The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising

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The Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising

Introduction

FrontStream’s Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising offers information and insights on a huge array of topics you can use to raise more funds and do more good for your cause. You’ll learn how to attract donors, build online fundraising plans and discover events and inspiration to keep you and your community fired up – and that’s just the beginning.

 

Donors and Nonprofit Fundraisers

Why do donors give? Why do they stop giving? How can nonprofits reach them in a world overflowing with distractions? In this section, we’ll explore fundamental knowledge about donors and giving that answers these questions. You’ll also discover practical solutions for reaching donors and find new ways to grow your giving base.

How to Attract More Donors

Increasing donations from generous supporters are one of a nonprofit’s main goals, but before asking for donations, nonprofits first need to identify appropriate target audiences and channels to reach them. Attracting more donors can lead to heightened awareness and bolster support for a nonprofit’s cause, while helping raise funds more quickly.

The following are some tried-and-true methods to reach more donors and expand your donor network.

Do Your Research

First and foremost, nonprofits can look at understanding their target audience. By creating donor personas, nonprofits can then create lookalike audiences to reach a wider group of supporters likely to join their cause. Asking people to donate their money is a personal and sensitive request and should be done in a thoughtful way. By brainstorming with your team, you can identify whom to ask to donate. The following are several questions to get you and your team thinking about your nonprofit’s ideal donors:

· Where do they live?
· What is their age?
· What is their level of education?
· What is their income range?
· What channels of communication do they prefer?
· What social media platforms are they most active on?
· What event/program prompted their initial donation (or past donation)?

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Educate Your Potential Donors

Nonprofits – no matter how big, small, well-known or new-on-the-scene – should not expect potential givers to know their mission and core values off the top of their heads. It’s important for nonprofits to educate potential donors before asking for their money; people are more inclined to give when they know where their hard-earned money is going. Your nonprofit likely already has a meaningful origin story and employees with endless passion for the cause – be sure to not only tell your purpose but sell it! Educating your potential donors through thoughtful storytelling can help them relate to the cause and start fostering a relationship between the donor and the nonprofit, which can lead to repeat donations.

Nonprofits should consider educating their donors by:

· Highlighting successful programs your nonprofit implemented with the funds raised
· Sharing personal stories of people who were positively impacted by your nonprofit’s work
· Including transparent explanations of what each donation contributes to on your donation page next to your donation form

Ask for Donations via Nonprofit Fundraisers, Donation Forms and Donate Now Buttons

Once the potential donors are up-to-speed on your nonprofit’s purpose and have expressed interest in learning more or helping out, it’s time to make the ask. You might be wondering how to raise money for a cause; hosting a nonprofit fundraiser is one of the most successful methods. Below are some tools of the trade to help convert your community of supporters and website visitors into donors.

Organize a Nonprofit Fundraiser

Nonprofit fundraisers are a great way to attract more donors. Many nonprofits host various fundraisers throughout the year, ranging from small, grassroots fundraisers to massive campaigns that exist on a global scale. Nonprofit fundraisers can include peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding and online auctions, to name a few. Nonprofits should focus on the type of fundraising experience, personal storytelling technique and consider incorporating online giving into an in-person fundraising event. Hosting virtual events is a great way to target specific donor personas.

Use a Well-Crafted Donation Form

In today’s digital age, online donation forms are a great way for nonprofits to easily solicit funds from donors. Donation forms are digital tools used to collect donor information to process a donation. To personalize the giving experience, nonprofits can invest in technology that allows them to customize donation form questions and fields – such as an option to make the donation a recurring gift, or implement suggested donation amounts – while maintaining the look and feel of the donation form through branding.

Incorporate Donate Now Buttons Throughout Your Site

To make donating even more convenient, nonprofits can incorporate “donate now” buttons throughout their site. Once a donor clicks on the button, the donation form will pop up for easy completion. Donate now buttons don’t need to be intrusive but should be clearly visible on your nonprofit’s site. Donation forms and donate now buttons simplify and speed up the donation process.

