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8 Outstanding Online Fundraising Ideas to Try in 2017

 Learn about 8 outstanding online fundraising ideas.

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Fundraising is an old game, and it can often seem like there's nothing new to try. It's easy to slip into feeling uninspired.

In reality, this couldn't be further from the case. There are always new and interesting ways to spice up your fundraising, and luckily, the rise of online giving and communication channels only opens up more possibilities for nonprofits.

By using digital fundraising channels, your organization can make giving more convenient for donors and appeal to more of your supporters' preferences. Not to mention, you'll be able to open up many of your efforts to a larger segment of your donor base, since you won't be constrained by geography.

If your fundraising is feeling tired, you've come to the right place! In this article, we'll cover 7 outstanding online fundraising ideas that your organization should try in the new year, including:

  1. Matching gift drives
  2. Crowdfunding
  3. Peer-to-peer fundraising
  4. Prospect research
  5. Amazon Smile
  6. Online auctions
  7. Selling merchandise
  8. Facebook fundraising
  9. Online donation forms

 These ideas should help you give your fundraising a breath of fresh air while also appealing to modern donors who enjoy engaging with your organization online. Let's get started!

Matching gift drives are an excellent online fundraising idea that can help organizations raise a lot of money quickly.

1. Matching gift drives

Matching gifts are an easy way to increase gifts to your organization without having to exert a lot of extra energy or expend too many extra resources.

To quickly refresh, gift matching is a popular form of corporate giving. Donors who work for companies with matching gift programs can submit their donations within the matching gift deadline, and their employers will then submit a donation of equal (or sometimes greater!) value to your organization.

It's essentially a way to receive double the funds for the same amount of work!

Matching gifts are nothing new in the fundraising world. However, you can give them a new spin and incorporate them into your online fundraising strategy by hosting a matching gift drive.

Matching gift drives are essentially online giving days with a huge twist: if your donors reach the goal within 24 hours, a generous donor (usually a company) will match the amount you raised. 

Because they're so urgent and donors have to drop what they're doing and give now, giving days in and of themselves are an excellent way to raise a lot of money quickly. Add a matching gift component to that, and your fundraising can really skyrocket in just the span of a day!

How do you get started?

Of course, for this strategy to work, you'll need a donor who's willing to make a matching gift. Current corporate partners are always a good place to start, but if you don't have one who's willing to participate, you can also leverage your donors' professional connections.

The easiest way to spot connections among your base and gain insights into which companies have matching gift programs is to use a matching gift tool (check out Double the Donation's). By integrating this tool with your online giving software, you can place a field directly on your donation form where donors can input their employers' name and see if they have a matching gift program.

That way, you'll have a whole list of potential matching gift donors to draw from once your next (or first!) matching gift drive rolls around.

Crowdfunding is an excellent online fundraising idea that helps organizations reach a wide base of new donors.

2. Crowdfunding

Nonprofit crowdfunding is an oft misunderstood strategy. Many nonprofits are under the assumption that crowdfunding is only for individuals, when in reality, it can help organizations give their online fundraising a boost and acquire a wealth of new donors in a short amount of time.

When running a crowdfunding campaign, nonprofits fund a specific cause or project by collecting a large number of small donations from an extensive base of donors.

How do you get started?

To run a campaign and accept donations, your organization will need to use a crowdfunding website (like Fundly) to set up a campaign page that features your goal and reasons for raising money. These platforms also include social sharing tools so you and your supporters can easily spread the word to your networks over email and social media.

When choosing a platform, you should look for:

  • Mobile-responsive fundraising pages: With more and more people using their phones to browse the internet, you want your donors to have a good experience on your page no matter what device they use.
  • User-friendly interface: You should pick a platform that makes it easy for you to set up your page, and donors should find it easy to make a contribution.
  • Space to add images and videos: To persuade donors to give, you'll need to tell your story and explain why you're raising funds. Images and videos can enhance your narrative and keep potential donors engaged.

Use this list of features (and a list of your own must-haves!) to help you narrow down the many crowdfunding platforms available to you.

Since its fiscal and actual goals are so clearly defined and it relies on widespread sharing to be successful, crowdfunding is an excellent way to reach and appeal to new donors.

First-time donors often feel more comfortable giving when the purpose of their gifts is clear and tangible, and crowdfunding leaves no uncertainty.

For more about how to run a crowdfunding campaign and the many benefits that crowdfunding affords, check out our article on the subject.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an excellent strategy because it helps nonprofits both connect with their existing donors and reach a lot of new ones.

3. Peer-to-peer fundraising

While often used interchangeably, peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding aren't one and the same.

To clarify, while crowdfunding is something the nonprofit does, peer-to-peer fundraising is something that an organization's supporters do on the nonprofit's behalf.

