A well-rounded fundraising plan should include a variety of strategies like a signature event, appeals, monthly giving, and at least one online fundraising campaign.
It’s an online-fundraising-friendly environment out there, with everything from donate buttons for your Facebook page to crowdfunding sites that leverage the power of relationships.
But it’s not a “build it and they will come” situation.
Just like anything else, you need a plan for fundraising online.
With so many tools available, it’s easy enough to start an online fundraiser.
But whether people will donate or not is another topic altogether.
If you want your online fundraiser to pack some punch, you need to plan for it.
You have to define your needs; you have to put those needs into words packed with passion and emotion; you have to lead up to your fundraiser and get people interested before it even launches. In short, you need to build a CAMPAIGN.
What IS an Online Fundraising Campaign?
An online fundraising campaign is different than a simple online fundraiser.
It’s a strategic, multi-faceted approach with a very clearly defined need and goal.
It’s not something you’ll do often – maybe only a few times a year. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out your online followers.
There are lots of different reasons to run an online campaign.
- An online campaign is pretty important for Giving Tuesday or other giving days.
- You can build a year-end campaign or a campaign to celebrate a milestone like saving your 10,000th dog.
- You can create and run an online campaign to support an offline appeal or an event.
Whatever reason you choose, the most important thing about an online fundraising campaign is that you give yourself time to plan it out and pull all the pieces together.
In other words, don’t throw this together at the last minute and expect it to work!
A well-designed and well-run online fundraising campaign can bring in thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars!
So, give this effort the time and attention it deserves!
How to Plan an Online Fundraising Campaign
Ok, so where do you even begin?
Planning should start MONTHS before the actual campaign begins.
If you scramble at the last minute to put this together, it will show — and chances are good you’ll raise less money with a poorly-done campaign.
So, start early and give it your best. Here are 4 steps to creating your campaign.
1. Define your needs. Draft a page outlining your campaign and explaining the Who, Why, and What of your online fundraiser. The more detail here the better, because you can use it in all your promotional materials.
2. Write your copy. You’ll need to write several versions of your Ask for several different channels, and you’ll need to write several different posts. If you’re not great at writing, recruit help from someone who is. Your messaging is very important as it’s the basis for motivating people to give. Here are some of the different pieces you’ll need to write:
- Teasers: A few weeks before your campaign launches, start letting your audience know what’s coming. Get them excited and get them prepared to give. Talk about your upcoming online fundraiser a few times before it starts.
- Introduction: This will be the first post and email about your online campaign. Here, it’s important to talk about the Who, Why, and What to give your audience context for what’s about to happen. It also helps your potential donors understand where their money will go, why their money is needed, and the impact their gift will make.
- Updates: Throughout the duration of your online campaign, share inspirational posts or emails to update your followers on how much you have raised. Also, remind them why you’re trying to raise funds and thank them for caring. Keep a few open blocks in your social media schedule to include some real-time updates. For example, if your campaign is off to a slow start, you can post something about that and wake people up. You can post milestones like “we’ve just reached $1,000!” or you can add matching donors or incentives that may come in last minute.
- Interest Keepers: Post photos and videos of your work in action throughout your campaign. Tell stories about how lives have been changed and show powerful images of your work. Heartwarming posts will help keep them interested and keep your organization fresh in their minds.
- Wrap it up: As your online campaign starts to draw to a close, remind your followers that time is running out. Remind them why they should give NOW.
- Close: When your online campaign is over, no matter how much you raised, THANK EVERYONE who gave. Post the results of what was raised on social media. Talk about how these dollars will make a difference in the world. Be gracious, grateful, and appreciative no matter how you did.
3. Videos: Create at least one video for your campaign. Use powerful images to tell your story. Nothing is more impactful than a well-done video with the right music in the background. And again, if you’re not great at producing video, find someone who is and get their help. A good video will be shared far and wide! Make sure you include the following elements in your video:
- Those you serve: This one is important! Your recipients are ALL THAT MATTERS to your donors! Get a signed release for anyone in your video and if privacy is an issue, find a way to shoot video that doesn’t reveal faces.
- A TINY bit of info about your organization: Assume that many people will be meeting your nonprofit for the first time or getting to know you during your online campaign. Your posts may be shared on social media or your emails may be forwarded along to others. This is a GREAT thing! That’s why you should include a short description of your mission and your work so new people can figure out fast who you are and what you’re about.
