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Top 10 Best Practices for Nonprofit Fundraising Online

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

Ever since I wrote the book, Nonprofit Crowdfunding Explained, I’ve been getting emails from readers and podcast listeners asking whether or not I do consulting for nonprofits.

I would LOVE to help nonprofits on a one-to-one basis, but honestly? There isn’t enough time in the day.

Between blogging, YouTube, podcasting, and writing, I simply don’t have the capacity. However, I do continue want to help with actionable tips and advice.

The right strategy can fundamentally change your online fundraising efforts. I hate to say it, but it can mean the difference between growing and thriving vs. fading out of existence.

That’s why I’ve put together this article. I sincerely hope it helps you raise more money online and attract more donors to your cause.

1. Your Story Is the ONLY Thing That Matters

When I first heard about “crafting a story” I thought it was complete B.S. Who cares about your story? Why would anyone actually want to know about you or your org’s values?

Story is a marketer’s dream. You can think of your story as a Trojan Horse. It’s an innocent way to allow potential donors to EMOTIONALLY connect with your organization and your cause.

There are sooo many nonprofit organizations, and even more people trying to be heard online. The only way to stand out is to cause an emotional reaction in the reader, viewer, or potential donor.

Overall, it doesn’t matter how many people that you reach online. What matters is whether or not you reach the right people. It’s all about engagement.

When someone hears a story, they deeper their empathy with the main characters. They gain a new perspective on life and the meaning behind it. They come away feeling like they know more about you and your values.

A great book that I read recently on this topic is called “Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell – and Live – the Best Stories Will Rule the Future,” by Jonah Sachs.

I highly recommend it if you want to learn how to use stories to influence your donors. A compelling story is the bedrock of a successful marketing and fundraising campaign.

In the book, Sachs gives one great example to help illustrate this point. He shares how most nonprofits will hold up statistics and dry numbers to try to persuade members of the public to care about the cause.

Wrong strategy!

This is also a common mistake that many nonprofits make. Instead, Sachs offers a different approach, which appeals to the emotional side of the brain, rather than the logical side.

Jonah is coming on the podcast shortly to share his advice directly with you, so be sure to subscribe to it on iTunes!

2. Stand Out By Getting CERTIFIED By the Media

The next way to build trust and authority with donors is to get certified or validated by third parties. These could include:

  • Partnerships with well-known organizations
  • High profile donors
  • Get written about in a media publication

Getting in the media is one of my MY specialities. I’ve been cited by the media at a very young age, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, and more.

In fact, as I was writing this very article, I discovered that I was mentioned by Forbes for my work in personal crowdfunding. The article explains how students can use fundraising websites like GoFundMe to raise money for college.

I don’t share this to brag. I actually think it’s silly. Why should people listen to me MORE because I’ve been written about in some publication?

I’ve been writing about this topic since 2012… of course I know a lot about it! I don’t need the media to “certify me.”

But, I share it to show you what’s possible.

I share it because people seriously do use these mental short cuts to determine who to tune out and who to listen to online.

Not only did these and other media hits drive me traffic, but they also elevated my brand. It put me head and shoulders above other casual bloggers.

In my book, I talk about a bunch of ways to get donors online, but in my new course, I’m going to go far more in-depth in how to get media attention for a company, organization, or fundraising effort. If you’d like, you can join the waitlist for my course and also gain access to some exclusive content.

3. Build an Email List Pronto!

Oh my… I can’t tell you the number of nonprofits that are quite simply behind the times.

Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% empathetic with organizers that find social media and online marketing to be intimidating.

There’s nothing wrong with physical mail and asking for mailing addresses. I just want what’s best for you and your nonprofit.

If you actually want to engage millennial donors, or even anyone under 40, you absolutely MUST incorporate email marketing into your outreach strategy.

The good news is that it’s not super hard to do. You just need the right tools.

Start building an email list! You can use a tool like MailChimp, which is free up until 2,000 subscribers.

For those of you who have already built a list, awesome! Now, you just need to make sure that your website and emails are optimized for mobile. According to Online Marketing Scorecared, “84% is the percentage of nonprofit donation landing pages that are not optimized for mobile.” 

If you want to see a super easy way to set up a landing page, check out Leadpages. I also created a training video, which I’ll embed below, that will show you how to use a landing page to get email subscribers.

This video is more geared towards Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but the principles apply to nonprofit fundraising also. I’ll also show you the software that I use.

4. Convince and Convert with Media and Social Proof

When telling a story online, the most powerful tools are video, images, and social proof. Social proof simply refers to the tendency for donors to pay attention to something when other people are paying attention to it.

For example, if a bunch of your friends are giving to one particular organization, or are liking a video on Facebook, you’re more likely to take the time to check out that organization.

By incorporating testimonials and by encouraging tangible signs of activity around your fundraiser, you will command greater attention in the eyes of potential donors.

As another example, I’ll include a screenshot from my LinkedIn profile below.

This testimonial shows the value of my information, advice, and my book. By making testimonials like this more prominent, it would be easier for me to convince skeptical readers of the value of spending time on my website.

You can do the same with your online fundraising campaign! If one of your donors is really happy for having participated in one of your fundraisers or events, put them on camera. Capture that emotion.

The positive emotions they experienced after giving to your nonprofit are the same emotions that your potential donors hope to experience.

5. Make the Ask!

It’s hard to put yourself out there. It’s scary to directly ask someone to do something.

