As a faith-based organization, we’re willing to bet you’ve got some amazing supporters.
After all, you give your community members hope, a sense of belonging, and purpose. Your ministry inspires servitude, kindness, togetherness, and generosity.
Even so, many ministries still struggle to translate that into financial support.
Ministries, like all other nonprofit organizations, need money to stay afloat. They’re no exception to this rule.
For most ministries, weekly tithes and offerings are not enough to cover all the expenses, especially when there’s a need to fund specific projects.
And we know that your ministry has unique needs and fundraising challenges. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to ministry fundraising.
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any best practices and tested approaches out there that can increase donations for your ministry.
Your website is the headquarters for your nonprofit and the main point of contact for donors to learn more about your ministry.
Your website visitors will form quick impressions within seconds of visiting your website which is why great design comes first. Include lots of white space and colors that are aligned with your brand. Make use of typography, powerful imagery, and animations.
As well as being pleasing to the eyes, a professional site is easy to navigate. A pleasant look and excellent UX design let donors feel more comfortable in making online contributions.
Easy access to your donation page on your website makes it convenient for people to support you – so don’t hide that donation button!
Streamline your web copy, really thinking through the text on your website, and pay special attention to your “About Us” page. Don’t make it an afterthought. Share your mission, vision, values, and goals. This page is there to help the website visitors get to know you, so make it count!
Pro tip: Find that sweet spot between text and visual content. While the great copy is still a key About Us page, lengthy content doesn’t always translate into lasting impressions. Include videos and images that will complement the text on your website.
Here’s a good example of a powerful homepage by Intentional Gospel.
Online fundraising is the future. And it’s also the present. We’ve come to see, in these past few months, just how vulnerable some in-person fundraising methods are.
Overall online revenue increased by 23% over the past year, up from 15%.
We’re pretty sure these numbers will be even higher at the end of 2020, due to the rise of ‘online’ in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
And to start raising funds online, you first need to have a powerful and professional fundraising platform.
A well-designed fundraising platform gives your supporters confidence to donate online. It will allow you to create donation pages with consistent branding, carrying the same look and feel as your existing website and other marketing tools, creating seamless integration. It will also be easy to use both for your ministry and your donors. The ability to easily raise support through social sharing of the platform link is also important.
You can accept both one-off and recurring donations, and donors can pay via cards, Apple Pay, low-fee ACH & SEPA bank transfers, Google Pay, and PayPal.
Keep in mind that if your donation process is clunky, you’ll be less likely to convert donors, especially young donors.
75% of young donors are turned off by an out-of-date website.
Your website and your donation page should be optimized for mobile. Half of all nonprofit website traffic last year came from mobile and tablet users. Online donation pages had an average conversion rate of 8% on mobile devices last year, but the number of transactions completed through mobile devices increased by 50%.
Donorbox donation forms embedded in the Quo Vadis Ministry giving page
Online monthly giving revenue grew by 40% as recurring donation options became increasingly popular with online donors.
We live in the age of subscriptions. We pay monthly for Netflix, Spotify or Apple Music, our fitness apps, learning apps, and so much more. Many of us are billed monthly for our utilities, and we may even be paying monthly installments for some of our larger purchases.
All of this to say… Many of us are used to automated monthly payments. They’re the ultimate convenience. We only have to fill in a form once and then not worry about it for a while. Payments will be made automatically based on the frequency they’ve set.
It’s not only convenient for donors, but it can also bring a lot of ease to your ministry. Recurring giving means more consistent funding for you and a less stressful way to give for your supporters. Your community gets more control over their recurring donations and your ministry benefits from the regularly scheduled payments. It’s a win-win!
Monthly donors also stick around for longer. While they may be smaller in volume, at least, to begin with, they have a better retention rate than cash givers.
The retention rate of recurring donors is 90% (Bloomerang) so even though they may cost more to acquire, they are your best donors.
In fact, recurring donors give up to 42% more than annual returning donors (Network for Good) – so while the average gift for a cash giver might be higher, your recurring givers actually give you more throughout the year.
Giving your monthly program a name will strengthen its brand and show your donors that they’re part of something special. Name the program something that aligns with your broader brand or goal. For example, Pencils of Promise calls their program “Passport,” Liberty in North Korea calls theirs “Liberty,” and charity:water calls theirs “Pipeline.”