Thank Your Community for Donating to Your Nonprofit’s Fundraiser

Perhaps the most important part of attracting and retaining donors is to always thank them for their charitable contribution. Showing gratitude to donors via considerate donation thank you letters or emails is a surefire way to promote repeat giving. Thanking donors can go a long way in cultivating lasting donor relationships and should be a part of your nonprofit’s donor retention program. Here are some simple but sincere ways to show appreciation for your donors:

· Include a thank you note in the donation confirmation page after a donation is made
· Send a personalized thank you email that doubles as a confirmation/receipt to thank them for their donation
· Write a handwritten thank you letter (prioritize this after a second donation, on the anniversary of their first donation, around the holiday season and/or during your Giving Tuesday campaign)
· Thank donors on your social media platforms and be sure to tag them
· Create a donor spotlight page on your website to profile your most active supporters
· Host an annual or semi-annual donor appreciation event

Why Do Donors Donate to Nonprofit Fundraisers

Every donor has a reason – a story – behind why they give. Your nonprofit would be wise to listen to these personal anecdotes to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates people to contribute to a cause. With this insight, nonprofits can personalize their messaging, increase donor engagement, and raise more funds.

Donors are Mission-Focused Altruists

It’s not surprising that many donors are simply trying to give back and support their local community and causes across the globe. It gives donors great pride and joy to be a part of a mission that is bigger than themselves. Altruistic donors are helpers and problem-solvers with idealistic visions of a better future. These selfless givers should be a main target audience of any nonprofit.

Donors Trust Your Nonprofit

For many donors, it is also vital that they trust the nonprofit they are supporting. Nonprofits must gain donors’ trust; in fact, according to a 2019 Give.org Donor Trust Report, 69.8% of respondents rated the importance of trusting a charity before giving as 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. Strategically thinking about why your nonprofit exists, what problem(s) you are addressing and the direct impact of donors’ funds, helps to build credibility for your organization. Trust, transparency and effective communication are key aspects of any fundraising campaign.

Donors Enjoy the Social Aspect of Fundraising for Nonprofits

What’s more thrilling and rewarding than helping a cause via raising funds for a nonprofit you care about? Doing it with friends and family! We are all social creatures who love building long-lasting relationships. Peer-to-peer fundraising events – like walks, runs, rides digital campaigns, and DIY fundraisers – are a great way to encourage teamwork and fun while giving back. Giving is inspirational – when we see our friends getting involved with a charitable organization, we follow their lead.

Donors Are Personally Affected by Your Cause

Whether it’s the donor themselves or a close family member or friend who is intimately affected by the cause your nonprofit is dedicated to solving, those with a personal connection are likely to want to become part of the solution. Their proximity to the issue at hand extends to their network of family, friends and coworkers, who often give as well.

By investigating the personal reasons why donors give, nonprofits can tailor their fundraising campaigns to attract and retain these donors. In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, nonprofits must learn to engage with donors virtually. Acknowledging digital donors’ reasons for donating in the first place can help customize email campaigns, website copy and social media posts to keep them inspired and involved.

Fundraising: Why Do Donors Stop Giving

Just as every donor has a story behind why they give, those who don’t give, put their giving on pause – or stopped giving entirely – likely have a specific reason behind their actions. Nonprofits must be aware of any potentially deterrent activities they are doing that are driving donors away from nonprofit fundraising and be quick to remediate them as soon as possible.

Here are some key reasons why donors stop donating to nonprofits.

You’re Over or Under Communicating About Fundraising

Communication is everything, and these days, if it’s not clear, customized and compelling, it might as well not happen. Donors become frustrated when nonprofits reach out too often or too infrequently. By spamming donors with emails, texts, written mail or a combination of the three, donors can be turned off by the incessant requests for donations. On the other hand, if your nonprofit doesn’t reach out enough, your request can get lost in the shuffle and forgotten. Finding a happy medium of how much to communicate to your donors can help maintain a healthy donor roster.

