How to Get Donations Online: 22 Strategies You Have to Try

Fundraising November 05, 2021

Terry Ibele

By Terry Ibele

Online donations are a great way to maximize your nonprofit’s time and resources while having a larger impact.  

However, with the volume of online content growing, capturing attention and keeping it is more difficult than ever.  

To help you grab the attention of today's donors and keep it, here’s our guide for how to get donations online. With best practices used by leading nonprofit organizations, this blog post covers: 

  • What to prep before you start with online giving 

  • How to bring your fundraising plan to life 

  • Why people give 

  • 22 Surefire ways to get donations online 

Let’s get started!

What to Prep Before You Start with Online Giving

Fundraising involves a lot of planning, strategy, and creativity. Before you start your online giving program, it’s important to have certain things in place so you’re prepared: 

  • Create a plan. A nonprofit fundraising plan can help you determine the different pieces of your campaign and how they will work together. To create a plan, you should: 

  • Reflect on past successes to identify your donation wins and areas of improvement. 

  • Keep your vision and values top of mind as a guiding post for every action you take.  

  • Play to trends, whether on TikTok or Twitter, to boost your fundraiser’s visibility.  

  • Use goals and metrics to track your progress and adjust where necessary along the way.  

  • Use your existing network of supporters to connect with their contacts with like-minded interests and values.  

  • Incorporate donor stewardship to turn one-time donors into recurring donors (More on this later!) 

  • Set clear roles and tasks with specific timelines or goals. 

  • Set your budget so that you don’t overspend.  

  • Make a calendar by listing your activities, events, and campaigns, and organize them for each quarter of your year. 

  • Create your fundraising story. Identify the protagonist, problem, and how your donors provide a solution and then communicate it consistently across platforms.

  • Fine-tune your ask. Be specific with what you’re asking for. Quantify your fundraising needs with a timeline or actionable steps donors can take.

  • Be transparent about impact. Try including a donation bar, information about the donation recipient, or tiered donations tied to level of impact.  

  • Optimize your site for online giving. With the right fundraising software, you can transform your website into a powerful donation tool. If your organization hasn't invested in online donation software yet, here are a few good reasons to consider it.

  • Show your thanks. Create an automated, personalized thank you email to show donors your appreciation and gratitude. 

How to Run a More Effective Fundraising Campaign 

When you launch your campaign to get donations online, there are two things to keep in mind to make sure you’re your best fundraising self:  

1. A/B Testing

A/B testing is a great way to figure out what actions you can take to generate more donations. Run your campaign with different versions and test these elements throughout your campaign: 

  • What wording connects with donors? 

  • What colors are most compelling? 

  • What CTA drives the most donations? 

  • What visuals are working well (or not)? 

2. Analyze and Pivot

You should be improving and iterating in real time during your fundraiser. Check your progress against your goals and success metrics. If something isn’t working well, pivot. Check things like: 

  • A/B tests 

  • Performance across specific channels  

  • Donation page conversion rate 

  • Return vs. new donors 

Why Do People Donate? 

Knowing why people give can be a great way to work with people rather than against them as you’re creating your fundraising guide.  

Here are some of the top reasons why people donate: 

  1. Social connection to community or your mission (personal or emotional) 

  1. Trust in the organization 

  1. Altruism and making a positive impact 

  1. Immediate impact or tangible results for contributions 

  1. Appeals to ego (makes them feel good!) 

  1. Tax benefits 

With these things in mind, it’s time to cover the 22 surefire ways to get donations online!

fundraising ebook  

22 Surefire Ways to Get Donations Online

1. Nonprofit Email Campaigns 

Email campaigns can be a powerful tool for donor capture, conversion, and relationship building.  

Charity: water created an email campaign that helped them raise $800,000. In their campaign, they sent regular emails dedicated to educating and inspiring their email subscribers, rather than just sending one or two mass donation requests. 

