Online Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide for Modern Nonprofits (Ideas Included)

With everything and everyone moving online for the smallest needs, your nonprofit cannot afford to fundraise in the traditional, offline methods. Read this guide to modernize your fundraising with online tools and accept more donations than ever before!

15 minutes read
Online Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide for Modern Nonprofits (Ideas Included)

online fundraising

During the COVID-19 pandemic, online fundraising has saved many nonprofits from closing, but it’s more than just a recent trend. Online fundraising was popular before 2020 and will continue to grow as technology advances. “According to a recent study in 2020, online giving has grown by 21% during the global pandemic.”

This interest in online giving is only part of the change. With the addition of social media to our daily lives, more people have shared what organizations they care about with their friends and family.

There are several ways online fundraising benefits the donors and the nonprofit. We have created a list of benefits and online fundraising ideas and tools for your organization to use.

Here’s what you’ll learn from this article –

  1. What is Online Fundraising?
  2. Benefits of Online Fundraising
  3. Using a Platform to Drive Online Fundraising Campaigns
  4. 17 Online Fundraising Ideas
  5. Online Fundraising Best Practices
  6. 7 Online Fundraising Metrics to Track

What is Online Fundraising?

Online fundraising is a way for nonprofits to raise money through the Internet. It usually comprises an online donation page, donation form, or donate button on the website where donors can seamlessly donate to your nonprofit.

While social media can play a big part in your online fundraising campaigns, online fundraising also includes email and text-to-give campaigns, peer-to-peer and crowdfunding, and virtual events.

Benefits of Online Fundraising

It is rare to find anything that is a win-win for both parties, but online fundraising is one of those rarities. Online fundraising will benefit both your organization and your donors in many ways. Whether your concerns are financial, excitement, or long-term relationship building, online fundraising will advance the goals of both your donors and your nonprofit.

For Nonprofits

Of course, you want to know that your online fundraising efforts will raise money for your organization before investing in them. Fear not, online fundraising has many benefits for a nonprofit.

1. Increase visibility and collect donations from anywhere.

Small nonprofits have relied on local press and word of mouth to reach more donors in the past. Depending on location and how much money you had to spend on tv ads, your organization could only grow to a certain level.

Thanks to technological advancements, nonprofits have a chance to reach an unlimited number of potential donors. Today, your organization can contact new donors through social media, Google Ads, word of mouth, and more.

2. Capture more donor information.

Another issue nonprofits have is collecting enough information from their donors. If most of your donors come from events, it is common only to get a name and address. You may get a phone number or email as well. But if you are collecting most of your donations online, you can set up your fundraising pages to collect more information on the individual and their interests in your organization. Donorbox offers customizable donation forms where you can include your organization’s branding and collect the information that your organization needs.

3. Fundraise cost-effectively.

Online fundraising is more cost-effective for many nonprofits than other fundraising options. According to Charity Watch, a good return on investment is 35 percent or less. Fundraising events tend to cost more.

The highest cost for online fundraising efforts will likely be your donation software. The cost of some software can scare nonprofits away, but there are less expensive options out there that offer numerous benefits for nonprofits. Read about the 10 most useful donation software that helps nonprofits in today’s time here.

Other than the software, nonprofits can choose how much their online fundraising efforts will be. Social media and email platforms offer free and affordable marketing costs for nonprofits. Online fundraising can be affordable and give your organization a great ROI, especially if your organization does its homework.

For Donors

Donors have come to love the ease and convenience of online giving. The examples below are only a few of them.

1. Give easily.

Once a donor decides to give, they want it to be as easy and quick as possible. Online fundraising offers this option with website donation forms and text giving. This convenience is why online giving continues to grow.

2. Keep personal information secure.

The press may publicize online hacks more often, but it is safer for donors than traditional paper checks. Handing over a paper check to a stranger gives them access to your name, address, bank name, routing number, and bank account number. With this information, crooks can commit forgery, theft, and counterfeiting.

