Discover top strategies for successful online fundraising. Learn how to set clear goals, craft compelling stories, optimize for mobile, engage with supporters, offer incentives, leverage peer-to-peer fundraising, showcase social proof, create urgency, and measure performance effectively.

You’re probably reading this because you want online fundraising to become an even stronger cornerstone for your organization. 

With the right strategies, online fundraising offers unparalleled reach and engagement opportunities. You can reach people that you don’t even know exist. You can manage big teams of ambassadors. You can put technology to work for you so that you can raise money even while you sleep. 

It all starts with the basic fundamentals, the best practices. If you’re doing these ten things right, you’re positioning yourself for success right out of the gate. 

1) Set Clear Goals

Define specific, measurable, and achievable goals for your fundraising campaign. Whether it’s a monetary target, a number of donors, or a project milestone, clear objectives provide focus and motivation for both you and your supporters. 

Goals provide a beginning, a middle, and an end to your campaign, which creates a story, the perfect way for you to invite donors in. 

Here’s why setting clear goals matters:

  • Guidance and Focus: Clear goals serve as a roadmap for your fundraising. They help you stay focused on what you’re working toward and guide your decision-making process throughout the campaign. Whether you’re raising funds for a specific project, event, or cause, having a clearly defined objective ensures that all your actions align with your ultimate purpose. Faced with any decision throughout your campaign, you can clearly ask yourself which options will help you achieve your goal.
  • Motivation and Accountability: Goals create a sense of purpose and motivation for both you and your supporters. When donors know exactly what their contributions are going toward and what impact they’ll make, they’re more likely to feel inspired to give. Additionally, setting measurable targets holds you accountable for achieving the desired outcomes, driving you to take proactive steps to reach your goals.
  • Measurability and Evaluation: By defining specific, measurable goals, you can track your progress and evaluate the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts. Once defined, you can assess your performance and make informed adjustments as needed. Regularly monitoring your progress allows you to celebrate successes, identify areas for improvement, and make data-driven decisions to optimize your campaign’s performance.
  • Transparency and Trust: Transparent communication about your fundraising goals builds trust and credibility with your supporters. When donors understand exactly what you’re aiming to achieve and how their contributions will be utilized, they’re more likely to feel confident in supporting your cause. Clearly articulating your goals and sharing updates on your progress fosters transparency and reinforces the impact and importance of your fundraising campaign.

2) Tell Compelling Stories

Craft engaging narratives that resonate emotionally with your audience. Share real-life stories of impact, highlighting the people or communities your fundraising efforts will benefit. Authentic storytelling humanizes your cause and inspires empathy and action. Here’s how:

  • Emotional Connection: The emotional side of our brain is a more philanthropic side of the brain than the analytic, and stories have the unique ability to evoke emotions and connect with people on a deeper level. When you tell compelling narratives that resonate emotionally with your audience, you create a strong bond that goes beyond mere facts and figures. You allow donors to empathize with the struggles, triumphs, and aspirations of those you seek to help. It helps donors visualize the impact they enable. 
  • Personalization and Relatability: Authentic storytelling gives your cause a face and an identity, making it relatable to your audience. No longer, just an abstract concept, your organizational mission comes to life. When donors can see themselves or their loved ones reflected in the stories you share, they’re more likely to feel personally invested in making a difference. By highlighting the experiences, challenges, and dreams of real people, you make your cause real. 
  • Inspiration and Hope: Stories have the power to inspire hope and ignite a sense of purpose in your audience. By showcasing stories of resilience, transformation, and impact, you demonstrate the tangible difference that can be made through collective action and support. When donors see the positive outcomes of their contributions, they’re motivated to continue supporting your cause and become advocates for change in their own communities.
  • Call to Action: Compelling stories serve as a powerful call to action, inspiring individuals to get involved and make a difference. By sharing stories of need, progress, and hope, you create a sense of urgency and importance around your cause, motivating donors to take immediate action to support your fundraising efforts. When a real life is at stake, people are more motivated to act. Whether it’s making a donation, spreading the word, or volunteering their time and talents, storytelling prompts individuals to become active participants in your mission.