In a similar way, you can launch an email campaign just like charity: water, which included four major parts: 

  1. A pre-launch email to subscribers 

  1. A launch email to subscribers 

  1. Weekly email updates throughout the campaign  

  1. An additional weekly email to donors to keep them engaged 

When creating your email campaign, make sure that your emails are mobile friendly, since 56% of emails are viewed from a mobile phone or tablet. If you’re a WildApricot customer, all our email and newsletter templates are automatically mobile friendly so you don’t have to worry about this.

Charity Water   

2. Text to Donate

People check their phones on average 85 times per day. So the easiest way to reach a donor on the go is to send them a text. 

Txt2give, which has helped nonprofits raise over 25 million dollars, is one software provider that can easily send a donation campaign to all your contacts at once so you can start receiving donations right away.

Txt2Give

3. Direct Mail Fundraising 

Even if you're asking people to donate online, a simple letter in the mail should still be part of your strategy.  

A positive thing about snail mail volume decreasing by 30% in the last 10 years is that there’s less competition for someone’s attention in their mailbox.   

This means that a personalized donation letter has a better chance of standing out when people sort through their letters. 

When writing donation letters, Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority has a great recommendation: distill your fundraising story down to the key points you would hit if you only had 30 seconds to tell someone about your nonprofit.   

Looking to get started? Click here to download our donation letter template and example! 

Donation Letter Template + Example

4. Facebook 

With over one billion users on Facebook, it’s one platform that you don’t want to overlook! But it can be tough to cut through the clutter.   

There are many ways to make use of Facebook for fundraisers such as: 

  • Facebook's Fundraisers. Use it for peer-to-peer fundraising or other fundraiser activities. Anyone can set up a fundraiser and leverage their social network.  

  • Facebook Live. Team up with your supporters or someone notable and host an event. You can also add a donation button and show live progress for your viewers.  

Facebook’s advertising tools. Use ads to make sure your donation request shows up in people’s feeds. For more information check out our free webinar course on how to build a Facebook Ad campaign for nonprofits.  

Best Free Nonprofit Software
 

5. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great place for building your network with other nonprofit professionals, volunteers and donors.  

LinkedIn can help with your fundraising goals in a bunch of ways: 

  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Use this tool to build on donor relationships and identify who your prospects are. 

  • Targeted searches. Use this search function to reach out to important contacts like thought leaders who can speak at events, potential donors, or other nonprofit professionals.  

  • Inmail and introductions. LinkedIn’s InMail and Introductions feature makes it easy to make the connections that will benefit your nonprofit’s fundraising goals.  

  • Sponsored content. Sponsored content boosts posts about your fundraiser or your nonprofit’s mission to expand your audience. 

For more tips on how LinkedIn can help you get donations online, check out their nonprofit portal

6. Twitter

As a core social media platform, Twitter can help you: 

  • Build conversation. Before you start promoting your fundraiser,  drive conversation around your cause. That way, fundraiser-centric tweets won’t be out of the blue!

  • Use eye-catching visuals. Tweets with video get 10x the engagement, and watching video is the number 3 reason people use Twitter

  • Create a fundraiser hashtag. Not only does this create a sense of community with your fundraiser, it also lets you track engagement.  

  • Cross-promote tweets on other social media platforms. No need to do the same work twice! Your tweets can be repurposed on your other social platforms  

7. TikTok

TikTok is a social platform rising in popularity, combining humor, bite-size content, and video.  

There are many ways to use TikTok to promote your nonprofit fundraiser.  

  • Hashtag challenge. Create a catchy hashtag that invites potential donors to participate in a challenge related to your campaign—it’s a great way to make giving interactive! 

  • Informative content. Create videos about your nonprofit’s mission, the cause behind your fundraiser, or behind the scenes videos to engage your audience to donate. 

  • Cross-promote on other platforms. As mentioned above, you can use any content you create on TikTok and share it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. 

  • TikTok Live. Exciting news like a major gift can be announced via TikTok Live.  

  • Donation stickers. In-app donations are easy for viewers with TikTok’s donation sticker feature. However, it’s important to note that this feature is only made available to nonprofits with an established, engaged following. 

  • Use trending music. Use trending songs to ride the wave and engage with new audiences on your cause. 

