Going All In: A Digital-First Guide to Sustained Nonprofit Fundraising

You need to leverage your organization’s digital presence to increase donations. Jumpstart your fundraising by committing to a digital-first approach.
Going All In Website

It keeps many social impact leaders up at night: how to secure enough funding for their nonprofit. Not only attracting the donors but also finding a way to sustain a healthy flow of donations.

Even if your organization’s cause hasn’t changed since it began, the methods of fundraising most certainly have. It’s no longer enough to rely on annual donations from large events and your stalwart backers.

To secure a sustainable revenue stream, you need to embrace a digital-first approach.

When you adopt the mindset of a digital-first organization, your opportunities for connection and engagement are ripe. But to be effective, you need to narrow your digital focus.

There are core components of your self-sustaining, digital-first fundraising machine that enable you to strategize effectively. They include:

  1. A community of engaged supporters
  2. Opportunities for your supporters to engage in real-world action
  3. Real-world action that inspires deeper engagement through donations

Going all in on the digital-first transformation not only enhances your brand but opens the possibilities for your digital fundraising game — and can send it soaring.

In this white paper, you will learn the modern fundamentals of digital fundraising for your nonprofit, ways to leverage your digital presence to increase donations, and the tech you need to back it all up.

Going All In: A Digital-First Guide to Sustained Nonprofit Fundraising

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You know fundraising impacts every element of your organization. If your fundraising is effective, your vision is closer in reach. To do that, however, you need confidence that your money-raising methods are as savvy as they are sustainable.

As technology advances, the myriad ways to draw attention to your cause, hook your donors, and convince them to give move forward too. Suffice it to say, unrestricted fundraising takes a lot more strategy and tech than it used to. Some nonprofits have evolved their fundraising methods accordingly while others simply don’t know where to start.

To make the most out of your fundraising efforts in today’s world, there is one non-negotiable: Your organization must function like a digital media company. One that focuses on producing quality content at a pace that entices followers to want to see what’s coming next. With this digital-first mindset, you are in the best position to foster connection, inspire engagement, and advance your mission.

It’s not enough to have a static online presence supporting your fundraising goals. As Will Rogers said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Instead, your organization needs to rapidly iterate to meet the demands of today’s digital world if you want to achieve your fundraising goals and scale your impact. This means strategizing, coordinating, and planning all while thinking outside the donation box.

4 Digital-First Fundamentals for Flexing Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Muscles

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to raising money for any nonprofit. But no matter what your area of focus, there are four fundamentals of digital-first fundraising all organizations should pay attention to:

  1. Diversified revenue stream. One of the ways to break free from the starvation cycle that traps many nonprofits is to focus on different tactics to generate revenue. Your organization needs a diversified revenue stream split between the right combination of foundations, large donors, and small donors with a focus on bringing in as much unrestricted funding as possible. A diversified revenue stream is one way your organization can pivot in rapidly changing times.

  2. Pyramid of engagement. A pyramid of engagement is a tool nonprofits can use to plan different paths to sustained supporter engagement. When you double-down on the digital-first approach, it makes moving your supporters up the pyramid of engagement efficient. To have any hope of achieving your mission, your organization needs to build a long-lasting community of supporters, champions, and leaders. After all, an ongoing, loyal community generates ongoing, sustainable revenue.

  3. Recurring revenue. Recurring revenue needs attention in your planning just as much as diversified revenue. Memberships are a method to check the recurring revenue box, but there are other options, too. For example, you could encourage your supporters to pledge any amount on a recurring basis. Some may be able to give $1 at a time. Others may give $10. The point is, it all adds up and can attract a wider pool of donors. Every dollar makes a difference, especially if you can count on it. By supporting your organization on a reliable time table, donors can feel empowered knowing they have a hand in furthering your cause month after month.

  4. The attention economy. To gain any traction in securing attention for your cause, let alone funding, your organization needs to continually work to stand out. It’s tough out there in the attention economy. Your organization’s digital voice is up against social media and the 24/7 news cycle in competing for people’s attention. If you can seize your audience’s attention often enough, you’re well on your way to more constant engagement and growth (and ultimately donors).
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How to Fundraise on Your Digital Platform

You need to take stock of your staffing resources and digital infrastructure. Assessing what you already have and determining what you need will make planning and execution go much more smoothly. Once you have the right staffing and systems in place, it’s time to get to work.

To make the most of your dynamic digital presence, apply these impact-maximizers to your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy.

5 Methods to Leverage Your Digital Platform to Increase Donations

  1. Determine metrics and track impact. It’s hard to tell if you’re achieving your mission when you aren’t tracking your metrics. But it may be even harder to know where to start. Let us help. For one, your social impact organization must determine a few key, high-level metrics associated with your conversion goals and organizational objectives. Beyond the numbers, turn your stats into compelling stories and content for your digital platforms to make contextual connections for your supporters. Proving your work is essential for establishing trust with your donors.

  2. Build a robust, transparent digital communications plan. Beyond connecting with your cause, your supporters need to place their confidence in you to lead the charge in advancing change. That said, clear communication and transparency on your digital networks are a must. Your website, email marketing campaigns, and social media channels are all worthy avenues for letting your supporters know what’s going on and how the work you’re doing is connected to your theory of change. That can’t happen without clear, consistent, and candid communication through your digital platforms.

  3. Secure a digital avenue for donations. If your supporters have been so inspired by your storytelling, scroll-stopping content, or an event you hosted, they might be reaching for their wallet. Imagine, then, if your digital platform for accepting donations is subpar. Your digital presence doesn’t do much good if your donors can’t easily and quickly find the ‘donate’ button and get their donation through and confirmed. Securing a digital avenue for easy, fast, frictionless donations pays off.

