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Guide to Successful Online Fundraising

Donors
by Ellie Chang
June 1, 2024
14 min read
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Imagine you're a small charity with just enough manpower to knock on a hundred doors every day, desperately hoping it doesn't rain. Or imagine you're an individual with only a few dollars in your bank account, driven to combat homelessness in your area. Perhaps you are someone who simply wants to make a difference in the world.

In today's digital age, it is easier than ever to transform ideas into impact with quick and wide-scale online fundraising. This guide to successful online fundraising will explore everything you need to know about online fundraising ideas, starting online fundraising campaigns, and leveraging technology to maximize fundraising revenues.

Whether you're a giant multinational nonprofit working to raise funds on a massive scale or an individual volunteering with a local soup kitchen, online fundraising may be the tool you need to take your efforts one step further.

To change a student's life with only a few clicks, visit Bold.org to discover how you can contribute as a donor today.

online fundraising

Understanding Online Fundraising

Put simply, online fundraising is any type of fundraising done online. A defining part of any online fundraising strategy is an online donation page. This is simply a website where donors can digitally transfer money from their bank accounts to the nonprofit's. This online donation page may be accompanied by a variety of other online fundraising strategies to entice new donors and increase donations.

Benefits of Online Fundraising

Online fundraising has transformed the way individuals and organizations raise money for their causes. Traditionally, nonprofits would host in-person events or send physical mail to their donors, costing a substantial amount of time and money.

An online fundraising strategy eliminates many of the geographical, financial, and logistical boundaries that hold back most in-person fundraisers. Here are the top four benefits that make it an attractive option:

1. Broader Reach

Online fundraising can engage supporters from around the world, significantly expanding the potential donor base and enhancing the chances of raising more funds. A donation form can easily be sent to thousands of people across the world.

2. Cost-Effective

With minimal fees and no printing or postage costs, online fundraising allows a larger portion of donations to go directly to the cause, making it more cost effective than traditional methods. Furthermore, many online platforms offer a variety of analytical capabilities that can make other online fundraising ideas and processes more cost-effective.

3. Convenience and Accessibility

Online fundraising provides convenience for both organizers and donors. Campaigns can be set up quickly, and donors can contribute at any time from the comfort of their homes, increasing the likelihood of donations.

4. Enhanced Engagement

Features like social media sharing, comment sections, and progress bars encourage donor engagement and interaction, fostering a sense of community and loyalty among supporters.

In summary, an online fundraising strategy offers broad reach, cost-effectiveness, convenience, real-time insights, and enhanced donor engagement, making it a powerful tool for raising money.

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Ideas for Online Fundraising Campaigns

Within the broad category of online fundraisers, there exist countless different types of online or virtual fundraising campaigns. Let's dive into the top eight fundraising ideas so you can find the one that best matches your organization's mission and needs.

1. Crowdfunding

Commonly touted as the fastest and easiest way to raise large amounts of money, crowdfunding is, aptly, a crowd-favorite. A crowdfunding campaign involves raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically through dedicated crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo.

A crowdfunding campaign often includes compelling stories, engaging visuals, and clear goals to attract donors. When paired with effective social media posts and strategies, crowdfunding campaigns can become one of the most efficient and reliant sources of fundraising revenue for nonprofit organizations.

Best for reaching a wide audience and gathering funds quickly.

2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising leverages the networks of individual supporters to raise money on behalf of a cause. Supporters create their own fundraising pages and share them with their personal networks via social media, email, and other channels.

Peer-to-peer fundraising can be highly effective because of the personal connections used to draw in new donors. This makes it one of the best online fundraising ideas for donor retention and engagement.

Best for engaging passionate supporters and expanding the reach of the campaign through personal connections.

3. Virtual Events

Virtual events have become increasingly popular, especially in light of recent global events like the COVID-19 pandemic. Some virtual fundraising ideas include:

  • online auction
  • virtual gala
  • webinar
  • live-streamed performance
  • virtual trivia night
  • virtual movie night
  • virtual concert

Virtual fundraising events allow participants to engage with the cause from anywhere in the world, making them a versatile and accessible option for fundraising. While an in-person event may feel more intimate, a virtual event more than makes up for its drawbacks through its wide reach and accessibility.

Best for engaging and retaining donors through enjoyable and lively events.

4. Recurring Donations

Recurring donations, or subscription donations, involve setting up a system where donors commit to giving a set amount on a regular basis (e.g., monthly or annually). Platforms like Patreon and subscription features on fundraising websites facilitate recurring donations.

This online fundraising strategy makes it extremely easy for donors to contribute funds after the initial set-up and can easily be combined with other online fundraising efforts or in-person events.

