When talking about digital fundraising within small organisations, you usually encounter a lot of resistance, often due to limited knowledge on the subject, as well as the natural resistance to change that makes us say ‘Why? We have always done it this way…’.
When we all found ourselves locked in our homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many organisations wondered about the importance and urgency of having a digital strategy to keep the relationship with donors and the community alive, offering them frequent updates on social media and via email to drive them to donate.
Several organisations then, due to their mission, had to face the emergency on the front lines and being able to make use of digital fundraising platforms made it possible to meet unforeseen expenses.
Two years on, the world has changed and it is no longer conceivable to consider digital a minor tool. One should not be afraid of it, on the contrary: it should be explored and experienced as soon as possible, even if one works for a small not-for-profit organisation. Being small is not necessarily a limitation, it is often instead an opportunity to start digital transformation more quickly.
Now is the right time to go to our boards and convince them to invest in digital fundraising. In a few years it will be too late and we may have to rush to catch up with the others.
But how can we convince the board that it is time to bet on digital fundraising? Here are five good reasons:
1. It allows us to establish and maintain relations even with those who live far away from our territory
We are all looking for new donors, both in large organisations and in small ones. However, they are often concentrated in the place where the organisation was founded, or within the territory in which they operate.
In a liquid society*, however, it is important to be able to weave and maintain relationships also with those who live in other places. In this respect, social media and websites have been essential during the pandemic. Many companies have revised their online strategy by focusing on sponsored ads, email marketing and their website. Shall we do the same? Paper certainly allows us to give more structured and substantial updates, why not also imagine faster communications through newsletters, social pages and in-depth news on our charity’s website? And of course, in all these digital materials, do you not want to include the ‘Donate Now’ call to action?
2. It’s immediate
If you are planning a campaign where it’s important that your donors act quickly, an emergency campaign for example, it is essential to offer donors the opportunity to respond as quickly as possible to the appeal.
You will have worked to generate a sense of immediate need in the donor, but for him to feel truly useful, he needs to know that his donation will reach its destination as soon as possible: and there is nothing more effective than digital to immediately make the donor feel part of the change for which our organisation strives.
Digital also makes it possible to keep the donor updated, almost day after day, so that the progress and impact of your fundraising can be reported, allowing trust to be re-established and the use of the funds raised to be more transparent.
3. It is 99.9% measurable and you can remodel it when and as much as you want!
In small organisations, there is often little inclination to measure campaigns and ‘read’ data. Starting to think in a data-driven way is important to build high-performance strategies in line with the target audience.
Digital campaigns, by their very nature, can be measured and adapted at any time.
We can easily measure the number of clicks on a button and also how many people pass through a given page, we can segment targets according to what we need and put tests in place to see which content works best. If the campaign is not performing as you had imagined, you can reshape it and try to make improvements along the way. In short, with digital you can remodel your campaign however you want, and know exactly how much you are spending as well as how much you are raising in real time.
I bet your board will be happy to have more detailed information on the campaigns you have implemented.
Digital data can also be useful for defining non-digital strategies. Often times, when lead generation or an online survey for instance, are done well, they can provide useful information about donors to improve profiling and refine targets for offline activities as well.
4. It will be part of the ‘new normal’
The years 2000 to 2010 were characterised by an increasing use of laptops and smartphones; this trend was then amplified by the pandemic. However, the pervasive use of digital tools is not set to recede with the end of restrictions, but to become part of the ‘new normal’.
We all know how central it is not to make rushed or gut decisions, but in the face of such an obvious trend it is impossible not to think about the importance of starting to work on digital fundraising.
5. Integration: from digital to phygital
Digital fundraising or paper mailing?
Why not both? I think it is a serious mistake to put these two fundraising tools against each other: they can complement each other well, bringing benefits to one another.
So an online donation page can easily be inserted into a paper mailing through a QR code. It is one more opportunity you give donors to support your charity.
If we think that the recipients of mailings are only over 65, we are wrong. In fact, the master data segmentations we make on our database are often partial, as we do not have the date of birth of many contacts and donors. Besides this, it is very important to consider that more and more over-65s are accustomed to using digital channels. According to Credoc, 93% of 60-69 year-olds are now connected to the Internet!
The QR code can also become an excellent ally for sharing institutional materials (e.g. the social report), or for lead generation (e.g. at solidarity product stalls).
To do digital fundraising there are no constraints related to the size of your not-for-profit organisation. You just have to experiment and try, remembering that digital is not an alternative to what you are already doing, but an extra tool to communicate, engage, update your community and get them to support your organisation.
There are many sites that give suggestions for getting started. For instance, you can check out this article to help you choose the right fundraising platform for your organisation. In the beginning, it’s not necessary to preside over every social platform, but it’s possible to balance the forces at your disposal and start small campaigns that will gradually help you familiarise with the tool and spread our mission and the organisation’s name.