  • Voiceovers. Use trending voice tracks to add humor or a new perspective on your videos to garner attention towards your cause.  

8. Blog 

To keep momentum going throughout your campaign, write multiple blog posts about your initiatives to attract new donors and keep current donors engaged with your campaign. 

For a successful blog, keep these things in mind: 

  • Emotion and useful information. Connect with your reader on an emotional level and then give them something valuable to walk away with. This builds a relationship that will make them come back for more. 

  • Take advantage of long-form content. Both search engines and people prefer content that’s 1,000 words and up. Plus, long-form content creates repurposing opportunities later down the road.  

  • Add visuals. Whether they’re infographics, videos, or pictures, adding visuals helps break up text blocks. Plus, they’re a great way to grab your reader’s attention. 

  • Check against your competitors. Google the keywords you’d like to rank for and see what the top search results are covering. Consider how you can build on it and improve. 

Just starting out with your blog? We’ve got a great guide on how to build a blog from scratch to help you out! 

9. Fundraiser Press Release 

A good press release is your “in” to get your campaign noticed by news media channels. By connecting with news outlets, you’ll be able to get eyes on your fundraising campaign beyond your existing supporters.  

If you're going the press release route for the first time, you’ll want to check out our guide on How to Write and Distribute a Nonprofit Press Release

We've even included a press release template you can use to get started. Download your free copy here:

nonprofit-press-release-example

10. Crowdfunding for Nonprofits

Crowdfunding is a great way to drive community-driven fundraising results.  

Its benefits include: 

  • Low costs and high ROI potential 

  • User-friendly software 

  • Increased opportunities for exposure 

  • Higher rates of new donor acquisition 

  • Shallow learning curve for nonprofits  

There's no shortage of crowdfunding platforms available to interested nonprofits. In the U.S. alone, there are 191 crowdfunding platforms. So, if you choose the crowdfunding path, make sure to review the top crowdfunding websites and pick the platform best suited to helping your team raise funds for your cause.  

Here’s an example of a GoFundMe page set up by the Humane Society Yukon:

humane-society-yukon

But be careful: some crowdfunding platforms take a larger slice of the donations you’re raising than others. Make sure to compare and contrast transaction and platform fees. For example, Kickstarter can take up to 10% of your funds—but its brand recognition and time-constrained campaigns can drive more donors to give.

11. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising organically builds on your existing relationships without requiring extra resources. Each supporter can create their own individual page and method of driving donations for your cause.  

Here are a few peer-to-peer fundraising tips: 

  • Create Personal KPIs and goals. KPIs and goals give your supporters something to work towards.  

  • Use gamification. Nothing encourages people more than the incentive of friendly competition. Use a fundraising tracker to track progress or offer prizes. 

  • Tie it to an event. Events engage prospective donors and provide immediate wins by allowing participants to donate on the spot to your cause.  

  • Recognize your supporters. Make sure to give thanks to donors through digital or physical gifts. More on that below.  

12. Digital Incentives for Donors 

Digital incentives are a great way to engage donors, thank them, and give them a reason beyond philanthropy to help.  

Some examples of digital incentives include: 

  • Badges 

  • Education (courses, webinars, etc) 

  • Exclusive access to content or webpages (message boards, digital events, etc) 

  • Online recognition on social media, newsletters, or your website 

  • Digital certificates 

Using digital incentives can also help encourage donor stewardship in two ways: 

  • Makes them feel connected to the organization. It serves as a reminder of their contribution and creates a meaningful relationship between you and your donor. 

  • It makes people feel good about themselves. While donating is in part a selfless act, it also hinges on the fact that people feel good after contributing to a meaningful cause.  

When people feel emotionally connected to your nonprofit, they’re more likely to be an evangelist in the future. 

A powerful example of using digital incentives is this Kickstarter campaign from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

13. Donor Swag and Merch

Like digital incentives, nonprofit swag and merch can entice potential donors. Benefits include: 

  • Additional revenue streams. Having nonprofit swag and merch can also be a way to diversify your nonprofit revenue streams in case one falls flat.  

  • Increased brand awareness and visibility. When a donor wears your swag, it becomes free advertising for your organization! 