Best for a steady stream of income and building long-term relationships with donors.

social media fundraising

5. Social Media Fundraising

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter offer built-in fundraising tools that make it easy to raise money directly through social media. Features like Facebook Fundraisers and Instagram's "Donate" button allow users to quickly set up and promote their campaigns to their followers, making social media fundraising a powerful tool for reaching a large audience.

A social media challenge can also generate attention around your organization and has an increased probability of going viral, further attracting more donors. Now, with more people than ever owning mobile devices, social media also offers a convenient and accessible way to access a donation form. For these reasons, social media is undoubtedly one of the best virtual fundraising ideas!

Best for engaging with the 18-29 demographic and remaining socially relevant.

6. Product Sales and Merchandise

Selling products or branded merchandise online can be an effective way to raise funds. This can include anything from T-shirts and mugs to digital products like e-books or online courses. Creating a dedicated online store or partnering with platforms like Etsy or Shopify can help manage sales and collect donations seamlessly.

Selling branded products can also generate awareness through the free advertising that buyers contribute when they use your products. A well-built brand can also make it easier to raise funds from a dedicated community of donors.

Best for raising awareness, promoting the organization's mission, and building community.

7. Online Contests and Raffles

Hosting online contests and raffles can engage donors and incentivize contributions. In an online raffle, participants donate for a chance to win prizes, making the fundraising process fun and interactive. Platforms like RallyUp and Rafflecopter offer tools to set up and manage online contests and raffles easily.

Best for engaging donors in fun and interactive ways.

8. Giving Days and Challenges

Organizing an online giving day or challenge can create a sense of urgency and excitement around fundraising campaigns. These events typically last 24 hours and encourage donors to contribute within a specific timeframe. Matching donations and donor challenges can further incentivize online giving.

Each of these online fundraising ideas offers unique advantages and can be tailored to fit the specific needs of your campaign. By leveraging a combination of these strategies, you can maximize your fundraising efforts and reach a wider audience.

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online fundraising campaign

Planning an Online Fundraising Campaign

If you have an online fundraising idea in mind but have no idea where to start, fear not. This comprehensive step-by-step guide ensures that you can plan a successful online fundraising campaign with ease and proficiency.

1. Set Clear Goals

Define Objectives: Determine what you want to achieve with your campaign. Are you raising funds for a specific project, event, or operational needs? This can greatly influence the type of fundraiser you choose to implement.

Set a Fundraising Target: Establish a realistic financial goal based on your needs and the capacity of your donor base. Make sure the target is achievable and inspires donors to contribute. This fundraising goal may also encourage donors to contribute more as they understand the financial need better.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Research and Segment: Understand who your potential donors are. Consider factors like age, interests, location, and previous engagement with similar causes. Consider investing in a donor management system to better track and target your donors.

Tailor Your Message: Customize your communication and promotional strategies to resonate with different segments of your audience. Personalized messaging increases engagement and donations. Eligible nonprofits should also make it clear to potential donors that donations are tax-deductible.

3. Craft a Compelling Story

Tell Your Story: Share the story behind your cause and make sure it is easily accessible on your campaign page and donation page. Explain why your mission matters and how donations will make a difference. Use emotional and relatable narratives to connect with your audience.

Use Visuals: Enhance your story with images, videos, and infographics. Visual content can capture attention, make your message more impactful, and help sell tickets for fundraising events. It can also amp up the engagement of your donation page.

4. Develop a Detailed Plan

Create a Timeline: Outline the key milestones and deadlines for your online fundraiser. Include preparation, launch, promotion, and post-campaign follow-up phases. Stick to these deadlines as best as you can, but offer flexibility in case challenges arise.

Budgeting: Allocate resources for marketing, platform fees, and any additional costs. Ensure you have the necessary funds to execute your plan effectively. The funds you pour into your online fundraising efforts should not exceed the projected funds you'll raise from the fundraiser.

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5. Choose the Right Platform

Select a Fundraising Platform: Research and choose a platform that aligns with your goals and audience. Consider factors like fees, ease of use, and available features. GoFundMe, Classy, and Donorbox are popular online fundraising platforms.

Tip: Social media such as Facebook or Instagram are also highly effective online fundraising platforms!

Set Up Your Page: Create an engaging and informative online fundraising page. Include your story, goals, visuals, and a clear call to action. Make your donation page extremely accessible and easy to navigate. Consider putting a full online donation form right on your website's landing page.

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fundraising for education

6. Promote Your Campaign

Social Media: Leverage social media platforms to spread the word. Use targeted ads, posts, stories, and live streams to reach a broader audience.

Email Marketing: Build and maintain an email list. Send personalized emails to inform, remind, and update your supporters about the campaign.

