6 Research-Based Strategies To Improve Your Online Fundraising Campaigns From Jonah Berger

We’re connected 24/7 through email, social media, or websites on phones, desktops, and tablets. While you’re reading this, you may even be tempted to check on an email alert or text message. Between our real and digital lives, we sure are busy!

But we aren’t just socializing online, we’re doing a whole lot more, including donating to online fundraising campaigns. So, while our time connected to the digital world increases, so do trends in online giving.

Because online giving is growing so quickly among nonprofits, charities, personal causes, and even politics, it’s now more important than ever to stand out amongst the crowd so that your campaign draws both donations and shares.

Keep this in mind: the sharing of your campaign by your audience to their networks (what is also known as shareability), may be the difference between a stellar campaign and a flop.

“The sharing of your campaign by your audience may be the difference between a stellar campaign and a flop.” tweet this

But why do some products and ideas get talked about more than others? What makes a fundraising campaign shareable? In order to answer this question, it’s helpful to understand the psychology behind why things are shared or go viral.

Thanks to Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, we know some of the common themes behind a why things catch on.

Here are some ways that you can use Berger’s research to improve your online fundraising strategies and ensure more people see and support your cause.

Let’s Start With How We Share Information

Did you know that word-of-mouth marketing is 10 times more effective than traditional marketing? According to Berger, there are 2 reasons why word-of-mouth marketing works.

  1. You trust your friends: We are attracted to people who share similar interests and values. Likewise, we generally trust our friend’s opinions over those of marketers.
  2. It’s targeted: You are bombarded with advertisements for products of every shape, size, and function with traditional marketing, but word-of-mouth marketing is targeted. You only hear about products that matter to you.

In general, humans feel the need to share things with our networks that we deem are of value. When we hear about a great product or cause from a friend, family member, or trusted co-worker, we are likely to value their opinion because we trust them and because they are speaking to us about something that we may be of value.

When you hear about an online fundraising campaign from a friend, your likelihood of giving a donation is higher (some estimate as much as 300%) than if you just ran across the campaign on your own accord.

And this is how “viral” campaigns happen. When enough people deem a cause to be of value, you wind up with a whole bunch of people sharing it with others. This is what fundraisers dream of!

“When enough people deem a cause to be of value, you wind up with a whole bunch of people sharing it…” tweet this

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great example of this trend. About ⅓ of all online donations are a result of peer-to-peer fundraising, which is generally fueled by sharing.

Berger uses the STEPPS acronym to describe the traits of shareable content. So, let’s use the same principles to shape a great online fundraising campaign that stands out.

1. Begin With Social Currency

Social currency is a fancy way of saying that people look to obtain a certain status by association. Humans love to be “in the know” and connected with products, ideas, and causes that are trendy.

In terms of online fundraising, when we learn about a campaign that is interesting, attractive, or even exclusive, it is human nature to want to be a part of the movement.

Improve your online fundraising results by assigning social currency to the campaign. Try sharing exclusive information, such as giving your donors a “behind the scenes” look at your work.

Or, revamp your thank you process to include social currency by giving donors a shout-out on your Facebook page. Make the gesture special and exclusive, and you’ll have people eager to get in on the action.

Here’s a great example from charity:water. The organization highlighted the story of a woman who donated her birthday money. Not only did this fundraiser get the kudos that she deserved, but those that aspire to have similar fundraising successes (not to mention, the public appreciation) may be more inclined to donate after seeing this post.

2. Think About Triggers

Berger describes this principle as “top of mind, tip of tongue,” meaning that you’re much more likely to talk about something that is fresh in your mind. Therefore, you have to create a connection between your cause/campaign and something that your donors will see or experience frequently.

Just as you associate Coke with the color red and Kit Kats with a break, you should look to connect your audience with something familiar.

Nonprofits use triggers all the time. When you see a mustache during the month of November, there’s a good chance that you are reminded of Movember and prostate cancer research. Likewise, pink ribbons in October symbolize breast cancer awareness.

Improve your online fundraising campaigns with a trigger by looking into particular colors or months that you can associate with your cause.

3. Evoke Emotion

What really matters to your cause? What matters to your audience? These are very important questions that should shape the content in your online fundraising campaign. As Berger says, “when we care, we share.” Make your donors care!

Get your audience to feel emotionally compelled to be a part of the campaign by stressing the importance of the campaign. But don’t just brush the surface. Dig deep to think about why caring about the campaign is important, and even why caring about caring about the campaign is important! Whew! Did you catch all that?

You’re bound to feel emotionally compelled to act after viewing this online fundraising campaign video by Girls Education & Mentoring Services (GEMS). Watching young children talk about what type of world they want to grow up in evokes intense emotion and quickly (and efficiently) educates the audience about why they should care about this cause.

Some emotions that you can use to drive action include:

  • Awe
  • Amusement
  • Hopelessness
  • Curiosity
  • Fear

The chart below outlines some emotions that arise from content messages. Berger found that though many emotions can spur action, those with a negative tilt are more likely to be shared.

improve your online fundraising campaign

4. Make It Public

A big part of getting your campaign to stand out and shared involves actually getting people to participate publicly, which not only increases your campaign’s visibility but encourages others to join in.

On the surface, you can create a public campaign by ensuring that the campaign pages themselves are visible to the public and easily copied. If possible, include social sharing buttons.

But creating a “public” campaign is more than just adding a share button. Let’s take the example above about growing mustaches in November for Movember. When people see someone growing a mustache, they may be more inclined to jump on the bandwagon and participate in the act themselves.

Do you remember the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet to support the LIVESTRONG Foundation? It’s the same idea. Once one person was seen wearing a bright yellow bracelet, others followed and made it the “cool” thing to do.

The more people see your campaign, the more they are likely to be a part of it themselves.

5. Add Practical Value

How does your cause break the mold? Why is this campaign different than all the others ones out there? While you could probably go on for days about the work you’re organization is accomplishing, for the sake of standing out, it’s best to stay relevant and simple. You can do this by sharing practical information that is of value to your donors.

Online audiences respond well to lists (take Buzzfeed, for example), powerful statistics, and informative content. Use these to your advantage in your online fundraising campaign.

Add practical value to your online fundraising campaign like The Skin Cancer Foundation. This charity raises funds to educate the public about skin cancer prevention and treatment, and their social media pages are chock-full of expert tips like the one featured below.

Once you click on this helpful link, you are taken to their website where there are two clear ways to make an online donation.

6. Share Powerful Stories

We talk so much about nonprofit stories here at CauseVox because they can make or break your campaign. Using a story in your online fundraising campaign will definitely help connect your audience to the cause. Not to mention, people are bound to go on and share your campaign if it contains a story that moves them to act.

Try using a powerful story like this one shared by World Help. World Help’s refugee stories include moving, emotion-inducing writing and images, and include links to the donation page- all important components to a good fundraising story.

Remember that “being shared” isn’t an accident. It takes preparation to design a campaign that people want to share.

“‘Being shared’ isn’t an accident. It takes preparation to design a campaign that people want to share.” tweet this

And while there’s never a guarantee that your online fundraising campaign will “go viral,” adding the principles of social currency, triggers, emotion, publicity, practical value, and stories will definitely help to improve your campaign content’s shareability for the better.

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