When it comes to modern nonprofit fundraising, digital campaigns are one of the most effective ways to spread awareness of your messaging and meet supporters where they are. That is partly due to the sheer number of active internet users, which is 4.9 billion—over 60% of the world’s total population.
Because of the large number of people online, it’s likely that your current supporters and prospective givers spend time online too. If you want to reach your fundraising goals and engage your audience in meaningful ways, you need to meet them where they are. That’s why hosting a digital fundraising campaign is your best bet.
However, with new nonprofit software and donor engagement strategies popping up each year, there are countless digital fundraising campaign trends that you can explore. To help you narrow your focus and streamline your marketing efforts, this guide to digital fundraising campaigns will walk you through the basics and cover the following topics:
- What Is a Nonprofit Digital Fundraising Campaign?
- What Are the Benefits of a Digital Fundraising Campaign?
- What Are the Elements of a Successful Digital Fundraising Campaign?
- 7 Digital Fundraising Campaign Strategies for Nonprofits
To host a successful digital fundraising campaign, it’s important that you understand all of the moving parts. Organizing a campaign is far more than just accepting online gifts—it requires thoughtful planning and strategy. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you’re just starting, which is why resources from digital marketing agencies such as ours can be extremely helpful.
What Is a Nonprofit Digital Fundraising Campaign?
A nonprofit digital fundraising campaign is a well-thought-out fundraising initiative that happens over an extended period of time, aims for a specific goal, and uses the resources of online software and channels.
You likely won’t get sufficient funding for your nonprofit by just creating an online donation page and linking to it in your email communications. Digital fundraising campaigns need careful consideration and deliberation in their planning and execution. In fact, some of the most effective digital campaigns can span an entire year or recur annually if they’re successful.
With a well-planned and conducted digital fundraising campaign, nonprofits can:
- Raise awareness of their mission. Digital fundraising campaigns allow your content and stories to take over multiple channels and reach supporters from far corners of the world. As long as they have access to the internet, your donors will be able to see your content.
- Collect support for programs and initiatives. Nonprofits often raise funds for a specific need that they have. Launching a digital campaign can be the perfect conduit for raising the funds that your organization needs to help your beneficiaries.
- Build your nonprofit’s reputation. Digital fundraising campaigns do wonders for your mission and for your nonprofit’s larger public image. Some of the best campaigns even get news attention. This can build your nonprofit’s reputation as an impactful and influential organization.
While the main goal of a digital fundraising campaign is usually to generate revenue, that doesn’t mean you can’t also raise awareness of your mission and build your reputation along the way. A well-planned campaign can help you hit all of those goals.
What Are the Benefits of a Digital Fundraising Campaign?
Digital fundraising campaigns bring a variety of benefits that in-person fundraising campaigns lack due to their virtual nature. Some of the benefits you can leverage with a digital campaign include:
- Greater reach. Fundraising online gives you access to individuals you likely would not be able to reach in person. The virtual world spans the entire globe, allowing you to form relationships with a diverse group of new supporters.
- Cost-effective. Often, digital fundraising campaigns will have lower overhead costs than in-person campaigns. In-person fundraising often involves renting an event venue, purchasing print materials, and other costs that aren’t necessary for digital fundraising.
- Increased donor engagement. Nonprofit digital fundraising campaigns often occur over a long period of time and involve many activities which encourage long-term involvement from your supporters. This is a great way to get them further invested in your cause.
- Increased supporter engagement. The internet allows content to be shared much more easily than on in-person channels. With a digital fundraising campaign, your supporters have the opportunity to play a huge role in your success and marketing potential. Ask them to repost your messages and share your online donation page with their friends and family to multiply your reach.
- Data collection. An important part of fundraising is seeking opportunities and information to improve your nonprofit’s future campaigns. With digital fundraising, you can easily collect and analyze data to assess what you can do better for your next campaign. Over time, you’ll find that your digital fundraising campaigns will be more effective and generate the impact you want.
Ultimately, the core reason why nonprofit digital campaigns are so successful and valuable is that they are targeting your audience where they already are: the internet. The online world is woven into our everyday lives, whether that’s checking email, seeing what’s in the news, or staying connected with friends or family.