Donors’ Financial Situation Changed

For many donors, especially repeat or monthly givers, sustaining their donation over the course of their lifetime can become costly. When certain situations arise – such as buying a house, starting a family, putting children through college, unexpected hospital bills and more – donating might not be feasible. Whether they decrease the amount or frequency of their donations, or stop altogether, it’s important for nonprofits to stay in touch with the donor. Don’t burn any bridges – you never know when the donor could come back!

Donors Feel Like They’re Being Taken for Granted

A simple thank you goes a long way. Donors are altruistic, generous people who give their hard-earned money to your nonprofit. But, if the donor feels like he or she is being taken advantage of, ignored or not appreciated, they may call it quits. Nonprofits have the obligation to thank their donors, early and often. In fact, nonprofits should send notes of gratefulness to their donors far more than they solicit donations. Make sure your donors know how valuable they are to your nonprofit by thanking them.

Lack of Transparency on Where the Funds Go

It might seem like an obvious thing to do, but communicating where the donor’s money is going is sometimes overlooked by nonprofits. Being transparent and accountable is key to establishing trust with a donor, therefore ensuring their continued support. Think about it – would you continue donating to an organization if you had no idea how your money was being used? Unlikely. According to a 2019 report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, nonprofit-donor relationships matter and nonprofits should focus on cultivating these relationships going forward. Your organization should make it easy for donors to stay updated on your progress and part of that is providing them with details on how and who they are helping with each donation. Share with your donors how their support specifically helps the cause.

Donor attraction and retention for nonprofits can be tricky, so nonprofits must take extra care that they don’t participate in any of the above fundraising faux pas to avoid deterring donors.

Reaching Donors in the Digital Age

Traditionally, many nonprofits collect checks and cash from in-person fundraisers, which is then deposited and distributed according to the organizations’ mission. In a world where everyone is glued to their screen in the palm of their hand, it’s important to meet donors when and where they are connected, and provide other options to donate, including mobile giving options. In the previous section on how to attract more donors, we discussed how utilizing online donation forms and incorporating “Donate Now” buttons throughout the nonprofit’s site are two quick and convenient ways to engage potential donors. We’re taking that one step further to examine the best ways to reach digital donors on a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

Reaching Digital Donors through Social Media

The advent of social media changed the way people consume and share content, engage in social activities and entertain themselves as we know it – as well as how nonprofits fundraise. Now, virtually every potential donor spanning all locations and generations has, if not is consistently active on, various social media platforms. Nonprofits should be aware of which groups of donors prefer which channels, such as:

· Facebook being a source primarily for Gen X and baby boomers
· Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter being preferred platforms for Gen Z and millennials

Remember donor personas? Your team can research and discuss internally which social media platforms your ideal donor prefers and, therefore, how to pursue them. Social media is a powerful way to reach digital donors – 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action, with 59% of that group donating money.

Incorporating a social media strategy as a key part of your nonprofit’s donor attraction, interaction and retention plan is a great way to reach new and existing supporters and drive them to your online giving campaigns. Although some social media tools have digital donation capabilities directly integrated into them, such as Facebook Fundraising and Instagram digital stickers, you may want to consider sticking to your own digital hub and events for donation drives. This is because most social media platforms with donation capabilities do not share crucial information with nonprofits to help them grow their fundraising programs, such as donation totals and donor information. Without this information, performing analysis on your campaign is impossible.

But, utilizing social media to drive traffic to your donation campaign is a bonus that boosts digital donations. Also, communicating via posts and shares also helps recruit volunteers, engage with your target audience and promotes your nonprofit’s brand and story. And, the more people see their peers promoting their own charitable giving on social media, the more likely they are to donate themselves.

Don’t Forget Fundraising Apps

Fundraising apps are similar to social media, but allow for even more control over and customization of the look and feel. 77% of Americans own a smartphone. With that, many potential donors are on their smartphones daily, downloading and using various apps, it’s a no-brainer that nonprofits should be leveraging mobile apps in their digital fundraising efforts.