Online fundraising platforms offer extra security measures to donors, and they know it.

3. Set up recurring donations.

Recurring donations are an excellent option for donors who want to continue supporting an organization. Many people appreciate the opportunity to choose to give a certain amount weekly/monthly with a single click instead of donating every month on their own. Here’s an example.

online fundraising

4. Share donation information.

The social media world we live in now appeals to our desire to brag. People love to share when they are doing some good in the world. They also love to share stories about organizations they care about. Many online platforms give donors the option to share their donations with their closest friends and family.

Use a Platform to Drive Online Fundraising Campaigns

It is vital to find the right fundraising platforms for each campaign. Without a quality fundraising app, your fundraising efforts may be stymied before you start.

There are a bunch of online fundraising platforms out there. Many of these platforms include online fundraising forms, donor management, and safety measures for donors.

1. Online fundraising forms

Donors that are already convinced to give will be the ones to visit your online fundraising page. Your donation page can either inspire your donors to give or discourage them. Hence, it’s advisable to follow some best practices to inspire online fundraising. Read our blog to know about them.

2. Recurring & matching donations

Most nonprofits need to put more effort into promoting recurring donations. This type of donation can be beneficial because it can be added to the organization’s annual budget and turn a one-time donor into a long-time supporter.

Matching donations is another way to get more from a single gift. Encourage your donors to ask their employers about matching contributions. Donorbox has partnered with Double the Donation to help nonprofits reap extra benefits from their existing donations.

Code for America is an ideal example of both.

online fundraisers

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3. Donor management

When searching for an online fundraising platform, it is best to find one that includes donor management. A donor management system should include the ability to create donor profiles, segment donors, and include reminders about donor anniversaries and actions.

4. Secure payment processing

Online fundraising platforms have extra security measures that protect donors’ information. It is essential to look for fraud detection, SSL encryption, customer authentication, and tokenization of financial data when researching online platforms.

5. Donor receipts

Nonprofits are required to send tax letters to all donors. It is best practice to send these receipts within 24 to 48 hours. With an online donation platform like Donorbox, your donors can receive a 501(c)3 tax-compliant receipt immediately after making a donation.

online fundraising

6. Integrations with existing apps

Several companies were created to help nonprofits raise more funds online. Companies that offer matching donation services, peer-to-peer fundraising, and email marketing are essential for nonprofit organizations.

The cost of these services can really add up. Fundraising platforms like Donorbox include the option of integrating many of these services from other companies in their platform. This reduces the cost and makes it convenient for the organization.

17 Online Fundraising Ideas for 2023

As the Covid pandemic continues to affect businesses and nonprofits, online fundraising ideas have dominated the activities of many organizations.

Here’s a list of 17 online fundraising ideas for your nonprofit:

  1. Text to give
  2. Segmented email campaigns
  3. Social media campaigns
  4. Crowdfunding
  5. Peer-to-peer fundraising
  6. Google Ads
  7. Online silent auctions
  8. Live-stream events
  9. Matching donation drives
  10. Free gift with a donation
  11. Virtual trivia night
  12. Participate in online giving days
  13. Virtual book club
  14. Virtual movie night
  15. Virtual concert
  16. Amazon Smile
  17. E-cards

1. Text to give

Text to give is one of the fastest-growing online fundraising ideas. Larger organizations with well-known brand names have benefitted from this type of campaign for years. As the popularity of this type of campaign has grown, it is becoming a big help to churches and political campaigns because it is an easy way to reach your donor base over and over.

With Donorbox, text to give is simple and convenient. All your donors need to do is text your unique campaign ID to 1-(855)-575-7888 (or if you’re using the short code plan, then 801801, which is much easier to remember and type in), that’s it! We’ll send them the mobile-friendly donation link to make a quick online donation. The next time they want to repeat the same donation, our repeat donation feature comes to the rescue. No inputting details or filling out forms will be required.


2. Segmented email campaigns

Email campaigns are another well-known fundraising tool. Most organizations have at least one email campaign each year. If your organization has seen your donations from these campaigns plateau or decline, email segmentation can be a great way to personalize this outreach.