Digital campaigns take advantage of this online activity by incorporating your nonprofit messaging seamlessly into your audience’s regular tasks. But to successfully carry out these campaigns, you will need to do some careful planning and use the right tools.
What Are the Elements of a Successful Digital Fundraising Campaign?
When planning your nonprofit’s digital fundraising campaign, the exact steps you’ll take and the components you’ll need will depend on your unique mission and audience. However, there are some essential elements that you cannot forgo:
- SMART goal. Set concrete goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based to lay the foundation of what your campaign will look like. Be realistic about what you can achieve, but set a goal that will push your team. If you have multiple priorities, create different goals and list them by priority. That way, you’ll have a great framework for planning the rest of your digital fundraising campaign.
- Target audience. Establish your target audience to determine who exactly your campaign is reaching out to. This audience can be different or identical to your nonprofit’s overall audience. Keep your targets in mind as you craft your marketing messaging and choose the digital channels through which you’ll relay it. You can further narrow down your audience with donor segmentation and donor personas.
- KPIs and data tracking. After you determine your campaign goals, consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) you’ll use to determine if you reached your goals. For instance, one of your goals might be to increase the matching gifts you receive. You would measure your digital fundraising campaign’s success based on the number of donors that work at organizations with corporate giving programs and whether you receive a match from their employer. With KPIs, you’ll have a sense of whether your campaign is working and what you could do to improve your results.
- Nonprofit marketing plan. Even a strong digital fundraising campaign will fail if it is not promoted effectively. When it comes to your nonprofit’s digital marketing plan, it’s best to be as comprehensive and clear as possible so that your team members know exactly what to do. This includes outlining donor segments, coming up with the right messaging, and designing your marketing materials. For help organizing your campaign outreach, check out these nonprofit marketing templates.
- Digital marketing channels. Thanks to the internet and new online platforms emerging constantly, there are a wide variety of marketing channels your digital fundraising campaign can leverage. Each of them has its strengths and challenges, so you must do careful research to tailor your content to each platform you choose to use. For instance, Instagram is great for posting images and videos, while LinkedIn is best for text-based, professional posts.
- Digital tools and software. Your campaign will only be as successful as the tools you use and the software you invest in. Some common tools and software solutions that nonprofits use for digital fundraising campaigns include online donation tools, email marketing tools, social media planners, peer-to-peer solutions, online auction software, matching gift software, and more.
Your digital fundraising campaign can bring a great deal of value to your nonprofit’s mission when you maximize your chances of success by carefully outlining all of its essential elements. However, there are many different types of fundraising programs you can host on digital platforms. Before you begin planning your campaign, let’s take a look at some of the different campaign initiatives you might consider launching.
7 Digital Fundraising Campaign Strategies for Nonprofits
Depending on the resources and tools at your disposal, as well as the audience you’re trying to reach, there are likely tons of digital fundraising campaign trends you can choose from. For the ambitious nonprofit professional, you may even try to combine several of these strategies into one campaign!
That’s why we’ve compiled some of the most effective and versatile campaign strategies for you to explore. Among these top picks, there’s definitely something that fits your unique needs.
1. Google Ad Grants
Google Ads allows organizations to display advertisements, service offerings, products, and other marketing content strategically in search engine results as well as non-search websites, mobile apps, and videos. That’s why whenever you Google a word like “burger”, there will be a couple of results on top featuring ads from burger companies or restaurants. And since Google owns over 90% of the global search market share, having access to Google Ads can make a world of difference for your nonprofit.
To help nonprofits with their digital fundraising campaigns, Google allows them to apply for the Google Ad Grant. This is a program that offers nonprofit professionals $10,000 in Google Ad credits to spend each month. Plus, any eligible nonprofit can make use of this grant! It’s not just allocated for a few lucky winners like other grants are, and it’s comparatively easy to apply to.
A Google Ad Grants digital fundraising campaign is one of the best ways to get your online content to the forefront and reach your target audience quickly without pushing your marketing budget. To maximize your impact with this program, consider the following tips:
- Understand your target audience. Much like with any other marketing or promotional effort, you need to understand your target audience and what they want to entice them to click on your ads. Ask yourself why your audience is searching for a specific keyword, and tailor your ad copy to address their needs.