Some innovative technologies are taking it a ‘step’ further by incorporating fundraising capabilities directly into their platform. For example, FrontStream partners with MoveSpring, a fitness tracker platform, to integrate a fundraising function into the MoveSpring mobile application, and provide real-time step challenge data into a virtual fundraising event within Frontstream’s Panorama platform. Now, users can create a step challenge and tie it into a fundraising campaign. These customizable, community-focused features help reach donors in today’s digital era.

The Convenience of Mobile Donations

Nonprofits should take advantage of social media channels with fundraising options already built into them as well as mobile apps with donation capabilities to help reach digital donors. Mobile donations via social media, fundraising apps, donation forms and donate now buttons are quick and easy ways for donors to simply plug in their contact and payment information and give on the go. Nonprofits should seize any and every opportunity to expand your donor list and increase donations and tapping into the power of mobile donations is a great start.

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Virtual Fundraising Events for Nonprofits

So far in FrontStream’s Ultimate Guide to Nonprofit Fundraising, we’ve learned how to attract more donors, reach donors in the digital age and the reasons why donors give and stop giving. But what specific types of fundraising should your nonprofit be focusing on? One fan favorite is hosting an event. Nonprofit fundraising events are engaging experiences that help drive your mission forward.

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at a certain type of event – virtual fundraising events. Virtual fundraising events are increasingly popular and necessary in today’s global climate. For years, nonprofit fundraisers have focused on in-person events like charitable auctions and peer-to-peer fundraising events. Now, they are shifting these in-person events online to access a wider audience. You’ll learn the best kinds of virtual fundraising events, how to successfully organize online charity auctions and how to how to bring Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fundraising events online. Let’s dive in!

The Best Kinds of Virtual Fundraising Events for Nonprofits

There are many ways for nonprofits to host fundraisers, and virtual fundraisers are a great option for innovative and creative nonprofits looking to excite and expand their donor network. But some nonprofits might be initially intimidated by the sound of a virtual fundraising event – what does that mean? What does it entail? Will I need to be well-versed in complex technology? The truth is, virtual fundraisers are quicker and easier to set up than ever.

According to the BDO Institute for Nonprofit Excellence’s third annual “Nonprofit Standards, A Benchmarking Survey,” 64% of nonprofits worldwide plan to invest in new technology in 2020, and that number is expected to grow dramatically in the new decade. Nonprofits should consider implementing a technology platform that helps them run virtual events seamlessly.

Here are some innovative ways to raise funds virtually.

Host a Virtual Walk, Run or Ride

Some of the most popular types of virtual fundraising events are actually events many nonprofits would do in-person, such as walks, runs and bike rides. Many nonprofits whose events are postponed or canceled due to extenuating circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic or just inclement weather shift their events online. These fan-favorite methods for giving back can be taken to the next level when made virtual, because they reach a bigger audience. Those who are in rural areas and those who have hectic, packed schedules are able to participate in fundraising events for their favorite causes that they might not have been able to access before. Virtual walks, runs and rides allow participants to engage on their own time, tracking progress as they go. Plus, with options to customize, gamify and innovative features such as real-time activity tracking where participants can sync their fitness wearables directly to the fundraising campaign, virtual events can be just as – if not more – engaging than in-person events.

Engage Donors with Livestream Fundraisers

Livestream fundraisers – sometimes referred to as digital telethons – are an up-and-coming virtual fundraising event during which a nonprofit streams a concert, video game or just a behind-the-scenes look (think puppies and kittens for adoption at an animal shelter) in order to raise money. Nonprofits can livestream via social media, YouTube or other popular platforms. Many celebrities stream virtual concerts and hangouts for charity with enormous success. Nonprofits should take a page from their book and livestream. The livestream doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy – in fact, something as simple as an inside look into where the funds will go is enough to get donors interested. If your nonprofit has famous or talented supporters, ask them to participate in a livestream event for your cause. Nonprofits looking to stay ahead of the curve would be smart to think of how livestreaming can play into their fundraising strategy.