Collaborate with Influencers: Partner with influencers or organizations that share your values. Their endorsement can amplify your reach and credibility.

Remember to always link your donation page in each of your online promotions!

7. Monitor and Adjust

Track Performance: Use analytics tools to monitor the performance of both your organization and campaign. Online fundraising software often has these tools built in. Track metrics such as total funds raised, number of donors, and engagement levels.

Make Adjustments: Be flexible and ready to adjust your strategies based on the data. If something isn’t working, try a different approach or tweak your message. Remember to prioritize the integrity of your organization and ensure you're not sacrificing it to raise more funds.

8. Post-Campaign Follow-Up

Thank Your Donors: Show appreciation to your donors with personalized thank-you notes, emails, or shout-outs on social media.

Report on Impact: Share the results of the campaign and how the funds will be used. Transparency builds trust and encourages future support.

Maintain Relationships: Keep in touch with your supporters through regular updates, newsletters, and invitations to future events or campaigns. Donor relationships are a crucial part of any serious fundraising strategy and ideas.

By following these steps, you can create a well-planned online fundraising campaign that effectively reaches and engages your audience, ultimately helping you achieve your fundraising goals.

At Bold.org, we value the time and resources of our donors. That's why we make the process of starting a fund 100% free for both donors and students! Explore our pricing page for more information about donations.

leveraging technology for education funding

Leveraging Technology and Tools

The most unique part of online fundraising is the ability to utilize all the advanced technological tools that have made fundraising more efficient and effective. Many organizations, especially older ones, still rely too much on traditional methods of fundraising without being aware of the digitized world we now live in.

The online fundraising opportunities available to nonprofits now would be incomprehensible fifty years ago. That's why maximizing your technological resources is one of the most important parts of leading a successful online fundraiser.

1. Online Fundraising Platforms

Crowdfunding Campaign Sites: Platforms like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo are popular for their user-friendly interfaces and wide reach. They offer features like customizable campaign pages, social media integration, and progress tracking.

Nonprofit-Specific Platforms: Sites like JustGiving, Classy, and Network for Good cater specifically to nonprofits, offering advanced features like donor management software, recurring donations, and event fundraising.

2. Social Media Tools

Social Media Management: Tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social help you schedule posts, track engagement, and manage multiple social media accounts from one dashboard. These tools save time and ensure consistent communication across all your accounts with your audience.

3. Email Marketing Software

Email Campaigns: Tools like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and SendinBlue enable you to create, schedule, and track email campaigns. Use these online platforms to send personalized messages, updates, and thank-you notes to your supporters.

Automation: Email automation features allow you to send targeted emails based on donor behavior, such as follow-up emails to donors who haven’t completed their donation or thank-you emails to new contributors. These features can also greatly increase your ability to collect donations, invite donors and encourage supporters.

4. Analytics and Tracking

Website Analytics: Google Analytics provides insights into how visitors interact with your fundraising page and campaign/donation page. Track metrics like page views, bounce rates, and conversion rates to understand donor behavior and optimize your campaign. These metrics can also be used to edit your campaign landing page or online donation pages to entice more donors.

Campaign Analytics: Many fundraising platforms offer built-in analytics tools that provide real-time data on donations, donor demographics, and campaign performance. Use this data to make informed decisions and adjust your strategies as needed.

5. Payment Processing

Secure Payments: Ensure secure payment processing with tools like PayPal, Stripe, and Square. These online platforms offer robust security features and are widely trusted by donors.

Multiple Payment Options: Offering various payment options, including credit/debit cards, bank transfers, and digital wallets, can increase convenience for donors and boost contributions.

According to Double the Donation, 63% of donors prefer to give online with a credit card, so even if you're having an in-person event, online donation methods are available. Direct mail (16%) and PayPal (10%) are the next most preferred forms of donation.

crm and donor management systems

6. CRM and Donor Management

CRM Software: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, Bloomerang, and DonorPerfect help you manage donor information, track interactions, and segment your audience for targeted communication.

Donor Management Tools: These tools offer features like donor history tracking, personalized communication, and automated reminders for recurring donations, helping you build and maintain strong relationships with your supporters.

These are especially helpful for tracking lapsed donors. Lapsed donors are donors who have stopped donating for a long period of time. If your organization has a large quantity of donors, these lapsed donors can fall through the cracks. A donor management system can help solve this problem.

7. Content Creation Tools

Visual Content: Tools like Canva, Adobe Spark, and Piktochart allow you to create engaging visuals, infographics, and videos to enhance your campaign’s storytelling and appeal. Many of these websites are also extremely accessible to the average person. This means nonprofits can generate visually-stimulate marketing materials without needing to hire a graphic designer.