With a donor management system, your organization can track donors’ program interests, donation amounts, and how often they donate. This information can help you segment donors into groups and send targeted emails to each group.

3. Social media campaigns

Social media campaigns are not as tricky as they may seem. Smaller organizations may feel like they must hire professional videographers and spend money on Google or Facebook ads for a successful campaign. This assumption is a mistake that can cost your organization thousands.

Famous actors or fancy videos do not convince people. Hearing about an organization or product from a friend has been proven to have more of an effect.

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money for emergencies or specific projects. To hold a successful crowdfunding campaign, you need a powerful story, images, and even videos. Crowdfunding campaigns speak to the heart. Those that reach the right audience and speak to their specific desires will have the most success. Storytelling has proved to be a stellar way to holding an effective crowdfunding campaign; you can learn more about crowdfunding storytelling here.

Look at this successful crowdfunding campaign by Seeds Wilderness Therapy on the Donorbox platform.

online fundraising

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5. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Nonprofits are generally the only ones who use peer-to-peer fundraising. Like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising needs a compelling story and images to touch the hearts of donors. The true power of this type of campaign is the involvement of donors in the fundraising activity.

Building and strengthening donor relationships is vital for this type of campaign to succeed.

Pro tip: Before starting a peer-to-peer campaign, be sure to reach out to specific donors you think will want to take part. Give them exclusive information and marketing material they can send to their friends.

6. Google ads

Many organizations have used Google ads to reach a new customer base and sell a unique item. The cost for these ads can be very affordable and still benefit the organization. It is essential to know what you are doing for this type of campaign. It may be best to reach out to your board of directors or volunteers for someone with a marketing background to help with these ads. The best part is eligible nonprofits get up to $10,000 USD worth of free Google advertising per month on Google search pages. In our blog, you will get to know more about Google ad grants.

7. Online silent auctions

Online silent auctions are a popular fundraising idea for nonprofits of every size. If your organization has held silent auctions in person, you can easily transfer that event to an online fundraiser. Several online platforms have been created solely for this reason. Once you have your auction items added to the platform, you must promote the event by email and social media.

Pro tip: Share a picture of a different auction item each week leading up to your event to entice donors. Ask your supporters to spread the word about the event with their community. Here’s a great example.

nonprofit online fundraising

8. Live-stream events

Many nonprofit events can be held online with great success. Galas that could only hold a few hundred supporters are now open to all your donors and volunteers. This change can make your smaller donors feel special and give them more incentive to increase their involvement with your organization.

Ask donors to share pictures of their home celebrations while attending your event online. Offer a gift to the best decorations or most creative costume. Invite event attendees to a cooking class for their event dinner at an extra cost. There are several ways you can still make this a special night, even online.

9. Matching donation drives

If you have built community partnerships with companies in your community, now may be your chance to ask them for something a little different. This year, instead of asking for event sponsorship, why not ask them to match donations to your nonprofit?

Does a local business typically give $5,000 or $10,000 to your annual event? You can promote this company online and tell your donors that their donations will be matched if they give by a certain date. This is an easy way to solicit donations, excite your donors, and make a sponsor happy with the free advertising.

Pro tip: Add to the excitement of this campaign; embed a fundraising thermometer on your fundraising page to help your donors keep track of how close you are to your goal. With Donorbox, doing it is a breeze!

10. Free gift with a donation

Who doesn’t like a free gift? A thoughtful gift can go a long way with donors if it isn’t too expensive. Donors, like everyone, love to get free stuff now and then, but not at the expense of the organization. If it seems like their donations are not being put to good use, the donors may be turned off.

It is best to keep in mind your organization’s mission when planning free gifts for your donors. If your organization works with children, ask the kids to take a picture or write a letter for your donors. A gift like this will touch donors’ hearts and remind them why they give.