Using peer-to-peer fundraising software, donors-turned-fundraisers create their own personalized donation pages and share them with their friends and families to help the organization meet a greater fundraising goal.

Personal pages are tied back into the main campaign page so that the nonprofit can oversee individual fundraising and the progress toward the overall goal.

Like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer has many benefits. Here are just a couple of its main advantages:

  1. It's an active way to connect with current supporters. With peer-to-peer, supporters are literally stepping into the fundraiser's shoes and working on behalf of your organization. As such, there's really not a more active way to involve your supporters in furthering your mission, and you'll have plenty of opportunity to connect with current supporters throughout the campaign.
  2. There's a natural element of trust. Since prospective donors are receiving an appeal from someone they already know, peer-to-peer campaigns solve for the trust problem that nonprofits often face when convincing new donors to give. During P2P campaigns, donor acquisition usually receives a nice boost.

We could go on and on about the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising, but the bottom line is that it's an excellent way to engage old donors and appeal to new ones. One might say it's a win-win!

To learn all about peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and software, check out our ultimate guide.

Prospect research is an excellent online fundraising idea, because it helps organizations better pinpoint major donor prospects.

4. Prospect research

Prospect research is nothing new to fundraising, but it's important to reconsider it in conjunction with your online fundraising strategies.

To quote this helpful resource from DonorSearch,

"Prospect research is a technique used by fundraisers, development teams, and nonprofit organizations to learn more about their donors’ personal backgrounds, past giving histories, wealth indicators, and philanthropic motivations to evaluate a prospect’s ability to give (capacity) and warmth (affinity) toward an organization."

Nonprofits conduct prospect research to help them pinpoint prospective major gift donors among their constituent bases so they can better allocate their resources and focus their cultivation efforts.

Conducting prospect research is especially important when it comes to your online donors.

Since donors don't usually give major gifts online and many online giving strategies naturally result in smaller donation amounts, it can be easy to miss out on major gift donors if you don't know where to look.

To clarify, let's give an example. Say a donor with the capacity to give a large gift landed on your crowdfunding campaign page to make a contribution. Since crowdfunding is a collective effort, your organization has set your donation tiers at a lower range than you would on your standard donation form.

Seeing the options that are laid out for them and following the spirit of the campaign, the donor selects the highest gift amount (let's say, $100). They had the capacity to give a much higher gift (say, $10,000) but didn't feel comfortable making such a large contribution in an online setting.

Without conducting prospect research, your organization would never have known that that donor has the potential to give a much larger gift if the relationship is cultivated in the right way.

Amazon Smile is an excellent online fundraising idea since it meets donors where they shop all of the time!

5. Amazon Smile

Chances are, there are many among your donor base who use Amazon to make purchases regularly.

Did you know there's a way that they can also support your nonprofit in the process?

It's not too good to be true! With Amazon Smile, your supporters can go about their regular online shopping and donate to your organization in one fell swoop.

How do you get started?

Your organization will first need to register here. Once you're registered, your supporters can select your organization as their charity of choice so that each time they make a purchase through the Amazon Smile URL (https://smile.amazon.com/), it's associated with your organization.

That's all there is to it! Each quarter, your organization will receive .5% of all total transactions made from Amazon accounts that are linked to your nonprofit. 

It may sound like chump change, but if a lot of supporters participate and they're making frequent purchases, it can really add up.

Getting set up is easy; it's raising awareness that's the hard part! To get as many supporters on board (and funds in your pocket) as possible, make sure to promote Amazon Smile and provide the link in your outreach.

Online auctions are an excellent fundraising idea, because the nature of auctions incentivizes lots of donations.

6. Online auctions

Charity auctions have been a popular event fundraising choice for years, but organizations have given them a modern twist by hosting them online.

And for good reason! Online auctions are a powerful event fundraiser and online fundraising strategy rolled into one.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of hosting one:

  1. They're incentivizing. With auctions, donors are exchanging their donations for an amazing item or experience. Since there's the possibility of walking home with something, auctions can incentivize more giving than other types of fundraising events.
  2. They're cost-effective. Live and silent auctions can be more costly and involved to plan. Hosting an auction online cuts many of the costs associated with a live event, such as the venue, entertainment, catering, etc.
  3. Supporters everywhere can participate. Since you're not hosting an in-person event, supporters near and far can participate in an online auction. You'll be able to open up your event to a much wider portion of your donor base, and thus, increase your fundraising potential.

How do you get started?

If your organization is considering running an online auction, you'll need to enlist the help of auction software.

This type of platform will enable you to build an online event site where you can list photos and descriptions of all auction items.

Attendees register by inputting their names and credit card information and can then peruse items and place bids right from the site.

Don't forget to promote your online event and share the link so supporters will know you're hosting an auction and can start getting excited about all of the incredible items for sale!

Bonus: Learn about how charity auction software can help you host your online auction.