3) Optimize for Mobile

With a significant portion of online traffic coming from mobile devices, ensure that your fundraising pages and donation forms are mobile-friendly. A seamless mobile experience enhances accessibility and encourages spontaneous giving. Here’s what that means and why it’s important: 

  • Accessibility and Convenience: Mobile optimization ensures that your fundraising pages and donation forms are easily accessible and user-friendly on smartphones and tablets. A seamless mobile experience removes barriers to engagement, allowing supporters to access your campaign anytime, anywhere, and on any device. By providing a responsive design that adapts to different screen sizes and resolutions, you create a more inclusive and convenient experience for donors, regardless of their preferred device.
  • Spontaneous Giving: Mobile optimization facilitates spontaneous giving by streamlining the donation process and eliminating friction points. When supporters encounter a compelling fundraising appeal while browsing on their phone, they’re more likely to make a donation if the process is quick, intuitive, and hassle-free. Reduce friction. A mobile-friendly donation form with minimal steps and easy payment options enables individuals to act on their impulse to give, resulting in increased conversions and donations.
  • Enhanced Engagement: A positive mobile experience enhances engagement with your fundraising campaign, encouraging visitors to explore your content, watch videos, read stories, and interact with social media posts—all from their phones. By optimizing images, videos, and text for mobile viewing, you ensure that your message resonates effectively with mobile users, keeping them engaged and motivated to support your cause.

4) Utilize Multiple Channels

Diversify your presence across various platforms and channels, including social media, email campaigns, and WhatsApp. Each channel offers unique opportunities to reach different audience segments and amplify your message. Here’s why it’s important and how to effectively utilize multiple channels:

  • Reach: Each online channel has its own unique audience and user base. By diversifying your online presence across platforms, you can reach a broader and more diverse audience. This increases the visibility of your fundraising campaign and exposes it to potential donors who may not be active on other platforms.
  • Engagement: Different channels offer different opportunities for engagement with your audience. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow for real-time interaction and conversation with supporters, while email campaigns provide a more personalized and direct communication channel. Crowdfunding websites offer a dedicated platform for showcasing your campaign and engaging with donors through updates, comments, and thank-you messages. By leveraging the strengths of each channel, you can foster deeper engagement with your audience and build stronger relationships with supporters.
  • Amplification: Utilizing multiple channels allows you to increase the visibility of your fundraising campaign. When you share your campaign across different platforms, you reach audiences with varying preferences and behaviors, increasing the likelihood of exposure and engagement. Supporters who discover your campaign on one platform may share it with their networks on another, further extending your  reach and impact.
  • Targeting: Each online channel offers unique targeting capabilities that allow you to tailor your messaging to specific audience segments. For example, social media platforms allow you to target ads and posts based on demographics, interests, and behaviors, ensuring that your message reaches the most relevant audience. Email campaigns allow for segmentation based on donor history, preferences, and engagement levels, allowing for more personalized communication. By leveraging targeting capabilities across multiple channels, you can deliver more relevant and compelling messages to your audience, increasing the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts.

5) Engage with Supporters

Running an online campaign means being able to cultivate meaningful relationships with your donors and supporters by engaging with them regularly. Unlike a direct mail appeal, you can respond promptly to questions, express gratitude for contributions, and provide updates on the progress of your fundraising efforts. For instance:

  • Build Connections: Regular, real-time engagement allows you to build meaningful connections with donors and cultivate a sense of community around your cause. By interacting with donors on a personal level, you demonstrate that you value their support and are genuinely invested in their involvement. This sense of connection fosters loyalty and encourages continued support for your organization or cause.
  • Show Appreciation: Expressing gratitude for contributions is crucial for donor stewardship and retention. When donors feel appreciated and acknowledged for their generosity, they’re more likely to continue supporting your fundraising efforts in the future. Personalized thank-you messages, handwritten notes, or public acknowledgments can go a long way in making donors feel valued and recognized for their contributions. And, during an online campaign, you can do it in record timing. 
  • Providing Updates: Keeping donors informed about the progress of your fundraising efforts is key to maintaining transparency and accountability. Regular updates on how their donations are being utilized, milestones achieved, and impact achieved help donors feel connected to the cause and understand the tangible results of their support. Sharing success stories, testimonials, and photos or videos of your work in action reinforces the importance and effectiveness of their contributions.
  • Listening and Responding: Engaging with supporters also involves actively listening to their feedback, questions, and concerns, and responding promptly and thoughtfully. Whether it’s addressing inquiries about your organization’s mission and programs, providing clarification on donation processes, or addressing donor concerns, prompt and transparent communication builds trust and confidence in your organization’s integrity and effectiveness.
  • Encouraging Involvement: Engaging with supporters also provides opportunities to involve them more deeply in your fundraising efforts. Encourage supporters to share their own stories and experiences related to your cause, participate in volunteer activities or fundraising events, or become advocates for your organization within their own networks. By empowering supporters to become active participants in your mission, you not only strengthen their commitment but also expand your reach and impact within the community.

6) Offer Incentives and Rewards

Encourage participation and generosity by offering incentives or rewards for donors. Whether it’s exclusive content, branded merchandise, or recognition in your campaign, incentives can motivate individuals to contribute and share your cause with others.

  • Motivating Donors: Incentives and rewards provide donors with tangible benefits or perks in exchange for their contributions, motivating them to give and increasing their willingness to support your cause. By offering something of value, whether it’s exclusive content, branded merchandise, or special privileges, you create an additional incentive for individuals to donate and participate in your fundraising efforts.
  • Motivating Ambassadors: Encouraging ambassadors throughout your fundraising campaign can significantly spur them to action. Ambassadors are passionate advocates who believe strongly in your cause and are willing to champion it within their own networks. By offering incentives and rewards, such as exclusive perks or recognition, you can motivate ambassadors to actively promote your campaign and recruit others to join the cause. Ambassadors can leverage their personal connections, social influence, and credibility to amplify your message and attract new donors. By empowering ambassadors to become champions for your cause, you not only increase the effectiveness of your fundraising efforts but also foster a sense of ownership and community among your supporters.
  • Creating a Sense of Value: Incentives add perceived value to the act of donating, making individuals feel like they’re getting something in return for their contribution. This sense of value enhances the donor experience and makes the act of giving more rewarding and fulfilling. Whether it’s access to premium content, VIP experiences, or limited-edition merchandise, incentives make donors feel appreciated and recognized for their support.
  • Encouraging Sharing and Advocacy: Offering incentives and rewards not only motivates donors to contribute but also encourages them to share your cause with others. Individuals may be more inclined to spread the word about your campaign if they believe their friends and family can also benefit from the incentives you’re offering. This word-of-mouth promotion can help expand your reach, attract new donors, and amplify the impact of your fundraising efforts.
  • Differentiating Your Campaign: In a crowded fundraising landscape, offering unique incentives and rewards can help your campaign stand out and attract attention. Whether it’s through creative incentives, exclusive perks, or compelling rewards, you can differentiate your campaign from others and make it more appealing to potential donors. This differentiation can increase engagement, drive donations, and ultimately lead to greater success for your fundraising efforts.
  • Building Brand Loyalty: Incentives and rewards can also help strengthen donor relationships and build brand loyalty over time. When donors receive value-added benefits for their contributions, they’re more likely to feel a sense of loyalty and affinity towards your organization or cause. This loyalty can lead to repeat donations, continued support, and advocacy for your mission in the long run.

