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At the risk of stating the obvious, non-profits thrive on community support. Some may sell products and services, but many rely on donations in both time and money from their base. With out a strong foundation, they would quickly run out of the funds they need to keep going.
However, almost any non-profit can tell you that running a successful fundraising campaign can be an exhausting effort. They time to plan and coordinate, and the costs involved in running a campaign eat away at the funds raised by it. While it’s true that you have to spend money to make money, that’s no argument against following the most effective and economical strategies.
Fortunately, our work with non-profits has given us some insight into how these organizations can use their websites to grow donor support by highly cost-effective means. We’ve often said that your website is your strongest sales too. Here’s how that applies to fundraising.
Your website can be drawing in donations from around the globe 24/7/365. It doesn’t take holidays, it doesn’t sleep, and it knows no time zone. And yet, non-profits overlook their websites when they start a fundraising campaign. At most, they think about it as an afterthought—as a place donors can make donations if they want, not as the primary donation portal of their organization.
So, begin by focusing on your site design. Do you have a call-to-action asking visitors to donate at the top of your home page? Can users still see it if they navigate to a different page on the site? Is that call to action large and visible? When visitors reach your donation page, are the forms clean and easy to read? Do you have a surplus of required fields that might hinder a donation? Do you have any way to follow up with donors after they contribute?
Recurring donations are not an Internet-only affair. Many donation forms include a box that indicates the donor would like the same or similar amount deducted from their account each month. However, the downside of these donations is that they’re much harder for donors to manage. They may not want to agree to a monthly donation if they don’t know how to cancel it. And if they want to change their donation amount later, they probably have to make a phone call to talk to a representative—and we all know how much people hate making phone calls.
Online donations have none of these roadblocks. While guest donations are always an option, it’s also possible to create user accounts for donors that help them manage their donations. They’ll be more comfortable signing up if they know they can cancel, and allowing them to adjust their contribution makes it easier for them to reduce the amount rather than cancel outright, or even decide to give more.
Online media is a tremendous boon to non-profits not only because it offers a new channel by which they may contact possible donors, but also because it helps galvanize their own support base through peer-to-peer donations.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are when your donors take it upon themselves to raise more donations from their social network. They’re becoming ever more common, especially since Facebook has recently offered new tools that help users raise funds for causes they want to support. However, while hosting these fundraising events on other sites often means losing a portion of your gains in fees, you can run them with less overhead off your own website. Use social media to promote your cause, but drive the traffic to your website.
When you’ve got it—flaunt it. This is especially true when it comes to your community. People want to feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves, especially when it comes to donations. Without a visible community, donors are less likely to contribute, because they believe it won’t be enough to achieve anything. But when they feel part of a movement, then they have more confidence that even small donations will have the effect they need.
Another way to help your donors feel like every little bit counts? Find an organization that will match their donations dollar for dollar. Your community will feel inspired to pitch in extra when they know each little bit will double.
This can be a great way to become more involved with other local groups as well. Many businesses want to show the good they’re doing in their community by participating with a non-profit. If you can bring a group of them together to back your fundraising drive, then you’ll can raise the profile of everyone involved.
Finally, donors want to know where their money is going. One of the biggest hesitations many individuals have to donating is the sense that their dollars will be tied up in administrative costs, or that their contributions will go to fund a poorly-run program.
Counteract these fears with transparency. Don’t be afraid to show how much of their donations go toward keeping your organization running. Show what you plan to do with your funds, and then follow up with information about what you did. Doing so will encourage donors to give again, and may even make them more generous.
Fundraising is all part of marketing. That means your organization can follow many tried-and-true automated sales techniques to grow donations. You can plan a content marketing strategy to grow visitors, offer downloadable content that showcases the work your non-profit does, create a newsletter that acts as a magnet for email leads, and follow up with donors via automated email marketing.
These methods have proven their effectiveness time and again. Employed in the service of your non-profit, they’re bound to bring your fundraising effort