Selling merchandise online is an excellent way for your organization to raise more money.

7. Selling merchandise

Nonprofits were once only able to sell merchandise to their supporters at fundraising events or during other rare in-person occasions.

Now, with the rise of online fundraising technology, organizations can set up shop and sell products right from their website (or email or social media pages) at any time!

In fact, many schools sell products to raise money. Branded items — like water bottles and t-shirts — make great keepsakes for students and teachers. Plus, students can contribute to their school and be rewarded for their support. 

Not only can these school products be sold online, but schools can also sell merchandise during sporting events and other fundraisers.

Selling merchandise can also raise awareness for your cause. When students wear your t-shirt, other students will ask them where they got it. Thus, spreading the word about your fundraiser.

The best part is that these benefits apply to any organization (not just schools!).

If your organization needs an effective way to raise a little extra money (and who doesn't!), consider opening up an online storefront where you can sell branded merchandise to your supporters.

How do you get started?

You don't even need to do the work yourself. With unique product crowdfunding companies like Booster, you can design custom merchandise (think: t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, etc.) and sell it through an online storefront.

Booster and similar companies will even stock and ship merchandise for you on an order by order basis, so you never waste money on overstock and you never have to worry about forgetting to fulfill an order.

Selling merchandise online is a relatively easy way to raise some extra money, and many donors feel more comfortable giving when they're receiving something in return. Not to mention, your brand will get a boost every time one of your supporters rocks your products!

Facebook fundraising is a great online fundraising idea, because it helps you appeal to donors who like to engage with your organization over social media.

8. Facebook fundraising

Considering that social media has become one of the main ways that people connect, it's important for nonprofits to incorporate social channels into their online fundraising strategies.

However, social media is still an uncharted territory for many nonprofits, and organizations are often unsure about how to utilize it effectively.

One easy way to get started with social media is by looking into Facebook fundraising. The social media king has taken many steps as of late to help nonprofits raise more money over social media.

The main development is the introduction of the "Donate" button. If your organization's page is listed as a nonprofit, you have the option to add it right onto the cover image at the top of the page.

The button won't allow donors to contribute directly from Facebook, but it does take them to the online donation form on your website.

While this is technically an extra step in the donation process, it can work to your organization's advantage, since:

  1. Donors land on a branded page. Instead of filling out a generic donation form, supporters will be taken to a form that's branded and customized to your organization. Being sure that they're interacting with your brand establishes more trust among your donors.
  2. Donors are taken to more information. By arriving at your website, supporters have plenty of opportunity to interact with you further. If they're not ready to make a donation, they can also click on your logo to learn more about your organization, furthering the engagement.
  3. All data is automatically collected. If your online donation form is integrated with your donor management software (which it should be!), then all of the data you collect on new supporters will automatically be recorded in your donor profiles. With a Facebook-generic donation page, you would have to manually compile that data and input it into your database, which aside from being a hassle, also opens up room for human error.

Adding a "Donate Now"  button to your Facebook page won't cause your online donations to skyrocket overnight, but it can help you raise more through social media.

Supporters will have a readily apparent place to go to make a donation, which is an important first step to increasing your online revenue. When getting from point A to point B is as clear as possible, donors will be far more likely to follow through on their gifts!

9. Online donation forms

One of the most popular ways to fundraise online is through online donation forms. When it comes to donation forms, there is plenty of room for customization, making them an online fundraising staple.

Essentially, your nonprofit can create a donation form (or many forms for different fundraising efforts) and customize them to match your nonprofit's brand.

Donors can access your donation page and contribute. If your donation form is integrated with your nonprofit CRM, your donors' information will be transferred to your donor management tool.

Since not every online donation tool offers the same features, it's important to choose the one that best fits your nonprofit's fundraising needs.

As you consider online donation tools, look for a platform that has:

  • Mobile giving capabilities. Mobile giving methods are rapidly rising in popularity because donors can give whenever they have their phones available. Plus, mobile giving tends to have a simple, quick process that makes giving even more convenient.
  • Recurring giving. A must when searching for an online donation tool is recurring giving. With recurring gifts, donors can schedule an automatic donation on a monthly or annual basis. Having this feature is convenient because supporters don't have to remember to donate.
  • CRM integration. As we mentioned earlier, when an online donation form integrates with your CRM, all your donors' information will be transferred to your donor profiles. Having information in a central location makes it easy to track trends in giving habits, which can lead to improvements in your overall fundraising strategy.

Online donation forms are a vital tool for online fundraising. In fact, the majority of your online fundraising will come from some type of donation form. Therefore, it's important to choose a provider that has all the features you need.

These fundraising ideas should get you well on your way to fundraising success once the new year rolls around. We wish you a happy 2017 and all of the best with your fundraising!

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Topics: Fundraising