Online fundraising is always shifting and so should your nonprofit’s strategy. But that’s not the same as jumping on every shiny new trend. There are more foundational changes afoot that are important to consider as you work to create a plan and get meaningful results from web-based fundraising.
For every change, there are also best practices for fundraising that stay the same. Donors still care about their impact and your financial transparency. Strong calls to action and compelling storytelling still win hearts and minds. The basic recipe isn’t going through a complete overhaul, but there are some new ingredients that we’ll cover below.
The Future of Web-Based Fundraising
Nonprofit marketers and fundraisers are used to hearing “more, more, more.” While that’s certainly the case in many areas of web-based fundraising trends, we’ve also identified a few places where “less” is an equally important factor these days.
More options to choose from
Have you seen a typical “Ways to Give” page these days? It can be a wild jungle of online giving, corporate matches, monthly gifts, personal fundraisers, Amazon Smile, planned giving and more. And while it’s great to provide options, you want to be strategic so that you don’t overwhelm people.
In addition to being responsive to donor preferences, think about what success looks like for each option and if the effort from your team is worth it. Also consider what the giving experience is like on different platforms or services and if that experience aligns with your nonprofit.
Less control over campaigns
Sure, crowdfunding sounds great. Unless you like a lot of control. While many nonprofits have embraced supporter-run Facebook Fundraisers, others have had a hard time handing over the reigns for others to collect funds on their behalf. After all, it’s difficult to control the narrative, branding and follow up when someone else runs the show.
According to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, 14% of donors have jumped at the chance to run their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Should you decide that this is a direction that you’re going to invest in (see the previous section), be prepared to let your community run with things more than you’re probably used to.
More audience segments
If you’ve been thinking that web-based fundraising is the way to reach the young and offline tactics are for the old, it’s not that simple (and never has been). There are more generations than ever giving online, which means you need to carefully evaluate the channels you use as well as their overall usability for a wide range of abilities.
For example, the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report shows that millennial donors, Gen X donors and baby boomer donors all prefer to give online in nearly the same amounts (54-55%). They are all inspired to give by email and social media, but email tends to be more motivating to the more senior crowd. Does knowing that change the way you’d like to build your email list? Have you considered family-friendly options that appeal to multiple generations?
Less interest in words alone
Using storytelling for fundraising isn’t new, but the digital environment is changing what’s possible for story delivery and how you communicate impact. Interactivity and gamification, like donor challenges, are also becoming desirable (and feasible) as people look for more than one-way or passive messages asking them to give.
That’s not to say that you have to learn a bunch of new tech or jump to invest in VR. Just remember that your donors are on a journey that’s not always as simple as heading straight for the donation form. They might spend extra time along the way getting to know your cause and the community in order to be sure that their needs align with what you offer.
More asks to make
Speaking about the supporter journey… Even if getting a donation is the end goal, it might not be the first ask in your marketing funnel, or even the last one. There are other calls-to-action that help build your relationship with an online supporter, from getting them on your mailing list to becoming a monthly donor.
Have you mapped out the different ways that you’ll engage your different target audience personas over time? Consider their needs and goals and try to align and time your asks accordingly.
Fewer dividing lines
Ever wondered where the line is between digital marketing and web-based fundraising? The answer is: it’s messy. Online channels are for outreach and to cultivate donors. The website isn’t just for communications staff. A database isn’t just for donors. The more that your nonprofit builds a culture of philanthropy, the less clarity there is on campaign ownership and responsibilities.
Even trickier, measuring success means that your data has to get out of the silos, too. According to one Salesforce study, 97% of fundraising teams could access their CRM system and data, while only 47% of marketing staff could use it for communications. Working with the fundraising team on shared goals will increasingly require shared tools.
More urgent opportunities
Do you dream of the good old days when all you had to worry about was an annual appeal and a handful of events? More and more campaigns are happening on short timelines with big ramp-ups, quick wrap ups and heading on to the next thing. There are 24-hour giving days, live video streams, disaster crowdfunding campaigns, and rage donations.
Donors are willing to respond quickly, but your internal systems might not be ready. Look for opportunities to streamline your process, integrate your technology (like your website and email marketing platform) and create standard templates that can be adjusted and implemented without starting from scratch. In addition to our nonprofit resources, find checklists from Bloomerang, Julia Campbell and Network for Good.
Get Ready for Change
Change is at the heart of web-based fundraising—its ever-evolving nature means our strategies must also transform over time. Of course, online fundraising also makes change possible, fueling your mission to make the world a better, healthier, safer, just and caring place.
Keeping a pulse on long term shifts can help you make small changes and choices that won’t feel out of touch with what your donors need and expect. Plan to evaluate your fundraising strategy at least once a year to make sure you’re that your nonprofit is heading in a forward direction.
What have you noticed about fundraising changes in the last few years or decades? Anything you’re hoping to see in the coming years? Let’s talk in the comments.