Blog posting date icon
min read

10 Steps to Hosting a Successful Online Fundraiser

Online fundraising is easier than ever! We've compiled this step-by-step guide for hosting a successful online fundraiser, so you can take your online campaigning to new heights and advance your association.

Holiday Shaped Cookies on White and Grey Textiles

Remember the days when fundraisers were either in-person events, phone campaigns, or direct mail blasts? We sure do. And they were a huge hassle to pull off. But the options that are now open online have made fundraising more convenient than ever, both for the host and the givers alike. Not only are these options simple, but they also afford more variety for marketing and hosting.

This means you can create a unique fundraising campaign that is more likely to gain attention – and thus, the funding you require. For those who are just starting with online fundraising, there are a lot of moving parts to keep a handle on, and this aspect can be overwhelming. Even seasoned vets in the online fundraising world are always looking for ways to improve their methodology. We’ve compiled this step-by-step for hosting a successful online fundraiser, so you can take your online campaigning to new heights and advance your association.

1. Choose an overarching style

No, we’re not talking about a fashion theme. We’re talking about the type of fundraiser you’re hosting. Your general, run-of-the-mill fundraiser consists of you, the association, essentially just asking your audience to give to support your organization. While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, often offering something in return provides a bigger incentive for your audience to give – and perhaps even to give more than they would otherwise.

Thus, some organizations choose to raise funds by offering a raffle or giveaway, entering a person’s name whenever they give a certain dollar amount. This is the perfect chance to partner with a local business for a donation. A business that donates a product or service for your giveaway gets recognition and free marketing from you, while you get the chance to offer a gift to your audience at no cost to you. Everyone wins!

Yet another method would be to pair up with an ecommerce site. A percentage of the sales performed during your online fundraiser would be donated to your association – which again, benefits you by providing a free incentive, while offering free marketing for the site.

2. Create a budget

The old adage “You’ve gotta spend money to make money” holds true in this scenario, although ideally, you’d be spending very little in order to have the largest net gain possible. The nice thing about online fundraising is that you can perform it at an incredibly low cost, since you don’t have to find a ton of people to make phone calls or pay for event space.

When drafting your budget, keep it simple. For your digital marketing campaign, allocate some money to social ads and retargeting, but try to do as much as you can organically first. Email campaigns are an inexpensive way to get the word out. Consider your target as well, and what they respond to. If you have an audience that is generally very responsive to direct mail campaigns, then it may be worth shelling out a little more to create an eye-catching direct mailer. The idea is to come out on top, so consider what you gained from your last fundraiser and how much you spent, and use that as a gauge to draw up your new budget.

3. Tailor to your target

Every aspect of your campaign needs to follow this instruction. Only by tailoring to your target audience can you expect to really make an impact with your online fundraiser – from the initial fundraising method (step 1) to the marketing and beyond. First, determine your target. Will you mainly be focusing on current members, or are you expanding your reach to former members or people within your industry? Is your target mainly individuals or organizations? Your target will determine the type of fundraiser you run and how you get the word out. For instance, if your target spends most of their social media time on Facebook, then you’ll want to focus most on your Facebook organic ads and boosted posts.

4. Test the UX

For hosting your online fundraiser in an online platform, this is a very critical step. If your audience visits your site to donate but has trouble with the functionality or can’t figure out how to donate, they will most likely abandon the effort altogether. This doesn’t bode well for your end results!

Thus, take some time before your campaign goes live to test out your giving page. You can do this by having several people from outside the campaign do a trial run and attempt to donate. Time them and see how long it takes. You can even run simultaneous user recordings to record their cursor movement – this shows you where they hover and click, how long it takes for them to perform the task, and whether they’re getting distracted by page elements along the way. Then optimize your page based on this information to make sure that the process is as intuitive as possible.

5. Start your marketing early

Give your audience some advance notice about your fundraiser. Send out an email blast a few weeks before your campaign as a heads up that you’re holding your annual (or semi-annual, monthly, whatever the case may be) fundraiser and that you look forward to their support. Then be sure to do the same on your social media platforms. You could even hold a social media  “countdown” to create some buzz and excitement!

6. Go mobile

Okay, we know we harp on this a lot, but seriously – a lot of people are going to visit your site via their phone or tablet. This means you need to ensure your giving page is set up for mobile, and not just set up, but also optimized to make it easy to give. Nothing is more irritating than a mobile site that is difficult to navigate, so make the process as simple as possible – with only a few options and buttons that say explicitly “Give Now” or some other strong call-to-action language.

7. Invite engagement

What good is an online fundraiser if you can’t share the excitement? Be sure to enable social sharing, and give an incentive to share!

If your fundraiser is a raffle, offer an additional entry to those givers who share your link on their social pages. Not only does this provide you with more hype, but it also allows givers to truly engage and get excited about your efforts.

8. Have a clear goal

What exactly are you raising funds for? Are you building new facilities? Providing members with additional benefits? Setting up for your next big association event? Just covering your day-to-day ops? Be clear on what your goals are. Now more than ever people value transparency, so don’t beat around the bush. State what you’re raising funds for, and craft your marketing message around this goal.

9. Tell your story

While you need to be clear on your goal, you also need to be sure your message is crafted to include a story element. Millennials especially engage with stories, so have one of your stronger writers weave the story of your association and then draw in why you’re raising funds. An emotional pull never hurts when you’re appealing to people for funds!

10. Send a thank you note

The people who donate to your association are the ones who keep the whole thing going – they enable your association to keep providing the value and benefits that your members deserve, and these givers should be thanked accordingly. Send an immediate thank you email to all those who give, but be sure to follow it up with something even more personal, like a direct mail piece or even a small gift as a token of your appreciation. Remember that these are people that may give again at some point, and expressing your thanks is a great way to get them to keep you in mind for future giving.

Bonus: end on a high note

You’ve completed your online fundraiser – time to celebrate! But don’t just celebrate within your organization. Spread the good cheer and thank everyone who donated in an email or social post and keep everyone updated on your success. You don’t have to give a whole Oscar speech, but you certainly do need to let your audience know that you’re grateful to them for making the whole thing possible. Your online fundraiser will only be as successful as your outreach. Continue reaching out even once your campaign ends, and keep that connection going for next time!