Sowers Ministry monthly giving form powered by Donorbox
Visual content is incredibly powerful. It evokes emotions and it can communicate a lot more than words can.
It’s said for a reason that ‘pictures are worth a thousand words. They help donors connect with your mission and they put a face to the problems you’re solving and they’re donating to.
When it comes to visual content, quality matters. Online users have a short attention span, so you have only a few seconds to grab their attention and keep it. Great visual content is your key to success.
Videos especially allow you to combine your dynamic story with emotion to create a connection with your audience that words and photos cannot build.
To increase donations for your ministry, think of ways you can use this powerful medium. You can share longer-form videos on your YouTube, for example, or short snippets on your Instagram Stories. Your Facebook could host some short-to-medium length videos. You can also use video on your homepage – this can be a very powerful way to draw in the visitor
Gotell Ministry is a great example of doing just that.
Caring Hearts Mexico does the same with a powerful video automatically playing on their website homepage.
The Sowers Ministry does a fantastic job with their website imagery. The images are vivid, high quality, compelling, and prominently feature the beneficiaries.
Community is one of the most important aspects for all nonprofit organizations, but especially so for faith-based nonprofits.
Many faith-based nonprofit organizations rely on their sponsoring faith community for at least a portion of the resources needed to pay for staff and programmatic activities.
It is important to note that even if ministries may draw from multiple sources of support, including government funding (local, state, or federal), secular foundations, corporate giving, endowments, and income from tuition or fees for service, faith community resources often play an important role by leveraging other funding.
This support also reinforces the connection ministries have with their faith community, for example in the form of mission guidance, board members, media exposure, and client referrals.
Another important intangible resource is the community members’ personal connections, which can lead to additional support.
To increase community donations for your ministry and create committed life-long supporters, invest in your community.
Organize events that bring the community together and provide a way for them to mingle and have fun.
And show your community some love! Send prompt, heartfelt thank-you’s to your supporters, hold volunteer appreciation events, and publicly thank your community for their support whenever you can. Make gratitude a regular part of what you do.
Let’s be honest… Most of us are checking our phones day and night, so a great way to reach out to potential supporters is through social media.
Many ministries are still reluctant to fully dive in, but social media is necessary in this day and age.
On social media, you can also post your campaign goals and progress updates. Create a dedicated hashtag to provide an easy way for people to get involved (they can start by simply sharing the tag) and to build hype.
Invite your community members to engage with you on social media.
Gotell Ministry invites its website visitors to visit their YouTube channel and subscribe to their e-newsletter. They also link their social media accounts at the bottom of their home page.
The donors of today care about where their donations are going and what they’re helping accomplish.
Older members are being replaced by younger ones, who often prefer to be “investors” rather than “givers,” wanting to know exactly where their money is going and how it’s going to be spent. Faith-based organizations aren’t used to these kinds of questions, so they rarely address them.
Most donors being avid users of the internet, they’re able to do more research and make more informed decisions than any generation before them.
People may not give unless they see examples or proof on your website that their gifts will be well-utilized. Some donors may look you up on sites like CharityNavigator, but you will save them time and worry if your website provides specific information. These can be statistics, reports from the field, reports, or financials so that donors have a level of comfort with your ministry.
Transparency is increasingly demanded of nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike. Nonprofit organizations are asked to demonstrate what they’re doing with the funding they receive. Concepts of ROI (returns on investment) and efficiency, previously only reserved for profit-driven organizations, have now made their way into the nonprofit sector.
Therefore, it’s very important that you are transparent with your supporters and the wider public, sharing key figures and stories of impact.
Nonprofits of all types — but especially those that are faith-based — must diligently provide donors with evidence that their money is being used appropriately. It’s not a matter of tooting your own horn, but rather a matter of transparency and accountability.
Helping Hands Belton does a great job at this. They share key figures on their website, but they also link to their full Impact Report.
This impact report wonderfully combines numbers and statistics (how many people received food, how many students received food, how many holiday meals were distributed, and more) with stories that illustrate those numbers.
When it comes to increasing brand awareness, raising funds, and rallying supporters – campaigns are your best friend.