- Pick the right landing pages. After you understand your target audience and what the intention is behind their searches, use your ads to strategically direct them to landing pages that will fulfill that intent. For example, if someone searches for nonprofit volunteer opportunities near them, direct them to your volunteer landing page.
- Develop great web content. Getting your audience to your website is half the battle for your digital fundraising campaign. The other half is enticing them to stay on your site and make a gift to your nonprofit. To do so, develop professional-looking web content that positions your organization as credible—that way, viewers will trust your nonprofit and be more likely to donate.
- Track ad campaign performance. Evaluate how well your ads are performing by tracking relevant data through Google Analytics, such as the number of website visitors and average session duration. Assess these values and consider what you can do to improve them, whether that’s improving your web content or site accessibility.
- Experiment with ads. Once you create your ads, they aren’t set in stone. Feel free to experiment with their titles and copy, making tweaks to improve them and drive the conversions you hope for. For example, if you’re not getting the number of web visitors that you want, consider how you can make your ads more appealing to generate more clicks.
To fully maximize the potential of the Google Ad Grant for your digital fundraising campaign, your nonprofit will need to have an in-depth understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing principles. This can be difficult if your team members have no experience with SEO. Fortunately, there are marketing organizations out there that are happy to help.
If you have the budget to spare and want to ensure the solidity of your Google Ad Grant strategy, partner with a Google Ad Grant agency like Getting Attention. These agencies perform a variety of services, from setting up your Google Ad Grant account to managing your ad campaigns to ensuring your website’s content is valuable and promotable. They’ll bring their experience and expertise to your nonprofit, ensuring that you use your grant funds to their fullest potential.
2. Matching Gift Campaign
Matching gifts are a corporate philanthropy initiative in which employers will financially match donations that their employees make to eligible nonprofit organizations. In a nutshell, here’s how they work:
- An employee makes a donation to your nonprofit.
- The employee submits a matching gift request to their employer.
- The company also makes a donation to your nonprofit based on a fixed match rate. Companies will usually match gifts at a 1:1 ratio, but some match at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio.
The only catch? Not enough eligible donors even know about this opportunity! In fact, according to Double the Donation, around $6 to $10 billion in matching gift funds go unclaimed each year, mostly because of this lack of awareness.
When conducting a digital fundraising campaign focused on matching gifts, your main goal should be to raise awareness of this program. Inform supporters that they can increase their support without having to reach into their own pockets. Here’s what you’ll need to consider when conducting your matching gift campaign:
- Market on all possible channels. By doing so, you’ll ensure as many people as possible are aware of the matching gifts opportunity. Leverage platforms that allow for greater outreach, such as social media and email.
- Create a dedicated matching gift page. Include all the information needed to answer the frequently asked questions your donors have. Be sure to link to your donation page to make it convenient for supporters to make a gift and have it matched.
- Bring together a matching gifts team. This team will be dedicated to ensuring that matched gifts are followed through. You might even invest in a matching gift software solution to help your team track eligible donors and follow up with them.
- Incorporate matching gifts in the giving process. You can do this by embedding a searchable matching gift database into your donation page so that donors can quickly look up if their employer will match their gift.
When it comes to digital fundraising campaigns, don’t overlook the power of matching gift programs. Roughly two to three billion dollars are donated through matching gifts annually, and there’s been an increase in companies offering matching gifts to their employees over the last three years as well, from 12% to 51%.
As you incorporate matching gifts in your digital fundraising campaign, keep track of relevant data and analytics. This way, you can also notice any trends of where your matched donors are working and even make way for additional corporate partnership opportunities.
3. Email Marketing Campaign
Email marketing is probably one of the most common ways that fundraisers will leverage digital tools. An email series for a digital fundraising campaign will likely span weeks or even months, slowly introducing its readers to an upcoming event or new announcement. At the end of the series will be a direct call to action to show support, like a request for gifts and a link to your donation page.
However, email’s popularity can also be a detriment—the average person can get up to 121 business-related emails every day. How can you ensure that your own email marketing efforts stand out from the crowd and are actually read?
Here are some tips we recommend when it comes to email marketing:
- Personalize your messages. Did you know that emails that include the first name of the recipient in the subject line have a higher click-through rate than those that don’t? Use your fundraising system to personalize your emails by including your audience’s preferred names in your messages. Saying “Hello David” is much more appealing and genuine than using “Dear Donor,” and tells readers that this message is meant specifically for them.