11. Virtual trivia night

Game night is an easy way to have fun and inform supporters about your organization’s mission. Holding a virtual game night is easy with applications like Zoom or Facebook Live. Invite donors to create a team and sign up for a fun night of trivia. Combine questions on sports, movies, and obscure facts with a few historical fun facts about your organization. Get people into the mood with extra gifts or points for the team with the best costumes or team signs.

12. Participate in online giving days

Everyone has heard of Black Friday, but Giving Tuesday is quickly becoming a global phenomenon. This day of giving includes over 75 countries and millions of people who donate to organizations like yours. If your nonprofit has not held a Giving Tuesday campaign, you are missing out on the generosity people feel around the holidays.

The best way to benefit from a campaign like this is to start early. Plan out your campaign, like any event, and promote the campaign weeks ahead of time. Communicate often and in different ways with your donors. Send them pictures and videos, along with personal success stories from people your donors’ have helped.

Do not forget to include a call to action with each communication. Many donors need a few reminders before donating, so do not stop with just an email.

Giving Tuesday is not the only chance your organization has to hold one of these online campaigns. Do you have an anniversary coming up? Is there a date that means something special to your donors? Give your donors the chance to celebrate these big events with you by holding an online giving day.

13. Virtual book club

Book clubs have always been a draw. Social media and conference apps make getting together for these events easier than ever before.

Some of your donors would love to learn more about your organization’s mission and the work you do. Holding a monthly book club that encourages donors to read more about the type of people your nonprofit impacts will give them that chance.

14. Virtual movie night

It seems like movie theaters have gone the way of the dodo lately. Blockbuster films are rare, and it does not feel the same when you are watching them by yourself. Give your donors the chance to see the latest hit movie as a group with a virtual movie night. Make the evening more fun with games and prizes.

15. Virtual concert

Live events are slowly coming back, but many people are still worried about crowds. Many musicians have had to get comfortable with online platforms to share their talents. You may be able to do the same and help promote a local musician and band in exchange.

Do you have connections to any local or big-name artists? A virtual concert may just be the way both you and the artist can get what you need. Invite donors to a VIP concert for a small fee or donation. Open up the comments so viewers can request songs or just share how they feel about the music.

16. Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile is the easiest way to make money without spending a dime. Your donors shop online, and Amazon is the biggest online retailer out there. Ask them to shop on Amazon Smile instead and choose your organization to support. A percentage of every purchase will be sent to your organization by Amazon.

17. E-cards

What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or the 4th of July than to send out a card to your donors? At no cost to your organization, you can make your donors smile and remind them that you care.

Personal touches like this give your donors good feelings and can encourage them to give. Other moments to honor can be a birthday or anniversary of their first gift to your organization.

Pro tip: Include a personal note with the card to give it more meaning.

Online Fundraising Best Practices

Like any event, a little planning goes a long way. We have included a list of best practices below to help you run a successful online fundraising campaign.

Also, here’s a Donorbox video talking about the digital fundraising fundamentals for non-techies. We know how difficult it can get for non-technical nonprofit personnel to create an online fundraising campaign. This video is level 1 of the Donorbox PowerUp – Nonprofit Fundraising Bootcamp. Here you’ll get to learn quick and actionable steps for your nonprofit’s fundraising initiatives, from donation page optimization to tracking progress. Do give this a watch before diving into the best practices, or save the video to watch it when you have the time –

1. Keep forms simple

Your donation form is the last thing donors see before making a gift. It will either convince or discourage them from giving. While it is important to be clear and give your donors choices, you must not overwhelm them. Here’s how a simple yet effective donation form should look like on your online fundraising page.

nonprofit online fundraising

2. Provide a mobile-friendly experience

25% of donors complete their donations on mobile devices.” If your donor page is not mobile-friendly, you will lose these donors. Lack of computer knowledge is no longer an excuse for a sloppy page, and donors are no longer willing to look the other way. Before clicking publish, check the donation page on your mobile phone.

