This guest post is written by Audrey Phillips, program manager at Classy.
I’ve had the privilege of working with Classy’s nonprofit customers for over three years. While each nonprofit can be vastly different and our product has created innovative new features over the years, I always come back to the same 10 pieces of advice.
See Classy’s top 50 fundraising organizations and campaign examples for inspiration.
Online fundraising combines your standard relationship-building with digital mediums. The capabilities of your online fundraising platform have a massive impact on your overall success, and platforms like Classy can help you connect with your supporters effectively and efficiently online. Follow these 10 tactics that range from broader best practices to detailed product tips.
1. Your organization’s branding should be front and center.
When your supporters go through the donation process, you want them to have a seamless checkout experience that they trust and are thus more likely to complete. Part of what makes checking out seamless is having an organization’s brand front and center, so the donor feels assured they are in the right place. Donation pages that are customized with an organization’s branding perform six times better than those that are not personalized.
We always advise nonprofits to customize their donation pages to include their own logo, brand colors, and their domain name in the URL link. This can all apply to your email receipts as well. You can even update the browser icon to match your website. At the end of the day, your donation forms should look beautiful, match your branding, and streamline the giving process to be as simple and trustworthy as possible.
2. Harness the power of setting campaign goals.
Setting goals for a fundraising campaign is an important step to ensure you are staying on track and seeing year-over-year growth. However, it can have so much more impact than just for your internal tracking purposes. Your goal can also be a motivating tool to encourage more donations quickly.
Most Classy campaign types come with a progress bar or circle showing the thermometer bubble up as more donations come in. Supporters love to see their donation move the progress bar, and they’re more inclined to give if they know their donation is not just a drop in a bucket, but actually making a difference in reaching the goal.
A pro tip is to hide your progress metrics at first and do a soft launch where you share the campaign with a small pool of loyal supporters whom you feel will likely make gifts. Then, turn on the progress metrics for your hard launch to your wider network. Nobody likes to be the first to give, so by launching your campaign with about 5 to 10% of your goal fulfilled, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
Don’t forget to continuously communicate with your supporters around your goals. For example, let people know when you’re halfway to your goal, or that you’re so close that you only need 10 more donors to give $100. Breaking it down like this makes giving less intimidating and helps donors feel like their gift really does matter.
3. Offer innovative ways to give and that also improve your conversion rates.
Keeping up with modern payment methods is critical to attract the modern donor and accommodate how they like to give. Classy provides innovative payment options via our processor, Classy Pay powered by Stripe.
Aside from regular credit card transactions, Classy Pay also provides digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Microsoft Pay. When a donor is checking out on their phone, the corresponding payment option will appear. Because donors are already using digital wallets for everyday transactions, it’s much easier for them to click one button and complete the donation process.
When digital wallets are enabled, conversions from mobile devices increase by 11%. The digital wallet already has the credit card information saved, so the donor does not have to fish out their actual wallet and enter in the number.
On top of digital wallets, Classy Pay also offers ACH payments via Classy Pay. This allows donors to enter in their bank information and initiate an automatic bank transfer rather than entering in credit card details. ACH is a great option for monthly recurring plans as expiration dates are not an issue with bank transfers.
We always recommend nonprofits opt for Classy Pay powered by Stripe as their payment processor and highly encourage our customers to enable digital wallets and ACH payment options, which is as easy as clicking a box.
4. Take advantage of matching gifts.
A matching gift for a campaign is a powerful strategy to increase your number of donations. Many donors will choose to give, or give more when there is an associated match because they know their gift will have double the impact.
A common myth is that donation matching is just for Giving Tuesday and end-of-year campaigns. They are powerful to use year-round. If your organization has corporate or major sponsors that are interested in donating a matching gift for a certain time period and/or up to a certain dollar value, it’s easy to add this in on Classy’s backend. You can also always repurpose an existing gift as a match, or combine several smaller donations as one larger match within a campaign.
5. Enable Classy Mode to allow donors to cover a portion of your transaction fees.
Classy provides a feature called Classy Mode that allows donors to cover some of your processing fees. Most donors are happy to add on a bit extra to their gift so that more of the donation can truly go to your programs. I also recommend organizations turn this feature on and set it as the default to promote further engagement.
6. Customize your donation amounts to align with donor behavior.
On Classy donation pages, you can enter four suggested donation amounts. Rather than keeping the templated amounts, take a look at your online donor base to understand their current behavior. Use your average and median donation values to help guide what the suggested donation amounts should be. For example, if your donors typically give $100, use that as a middle value so that you can encourage larger gifts.
You can also set a default donation amount so that a particular amount is bubbled in when a donor lands on your donation page. Having a preset default amount helps nudge donors to give that amount, or consider something close. We recommend defaulting the second-to-highest value on your page to encourage a higher amount, but still remain humble by not selecting the highest amount.
7. Comment on your activity wall to personally steward donors.
When you first log into your Classy account, you’ll land on your activity wall that will highlight all supporter activity on your campaigns. You can comment on any donations, registrations, or fundraising page creations. Your comment will then be directly emailed to the supporter.