- Segment your audience. Your donors are made up of individuals with their own unique interests. Make your appeals more meaningful by segmenting your email recipients based on common traits instead of addressing your entire audience as one group. Segment donors based on demographics such as age and location, previous experiences with your nonprofit, and giving history. These donor segments have different needs and will respond to messaging in different ways, so creating targeted strategies for each is your best bet to ensure that they open your emails.
- Include important calls to action. The success of your digital fundraising campaign depends on the actions that you inspire your supporters to take. Remember to always include a call to action in your email messaging. Otherwise, readers will simply absorb information and not know what to do with it after! For example, you can ask readers to support you by following your social media accounts and include a direct link to your profile pages.
Although most individuals who receive your email newsletters are supporters that are invested in your nonprofit’s work, sometimes individuals who aren’t as passionate will end up on your email list. Or, maybe circumstances change and they are no longer interested. If an individual expresses that they’d like to opt out of your email series, make sure that you let them. Use this as an opportunity to ask them what they liked or didn’t like about your emails, and adjust your strategies accordingly to increase email subscriber retention in the future.
Digital fundraising campaigns that occur through email marketing can be complicated to organize and run. You’ll need to draft all your emails well in advance for each of your supporter segments to ensure maximum engagement. To help ensure your success, consider investing in a comprehensive email marketing tool and an integrated CRM system. Not only will these solutions help you manage your emails, but they’ll also help automate the personalization process, making your operations more efficient and effective.
4. Virtual Fundraising Event
Virtual fundraising events have been rising in popularity, especially in the past year. They are the perfect accompaniment to digital fundraising campaigns, allowing you to leverage many of the same benefits.
While a technology-driven event might seem not as genuine or successful as an in-person one, virtual fundraising events give you an opportunity to get creative. If you’re worried about straying too far, you can choose to adapt a previous in-person event to be virtual.
Some ideas for virtual events for your digital fundraising campaign include:
- Virtual gala. Virtual galas are proof that online events can be just as glamorous as in-person events. Livestream entertainment and speakers and host fundraising activities to generate the revenue you need for your digital fundraising campaign.
- Virtual auction. Auctions are well-suited to the virtual sphere. Procure high-value items to auction off and invest in a remote auction tool that allows attendees to conveniently bid on items they’re interested in. The highest bidder will win the item and the proceeds will go towards your fundraising campaign.
- Webinar or panel. Invite nonprofit leaders and experts to discuss topics related to your digital fundraising campaign. Engage your audience in a unique way by allowing them to ask questions directly through a live chat.
Unlike in-person events, virtual events are more accessible to a wider audience. Supporters will be free to attend from the convenience of their homes, cutting down on commute times and travel fees. Additionally, you can record your virtual events, so that even if some of your supporters can’t attend due to other commitments, they can watch your event after the fact. This will help your digital fundraising campaign by allowing you to reach a greater number of interested individuals.
5. Social Media Campaign
When organizing a digital fundraising campaign, be sure to include social media as part of your strategy. Social media platforms are a great vehicle for outreach, as they allow you to interact with a wider audience that you may not otherwise have come into contact with.
Nonprofits that post on social media platforms see great success with inspiring supporters to give. In fact, 32% of donors are most likely inspired to give via social media. These platforms have become one of the most engaging and meaningful ways for nonprofits to engage with their supporters and release exciting news.
However, with the variety of social media platforms out there, it can be difficult to decide where to funnel your content. Carefully consider the following platforms and how they can support your digital fundraising campaign:
- Facebook. A social media platform that boasts almost 3 billion monthly active users, Facebook allows you to gather your supporters in one place. Post updates and announcements on your page about your digital fundraising campaign. You can also take advantage of Facebook’s fundraising tools to add a donate button to your page and empower supporters to create fundraisers on your behalf.
- LinkedIn. LinkedIn is an online professional network and is a perfect place to post updates about your organization and operations, as well as connect with viable volunteers or employees. It’s also a great place to find potential corporate sponsors for your digital fundraising campaigns.