7) Harness the Power of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Empower your supporters to become ambassadors for your cause through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Provide them with the tools and resources to create their own fundraising pages and rally their networks behind your mission.

  • Empowering Supporters: Peer-to-peer fundraising empowers your existing supporters to become ambassadors and advocates for your cause. By providing them with the tools, resources, and guidance to create their own fundraising pages, you give them a platform to share their passion for your mission with their personal networks. This empowerment not only increases their sense of ownership and investment in your cause but also taps into their social connections and influence.
  • Expanding Reach: Peer-to-peer fundraising enables you to tap into the networks and communities of your supporters, exponentially expanding your reach beyond your immediate audience. When supporters create their own fundraising pages and share them with their friends, family, and colleagues, they introduce your cause to new audiences who may not have been aware of it otherwise. This grassroots approach to fundraising allows you to reach individuals who may be more inclined to donate when solicited by someone they know and trust.
  • Building Trust and Credibility: Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on the trust and credibility of personal relationships to drive donations. When supporters advocate for your cause within their own networks, their endorsement carries significant weight and credibility. Friends and family members are more likely to donate when solicited by someone they know and trust, leading to higher conversion rates and increased donations overall.
  • Encouraging Engagement: Peer-to-peer fundraising fosters a sense of camaraderie and community among supporters as they come together to support a common cause. By rallying their networks behind your mission, supporters not only raise funds but also raise awareness, spark conversations, and inspire others to get involved. This collective effort creates a sense of shared purpose and solidarity, encouraging greater engagement and participation from all involved.
  • Generating Momentum: Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns have the potential to generate significant momentum and excitement around your cause. As supporters create and share their fundraising pages, donations start to roll in, and the campaign gains traction. This momentum can snowball as more people become aware of the campaign, leading to increased donations, media coverage, and social media buzz. The energy and enthusiasm generated by peer-to-peer fundraising can propel your campaign to new heights of success.

8) Maximize Social Proof

Leverage social proof to build credibility and trust with potential donors. Showcase testimonials, success stories, and endorsements from satisfied beneficiaries or influential supporters to demonstrate the impact and legitimacy of your cause.

  • Understanding Social Proof: Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people look to the actions and opinions of others to guide their own behavior, especially in uncertain or unfamiliar situations. In the context of fundraising, social proof involves demonstrating that others have already supported your cause and found it worthwhile, thereby encouraging potential donors to follow suit.
  • Building Credibility: Social proof helps build credibility and trust with potential donors by providing external validation of your organization’s impact and legitimacy. When individuals see testimonials, success stories, and endorsements from satisfied beneficiaries or influential supporters, they’re more likely to perceive your cause as credible, trustworthy, and worthy of their support. This validation reassures donors that their contributions will be put to good use and make a meaningful difference.
  • Demonstrating Impact: Showcasing testimonials, success stories, and endorsements allows you to demonstrate the real-world impact of your work and the positive outcomes achieved for those you serve. By sharing stories of individuals or communities whose lives have been positively impacted by your organization’s efforts, you provide concrete evidence of the effectiveness and relevance of your cause. This evidence helps potential donors connect emotionally with your mission and understand the tangible difference their support can make.
  • Inspiring Action: Social proof serves as a powerful motivator for action by highlighting the support and endorsement of others. When potential donors see that individuals like themselves, as well as respected figures or influencers, have already contributed to your cause, they’re more likely to feel compelled to do the same. The principle of social conformity drives individuals to align their behavior with that of their peers, making them more inclined to donate when they see others doing so.
  • Encouraging Engagement: Social proof not only encourages donations but also fosters engagement and participation in your fundraising efforts. When donors see evidence of the impact and success of your cause, they’re more likely to want to get involved themselves. Whether it’s through volunteering, advocacy, or spreading the word, social proof motivates individuals to become active supporters and ambassadors for your mission.

