Add Fuel to Your Digital Fundraising With the Right Tools

Your 4-step toolkit for improving your digital fundraising results during COVID-19 and beyond.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has upended almost every aspect of life as we know it. Among the affected industries is the nonprofit sector, which has seen dramatic downturns in donations.

As a digital marketing agency whose primary focus is helping cause-based organizations and nonprofits innovate and grow, we’ve been fielding a lot of calls over the past month from nonprofits who are experiencing issues with their current digital fundraising capabilities.

What we have seen so far is that the nonprofits who previously invested in their digital fundraising capabilities are seeing a definite return on that investment during this time of crisis. With that in mind, we wanted to share with everyone some of the digital fundraising best practices we use to help our clients get the most from their efforts.

1. Find your fundraising platform

The two things that impact most nonprofit budgets most are donations and events. One of the most essential elements for growth, then, is allowing for frictionless, secure online interactions. We’ve worked with practically every digital fundraising platform out there, and our preferred platforms — the ones we recommend most highly to our clients — are Classy and Act Blue.

Classy features easy-to-implement tracking and detailed reporting, among its robust toolset. It also offers a ton of fundraising tips and how-tos. Act Blue, a left-leaning organization that specializes in building fundraising tools for small-dollar and grassroots donors, is another painless-to-use platform. Act Blue is actually a nonprofit itself, funded entirely by individual donors and the 3.95 percent transaction fee it takes from each donation.

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Classy features easy-to-implement tracking and detailed reporting, among its robust toolset. It also offers a ton of fundraising tips and how-tos. Act Blue, a left-leaning organization that specializes in building fundraising tools for small-dollar and grassroots donors, is another painless-to-use platform. Act Blue is actually a nonprofit itself, funded entirely by individual donors and the 3.95 percent transaction fee it takes from each donation.

2. What gets measured matters

As famed management guru Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured matters.” If your nonprofit has been slow to implement tracking, we recommend doing so as quickly as possible. It is absolutely vital that nonprofits know which outreach tools lead to donations. Yet one of the most common challenges we hear from nonprofits is that their digital fundraising platforms are a black box — complex and unknowable. Nonprofits who can’t see up-to-the-minute donations or spot successful campaigns and replicate them are very much at a disadvantage.
The previously mentioned Classy and Act Blue both offer the ability to track performance metrics not only for donations themselves but also for the outreach tools used, including website donation page, email communication and digital advertising.

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But you don’t have to use these platforms to begin to implement tracking. The basis of all digital tracking is Google Analytics, which allows you to collect data using custom URLs. Google even provides a free URL builder. Enter the information you’d like to track and the tool creates custom URLs to identify the campaigns that refer traffic. These tracking codes then show up in your donation platform reporting, making it easy to see which actions and messages led to donations.

We’ve often found that nonprofits need a hand setting up the code. They also frequently need help learning how to best use the resulting data intelligently to increase conversion, boost engagement and further their reach.

3. Create a digital fundraising ecosystem

Exponential digital growth comes from creating a highly functional digital fundraising ecosystem. Like all ecosystems, it consists of a community of individual elements that interact together to form a bigger force. Your ecosystem will help you better communicate your nonprofit’s mission and give you the appropriate digital toolset to track and make the most of donations and donors.
The steps we recommend to clients to achieve such a system include: installing a Facebook pixel for digital ad campaigns; making sure their website is updated; and ensuring that they’re getting the most from Google AdWords.

If you are planning on running Facebook ads, you must first install a Facebook pixel. This bit of code you place on your website and/or donation page measures digital ad performance on Facebook. As HootSuite’s blog describes, a Facebook pixel “collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website.”

Another key step nonprofits should take is upgrading their website. We recommend that our clients use WordPress, Craft or WebFlow. Whichever website content management system you use, make sure it’s easy for people to navigate, easy for you to update the content, and works well on mobile. Your site should also comply with ADA recommendations for color use, font size and other elements.

Once you have a website that looks sharp and functions well, you need to make sure it stays that way. You might well need an agency like Antarctic to help with upkeep on plugins and to release new campaigns or features.

The last link in the chain is Google AdWords. Google offers nonprofits $10,000 in free advertising with no strings attached. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your Google Ad Grant account set up and firing. Applying for the grant is relatively easy, but optimizing it is less so. If you need help making your AdWords account perform to the best of its ability, you might need to bring in an expert.

4. Optimizing your digital fundraising ecosystem

Once your digital fundraising ecosystem is set up and you’re able to track performance and engagement, it’s time to optimize your results. This just means digging into the data to see what’s working well and what could be working better. Using that knowledge, you can better and deepen your digital fundraising capabilities. Each improvement you make, each campaign you run and each measurement you track is an opportunity for better results.

But optimization isn’t just for individual campaigns — you must also optimize your ecosystem as a whole. To that end, the final piece of the digital fundraising puzzle is conducting a systems audit to ensure all of these elements are integrated and firing. This, too, is not a one-time effort but a larger endeavor to improve step by step.

Implementing these best practices will help you get the most from your digital toolset and prepare you to handle the complexity of digital fundraising. As we’ve seen during the current COVID-19 situation, one of the biggest indicators of success is whether a nonprofit has run well-designed digital fundraising campaigns in the past. Those who have practiced are better prepared to run them now and in the future.

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions or need help implementing any of the suggestions covered here.

Written by Michael Yuasa, Creative Director @ Antarctic

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