3. Use visuals to evoke emotion

A picture is worth a thousand words. It is an overused statement, but true. Ask yourself what would make you give, a picture of a hungry child or a letter from your chairperson?

online fundraising ideas

Powerful images can drive action like nothing else, so make sure you include a picture in each post and email whenever possible. Healthcare for the Homeless Houston has an impactful online donation page, as shown above.

4. Create a sense of urgency

Humans are natural procrastinators. Without a firm deadline, they will wait and wait before donating. The best way to avoid this is by creating a sense of urgency with your donors. Two ways to add that urgency are giving a time limit before a matching gift is done or adding a fundraising thermometer to your donor page to share how close you are to your goal.

5. Promote fundraising online and offline

Have you heard of the “Rule of 7?” Marketing teachers have taught this concept for years. The idea is that someone will not buy a product until they have seen it seven times. Donating is no different. When soliciting donations, it is best to send both online and offline communication pieces when possible. By sending a letter from your Chairperson, an email, and a few social media posts, you can ensure your response rate will increase.

6. Enable recurring donations

Recurring donations are like gold to a nonprofit. Turning a one-time donor into a monthly or quarterly donor means you can count on their gift, you can include it in your annual budget, and you can start to build a stronger relationship.

Nonprofits love when these donors come along but do not always know how to encourage more. We have shared a few tips on how to turn one-time donors into recurring donors here.

7. Offer different giving levels

Your online donation page should include a few different donation levels. Segmenting donors into different giving levels will help you decide on what these amounts should be.

When creating your donation page, it is best to create different forms for your small, medium, and large donors. Start with an average of each groups’ donation amount and increase the amounts within reason. In the example below, each of the levels, upon clicked, opens a popup form for donors to quickly make a donation online.

online fundraising ideas

8. Close the loop on donations

None of the earlier tips will matter if you do not keep communicating with your donors. Create a plan for your communication efforts that helps you reach your goals. Target your messages and keep track of all donor contacts with communication records.

7 Online Fundraising Metrics to Track

As you hold more online events and send out various communication pieces to your supporters, you will want to see what kind of response you are getting. Technology makes this easy. You can run analytics on your social media posts, emails, and website, thanks to several platforms.

You can track several key metrics on your own to see if your campaigns are helping or hurting your fundraising efforts.

1. Dollars raised

This is an obvious one, but when looking at this number, make sure you are checking your ROI. If your events are costing more than 35% of what you raise, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

2. Number of donors

Each donor brings with them the opportunity for a new relationship. Even if their first donation is small, these donors should be seen as potential long-term supporters for your nonprofit.

3. Online gift percentage

Are your donors giving more online or offline? Are your online efforts making a difference? This number will give you a better idea of how your online campaigns are doing.

4. Average donation size

Donation size matters, especially when soliciting donors again. If you do not know how much they give, you will not know how much you can ask for in the future.

5. Number of repeat donors

A one-time donor is nice, but wouldn’t it be great if they gave again and again?. How many of your donors disappear after their first donation? Are you losing them because you are not communicating enough? Did they only go to one event? This number will let you see where you can make changes to your fundraising strategy.

6. Donation form conversion rates

How many people leave your donation page without donating? This is one of the most important metrics to track and one of the easiest to fix. But to do that, you need to follow some really effective and actionable tips to boost your online donations. Read about them here.

7. Number of enabled recurring donations

Recurring donors are essential to a nonprofit. If you are losing recurring donors, you are losing out on thousands of dollars. Remember, it is easier to hold on to the donors you have than to find new ones. These donors were missing something, and your job as a fundraiser is to make sure it does not happen again. Fear not, it is not an impossible task to regain your lapsed donors! In fact, we have written a thorough step-by-step guide on the same, just for you.

Get Started with Online Fundraising

As you look to the future, ensure you are getting the most out of your efforts by including online campaigns whenever possible. Online giving will continue to grow, and if you ignore it, your organization will be left behind. Visit our blog for more tips on how to use online fundraising. Read more about our features to see if Donorbox is the right tool for your organization.

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Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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