  • A great way to say thanks. Since donating is often an altruistic act, a gift can be an unexpected and welcome surprise that makes a donor feel good. 

  • Contact list growth. When you send a gift to a donor, you have to collect important information like their email and address. With their consent, this information can be used to build your contact list.  

Examples of effective swag and merch include: 

  • A branded mug or T-shirt 

  • A sleek personalized backpack 

  • A behind-the-scenes tour of your organization 

  • A personal chat with the president of your organization 

14. Media Incentives for Fundraising Sponsors 

Much like digital incentives entice individual sponsors, you can offer media incentives for corporate sponsors. 

Examples of media incentives include: 

  • Ad space on your website 

  • A sponsored message at your annual conference 

  • A promoted sponsor post on your blog.  

Check out the sponsorship benefits the FACE Foundation offers to corporate sponsors of their annual Invitational Dog-Friendly Golf Tournament:

FACE Foundation

15. Recurring Monthly Donations 

As Abby Jarvis of Qgiv indicates, recurring donations can raise more money, provide a more reliable cash flow, and make budgeting easier. Plus, your month giving program is a great opportunity to steward one-time donors into monthly donors.  

4 steps for setting up a successful monthly donation program include: 

  1. Add a monthly donation form to website 

  1. Include a recurring donations option in donation forms 

  1. Send monthly donors a thank you email whenever they give 

  1. Reach out to existing donors to see if they’d be interested in donating monthly 

Monthly donors are a great way to sustain a steady stream of online donations. Need inspiration? Here's how UNICEF encourages their donors to give monthly:

UNICEF

If you’re looking to set up recurring donations, WildApricot’s all-in-one membership management software can help you do this. With the recurring donations feature, donors can choose to give regularly with just one click. 

Monthly giving banner

16. Event Registration Forms  

At the end of every event registration form, ask for a donation. This way, you never miss an opportunity to raise more funds.  

People are more willing to donate to your organization when they’re already paying for something else. That’s why cashiers often ask you to donate to a charity when you have your wallet out to pay for your groceries. With this strategy, America’s top 77 checkout campaigns raised $388 million in 2014. 

Wild Apricot has an easy-to-use feature where supporters can donate a pre-specified amount (such as $10, $20, or $50 dollars) when they register for an event. 

Here's how the Ride to Conquer Cancer asks for donations as part of the registration process: 

Ride to Conquer Cancer

17. Online Giving Trends 

It’s a good idea to monitor Google Trends, Facebook Trending, and Twitter’s Trending Hashtags.  Look for content relevant to your campaigns, and then take advantage of that popularity by adding to the conversation on social media.  

Other fundraising trends you can take advantage of include: 

  • Chat bots and conversational marketing 

  • Livestream fundraising 

  • Virtual events  

  • Informational videos on TikTok or Instagram 

Riding trends is an excellent way to get in front of viewers. If it suits your brand, take advantage of things like dance challenges or popular sounds on TikTok. Or use the livestream function on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok to host a live, virtual fundraising event.  

If you’re posting on Facebook, one or two posts a day will do, but on Twitter, you may have to post multiple times a day with the same hashtag to ensure visibility. For more tips on how to use social media to increase your fundraising, take a look at this article.

Check out the #FirstWorldProblems campaign from WATERisLIFE. They took a widely used hashtag and leveraged it to bring awareness the lack of clean water in developing countries. 

Waterislife

18. Eye-catching Campaign Visuals 

Visuals are a great way to tell an emotionally compelling story for your fundraiser. And with the human brain processing visuals 60,000 times faster than words, it’s worthwhile to leverage images or videos when generating online donations. Plus, relevant images can boost views of your posts by 94%.   

These eye-catching visuals can appear on collateral like: 

  • Emails (promotional, thank you, etc).  

  • Direct mail 

  • Donation pages 

  • Donation receipts 

  • Social media 

  • Year in review or quarter in review reports 

Here are some best practices to keep in mind while employing visuals in your campaign: 

  • Make sure it communicates your nonprofit culture. The imagery should be an extension of the story your copy is telling, and convey your mission. 

