No question about it. The internet is a powerful tool for fundraising, allowing your nonprofit to reach thousands—even millions—of potential donors across the world for a fraction of the cost of other fundraising campaigns.
But how exactly do you harness the power of digital technology to raise awareness and, ultimately, get folks to click the donate button?
Build Your Social Media Presence
Nonprofits were slower than the for-profit world to recognize that social media helps grow businesses, but they are definitely starting to catch on. In order to avoid limiting what people see of the organization to observations from a single “silo,” Julia Campbell advises nonprofits to create social media committees. As a nonprofit digital marketing and online fundraising strategist, Campbell knows the unique challenges nonprofit organizations face. She encourages them to recruit the most creative, outgoing, and tech-savvy members of the organization to be committee members and get these individuals thinking about how to establish goals and track metrics.
Other important points Campbell stresses:
- Create a spreadsheet to keep track of the metrics you want to follow, such as number of likes or email subscribers. While she believes that nonprofits should work smart and investigate platforms like Hootsuite, which can be programmed to send out posts according to an automated schedule, she cautions that there is always a risk of seeming inauthentic when you don’t personally engage online in the moment with posts as they come out.
- Make sure you have a way to track your analytics so that you know where visitors to your website are coming from.
- Choose the social media channels that make the most sense for your organization. It’s better to engage your supporters with a variety of interesting and useful types of content — especially visually-stimulating media like videos and infographics — than to attempt to establish a presence on each new channel that arises.
- Don’t just post and run. Stick around and pay attention to what people are retweeting and sharing. What kind of posts are most popular with your supporters?
While the purpose of establishing a social media presence may be to fundraise, that should not be the explicit goal of posting to social media, writing blog posts, or sharing videos. Instead of jumping right in and asking for donations, use social media to spread information about the cause your nonprofit helps and connect with like-minded individuals. When you do start a fundraising campaign, there will be community and trust — and a much greater likelihood that your plea will resonate.
One final point — make sure your website is optimized for mobile. Millennials are checking social media on their phones, and they will click away from your site within seconds if information loads slowly or gets cut off the screen. The trend in blogs and websites is away from cluttered sidebars and toward design that makes for easy scrolling.
Develop an Inbound Marketing Strategy
If your nonprofit is going to use the internet to fundraise, you’ll need an inbound marketing strategy.
For years, the conventional wisdom in inbound marketing was that a business should use funnels to draw in potential leads. Content shared via social media and ranked high in search engines, thanks to the latest SEO techniques, was a primary means of luring people at the wide end of the funnel into further engagement with the company and its products.
But according to Jason John, writing for the online publication Ad Age, this model is now “completely and utterly dead.” Instead of progressively being lured into an ever-narrowing funnel toward the purchase, consumers are “jumping in and out of channels” at will, moving toward a purchase, yes, but in ways that are sporadic and unpredictable.
This same principle applies to the nonprofit world. Advertising on social media channels and websites increasingly reflects the purchase, likes, and clicks of an individual’s browsing history, and an environmental rights activist will see dozens, maybe even hundreds, of ads, posts, shares, and tweets from environmental organizations each day.
The way to make your organization stand out in this intensely competitive world of ideas is not to build a tiered approach. Instead, focus on a single story that drives your fundraising campaign and integrate that story across multiple channels. That way, wherever your supporters find you, they catch a segment of the narrative.
For instance, suppose your nonprofit raises money for a full-service community school. The impact story might be about one family’s ability to devote more time and resources to their children’s education now that they have access to low-cost health and dental care through their child’s elementary school.
Use the Impact Story to Drive Fundraising Campaigns
The impact story isn’t just a great way to integrate your online engagement across different channels. It can also be a key fundraising component.
This is equally true for single issue campaigns and recurring donation programs, where the supporter commits upfront to giving a set amount each month that is taken automatically from a credit card account.
When the impact story forms the basis for an online fundraising campaign, you have the choice of focusing on a single goal or on consecutive projects that facilitate a goal. If you want to develop a grief counseling program at the full-service community school, that might be a single issue campaign, and the impact story might focus on a family that lost their child through gun violence. But if your fundraising efforts are primarily to keep the school running, you could develop a recurring donation program to allow your supporters to sponsor families like the one in your impact story, whose children attend the school.
Either way, the digital age makes it easy to reach supporters where they spend the majority of their time, scrolling through their social media feeds. Authentic engagement, impactful stories that explain what your organization does using an integrated message, and targeted fundraising campaigns all put the power of the internet to work for you and your nonprofit.
Vail Centre offers continued education certificate programs that target the nonprofit sector. These programs aim to teach working professionals new skills for leadership, management and business development. Taught by established practitioners and scholars in the nonprofit arena, the Duke University Nonprofit Management Program will focus on the skills and tools one needs to become a leader in the nonprofit world. Offered June 25-30, the course will be held on the Vail Centre campus and attendees can register here, or by contacting Todd Wallis at [email protected].