As a nonprofit, it can be challenging to effectively engage with your community—especially online. A lot of donation revenue can come from online sources, but that means there’s also a lot of competition to get donors’ attention.

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So, how can you solicit online donations from your community, as well as effectively engage with them in other ways? It takes a combination of focusing on your online presence and actively engaging with supporters via different avenues.

To help you get started, we’ve written up a Q&A that outlines some of our top tips. There are many ways you can go about improving your online strategy, but we’ll focus on the following questions:

  1. How should your donation page look?
  2. Why should you have an online presence?
  3. How should you use social media?
  4. What is peer-to-peer fundraising?
  5. What are additional online strategies?

By taking advantage of the various outlets available online, you’ll not only increase your donation revenue, but also forge meaningful and long-term relationships with your supporters. Are you ready to take a look at these tips? Let’s get started!

1. How should your donation page look?

When engaging with your online community, the most important element you should look at is your donation page. This is the ultimate point where donors will make their contributions, should they choose to, and you want your donation page to be compelling and intuitive.

That's why you should invest in fundraising software that offers customizable donation forms. By customizing your donation form, you can obtain the information you need and instill trust in your donors. Customizable forms should be used to:

  • Ask only for the information you need. By limiting your fields to only what is absolutely necessary, you’ll provide an easier experience for your donors and allow them to complete the form in a timely manner.
  • Match your form to your nonprofit’s branding. If your form is customized to match the branding of the rest of your website, your donors will feel confident that their contribution is going to your cause and not to a questionable third-party website.
  • Describe your impact. Make it clear who and what the donations are benefiting, and how your nonprofit will continue to make an impact with those contributions.

There are several ways that online donation pages can turn off supporters, so be sure to make the process simple, meaningful, and easy. This will ensure you engage your community in the most beneficial way possible.

2. Why should you have an online presence?

Online charitable giving has increased by 23% in 2017, up from a previous growth rate of 15%. This is a noticeable increase, and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Online fundraising has very quickly become the norm, so you need to take advantage of the following avenues to accept donations:

  • Mobile-optimized donation pages. By allowing donors to access your form via a mobile device, you increase your chances of generating more revenue because donors can contribute on the run, and don’t have to stop by their desktop computer to do so.
  • An intuitive website. Be sure to design a great website that draws in donors, and then keeps them there with your compelling story. Have a clear button on your website that points to your donation page so donors can easily find it, and won’t be deterred before completing a transaction.

To put it simply, your focus should absolutely be on fundraising online. It’s becoming more valuable and donors are becoming more comfortable with other online giving methods, such as recurring donations. Take advantage of your online presence to engage the community that’s waiting there.

3. How should you use social media?

Social media is imperative to engaging your online community. When fundraising, it’s one of the most effective methods of getting the word out about your campaign and getting it shared. Nowadays, social media posts can go viral in a matter of hours, so be sure to focus on your content and what you’re sharing with the world.

Try out these strategies when using social media to engage with your community:

  • Determine the platforms your community uses. If you limit yourself to one or two platforms, you could be missing out on a lot of online engagement. Focus your efforts on the handful of platforms you know your donors already use. Facebook is a powerful tool, but you should also consider Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. Determine what kind of content you want to share; images are perfect for Instagram, just as short updates are great for Twitter.
  • Have a strong online presence. Whether that means creating a Facebook page or Twitter handle, be sure you are regularly sharing meaningful content. It’s not enough to create a Facebook event for a campaign and share it just once. You need to keep up a consistent presence to grab people’s attention.
  • Share different types of content. Videos and images are more effective at grabbing attention from scrolling users than simple paragraphs of text. Break up your posts with strong imagery and videos that demonstrate your nonprofit’s mission or highlight your particular campaign.
  • Update and thank your supporters. As part of regularly sharing content, be sure you update your supporters on the campaigns you’re running, as well as the progress you’re making. Thank them individually online to show recognition and encourage others to offer their support, as well.
  • Run contests. How about a little friendly competition? Draw attention to your nonprofit with a photo contest, essay contest, or video contest where individuals can explain what your cause means to them. People want their content to be seen, so encourage them to post entries on your social media pages and feature the winners there, as well.
  • Reach more donors. Create hashtags to spread the word about your campaigns and ask your volunteers and donors to help spread the word to their friends and family. Call on your nonprofit’s members to follow your social media pages and do the same.

By leveraging social media, your outreach to the online community will be even stronger. Take advantage of the connections you make online and keep them up by regularly contributing content and recognizing the milestones you’ve reached.

4. What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the ultimate social giving method that can help your nonprofit raise even more money. This is when nonprofits call on volunteer fundraisers to raise money on their behalf. Just as social media is important, peer-to-peer fundraising is another powerful social tool and does wonders. It works like this:

  • The nonprofit determines its campaign goals.
  • The nonprofit sets up its campaign page.
  • The nonprofit calls on supporters to set up their own individual campaign pages.
  • The nonprofit coaches and provides resources for the volunteer fundraisers.
  • The volunteer fundraisers launch and share their campaign pages on social media.
  • The nonprofit tracks the engagement and progress of the overall campaign.

Just like with any other fundraising method, peer-to-peer fundraising has some recommended best practices that you should take into consideration. Be sure you offer your volunteer fundraisers the right resources and templates they can use for outreach. Encourage them to use visuals and make their campaign pages as personalized as possible.

After all, your community is more likely to engage online with people they know, even if they’re raising money for a cause they aren’t as familiar with.

5. What are some additional online strategies?

There are several other ways you can continue reaching out to your community online. From evoking a sense of urgency to running product campaigns, you can succeed in a lot of outreach that will drive in more donations and engagement.

Try out these tips to build on your fundraising strategy:

  • Urgency. This is the ultimate call-to-action. Show your community how much time they have to act on a campaign, which will encourage them to make a decision quickly. For example, run a 24-hour campaign (like #GivingTuesday), which alerts individuals to your cause and incites them to act quicker than they might normally.
  • Meaningful content. As discussed earlier, it’s important to share meaningful content. But what makes something meaningful? Focus on your story first, who your cause is benefiting, and the overall impact your nonprofit has made. From there, you’ll be on your way to creating meaningful connections with your supporters.
  • Product campaigns. Promote your nonprofit’s image by running a product campaign. Find a provider that allows you to design the products and offer them online. For example, Bonfire’s t-shirt fundraising platform prints and ships t-shirts for you, which lets you focus on what you do best: fundraising.
  • Crowdfunding. This fundraising method involves large amounts of people donating small sums of money online to support a project or cause. If you describe your cause in a meaningful way, you can help increase your revenue through this method.
  • Emails. Send out monthly or weekly newsletters, as well as information about donation campaigns. Provide accessible information via email and proactively reach out to current and potential supporters alike.

By keeping these best practices in mind, you can build on your fundraising strategy and increase your level of engagement online. Interested in learning more about campaign pages specifically? Dive deeper into the essentials here.

Engaging with your online community can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. If you take advantage of the right resources, focus on your social media presence, and build on the strategy you already have in place, you’ll be ready to further your engagement and build long-lasting relationships.

Try out these strategies and see for yourself!

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