By Emily Rose Patz, Senior Copywriter at DonorPerfect – a top-rated donor management system and fundraising platform for nonprofits.

Those aboard the online fundraising train tend to not look back. That’s because a digital strategy can truly transform every aspect of your organization’s work – from marketing to events. So much so that online revenue in the nonprofit sector grew by 32 percent in 2020.

Even if you’re confident that online fundraising is the right direction, it’s hard to know how and where to get started. The good news is that once you embrace digital donor engagement tools, most of the grunt work – like donation forms and gift acknowledgements – is done for you through automation. For fundraising initiatives that require a little more love – like charity auctions and virtual events – below is a list of ten powerful fundraising ideas to help you pave your new-and-improved path.

1. Start crowdfunding with birthday fundraisers

Giving comes more easily when the cause is close to home. That’s why peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns do so well – people want to give to their friends, or their friends’ friends, and rally around their loved ones.

Birthday fundraisers are a great way to get started with crowdfunding because they encourage giving within a limited timeframe (ex. for my birthday this week, please help me reach my goal of $1,000 to rescue foster animals like mine). If you keep a record of your donors’ birthdates, you have the unique opportunity to make crowdfunding a timely ask. Send them a friendly reminder and a link to get started, along with your birthday greeting.

2. Host a hybrid auction that anyone can attend

As your supporters slowly get more comfortable with stepping out in 2021, there are plenty of opportunities for in-person, virtual, or hybrid auctions, depending on their needs. For example, you could auction items online, face-to-face, or a mix of both, using an event website or a handy mobile auction tool guests can access from the ballroom or their living room. Not to mention, this approach allows for a much larger pool of bidders to drive up bids and raise more for your cause.

Each of these popular items can be sold and redeemed online:

  • Fitness or cooking classes
  • Personal training sessions
  • Consulting services
  • Custom artwork
  • Signed memorabilia
  • Outdoor sports gear
  • Travel packages

These items tend to sell quickly at any auction, but you can generate even more excitement with pre-bidding and mobile notifications.

3. Engage with supporters through virtual events

No more worrying about babysitters or busy schedules, as virtual events are much easier for supporters to attend. And they actually provide more opportunities to engage than you might think. Even though you won’t be networking in person, with online fundraising tools, you can still share success stories, celebrate your donors, energize your audience, and stay on brand the same way you would at an event that’d cost big bucks to put on.

With GiveCloud, once attendees register for your livestream event, they can access a branded event page to consider multiple giving options, see how much is being raised in real time, share on social media, and interact with others in a public chat.

4. Offer a monthly giving program to retain donors

Six out of every ten donors will stop giving to your organization next year, but you can nip this negative trend in the bud with a recurring giving program that automatically collects their preferred amount each month. This model has become popular due to donors’ expressed interest in making incremental payments over time to stay active with your mission.

5. Secure a major donor for a matching gift campaign

Small, one-time donations can seem transactional, and that’s not how donors want to feel. They truly want their effort to make a difference. A matching gift campaign (usually sponsored by a major donor) can double each individual gift, no matter how small, OR double the total of all donations once a certain amount has been reached.

This helps supporters feel like the valuable part of your success that they are, and may inspire them to take part in your monthly giving program to spread out their donations over time and receive a comprehensive impact statement.

6. Encourage easy text donations

In the past year, mobile giving has increased 205 percent, with a quarter of donors completing their donations on mobile devices. Most texts are read right away, so the easier it is to get involved, the more likely donors are to take action then and there.

To take advantage of the “anytime, anywhere” nature of mobile giving and engage with your mobile-minded supporters, try sending an actionable text message with a link to your donation page.

7. Stay in touch with some facetime

Fundraising isn’t about the cash – it’s about the community. The more personal your interactions with supporters, the better. That’s why video engagement is quickly coming to the forefront of nonprofits’ digital strategies.

The best thing about incorporating video in your strategy is that no special skills are needed. All you have to do is plan your personal message, then press record. Think of the possibilities: you can generate personalized impact reports or catch donors “in the moment” with targeted calls-to-action.

8. Catch donors while they’re already shopping

Online giving should be accessible for all who want to participate, even if they only have a few dollars to spare. Now you can help your smaller supporters give while they shop for essential items on their mobile device.

ShopRaise is a free fundraising app that partners with more than 1,000 retailers to collect donations through eCommerce purchases. For example, shoppers can donate a percentage of their total purchase amount.

This no cost, low effort idea diversifies your fundraising efforts to engage supporters in a new way. Upon signing up, be sure to include your logo, photos and message to show them what you’re all about, then promote your program via email, text and social media.

9. Share to social media as often as possible

Investing in social media is a safe bet. It’s no secret that Generations Y and Z heavily rely on it, but you might be surprised to learn that more than half of Gen X is inspired to donate by a post or image they saw on social media.

Aside from the fact that many of your donors already know and love it, social media sharing allows you to get your message out in more than one place to maximize its reach. Even if your supporters don’t check their email often, they won’t miss an opportunity to donate if they see your call-to-action on several sites.

Diverse social media content will speak to a diverse donor base. It’s important to find creative ways to capture their attention mid-scroll. To break up the monotony, you’ll want to post photos, videos, links and graphics. Fortunately, you can easily create beautiful visuals with a smartphone and some free tools.

10. Connect your mission to headlines donors care about

It pays to pay attention. With social unrest weighing heavily in recent years, online fundraising has helped donors amplify the causes they care most about. In 2020, nonprofits that responded to current events saw noticeably higher growth in one-time giving revenue than those that did not.

That’s because these days, social media users are logging in to see crowdsourced news and imagery from their peers. Younger folks were quick to take action on social media as the events of 2020 unfolded, with great emphasis on searching for their truth and standing up for what they think is right. So why not join them? After all, your nonprofit work shares that same purpose.

However you plan to implement online and mobile strategies in your fundraising workflow, you aren’t likely to regret it. Your reach will increase, and so will your impact – and that’s what matters most, no matter how donors choose to engage with your organization.

You know what they say – if not now, then when? This year has brought us opportunities to regroup, grow, and change the way we connect with one another, making it the perfect window to introduce new tools to your online fundraising workflow.

So out with the old, and in with the new. Cut out clutter to make room for campaigns that resonate best, and share your most impactful stories as motivation to join the cause. Welcome new donors with a series of engagement opportunities, and leverage digital fundraising tools to improve return-on-investment year over year.

That said, the summer slowdown is the perfect time for a digital makeover! This very useful guide walks your nonprofit through the process from audit to relaunch.

10 Powerful Online Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits