There is no question, with the advent of social media and drastic increase in online purchasing and usage, how donors give has and will continue to be impacted.
Are online only campaigns successful?
The short answer is yes, they can. How organizations are successful depends on the organization being proactive in their fundraising efforts.
No matter what anyone will tell you, you can’t just wait for donors to come to you. There are tools and resources out there to help put your organization and cause in front of folks who would not normally engage with your specific organization, but in simplest terms, you need to work at fundraising to be successful.
We do an amazing job of making everything more complicated than needed. Maybe it’s the notion that if it is hard and complicated it will bring greater success.
In truth, the simplest answers and paths are likely to be just as successful. It doesn’t mean you forget the detail, it just means you focus on the key tasks that will increase your likelihood of success.
How can I increase online giving?
No matter what the size of your organization is, every organization can deploy a successful fundraising campaign online with a little front-end work and support of the campaign until it is completed. Here are some simple steps you can follow to help put a plan in place to increase the success of your online campaign.
Define the intent of the campaign
It sounds easy, but this is one step many organizations forget. Very simply, determine your intent of the campaign. Is it to raise funds for your programs or services, support a specific pet in need, or fund capital expenses for a building or equipment? No matter the intent, you need to know where you are going before you define how you are going to get there.
Identify who you are going to target
I am sure the answer to this is “everyone” when you ask yourself this question. While that may be true, take a moment to think of who your 10 most important donors are to your organization - the ones you know are most passionate about the campaign you are about to launch.
Define your message
Now that you have defined your intent, and identified your target audience, it’s time to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard and write your message to share with the world.
Writing the message can be daunting, and having suffered from writers block, it can seem insurmountable at times. Try to keep in mind where we started our conversation today. Keep it simple. Consider thinking in the context of who, where, when, why, how and what.
WHO was impacted by the events/incident?
WHEREdid this take place? - Describe the environment as best you can with the information available.
WHENdid this happen? - Creating a sense of urgency is important. When possible, utilizing a recent story that hasn’t already been messaged to the greater community is preferable.
WHY are you asking for help and HOW did you/your organization help? - These go hand in hand as you craft a message which shares your involvement in the situation and can lead to sharing the need that now exists.
WHATcan they do to help and what is your call to action? You must close with “an ask” and be specific where possible. “Your gift of $25 will provide care and medical treatment for 5 days”.
NOTE: Keep in mind when you are crafting your message, your goal is to reach the broadest audience possible. In order to do this effectively, I would encourage you to think of the language you are using. The intent is not to shock and awe in fundraising, it’s to engage.
Determine how and when you are going to engage your donors
In an online campaign, you have to compete with everyone’s already overflowing email inbox. Keeping the messages you deploy focused on driving them to a single source, for more detailed information about the need, will likely help improve your overall clickthrough rate (ctr) from your message to your donation platform. Having an online platform that can support this is critical to easily and effectively managing your campaigns.
It is important to utilize all tools available to you and your organization. Focusing only on social media outreach will only have so much reach. Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms are constantly changing how messages appear and in what way for each person’s direct feed. Utilizing email is still an effective tool to drive awareness and donors to your cause.
While we focus so much now on social media because of its ability to reach the masses with very little or no cost, there is still a need to actually talk to your donors, especially when you are embarking on a campaign. Identify your organizations key donors who are passionate about the program/need you are fundraising around before your launch your campaign. Engage them to secure a commitment to support the campaign on the first day it goes live and to share the campaign through their network as well.
Leveraging pre-committed gifts to help drive your campaign to a successful completion can make a significant difference. There are great resources to learn more about how to talk to your donors in this fashion. In my experience, knowing the persons giving capacity and passion are critical to making a successful pitch to your top donors.
Plan multiple messages to be pushed out through both social and email tools. Utilize different pieces of the story to share the details. In today’s twitter-verse, I think one of the most important things to keep in mind is to keep you message short and sweet.
Close the campaign
All good things must come to an end. Having a target fundraising goal with an end date is important. As you are getting closer to the end of your campaign, be sure to increase your messaging frequency to create a sense of urgency around closing the campaign successfully. In these messages you can include a short thank you to all donors who have already supported the campaign and a final plea to help your organization reach it’s goal. Using specific language around what their gift will support can help give them something tangible to picture.
Thank your donors
Now the most important part of any fundraising campaign as it comes to a close. THANK YOUR DONORS!
Best practice is that a donor receives a thank you of some kind in 48 hours of their gift. While this is not always possible due to staff/volunteer limitations, be sure you thank them in some fashion and let them know what their gift was able to support.
So what next?
It may seem unsettling to consider a fundraising campaign, especially for an all volunteer run organization with very limited resources. The reality is with a little planning and time spent on the front end your organization can put together a successful campaign that helps your organization continue to make an impact in your community.
Donors are looking for organizations who are making an impact in their local community. Crowdfunding platforms can help connect all sizes of organizations with donors who would not have otherwise engaged your organization.
Aaron Asmus launched a joint venture, Resourceful Elephant Group, in the summer of 2016 focusing on providing foundations and organizations strategic planning support at a community level, to maximize their programatic impact.
He's also served in various roles at PetSmart Charities, Inc. His most recent as Field Program Manager focused on supporting grants for new and expanding spay and neuter clinics across the United States and Canada. As Sr. Program Manager of Grants he managed and developed spay neuter, emergency relief, clinic capacity building projects and adoption grants for the US. As Sr. Program Manager of Adoptions he managed support for adoption programs in the US and Canada.
Prior to joining PetSmart Charities, served as the Executive Director for the Cat Adoption Team.