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Digital Giving Campaign Best Practices

July 5, 2018


“Nonprofits who raise the most money via crowdfunding understand that online fundraising does not succeed by itself, and they are thoughtful about the outreach and marketing activities they need to perform in order to drive long-term success. They already have engaged supporters that care deeply about the organization and its mission.” – Scot Chisholm, co-founder of StayClassy

Online campaigns are time intensive, as one plans, researches, implements, posts and responds to content and markets regularly to drive people to give—similar to a traditional campaign. They can quickly connect your social media and interactive fan base with your campaign cause and then catapult those relationships. Here are steps to help you be successful. 


Set your realistic goal (use the SMART test: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound). Also set a timeframe and determine whom you will target. For a specific, focused, digital campaign, timeframes tend to be shorter (1-2 months to create a sense of urgency). The first three days and last three days of a campaign average more funds raised than the other times in between.

You should tailor your digital campaign toward various audiences, which results in more engaged donors and higher conversions (the action you want them to take). For example, Facebook and Google ads can be targeted by gender, income, interests, etc. 

Have compelling stories—these bring people into your world, show the need and communicate your impact. Have a direct call to action. Compile related videos and photos—these draw emotions and connect you with your audience. Plan your content prior to launch. If you plan to do ads, keep them clean and clear; think less cluttered.


What are the best ways to reach your audience? Social media, email, text, Google Ads, crowdfunding platform? When considering these, be sure to compare costs, fees (watch for percentages charged on dollars raised and charges for not reaching your goal), advantages, success rate, provided analytics, provided data (including receiving donor names/info/amounts given) and how and when you receive donations. (Some do not provide donor names/contact info. How then are you to cultivate and steward these donors?)

Social media has reached the “cluttered” stage and relying on your posts/tweets/etc., alone to reach your audience at the rate needed for them to act is gone. Invest in boosts and ads. 

Wherever possible, drive these outlets to your online, branded donation page so you can capture donor data and their gift immediately. Branded pages, versus generic ones from platforms, outperform in funds raised. 

Who will help promote your online campaign? Have an engaged audience already lined up to donate to it and to help spread the word.

Note: Your constituents continue to have more tools to fundraise on your behalf (like Facebook Fundraising). Be prepared to help them (and be sure your GuideStar info is up-to-date, as this is featured on Facebook Fundraisers).


Share your goal with your prospects and supporters. Salt the pot—as with any campaign, you shouldn’t announce it with $0 raised. Donate yourself and have a few donors you know will give to get it started. It shows others have committed and helps others feel they don’t have to take that first step. It inspires them to give to something already showing success.

Provide regular updates on the campaign to your audience and supporters to raise more money. For any vehicle, one will need to post more often to social media. The more engaging the content, the more your fans will have info to share, so the more successful you’ll be.

Ask supporters to share your campaign with their friends and family to spread the word. Use other social media to promote your campaign. 


See what’s working best and adjust accordingly. Give it time, but pay attention to the data digital can provide and re-route efforts into the vehicles that are performing the best.

Metrics to look at: reach, frequency, impressions, actions, interactions (including donations and number of donors).

And thank your donors!

Other Considerations

Make sure your virtual front door (your website) is open and ready to welcome prospects and donors who will go there to learn about you. Optimize your page for online searches to increase traffic, and therefore potential donations. Make sure your site invokes emotions—video is great at this. 

Make sure your site is mobile responsive; most people these days are viewing sites on tablets and phones, and 18 percent gave via mobile in a 2016 survey (commissioned by Dunham+Company and conducted by Campbell Rinker). According to @pay, 65 percent of social media users access those sites on their phones and tablets. Be sure your donation pages are mobile responsive or have a link that directs people to the mobile donation page.

Do your emails play well with mobile and have a donate button? According to @pay, 53 percent of emails are read on mobile devices. According to Fundly, that same percentage (53 percent) of email shares convert into donations. Email is not going away; don’t count it out.

Be sure the donate functions of your various social media are enabled (such as the “Donate Now” button on Facebook) for ease-of-use for your donors. Also, take advantage of the Google AdWords grants for nonprofits for $10,000 of in-kind text search ads/month! 

Consider budgeting a set of funds (or ask a donor or grantor to help) in order to test different methods of digital fundraising. Chart your data on what’s working and what’s not. Raising money is becoming less predictable as older generations of givers leave us and younger donors can start to give more. Communicating with younger donors is different—the direct mail letter is being revisited. Digital can be so customized, so enhanced digital targeting of your niches of donors is well worth the effort.


Michele Brock, MBA, CFRE, director of fundraising with AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising, has worked in fundraising since 1998. She has directed annual campaigns, special events, feasibility studies and capital campaigns, with funds raised for area hospitals, libraries and human service organizations. She serves as VP of membership of the Eastern Iowa Association of Fundraising Professionals and is a past president with the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids. She is a 2014 honoree of the Corridor Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.