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Tips and tricks for attracting nonprofit donations

Tips and tricks for attracting nonprofit donations

Any advice about attracting nonprofit donations must first start with the viral fundraising stunt that involved water, Bill Gates and social media.

We’re talking about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and chances are, you were one of the 17 million people who took the plunge in the summer of 2014. This one simple stunt raised $115 million, which paid for groundbreaking research to help fight this debilitating neuromuscular disease.

When it comes to attracting nonprofit donations, it doesn’t get much better than that. And while it might be difficult to replicate the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, there are techniques you can employ to maximize donations, particularly online, where data shows our efforts to raise money are lagging behind.

1. Get better at telling your story

The most important thing any nonprofit organization can do is tell its story in a way that compels others to support its cause. There’s simply no way to maximize fundraising without a story that resonates with your target audience — especially online, where the attention spans of potential donors are notoriously short.

Many times nonprofit websites fall into jargon-heavy lingo that makes perfect sense to people within the organization — but not those on the outside.


We’re often told that having lots of data will help with fundraising, and from the perspective of a grantor organization, that is certainly true. But for the average donor, a set of bulleted statistics can cause them to glaze over and move on.

There’s also the problem of internal staff getting so caught up in an organization’s own culture that they fail to see the larger picture. That’s why a member of your board might think your marketing materials are terrific, but a potential donor may not be compelled to give.

For your nonprofit’s website to be effective, it should paint a vivid portrait of the work you’re trying to do, the communities you’re trying to impact and the steps a person can take to get involved and make a difference.

It sounds so simple, but the reality is that there are only a select group of nonprofits that do this well.

A good story will add an authentic touch to your website and lay a foundation for increased fundraising. Telling your story effectively starts with answering two basic questions:

  • Who is my target audience?
  • What is it about my cause that matters to them?

Related: What information should you include in your buyer persona customer profile?

2. Maximize the digital giving experience

Each year, Blackbaud publishes an annual survey of charitable organizations. It found that in 2016 only 7.2 percent of overall annual fundraising revenue by U.S. nonprofits came from online donations.

The Stanford Social Innovation Review actually published an article last year asking, “Is Online Fundraising a Bad Idea?” In it, the authors suggest that the total average amount of the online gift is trending downward and that donors give about one-third as much online as they do through other venues.

But the internet is the most powerful venue for buying and selling ever created.


Just look at eCommerce sales, and you’ll realize the potential of attracting nonprofit donations via the web. In fact, eCommerce sales are exptected to hit $22 trillion this year.

You might not look at it this way, but you’re also in the business of selling online. Instead of selling clothes or shoes, your “product” might be helping the homeless or rehoming shelter pets. You are selling a cause for people to believe in and support. So why not capitalize on a tool where consumers are already spending money?

Related: Nonprofits: How to design a web page in 20 minutes 

3. Create an online giving ecosystem

“As our world faces mounting challenges, fragmented interests and resource scarcity, many foundations are taking a more systemic and holistic ‘philanthropic ecosystem’ approach,” according to Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact’s 2016 Charitable Giving Report.

In today’s world, attracting nonprofit donations means shifting to a more integrated fundraising approach.


You can start by taking a page from commercial businesses and thinking about your organization’s value proposition. Then consider how you’re sharing that with potential donors at each stage of contact with your organization.

Salesforce calls it the “donor journey,” and it’s similar to a sale prospecting cycle. While an integrated giving experience might feel out-of-reach for a small organization, there are a few simple things you can do to encourage donations at each stage of online contact:

  • Make sure there is an easy-to-find DONATE NOW button on every page of your website.
  • Simplify your donation form to reduce the amount of data you collect (and speed up the donor experience).
  • Suggest giving amounts as part of the donation form. Research shows this improves the average online gift size.
  • Suggest a monthly gift tied to a specific campaign. For example: “$25 a month funds food for one homeless pet for 30 days.”
  • Allow users to easily share a message about their donation on social media, such as: “I just gave $25 to the ACLU. Join me by matching my gift with your own.”

Related: Find your unique selling proposition to build a website that really works

Attracting nonprofit donations is only the first step

Remember, “only 15 percent of the work in fundraising is ‘the ask,’” according to Entrepreneur. Attracting nonprofit donations through the power of online giving is just the first step in cultivating a relationship with your donor that benefits your organization long-term.

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