Host an Online Auction

Going once, going twice – sold! What makes online auctions just as thrilling as in-person auctions is the ability for donors to bid anytime, anywhere – on their phones, tablets – you name it. This ensures the maximum amount of bidding. Easy-to-use software can help nonprofits keep track of their bid sheets, email and letter templates, shipping labels, auction catalogs and more. Technology grants nonprofits a holistic view into auction results through comprehensive reporting on donors, auction items and sponsors. Managing an online auction becomes a fun, frictionless experience.

Virtual fundraising events are here, and here to stay. Your nonprofit should leverage these techniques to reach more donors, raise more funds and drive your mission forward.

How to Organize Successful Online Charity Auctions

We touched on one specific type of virtual event in the previous section – online charity auctions. Successful online fundraising auctions require just as much planning and preparation as in-person events and virtual fundraisers, but when done right, can be an enormous success at driving revenue for your nonprofit.

Here are some best practices for organizing a successful online fundraising auction.

Register Your Staff and Set Up Your Online Charity Auction

Finding a digital fundraising platform with robust event and auction management capabilities like FrontStream’s Panorama is the first step towards auction success. FrontStream’s online charity auction site, BiddingForGood, is the nonprofit industry’s premier 1.7 million-strong bidder destination site for auctions happening right now.

Once you decide on a tech platform and set up an account, register your staff so multiple users can collaborate on creating your nonprofit’s event. With easy-to-use tools and templates, you can make a unique branded homepage in under an hour. Panorama allows you to create mobile-optimized webpages for on-the-go bidding. When setting up the auction, be sure to select the option to allow fundraisers and donors to participate from anywhere and on any device. Panorama customers can deploy their auctions on BiddingForGood, making their auction invite-only or public to any bidder around the world.

Take Inventory of Your Items

Now, it’s time to take inventory of your items. This could include new items or items from previous events you’re putting up for auction again. Think outside of the box – the more thought and creativity you put into your auction items, the more engaged donors will be and the higher the bids.

To brainstorm ideas for auction items, try to answer the following questions: What do you have at your disposal that’s free? Can you auction something tied directly to your mission? Are there any businesses in your area that are thriving right now and might welcome more customers? Often businesses donate things to auctions because they hope to convert new customers. If you need some inspiration, check out our 101 ideas for auction items.

Take stock of the items you have and make a list of a few items you’d like to request that won’t take a lot of phone calls or research. Focus on quality over quantity. Once you’ve finalized your list of auction items, enter them into the system and make a plan for any items you’d like to continue to recruit.

Promote Your Online Fundraising Auction

After you’re done polishing your auction homepage’s look – ensuring it’s mobile friendly – and procuring your items, it’s time to share, promote and enable supporter participation for your auction via email and social media. You should be able to do this directly from your auction management solution, enabling automatic and frictionless bidder registration. It’s great to target your usual guest list but be sure to include participants from all your other fundraising events. Unlike a traditional black-tie event, there’s no minimum to participate in an auction. There’s no ticket to buy and anyone that wants to support you can bid, so cast a wide net.

In your email to supporters, ask them to share the link with their friends and family. Suggest they post the link on their social media profiles. And don’t forget to post about it on your own social media pages. Consider calling some of your major donors and let them know the auction is available online.

Host Your Online Silent Auction

Once you give your pre-auction checklist a final review, it’s go time! Keep in mind that after you publish your event, anyone that’s registered in the community can bid, including you. One of the benefits of hosting an online-only auction is that you get to decide when it opens and closes. List bigger items first to get some momentum going and then add in smaller items as you secure them. Check out our e-book "10 Secrets to a Successful Auction" for more insider tips.

Don’t wait until your auction closes to say thank you. Get your acknowledgement letters out to anyone that donated an item and send winner emails with tax receipts to anyone that won. Receipts should indicate the item purchased, the estimated value of the item and the amount of purchase. These emails can be used as a receipt for tax records or you can still send your own standard tax letters. Nonprofits should include a leaderboard that features important items, showcases your sponsors and acknowledges your donors right there on the homepage.