  4. Constantly produce content. YouTube, Twitter, the latest New York Times crossword puzzle — your supporters are captured by the same digital distractions you are. To compete in the attention economy, you’re going to have to up your digital content game. Ongoing content production gives your supporters more reasons for re-engagement. They won’t engage if you don’t pique their interest in what you’re doing. The more content your supporters can connect with — and the more they understand how it affects the endgame for your cause — the better. It reflects in their donations.

  5. Participate in the larger conversation. Your niche area of focus needs your voice. Publish content that contributes to shaping, if not leading, the conversation. Share your voice through journals, opinion pieces, sponsorships — anything that amplifies your specific thoughts, successes, and even teachable failures as they relate to the work you do. Contributing to the larger conversation gives you more credibility, attracting more donors — big and small.

Fuse Your Fundraising and Digital Media Calendars for Maximum Impact

When you combine community-building and advocacy work, there’s a synergy that creates space for continuous engagement and swelling financial support. This is especially attractive for your larger donors and foundations who need their giving to be bolstered by your credibility. Having a clear understanding of where their money goes and the larger influence your organization owns makes your funders more inclined to provide grant funding and larger donations over time.

To gain solid ground on building synergy within your organization and outside relationships, however, you need to have a holistic plan.

Get out your calendars — fundraising and editorial alike — and prepare to coordinate events and opportunities at least a year out. Then consider the following for maximum synergy:

  • Map out the big events. Coordinate your content and communications strategy to coincide with your known events: grant deadlines, major donor asks, events, Giving Tuesday, and year-end giving, to name a few. These dates are calendared out for the year — leverage them. Don’t miss an opportunity to create compelling content around these fundraising events or connect your real-world efforts to fundraising events or storytelling opportunities.

  • Find the overlap. The boots-on-the-ground work your organization does never stops, not even during the height of your fundraising campaigns. Overlay your organization’s calendar of real-world efforts with the fundraising campaigns calendar. Then look for campaign opportunities that not only raise money and awareness but also cement the community of supporters you are building. Connecting the two makes for smoother planning across the board and amplifies existing opportunities to solidify engagement and donor dollars.

  • Build an editorial calendar. When your nonprofit functions as a digital-first organization, the content you produce is part of the work. Your impact stories, program updates, and calls to action educate supporters (and potential supporters) and drive real-world action. And they generate a feeling of purpose, connection, and community.

When synergy flows between your fundraising and digital media calendars, there is abundant opportunity for engagement and connection with your audience — leading to sustained, diverse revenue streams for your organization that can distance you from the vicious cycle of starvation.

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The Tech Stack: Digital Means More Than Your Website

Embracing the digital-first transformation means more than updating your website. You’ll need to add or upgrade additional technology to ensure a satisfying and smooth experience for your donors. Not only that, but the right tools will organize your information, create more effective marketing campaigns, and better foster the relationships you’re building.

Here’s your tech checklist. Do you have the following systems in place?

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software. Just like tracking your metrics, tracking your donor data is important, too. You need a robust tool that can organize your donor’s information so you’re better able to make insightful decisions — from list segmentation to campaign targets. There are many platforms available, such as EveryAction.
  • Donation system. Your donor’s experience when giving to your cause should be fast and frictionless. Make sure the digital payment system you have in place is efficient and doesn’t force donors to give up in frustration.
  • Marketing automation. If any tech frees up your time to focus on bigger issues, it’s marketing automation software. This tool streamlines marketing work from multiple channels and automates certain tasks. Think HubSpot, Mailchimp, Act-On, etc.
  • Digital hub. Connect everything from content management to donations with a digital hub. Think of a digital hub as a combination of your website, action center, and scroll-stopping digital experiences. This digital hub is where your supporters and community can return again and again to engage with your cause. They might do this through petitions, surveys, membership benefits, articles, videos, streaming events, and webinars. All of your digital fundraising and marketing efforts should send allies, supporters, and potential new community members to your digital hub and work to keep them coming back.
  • Action Center. Give your supporters a place to engage with one another, respond to your calls to action, and know where they can take action on their own. A digital space like an action center is designed to foster engagement by driving supporters to actionable tasks.
  • Analytics. There are countless tools to track the performance of your website from Google Analytics to Mixpanel, among many others. Find what works best for your organization.
  • Social media. You’re probably no stranger to the Twitterverse, LinkedIn Land, or Facebook World. But there is such a thing as spreading yourself too thin. Make sure you’re focused on a few of the most fitting channels for your brand. Ones that you organically pour more meaningful content into.

As Today’s Issues Evolve, Your Nonprofit’s Digital Fundraising Strategy Must Evolve Too

As you likely experienced in 2020, you never know when your organization will need to rapidly iterate to keep up with the state of the world and how it influences the digital world. To have any chance of solving big issues, social impact organizations need to adopt a digital-first mindset — or be outpaced by those who do.

In your aim to see your vision come to fruition, you can’t rest — and your supporters can’t either. Empower your donors to give now to solve the problems we face today. Communicate their role as catalysts in solving the issues we face right now — climate change, wealth inequality, racial injustice — by giving what they can, when they can.

Collective impact, a feeling of purpose, and a sense of community need to be top of mind for your communications, marketing, and fundraising efforts. Because above all, these are the tenets that charge your supporters to emotionally and financially invest in your cause.

In your fight for systems-level change, it’s not enough to depend on the fundraising methods of yesterday. Get closer to solving humanity’s problems today by jumpstarting your fundraising game and inviting your supporters to join you. There’s no time to waste in your nonprofit’s mission to change the world.

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