How are campaigns different from ‘regular’ fundraising?
‘Regular fundraising’ refers to your everyday fundraising methods and activities (monthly giving, weekly tithes, or the general ‘donate’ button on your website). These exist to bring in donations regularly, giving an avenue to those who want to support your ministry’s overall work.
Campaigns, on the other hand, are more clearly defined. They have a beginning and an end, and most importantly – they have a very specific goal. For example, you might run a campaign to build a new building, fund a food pantry with essentials for Christmas, or buy each child a new school uniform.
Campaigns are effective because they make the goal and the contribution much more tangible to the donor, and because they usually involve a sense of urgency.
Furthermore, a specific dollar goal provides a measure of success to your ministry. Having a goal can also help you determine how much each prospect should be asked to contribute (which you can then use to suggest donation amounts).
Stories have that special power to give texture, making the campaign and your ministry sound more human.
Leaving a lasting impression is often the key to succeeding in fundraising. Learn how to craft a compelling story with the help of our comprehensive storytelling guide, and discover how to get your potential donors’ attention and inspire them to become part of your mission.
Here’s a fantastic example by Caring Hearts Mexico. While this isn’t a standard fundraising campaign, it does bring some specificity and creativity to everyday fundraising. They invite their donors to create a bill for a normal night out at a restaurant and give that amount in honor of families in need.
“Choose your items, and make your meal at home, or even give up a meal to be able to relate to the families around the world in poverty who survive off of one meal a day on a regular basis. Choose what you would normally order at a restaurant and donate it below!”
While many events this year have been canceled, in non-pandemic times – events boast a great strength.
Interacting with others in-person versus online increases our sense of connection with others, helps us interact in more intimate ways, and builds a sense of closeness that’s hard to replicate online.
Events are very powerful fundraising, advocacy, and community-building tools. And they’re especially relevant to and important for faith-based organizations that, in their essence, work with communities.
Events are also incredibly versatile. They can range from small gatherings to cook-offs to gala dinners. They can be adjusted to suit every budget and every target audience.
And you can also get very creative with them! The Benedictine Sisters of Florida, for example, combined events and peer-to-peer fundraising in a unique way – organizing an interactive murder mystery dinner show. The murder mystery portion of the event is put on by the Murder She Wrote Theatre Group. The attendees get dinner and a show, alongside dancing and a silent auction. The event is interactive. Guests take part in a costume contest and can vote for the winner online with a $5.00 donation.
Simply put, peer-to-peer fundraising activates your supporters to fundraise for you, through personal fundraising pages and teams within a digital fundraising campaign.
Peer-to-peer fundraising boasts many benefits. Firstly, your fundraisers know people you don’t, and through them, you reach out to networks you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
It helps your organization and your cause get noticed and stand out in the noise. We’re much more likely to pay attention to an appeal made by a friend than an organization. Word-of-mouth marketing and impact stories make the cause personal and have a high potential to tug on your donors’ heartstrings.
Peer-to-peer fundraising also helps you engage and retain your current donors.
For peer-to-peer fundraising, you’ll want to ensure you nurture your fundraisers and provide them with content to share with their community to help them succeed.
These campaigns typically run for a fixed period of time and have an overall fundraising or impact goal. Fundraisers then participate by setting a personal fundraising goal towards the overall goal and share their personal fundraising pages with their friends and family.
There are many different types of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns out there, to suit every ministry.
While ministries are in many ways similar to other nonprofit organizations, they also differ from them.
Stewardship of the money is a spiritual issue for faith-based organizations.
When community members are stewarded with care and attention, in real and authentic conversations about money, the natural response is usually gratitude. Grace and gratitude can shape our understanding of everything — including money.
In the coming years, we will continue to see shifts in generosity, giving, and religious fundraising. That’s why the best thing you can do for your ministry is to prepare for uncertainty and to stay committed to keeping your ministry healthy.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and explore some of the insights shared above or some of the ministry fundraising ideas we compiled for you in a separate blog post.
Whether that’s through implementing online giving, investing in peer-to-peer fundraising, hiring a photographer to get some exceptional pictures taken, or getting more intentional with impact reporting, there’s a world of opportunities to take advantage of.