  • Use relevant visuals. You know what your donors and supporters care about, and what their interests are. Make sure the visuals you use resonate with them and your story. 

  • Make the visuals shareable. Make it easy for people to share your campaign with their networks by linking your infographics or videos with a post on social button.  

If you're planning on posting your donation campaign to social media, make sure to check out this guide from Venngage to optimize images across your social media platforms.

Best Free Nonprofit Software

19. Design and Fundraising Calls To Action (CTAs) 

The design of your webpage can make a big difference in whether someone donates. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind when creating your donation page: 

  • Take advantage of eye-catching, contrasting colors. Use color to catch attention and drive your visitor to take an action, like donate.  

  • Put your main CTA button in the right place. Put it in an optimized location, like the top right corner of your nav.  

  • Make sure your CTA is the right size. A good CTA is big enough to draw eyes, but not so big that it gets mistaken for a banner. Best practice is for the button be at least 44x44 pixels wide.  

  • Put important information above the fold. Anything you want your visitor to know right away should appear in the first part of the page (ie within the first scroll). 

  • Optimize for mobile. Optimize your page so it performs as well on a mobile screen as it does on a larger one.  

  • Don’t use auto-playing audio or video. If a video or audio clip plays automatically, it can disrupt your visitor’s initial experience and make them leave.  

  • Use simple design. Simple design puts your mission first. Use a minimal navigation bar and get rid of walls of text. 

  • Reduce load time. The visuals on your page shouldn’t slow it down. Make sure all imagery is resized for the bandwidth allowed on your page. 

  • Make use of color psychology. 85% of shoppers indicate that color is a primary factor when considering a purchase. So it pays to use the right color to entice people to help with your cause.  

20. Effective Nonprofit Branding 

If you’re unclear about your identity, it’s difficult to convey the urgency and intent behind causes you’re advocating for. Creating a strong brand has been proven to increase sales, word of mouth, and social media advocacy

And as Frank Barry of npEngage says, “A branded page builds trust, confidence and increases the likelihood that a person visiting your donation form will complete their transaction.” 

Make sure your branding is effective and consistent across all channels and platforms by: 

  • Communicating your story clearly 

  • Using your brand logo 

  • Using brand front 

  • Using a consistent brand voice across copy  

  • Showing your impact and intention 

  • Using emotion in your copy to create empathy 

  • Using visuals like videos, infographics, etc 

Brand guidelines can be an excellent guiding post. For example, here are the brand guidelines from the Red Cross

american-red-cross

21. Social Media Automation 

Your donation campaign should definitely be live on social media. But posting every day can take a lot of time away from other campaign channels.   

Automating your social media can help! It lets you: 

  • Maintain consistent posting volume  

  • Free resources (doesn’t drain your time, people, etc).  

  • Allows you to plan in advance for time-based or fundraising milestones 

For example, if you want to send reminders to your audience to donate, you can schedule a post that encourages people to visit your donation page. 

We recommend using social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite. With Hootsuite, you can schedule all your social media posts (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) well in advance.

Hootsuite

And if you’re looking for other ways to automate your social media campaign, here’s a list of 12 other free, or cheap social media tools for nonprofits.

22. Personalized Marketing 

Personalized marketing is worth using in your donation marketing – it can increase online sales by 25% and email open rates by 29%

Personalization can be as simple as including your potential donor’s name and how much they donated last time (if applicable), such as the example below.

Red Clay


Driving Success with Online Donations

With the right tools and strategies, online donations can be an effective way to drive fundraising results for your organization. Online giving can help harness your community of supporters to make an impact on an important cause and can help diversify your revenue streams.  

Using a membership management tool with features that incorporate the best practices in this blog post can help you get a leg up. For example, with Wild Apricot you can build an optimized donation page, organize your contacts, create engaging emails, and integrate donation requests into your event forms. Learn more here.  

Getting online donations doesn’t have to feel like a daunting task. With these best practices in mind, you can be sure your organization is on the path to driving the donations it needs. 

Additional Resources for How to Get Donations Online:

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

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