What if they get annoyed?

What if they say no?

There is a time to be diplomatic and a time to be straight forward. If you’re going to launch an online crowdfunding campaign, you must be the latter. You must be decisive. You must be willing to reach out to your network.

If you don’t make the ask, then you’re not going to raise as much online as you’d like. You won’t max out your potential.

Remember, no one is going to ask for you. Take a deep breath, and just do it!

If someone says no, try to understand why they said no. Why won’t they become a donor? What’s holding them back? This information is crucial because it will help inform your future fundraising efforts.

In addition, just because someone says no doesn’t mean that they are rejecting you as a person. You can’t tie your identity to your nonprofit or cause.

6. Social Media is a FREE Way To Get More Donors

We tend to think about the online world differently than the physical world. I’m guilty of this too.

It’s easy to see people online as somehow being more distant than a stranger in our own neighborhood.

Once I started to think of people online in the SAME WAY that I think of people in my own life, the entire game changed.

I quickly realized that a bunch of super cool networking parties were happening online, and I was just kind of sitting on the sidelines, watching everyone else talk.

At a real networking event, that’s a big no-no. But, because I was online, it seemed more anonymous and somehow more acceptable to be disengaged.

Right now, there has never been a better time in the history of this planet to connect with nonprofit donors. You have all the tools. You just have to use them!

Start getting involved in groups online. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, or Google+. Start commenting on conversations. Interact. Ask questions. Provide your perspective.

Heck, you could even start a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel.

These channels allow you to put out free content online. Just make sure that it adds value to other people’s lives. It could help them solve a problem, or provide some emotional value. Maybe, a video you share on you Facebook page makes people feel inspired!

This type of activity forms the foundation of a relationship with your donors. Over time, you can use these channels to also announce news or let donors know about new events that you have going on.

I do this exact same thing with my marketing. Do you honestly think that thousands of people have listened to my podcast just to hear ME speak? Um… no… I’m not that charismatic.

I provide helpful free information to start the relationship. If they’re interested, I can then let them know in the future about new products that I’m coming out with, or new books that I’ve been working on.

7. Build a Relationship with Segmentation

Nonprofits that are new to fundraising and marketing tend to want to blast the same message to all of their prospective supporters.

I get it. It’s a lot less work to just sent everyone the same message. What else would you do anyway?

Every successful fundraiser that I’ve spoken with has had one thing in common… they are good at segmentation.

They’ll first announce a campaign to their inner circle, or the people who are most likely to support them right off the bat.

Then, once the campaign has some activity, they’ll announce that to the next batch of supporters who aren’t as devote as the first group, but that will still probably donate or help the campaign.

You might say, “Look! We just went live yesterday, and we already raised $___.!”

This does a few things.

  1. No one wants to be first. When a campaign already has activity, it makes it easier to take action.
  2. It makes the action, in the case donating, appear socially normal. People are more likely to hop on the bandwagon
  3. You’re not pleading or coming off as “needy.” You’re celebrating a milestone that was hit early, and inviting people to join you!

By segmenting your donor base, you’ll make it easier to engage more donors. The donors that have already given money will actually help convince those donors on the fence to give money. It’s a subtle art.

8. Don’t Just Listen to the Experts

Ha ha. I’m very anti-authority, as you can probably tell.

Sometimes, it makes sense to outsource decision making or even the responsibility for a task. But, when it’s a new task, it usually is a good idea to get familiar with it first before you outsource it.

If you spend a week or two really absorbing as much as you can about all of the topics I’ve mentioned in this post, you’ll be far better off when it comes time to hire someone to help you raise money.

You could also decide to just do it yourself!

Either way, I’d recommend seeking out multiple teachers or mentors as you’re tackling this new endeavor. Don’t just rely on one source.

9. Your Vision is The Opposite of Your Story

Your story is all about where you’ve been and how it’s made you into who you are today.

Your vision is where you’re going. It’s the type of world that you want to live in.

Everyone connects with a good story. A great story will maintain our attention for hours on end and generate discussion amongst our friends. We connect with characters and stories that hold up values that we agree with.

But, a story is not enough to motivate grand-scale action. That’s where your vision comes in.

A great vision will motivate thousands of workers to toil day and night towards a goal. Effective CEOs and leaders know this well.

What is YOUR vision? How can you communicate it in a tangible way to your donors?

When we all agree on a vision for the world and are emotionally moved by what it could mean for our family and our life, anything is possible.

Indiegogo recently included me in one of their articles regarding different Crowdfunding Experts. I think this quote sums it up well.

10. Invest in Yourself

The longterm strength and viability of your nonprofit is composed of two things:

  1. The skill and devotion of your staff
  2. The collective intelligence of your organization

The great thing is that you control both of these! You can invest in yourself and in your organization. You can grow stronger over tie.

Intelligence is a weird thing. Everyone defines it differently. I think that it means that you can solve problems when they arise and that you know the best strategy to tackle certain tasks.

The real intelligence of a group of people, like a football team, comes from executing repeatedly on proven plans that work. In the case of football, a great coach makes all of the difference.

I urge you to seek out “plans” and “coaches” that will help get you where you want to go. It will make a massive impact on your results.

In conclusion, I hope that you enjoyed this article and feel free to reach out! If you’d like to join my upcoming course showing you how to get in the media, I’d be excited to have ya as a student!

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