When you’re raising funds toward a good cause, you want to retain as much of that funding to benefit your cause as possible. Follow these steps to learn how to use tech to fundraise on a budget.
With the often limited budgets that nonprofits are working with, it’s crucial that you have strong financial management practices in place to reach your goals. And, that’s before even considering the amount of oversight required of nonprofit organizations and the near-constant pressure to cut overhead costs.
What all of that equates to is this: You need to spend money to raise donations. However, if you can keep that spending money as low as possible, you’ll be significantly better off.
Luckily, there’s another factor in this conversation— nonprofit technology. Tech is evolving, optimizing the fundraising process and allowing your organization to bring in gifts in a more efficient manner than ever before.
This guide will explore fundraising on a budget through the following tech-based tactics:
- Collect gifts digitally.
- Draw on social fundraising methods.
- Research prospective donors in advance.
- Communicate digitally.
- Process donations efficiently.
- Store donation information effectively.
The internet and the accompanying online donation tools are incredibly helpful for organizations looking to raise more while spending less. Let’s dive in!
Collect gifts digitally.
This strategy forms the basis of all of the strategies following it: Create an online giving page for your nonprofit.
An online donation page is a webpage through which supporters can make donations to your nonprofit by digital means. Usually, this is either a subset of your overall website or a separate branded page that you link out to from all of your online presences.
There are a few best practices for your online giving page:
- Accept gifts from many tenders. Choose an online giving page provider that allows donors to make gifts via credit/debit card and ACH direct deposits. This ensures that no supporters are deterred from making their gifts due to tender type.
- Share the page far and wide. Share a link to the page on your main website, across your social media profiles and posts, in your email newsletter, and even in any physical print materials you send supporters. Further, encourage supporters to share your posts to their networks. Because this is often the most convenient method of giving, it’s important that all supporters are aware of the opportunity.
- Keep the form fields simple. While you may be tempted to collect as much information from your supporters as possible, avoid including excessive form fields on your giving page. The online attention span is short, so including as few fields as possible increases the chance that supporters will actually complete the giving transaction.
- Thank supporters for their digital gifts. While digital giving involves less in-person interaction with the supporter, that doesn’t mean you should thank them any less than other supporters. Ensure a personalized thank you is sent to each donor every time they make a digital gift. This is crucial for relationship building and retention.
Put thought into the construction of your giving page, making sure to avoid common issues that could easily be resolved. Most of your other budget-friendly fundraising methods will depend on a high-functioning giving page, so don’t neglect this resource. Check Donately’s key donation page best practices for inspiration.
Draw on social fundraising methods.
Modern nonprofit fundraisers understand the importance of the internet as a tool to drastically expand the reach of campaigns. Websites, social media, emailed newsletters— each is a powerful method to spread the word about fundraising efforts while expending little physical resources.
However, nonprofits can take this a step further. They can both increase the reach of their online efforts and decrease spending more than ever before. This is done through social fundraising.
In general, social fundraising encompasses the many ways your nonprofit can empower supporters to raise donations on your behalf. With the rise of the internet, this is more efficient than ever. Consider the following fundraisers:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising. Most often combined with a fundraising event of some sort, peer-to-peer fundraising involves creating an online fundraising campaign and allowing supporters to create their own campaign pages alongside it. They share their personal pages and ask friends and family to make donations through their page, benefitting your fundraiser.
- Pledge fundraising. Pledge fundraising is similar to peer-to-peer, with supporters creating their own fundraising pages in conjunction with yours. However, instead of collecting donations on the spot, they collect donations corresponding to their future participation in a challenge (such as a physical fundraising event). When they complete the challenge, the promised donations turn into tangible gifts to your organization.
- Crowdfunding. Unlike the other two social fundraising methods, crowdfunding involves your organization creating an online fundraising campaign and supporters sharing that page. Your supporter’s network gives to your overall campaign rather than personalized giving pages.
Each of these fundraisers is powerful as it allows you to raise gifts from regular donors, as well as their extended networks— populations that you may not have reached otherwise. These new supporters initially give due to their personal relationship with the sharing supporter, but have the potential to become long term donors after the fact.