This extra step is a great way to quickly thank your donors without spending too much time. Not only will they get an automatic notification when you comment to them on the feed, but it’s also very personal and feels like you’re communicating with a friend or family member, rather than receiving just the official email receipt.
8. Remove and edit any templated language on campaigns and emails.
Within Classy’s campaign templates, we include templated language as placeholders. While it may seem obvious to update the language to your own, there are a couple key areas that people often miss:
- On Landing Pages, edit “About the Campaign.” “Campaign” is an internal fundraising word and doesn’t always resonate with donors. Take every opportunity to evoke an emotional response from your potential donors. We recommend changing this to a powerful quote or statistic.
- Within peer-to-peer and registration with fundraising campaigns, you have the option to create a template page for fundraisers. Many organizations assume that their fundraisers will update their individual page to make it personal to them. While we highly encourage fundraisers to do this, we also recommend giving them a head start.
They don’t live and breathe your programs, so help them out by writing out some text on the template in their voice that provides information about your nonprofit and the impact you have on the world. Don’t be shy to include a photo or video as well. They can always come back and update their own personal story, but you’re helping them get started. Plus, if they don’t make any changes, you still have a good first impression with any new potential donors who may see the page.
- Don’t forget to update the language in your donation receipts (both for one-time and recurring monthly gifts). These will automatically get sent to donors, so make sure to make it more personal to your organization.
9. Utilize year-round campaigns to create sustainable revenue and diversify your fundraising strategy.
Many fundraising appeals have a start and end date, such as Giving Tuesday and year-end asks. However, you can create some campaigns to permanently live on your website year-round.
It’s always smart to provide multiple ways for people to engage with your nonprofit. Not to mention, when you are not promoting a big time-sensitive appeal or event, you can default to promoting one of these and the pages will always be ready to go.
- Main donate button: You should have a clear donate button that immediately takes supporters to the checkout form. Ideally this is branded and follows donation page best practices.
- Recurring giving option: We always recommend having a monthly giving program linked to your website. Definitely keep monthly giving as an option on your main donation form, but you’ll probably find that most people opt to give one-time on that page. Typically for monthly gifts, donors require more information to truly understand the impact a monthly gift can have. Recurring gifts are a commitment for supporters, but recurring donors are over five times as valuable to your nonprofit. Take the time to create a crowdfunding campaign dedicated to this program.
- DIY peer-to-peer campaign: All nonprofit websites should include a fundraising option in case a supporter wants to fundraise on behalf of your organization throughout the year. You can set up a peer-to-peer campaign that utilizes the impact blocks to highlight different ways someone may want to fundraise, such as by hosting a birthday campaign or setting an athletic milestone. This is an excellent way to promote engagement in different ways from your existing supporters, acquire new donors through their fundraising pages, and dip your toe into the peer-to-peer fundraising world.
10. Donor communication is an essential piece of your fundraising strategy.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in building campaigns and planning logistics of appeals, but donor communication is crucial to the success of your fundraising strategy. Here are several main practices you should be following:
- Segment your email marketing lists. The more specific and personal you can make your emails, the better engagement you’ll have. Even if you use 99% of the same message in all emails, it can make the world of a difference if you simply acknowledge their relationship with your organization in the first sentence. For example, recognize your monthly donors and thank them for their existing contributions; then dive into your regular appeal.
Segmentation can also help if you are concerned about over-communicating with donors; not everyone needs to receive every appeal message.
- Send at least five emails per campaign appeal and post frequently on social media during the campaign’s lifetime. Announce the launch of the campaign, keep people updated on its progress, end with a final push, and don’t forget your thank yous. Limited communication often results in campaigns that don’t hit their goals.
- For peer-to-peer campaigns, create fundraising toolkits that include instructions for fundraising, tips for how to be successful, and sample email and social media templates fundraisers can use.
- Take donor stewardship to the next level by using Classy’s Campaign Messages. You can send an email to all donors, attendees, or fundraisers and thank them. Send a thank you immediately at the end of the campaign, but also a month or even more out to update them with the results on their dollars. So often it feels like donations fall into a black hole and donors don’t understand the true impact they had. This is an easy way to prove that you haven’t forgotten about their gift and it really did make a difference.
- On the topic of stewardship, handwritten thank you cards and phone calls really go the extra mile.
Make sure to follow these 10 online fundraising tips to take advantage of low-hanging fruit and improve your campaign results.
Summary of 10 Tips:
- Your organization’s branding should be front and center.
- Harness the power of setting campaign goals.
- Offer innovative ways to give and that also improve your conversion rates.
- Take advantage of matching gifts.
- Enable Classy Mode to allow donors to cover a portion of your transaction fees.
- Customize your donation amounts to align with donor behavior.
- Comment on your activity wall to personally steward donors.
- Remove and edit any templated language on campaigns and emails.
- Utilize year-round campaigns to create sustainable revenue and diversify your fundraising strategy.
- Donor communication is an essential piece of your fundraising strategy.