- Images or drawings of your campaign goal: Help your donors envision the end result of your online campaign. If you’re trying to feed children in Africa, show a photo or clip of those kids. If you’re raising money to purchase a vehicle, show a picture of the one you want. A strong visual will help motivate people to give.
- A link to donate! Whether it’s your website, your PayPal address, or something else, make sure that there is a constant caption in the video for the viewer to see WHERE they can give!
4. Schedule and Send: Use every online tool available to you to support your campaign. Remember, some of your supporters may not be on social media, so it’s important to be equally thorough in all channels.
- Social Media: Post several times throughout the duration of your campaign on every social channel you have. Pay special attention to not duplicating posts exactly. Different social media platforms should contain slightly different messages. If someone is following you on all channels, you don’t want them seeing the same messages on all of them. Instagram should be short and sweet with compelling images; Twitter should be short, too, and link to your blog or website; Facebook gives you space for longer posts with more information and a video.
- Email: Include your campaign in your monthly enewsletter and also send out a solo email or two about your campaign. When you send several emails out in a short period of time, you may lose subscribers or even get tagged as a spammer. It’s okay. It’s going to happen. As long as you only lose a few people with each email, that’s normal. Space out your emails and you should be fine. If your campaign is only one day long, you can send out a teaser, an update, and a thank you all in the same day.
- Blog: Post about your campaign on your blog but make the WHY of the campaign the centerpiece. In other words, don’t focus your article on the money, focus on those the money will help and what the money will make possible. Your blog post is a good place to go into more detail so you can link back to it from your emails and social media posts.
Make Your Online Fundraising Campaign FUN!
When you’re running an online campaign, try to keep it engaging and fun.
There are a few things you can do to keep things moving along and have a good time!
- Incentives: Ask local businesses for small incentives, such as gift cards or gift baskets and use these incentives throughout the campaign. For example: “everyone who donates within the next hour will be entered into a drawing for (fill in the blank); or “donate $100 or more and be entered to win (fill in the blank).” These little incentives cost you nothing and keep things exciting for your supporters and followers.
- Matching donations: Talk to your best donors and ask for a large donation that you can use as a matching gift. Matching donations are a great motivator because essentially, every donation is doubled until the amount is reached. When your donors hear that their $25 donation will become $50, they’re more inspired to give. Your best source for matching funds is from donors who already love you and give big gifts, so start there. And it doesn’t all have to come from one donor. If you need $10,000 in matching money, ask 10 donors to each give $1,000.
- Create an in-person event: This may seem counterintuitive, but it works. Ask a local partner or business if you can have an in-person event at their place to coincide with your online campaign. You can do live videos like Facebook Live from the event to promote the campaign and even invite people to come down to donate in person! Your live event should include refreshments, maybe some recipients of your services, and some free things to give away such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, pet supplies, keychains, or anything else you already have available to give away or that you can round up easily. If you can get a local radio station on board to broadcast live from your event, that will help boost awareness. They usually have LOTS of stuff to give away.
Best Practices for Your Online Fundraising Campaign
Okay! You’ve got your copy written. Videos produced. You’ve rounded up some matching donors and created a live event. You’ve sourced local businesses for gift cards or baskets. You’ve scheduled your posts and your emails. Now all that’s left is to raise money!
Here are some do’s and dont’s for your online campaign:
Raise money for a future or current need.
Make sure your goal is something that benefits your recipients, NOT just your organization.
Use words like “impact”, “give”, “life-saving”, “life-changing”, and “make a difference”.
Make it easy for your potential donor to GIVE with as few clicks as possible.
Make sure your Donate button is working before the campaign starts.
Update your audience and keep them excited.
Ask for money to replenish your account or to reimburse money already spent.
Make potential donors search to find a place to give online.
Use guilt to get donations.
Say things like “without your help we don’t know what we will do”.
Post or email too much.
Act disappointed in your results, even if you don’t come close to your goal.
Overwhelm your supporters with too much information or long, drawn-out posts. Keep it short and sweet and simple.
The Bottom Line
An online fundraising campaign requires some work to plan, but if it’s well executed, it can raise a lot of money to fund programs and project.
Just remember to keep it organized, make it easy to give, and have FUN with it!
Start early with your planning and be clear about what you’re working toward so you can motive people to give.