It may seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual fundraising a new necessity. However, channeling contributions online has been an efficient and effective way to raise funds over the past decade. Charitable organizations have been accepting digital donations for years, even before the world went virtual. According to the 2016 Charitable Giving Report by the Blackbaud Institute, online donations made up 7.2% of all revenue raised in 2016 across all sectors of nonprofit institutions. Online giving is on the rise as banking and spending become increasingly prevalent. The trend has increased steadily year-by-year from a 15% growth in 2016 to 23% in 2017. With new social media marketing innovations for nonprofits, specifically Facebook Fundraisers and the annual #GivingTuesday campaigns, not participating in digital forms of fundraising is a costly mistake.
As the pandemic continues to shape the way we live, it is also shaping the way we give. Virtual fundraising has become integral to maintaining relations with existing donors, reaching out to new donors, and getting attention from potential future donors. The current shift in donor demographics also suggests that incorporating online campaigns will continue to be an essential way to reach your fundraising goals.
Virtual fundraising can enable your organization to:
- Reach a higher volume of donors
- Make contributing easier for your donors
- Create funnels that encourage existing donors to continue supporting your causes
- Gather data on individual and institutional donors
- Use new digital insights to create relations that encourage giving
But how do you keep the Annual Gala interesting over Zoom?
Pivoting to full-scale virtual fundraising requires many of the same traditional development strategies – targeting your donors, measuring retention rate, etc. The key is to implement the strategies creatively.
In the case of virtual events, the Zoom room may hold more people than the ballroom. Zoom can host events for up to 1,000 people and webinars for up to 10,000. Google Meet is capable of hosting up to 100,000 attendees for a live stream event and 250 attendees for smaller, more collaborative events. A virtual event also allows your organization to livestream impact stories to your audience. Virtual events can be monetized through ticket sales directly or through donation pledges during the event. Corporate donors may be interested in sponsoring the event and individual donors may be interested in being spotlighted on screen for a few minutes. Consider a countdown to build excitement around the event the same way one would for an in-person event. Short clips of board members encouraging others to attend and contribute give a unique and humanistic appeal to a virtual event, ensuring that it will feel just as warm and inviting as a gala or ball.
Use Automation Tools
To boost donations from supporters that are already giving online, or to make online giving more inviting for those who are new to the idea, make giving as simple as possible through automation tools. Most nonprofits have an email list that receives regular newsletters. A fundraising email campaign with beautiful graphics and compelling content are essential to grab a donor’s attention. Triggering email newsletters are wonderful for staying in consistent contact with your donors.
Using payment systems with a donor’s user experience in mind can make donations a swift and calm endeavor, rather than a frustrating series of clicks. Keeping links, emails, and social posts optimized for mobile makes it easy for the donor to give, and simpler for your campaign to reach its conversion targets. Text-to-give systems gained notoriety during the American Red Cross’ initiative to raise funds for relief in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010. Such systems continue to drive contributions and can easily be incorporated into virtual events.
Create a Fundraiser Challenge
Encouraging an active fundraiser challenge can also set your organization apart, particularly if your mission is health-oriented. Create a virtual event through Fitbit or Strava for runners and cyclists to participate in a fitness focused virtual fundraising experience. Integrations with the existing apps enable you to target another donor segment and empower your donors to take a more active role in doing good for themselves and for others. When participants share their fitness data and get competitive with fundraising, the motivation to contribute becomes multi-faceted. Another advantage of a virtual fitness fundraiser is that it allows your organization to better know your donors through their locations and active hours.
Gathering donor data through virtual fundraising may be the biggest advantage for your organization. Digital transactions make it easy to gather essential metrics like donor retention rates, donor acquisition costs, and average contribution size. Using this data in conjunction with a business intelligence platform like Donor Compass keeps your organization better prepared for the future of fundraising.