Video Editing: Software like iMovie, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Animoto help you produce professional-quality videos to share your story, showcase impact, and thank donors.

Utilize these visuals and videos on your donation forms, campaign page, and virtual fundraising advertisements to generate buzz and facilitate donations to your organization. Remember to keep in mind the different layout on mobile devices and bigger screens.

8. Virtual Event Platforms

Webinar and Live Streaming: Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and YouTube Live enable you to host virtual fundraising events, engage with supporters in real time, and raise funds through online participation. Consider a virtual movie night or virtual trivia night!

Online Auction and Event Management: Many organizations use tools like Handbid, BiddingForGood, and Eventbrite to help you organize online auctions, sell tickets, and track event participation.

9. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tools

Peer-to-Peer Campaign Platforms: Tools like DonorDrive, Fundly, and GiveGab empower your supporters to create their own fundraising pages and solicit donations from their networks. These platforms provide templates, social sharing options, and progress tracking to facilitate peer-to-peer efforts. This also means your supporters will invite donors for you, a form of free marketing that you should also capitalize on.

By leveraging these technologies and tools, you can enhance the efficiency, reach, and impact of your online fundraiser. Utilizing the right combination of platforms and software will enable you to engage with donors effectively, track progress accurately, and ultimately raise more funds for your cause.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Successful Online Fundraising

How do I ensure the security of online donations to raise money?

  • Choose Reputable Platforms: Use a trusted online fundraising platform with robust security. As mentioned, GoFundMe, Classy, and Donorbox are some of the most popular platforms.
  • Secure Payment Processing: Integrate secure processors like PayPal, Stripe, or Square. These have been used by millions of people and thousands of organizations worldwide.

How do I figure out what online fundraising ideas are best for my nonprofit?

  • Know Your Audience: Analyze donor preferences and online behaviors. Always be receptive to feedback. It is your greatest resource for implementing relevant and engaging fundraisers to encourage online giving.
  • Assess Resources: Match fundraising ideas with your team’s skills and budget. Do not go beyond your financial means. If anything, maintaining an online donation form can still be a source of revenue.
  • Evaluate Past Success: Learn from previous campaigns and test new ideas on a small scale. Don't be afraid to research what online fundraising ideas have worked for other nonprofits.

What should I do if my online campaign isn't reaching its goals?

  • Analyze and Adjust: Review campaign analytics and tweak your strategy. Online fundraising software is great for this, so make sure to take full advantage of any fundraising software you may have.
  • Boost Promotion: Usually, your fundraiser isn't gaining traction because of a lack of awareness for it. Increase efforts on social media, email marketing, and influencer partnerships to increase the efficacy of your fundraising efforts.
  • Engage and Incentivize: Mobilize supporters for peer-to-peer fundraising and offer donation incentives. Fundraising online means you can reach a greater number of donors at once, so make sure to capitalize upon online-specific capabilities.

Motivated to start making a difference? Read through our donor FAQs to get started on your journey towards funding a student's higher education!

Ellie Chang
Content Writer

About Ellie

Ellie is an exceptional writer and researcher with expertise in financial aid, scholarship applications, and aid negotiation. Throughout high school, she applied for scholarships and was able to win enough to cover all of her external scholarship limit.

Ellie is a freshman at Brown University, majoring in Classics and Literary Arts with a focus on fiction. She’s currently a research assistant for the American Sign Language department at Brown University where she fulfills many different roles to promote ASL's presence on campus and in the local community.

Experience

Despite being a recent high school graduate, Ellie has already built a strong foundation as a writer. She volunteered with an online nonprofit to launch their pilot blog program, excelling as both a writer and editor. Her role as the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper further honed her editorial skills, while her participation in international Debate & Forensics competitions enhanced her ability to craft compelling arguments and narratives. These experiences showcase her initiative, leadership, and dedication to the craft of writing.

Since joining the Bold.org team in 2024 as a Content Writer, Ellie has leveraged her extensive background as a scholarship applicant and recipient to help others navigate the scholarship application process. Her expertise also includes crafting resumes, writing cover letters, and preparing for interviews.

As a student who will invariably graduate with debt, she is increasingly sensitive to the financial pressures college students face. Motivated by her desire to make a meaningful impact, she aims to advocate for accessible financial resources and support systems that can help alleviate the burden of higher education costs for future students.

Ellie is driven by her passion to make a meaningful impact. Through her creative and engaging writing, she addresses relevant issues with the powerful art of storytelling. Ellie strives to make information accessible, helping students understand the nuances of college life.

Quote from Ellie

 "There is a defiance in being a dreamer." 

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