Stay Engaged and Grateful

After your online fundraising auction ends, the work doesn’t stop there – choose from several credit card processor options to securely process payments, run reports and analyze results to build upon your success for the next go-around. FrontStream’s secure payment processing platform can be directly integrated into your auction and boasts Level-1 PCI compliance, so you’ll never have to worry. Your system should have reporting completely integrated with your auction, so you can quickly and easily review results in a comprehensive dashboard.

Thank bidders for their continued support in a post-auction follow-up note. Keep checking in with your supporters and members over the following weeks and months and let them know if you have plans for another online auction.

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How to Bring Peer-to-Peer & DIY Fundraising Events Online

Virtual and DIY fundraising events can be a great way to drive donations and further your cause in lieu of an in-person event.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Becomes Virtual

Setting up a peer-to-peer virtual fundraising event, such as a walk, run or ride, is easier than ever with technology platforms like Panorama by FrontStream, the industry’s leading, all-in-one digital fundraising platform for planning, managing, promoting and securely processing fundraising events. Simply set up an account, configure and personalize your event and deploy in minutes. Share with your donors and they’ll be able to join and participate in your virtual event at the click of a button.

Additionally, with options to customize and gamify, and innovative features such as real-time activity tracking where participants can sync their fitness wearables directly to the fundraising campaign, participants can get their heart rates up, raising money for your cause, staying active and having fun all at once. Within the scheduled timeframe of the event, virtual participants will be able to effortlessly connect their smartphones or wearable devices to the campaign, showing their and other participants’ journeys along a configurable virtual map viewed on desktop or mobile. Major milestones, personal records and comments of encouragement from participants and donors are prevalently displayed in the dashboard. And, digital donation is more convenient than ever through built-in donate now buttons located on all donor-facing pages.

In-person events can be expensive to set up due to costs such as renting out a space, securing, permitting and purchasing necessary items like signage, giveaways and more. Additionally, in-person events limit the reach of people because of time, location and transportation constraints. Through virtual events, organizations are free from physical restrictions and can maximize their reach, expand attendee participation, lower venue and event day operational costs and expenses, while increasing overall ROI. Also, a virtual event means your organization can continue fundraising even when disruptive global events, such as COVID-19 or natural disasters require in-person cancellation. Donors from across the country and the world can engage with your event from the comfort of their own home. Nonprofits should leverage the ability to quickly and seamlessly move events online, especially when in-person events are no longer a viable option.

DIY Fundraising Goes Digital

Do-It-Yourself or DIY events are another great way for nonprofits to keep donors engaged with other opportunities for individual giving when in-person events aren’t possible. Unlike typical in-person peer-to-peer events, such as a one-day bike ride for charity along a specific route, DIY events don’t require participants to attend an event that is limited to one specific date, time or place. Instead, supporters can create fundraising programs on their own terms and timeline, taking advantage of a variety of ways to participate and support the organization.

In fact, anyone with a desire to raise money for their favorite charity can simply go online, design a customized campaign and begin fundraising in mere minutes. Utilizing Panorama by FrontStream, nonprofits can create a customized DIY event quickly and send it out to their supporters and followers to create their own fundraising pages complete with photos and their personal reasons for supporting the organization’s mission. That will help your supporters promote on social media to expand your reach. Nonprofits can also create branded, unlimited donation forms that can be linked to any website or social feed. This allows individuals to continue to rally supporters and fundraise through a network of donors even when events are canceled.

For both peer-to-peer and DIY fundraising events, staying active and healthy is one of the main incentives for donors who are looking to effect positive change for the causes they care about. Nonprofits should consider getting supporters physically involved by creating a virtual step contest or walk-a-thon. Virtual peer-to-peer events and DIY events allow participants to engage and fundraise virtually at their own pace, in their own place.

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