation form doesn’t communicate to your donors. Instead, try some of these strategies to create a monthly giving campaign that looks enticing to your donors.
- Build an email campaign explaining the benefits of monthly giving
- Create a donation page focused on monthly giving
- Share quotes from current monthly donors
- Create a special name or program for monthly donors
- Give solid impact statements on why monthly giving is important
- Ask across all channels
With these strategies in hand, you’ll start to build up a community of monthly givers who feel pride and connection in their gifts. In turn, you get ongoing and predictable revenue.
Best Practice 7: Build a Beautiful Page
Of course not all of your donors will be recurring donors. Your donation process should make all donors feel special and pampered.
The best place to make that happen is on your donation page. Your donation page can have a big impact on your revenue. Creating a donation page that works well for donors is a small change that has a huge impact, meaning you put in less effort and raise more.
One of the biggest, and most important elements of a quality donation page is responsiveness. No matter what your donation page should be easy to use whether your donors are on a laptop, a tablet, or a phone. Mobile donations are on the rise, and you don’t want to cut out a huge percentage of potential donors by making your site impossible to use on their device.
In addition, to maintain consistency and provide donors the best experience, make sure your donation page keeps your donor on your website. Redirecting to a 3rd party page can impact the donor’s trust in your organization (especially if it’s unbranded) and lends to a poor donor experience.
The more clicks and fields a donor has to fill out, the higher the likelihood that your donor won’t complete their donation.
Donors shouldn’t feel like giving through your donation form is a chore. So, the simpler you can make the experience, the better.
Eliminate fields you may not need, like postal address, and use a solution that makes their giving experience easy — and you’ll see a much higher conversion rate.
Finally, spend some time focusing on your donation tiers. These humble elements of your donation page can make a huge difference. One of the benefits of Donation Tiers is that it minimizes the number of decisions the donor has to make, removing the friction that comes with making a decision of how much they should give. Keep your options to 4 or 5, and make the impact of the donation clear.
These elements will give you a strong donation page that converts more donors. Spending a day cleaning up the page and making it beautiful can bring in thousands of dollars in the long run, and that’s the kind of sustainable fundraising you want.
Best Practice 8: Upgrade Supporters to Fundraisers
This best practice is especially powerful because it combines every element of the digital fundraising cycle into one. You attract new donors as your fundraisers reach out to friends and family. You nurture your current donors by giving them a way to support your organization and feel connected to your community. And you convert those new donors through an ask by someone they know and trust.
We’ve found that peer-to-peer fundraising takes away some of the unknowns because all those NEW DONORS are recruited by their own friends and family. These referrals take away some of the stress new donors have when trying to find reputable, trustworthy, worthwhile causes to support.
The folks you recruit to participate in the peer-to-peer fundraiser aren’t just helping to raise you money, they’re connecting you with their networks of friends and family.
Reach out to the following groups:
- Current supporters, including board members and current donors
- Social media followers
- Email subscribers
Let your supporters, followers, and subscribers know that you’re looking for participants to help elevate fundraising efforts to the next level.
You can make sure your fundraisers have all the tips and tricks they need by creating a fundraiser toolkit. Once you’ve empowered your fundraisers with all the information, you can sit back and let your community take the reins. Plus you’ll find that many fundraisers come back year after year to participate in peer-to-peer campaigns.
Convert More Donors With Less Clunk
Thousands of nonprofits use CauseVox to raise more online and make it simple for anyone, on any device, to support their cause. Do you want to implement these best practices? Sign up for CauseVox today to get started!