That’s why it is key to thank social fundraiser supporters, even if they’re only giving a small amount through a P2P campaign. By stewarding these new relationships along with your regular donors, you build fundraising capacity over time.
Research prospective donors in advance.
One easy way to be more budget-friendly in your fundraising efforts is to give yourself the highest chance of success possible with each fundraising ask. When you have more successful fundraising asks, you can reach out to fewer potential donors— saving your organization’s time and resources in the process. This is where your donor data can directly improve your fundraising efforts.
Increase your success with each fundraising ask by completing prospect research. Prospect research is the act of examining your donor data for philanthropic and wealth indicators. These indicators suggest a donor has a high affinity to give (philanthropic) and financial capacity to do so (wealth). Donors that fit both criteria are those most likely to make major gifts to your organization.
However, you may be wondering— won’t a manual analysis of your donor data for these factors actually use more resources than anything else?
That’s where the technology aspect comes into play. There are tools designed to help your team complete this type of research, and investing in one such tool will afford your organization valuable insight into your donor base. It will give your major gift officers a data-informed plan of action, allowing them to secure major gifts more successfully.
For a more in-depth look at this process, check out this guide to prospect research.
Communicate digitally with multi-channel marketing.
It’s hard to raise donations if you’re not communicating opportunities to give to your donor base— that’s nothing new. However, if you’ve spent any amount of time fundraising, you may have realized that physical communication methods can be expensive. Physical mailings, posters, stamps— while snail mail is still a valuable resource, the costs can add up.
Communicate digitally and make the practice essentially free while improving your response rates. Multi-channel marketing is trending in nonprofit marketing, and with good reason. For example, emails drove 28% of all online nonprofit revenue in recent years and 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social networks end up taking action.
Consider the following digital communication platforms:
- Email newsletter.
- Social networks.
- Your website.
Multi-channel marketing is a powerful way to take fundraising to the next level, but only if you do it right. When using multiple platforms, it’s important to have a clear plan for success. How will each platform fit into your overall strategy? How will you ensure supporters are informed, but not overwhelmed, with your multi-channel strategy?
Consider these questions when updating your communications strategy.
Process donations effectively.
Many of these budget-friendly fundraising tips have focused on ways to raise more gifts using digital means. However, there’s a way to be more budget-friendly with the fundraising capacity that you currently have.
Optimizing your donation processing methods allows your organization to receive gifts securely through digital means and retain more of that gift when you do.
Each digital transaction has associated fees. From general payment processing fees leveraged by your giving software to credit card processing fees, your organization is giving away part of the donation made in order to process it.
Being mindful when choosing your online giving platform allows you to choose the platform with the lowest processing fee. Some platforms even give donors the option to cover fees, allowing your organization to retain 100% of the donation made!
While this has clear benefits for your organization, it’s also a good move to attract more donations. Mindfulness of payment processing allows you to keep security in mind— and if your payment processing is secure (and communicated as such), donors will trust that their financial information is safe while they give. No one wants their financial information hacked due to their philanthropic nature!
Payment processing can be a confusing topic, especially if it’s a newer concept for your organization. Check out Donately’s guide to nonprofit donation processing for a primer on how this all works.
Store donation information effectively.
When you’re working under a tight budget, accuracy is key. While analog methods leave a lot of room for human error, it can still be nerve-wracking leaving such an essential task as your nonprofit fundraising up to tech tools.
This is where your constituent relationship management (CRM) system comes into play. This is your most comprehensive database, lending information to your prospect research tools, providing email addresses for your multi-channel marketing strategy, and tracking all incoming gifts.
It’s important that this system is kept up to date and accurate, so your other systems don’t go off track.
By integrating your CRM with your other software tools, you’re able to ensure this database is as comprehensive as possible. Further, by creating and maintaining data hygiene practices, you ensure the database is essentially error-free.
When your CRM is updated and accurate, the rest of your budget-friendly, tech-fueled fundraising efforts are able to thrive.
If your nonprofit is looking to fundraise on a budget, technology has you covered. Consider using these tips in your next fundraising push to raise more while saving resources.
About the Author
Andrew Berry is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.