9) Create Urgency and Scarcity

Use time-sensitive appeals and limited-time offers to create a sense of urgency and scarcity around your fundraising campaign. Deadlines and milestones can spur action and motivate individuals to donate before it’s too late.

  • Sense of Immediacy: Urgency and scarcity create a sense of immediacy, prompting potential donors to act quickly to avoid missing out on an opportunity. When individuals perceive that time or resources are limited, they’re more likely to feel a sense of urgency to take action before it’s too late. This urgency motivates donors to make a donation sooner rather than later, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Urgency and scarcity tap into the psychological principle known as the fear of missing out (FOMO). When donors believe that others are taking advantage of a limited-time offer or opportunity, they fear being left behind and are compelled to act in order to avoid missing out on the benefits. This fear of missing out can drive individuals to donate impulsively, especially if they perceive the opportunity as valuable or desirable.
  • Increased Perceived Value: Scarcity enhances the perceived value of a fundraising opportunity by making it seem more exclusive and desirable. When resources or opportunities are limited, donors perceive them as more valuable and are willing to pay a premium to secure them. By creating scarcity around your fundraising campaign, you increase the perceived value of donating and encourage donors to give more generously in order to secure their participation.
  • Sense of Competition: Scarcity can also create a sense of competition among donors, driving them to outbid or outperform each other in order to secure their place or claim a limited reward. When donors believe that others are competing for the same limited resources, they’re more motivated to act quickly and decisively in order to avoid being left behind. This competitive dynamic can lead to increased donations and a sense of excitement and engagement around your fundraising campaign.
  • Limited-Time Offers: Creating urgency and scarcity often involves offering limited-time incentives or rewards to donors. Whether it’s a matching gift challenge, a special bonus for early donors, or exclusive access to an event or experience, limited-time offers motivate donors to take action by creating a sense of urgency and exclusivity. These time-sensitive incentives encourage donors to donate quickly in order to take advantage of the offer before it expires.

10) Measure and Iterate

Continuously monitor and analyze the performance of your fundraising efforts using metrics such as donation conversion rates, ambassador progress, and engagement levels. Use data-driven insights to refine your strategies, experiment with new approaches, and optimize your campaigns for greater impact.

  • Continuous Improvement: By measuring and analyzing the performance of your fundraising efforts, you can identify areas of strength and weakness and make data-driven decisions to improve your strategies over time. The biggest difference you can make during your campaign is managing your ambassadors, encouraging those who are progressing through their goals and reaching out to those who are not. 
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): To effectively measure the performance of your fundraising efforts, it’s essential to track relevant metrics and KPIs. These may include donation conversion rates (the percentage of website visitors who make a donation), donor retention rates (the percentage of donors who continue to support your organization over time), and engagement levels (such as email open rates, click-through rates, and social media interactions). By monitoring these KPIs regularly, you can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of your fundraising campaigns and identify areas for improvement.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Data-driven insights provide valuable information about donor behavior, preferences, and trends, allowing you to make informed decisions about your fundraising strategies. By analyzing data from past campaigns, you can identify what has worked well in the past and what areas may need improvement. These insights can help you tailor your messaging, target your audience more effectively, and experiment with new approaches to optimize your fundraising efforts.
  • Experimentation and Testing: Measurement and iteration also involve experimentation and testing to determine the most effective strategies for achieving your fundraising goals. By conducting A/B tests, split tests, or multivariate tests, you can compare different variables (such as email subject lines, donation page designs, or call-to-action language) to determine which elements yield the best results. This iterative approach allows you to learn from your successes and failures and continuously refine your strategies for maximum impact.
  • Optimization for Greater Impact: The ultimate goal of measuring and iterating is to optimize your fundraising campaigns for greater impact and success. By continually refining your strategies based on data-driven insights and experimentation, you can increase donation conversion rates, improve donor retention, and enhance overall engagement with your audience. This iterative approach enables you to adapt to changing circumstances, respond to donor feedback, and stay ahead of the curve in the dynamic world of fundraising.

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