- Instagram. This social media platform is entirely based on images and short videos, both of which offer great opportunities to connect emotionally with your supporters. Create professional and creative visual content to draw their attention and encourage further engagement with your digital fundraising campaign. Your followers can easily comment on your posts and interact with your stories, creating an engaging environment for supporters.
- TikTok. While a majority of Facebook and Instagram users are 18 to 34 and LinkedIn’s users are even older, TikTok’s users are much younger. This social media platform is perfect for connecting with Gen Z through short-form video content. There are tons of “viral trends” to try out, so consider relating your nonprofit messaging to these fun formats.
Rather than trying to master every one of these channels, we recommend that you focus on the platforms you already have the most engagement and content on. Thoughtfully create your content to bring attention to your ongoing digital fundraising campaign and encourage your audience to make donations and show their support for your nonprofit.
6. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fan-favorite fundraising idea because it leverages the passion and energy of your supporters. Plus, it’s one of the most valuable ways to promote your nonprofit’s mission and reach new prospects you might have never had before.
Here’s how this type of digital fundraising campaign works:
- Recruit passionate volunteers from your supporters to fundraise on your nonprofit’s behalf.
- Set each volunteer up with their own personalizable fundraising page, so they can share what your organization means to them.
- Encourage them to share this page and reach out to friends, family, and other peers on social media.
- Individuals will donate to your nonprofit’s digital fundraising campaign by clicking on their loved one’s peer-to-peer page and making a gift there.
- Track how much each fundraiser raises to make a fun and healthy competition out of it!
- Show your genuine appreciation and thank your volunteers when the campaign is over.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the best ways to reach new audiences without having to do most of the legwork yourself. It’s important that you properly train your volunteers and provide them with all of the necessary resources to succeed. Ensure that your staff members are available to answer questions and otherwise assist your volunteers so that they have a positive experience as they help you fundraise.
7. Text Fundraising Campaign
Text fundraising is a form of digital fundraising that connects with your supporters through their most frequently used devices — their mobile devices. With a text fundraising tool, you can:
- Send marketing messages directly to mobile phones.
- Accept gifts through text messages.
- Thank donors who have given.
This is a valuable way to increase engagement with your supporters and establish consistent communication with them. Just make sure you have their permission to accept outbound texts. You can get each donor’s preferred cell number and their confirmation to opt into texts within something as simple as your donation form!
Examples of Nonprofit Digital Fundraising Campaigns
Now that you know of the variety of strategies your nonprofit can utilize for digital fundraising campaigns, let’s take a look at some successful campaigns:
- ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was held in 2014, and it went viral in July and August of the year. It challenged participants to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads to promote awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research associations. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge allowed the ALS Association to increase its annual funding for research around the world by 187%.
- The Red Cross’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Effort. This digital fundraising campaign was held by the Red Cross in 2010 to help Haitians affected by the earthquake by providing food, water, shelter, medical care, and other essentials. This campaign implemented a text fundraising strategy by asking supporters to “Text HAITI to 90999” to donate $10. The Red Cross raised tens of millions of dollars to help more than 4.5 million Haitians, making this digital fundraising campaign a huge success.
- Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Extra Life Campaign. The Extra Life campaign is an annual digital fundraising event held by the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Participants sign up to play games from home or online and ask friends and family to donate to your fundraising. There are Game Days every year, and the funds raised go towards helping children get the medical care they need.
Digital fundraising campaigns can take a variety of shapes and forms, making them a great choice for nonprofits that are willing to get creative. Don’t be afraid to take your fundraising to the next level by augmenting it with technology. Who knows, you might see success just like the three organizations above did!
If you want to increase your fundraising efforts, engage supporters in meaningful ways, and meet new prospects, embarking on a digital fundraising campaign is your best plan of attack. Go past simply sharing your online donation page and use our tips above to take your campaign to the next level.
To continue your research and become an even better fundraiser than before, explore our additional resources:
- Nonprofit Advertising: The Essential Guide (With Examples!) — Read this guide for more inspiration on advertising and promoting your nonprofit’s mission.
- Google Ad Grant Impact: Capturing Results and Measuring ROI — Interested in Google Ad Grants? Learn more about the impact that this program can make on your nonprofit.
- Facebook Challenges: Social Media Fundraising for Nonprofits — Lean into the power of social media and read about how Facebook Challenges can empower your nonprofit’s digital fundraising efforts.