Donation is the main way in which people engage with charities, with more than 60% having made a contribution in the last year, according to CAF’s UK Giving Report 2017. Lately, more and more charities are exploring online fundraising opportunities in an attempt to create more engaging campaigns, reach younger audiences, and find new donors. Digital fundraising can drive an increase in donations for an organisation, provided that it’s used strategically and makes the most of the online tools and platforms available. However, 66% of charities reportedly worry about being unprepared for the shift towards digital fundraising. To help you get started, we have compiled a short guide for you to learn more about digital fundraising for charities.
Crowdfunding is a great opportunity to raise money for a charitable cause by setting up an online campaign and then sharing it as widely as possible to reach your fundraising goals. There are more than 60 active UK-based crowdfunding platforms to choose from but we recommend picking a well-established site that will encourage donors to trust in your campaign and one that is widely used for charitable causes. Crowdfunder, JustGiving and GoFundMe are all well recognised for supporting third sector and various community projects, and provide a wealth of tools (automated promotion, social integrations, etc.) to help your campaign stand out.
It may also be worth looking into more specialised crowdfunding platforms to find your perfect match. Spacehive supports projects within UK public and community spaces, for instance for rejuvenation of green spaces, sports facilities, and playgrounds (MyParkScotland is a Scottish-focussed alternative). GlobalGiving is a platform for non-profit grassroots organisations raising funds for local communities, while Ethex provides a direct way for individuals to invest in businesses with a social mission at heart.
Once you have established the most appropriate platform for your cause, think about your aims, how to best communicate your idea, and a specific fundraising target with a timeframe in which to meet it. Be realistic about the funds you need to raise, and how many pledges are necessary to reach the target. Finally, get your whole team involved to spread the word to their family and friends, reach out on social networks and get the ball rolling. Crowdfunding is a great way for small charities to raise awareness about their cause, broaden their network online and reach out to new supporters – as well as raising money!
Virgin’s Money Giving platform offers free training on how to make most of your fundraising efforts and a charity toolkit with downloadable marketing materials, flyers and social media ideas.
Your nonprofit might already have a social media presence so it is essential you maintain the platforms your donors are most likely to engage with. To choose which social media channel works best for you, think about your audience – younger people tend to prefer Instagram and Snapchat, while others favour Facebook and Twitter. Do you want to reach existing supporters and maintain awareness, or find new ones? Perhaps both?
Specifically for digital fundraising efforts, hashtags can prove a useful tool as part of a social media campaign. Remember #icebucketchallenge raising money for ALS or #wearitpink raising funds for breast cancer research? Think about a hashtag that sums up your campaign goals and is memorable, then use it extensively before and throughout the campaign to build anticipation and awareness.
In addition, consider using popular charity hashtags on Twitter and Instagram that might help you get noticed. Charity social media experts often use hashtags to track discussions around social issues, such as #CharityTuesday #4charity #socialgood and good old-fashioned #fundraising. Getting your charity fundraising campaign noticed by an all-powerful ‘influencer’ might prove vital for some much needed exposure. Also, consider having cause-specific hashtags to drill down into a more specific audience passionate about your type of work. Online tools such as hashtagify.me will help you find the most popular phrases related to your cause.
Facebook has recently launched a set of practical fundraising tools available to charities, including a ‘donate’ button for pages and individual posts, a Facebook Fundraisers community group, and the ability to collect donations via Facebook Live broadcasts. Live video fundraisers, depending on your cause, can be a powerful way to raise awareness and connect instantly with the people who care the most. Alongside this, Facebook users can now launch their own fundraisers and are prompted to start one on their birthday for a charity of their choice. Consider adopting some of the various Facebook’s Charitable Giving Tools currently available in 18 countries, including the UK, for an easier digital fundraising process.
Alongside the donation tools available on social media platforms, charities are also employing technology to facilitate donations through a fun and easy process. Save the Children in collaboration with Iris Nursery have created a physical donation button connected to the Internet through mobile data. Considering complicated donation forms as a thing of the past, donors are required to sign up once, and then they can actively contribute by pressing the red ‘Give’ button whenever they wish. It feels effortless and provides the satisfaction of real-time donation without the time constraints of an online form or bank transaction. It is currently being tested with existing donors to counter the latest findings showing that people who choose to donate via direct debit feel less engaged with the charitable cause.
Several charities are also looking to contactless payments as a way of easing the donation process. Cancer Research UK has introduced smart benches that accept £2 donations while Blue Cross has come up with ‘pat and tap’ method having dogs wear specifically-designed jackets with a contactless payment option.
These attempts arguably work best for well-established charities which can afford to experiment with the use of technology. Nevertheless, what all charities can learn from these examples is that really successful digital fundraising balances two seemingly contradictory experiences – it must feel both effortless and engaging.
Making it easier for people to find your charity on the web is the first step towards attracting online donations. A recent report from Reason Digital has found that charities missed out on an estimated £1.5 billion in donations last year due to high ‘bounce rates’ on their website, especially from mobile users. According to the report, almost 80% of all users browsing from mobile devices navigated away from the site after viewing just one page, meaning that many of the charities’ websites are not designed with mobile users in mind. This guide by Google is a good place to start learning more about optimising your site for mobile devices.
Regardless of navigating the site from a desktop or a mobile device, it is crucial for charities to provide a good user experience on the organisation’s website. Alzheimer’s Society decided to optimise their donors’ experience to drive an increase in online giving following research into their users’ browsing habits and reactions. Thus, they went for a new front and back-end change in their site, and adopted PayPal and Apple Pay to offer more varied donation options. The optimised website user journey led to a 72% increase in donations, with the conversion rate rising from 22% to 65%.
Understanding donors’ habits when visiting your site can ultimately be used to help visitors seamlessly proceed to a donation, thus rewarding your digital fundraising efforts.
Top digital fundraising tip for small charities: do less, but do it really well.
We prepared this blog to help inform individuals working in the third sector and to provide general advice on fundraising opportunities for charities. If you have any queries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a phone 0141 334 1318. We do not claim responsibility for any action taken as a result of the general tips found here.
It’s also worth saying that this blog focussed only on digital fundraising in terms of donations. We are currently preparing a guide for fundraising on a broader scale – from venture capital to social shares and everything in between. Stay tuned!
 Alexandra Jardine, Save the Children’s Physical ‘Give Button’ Will Let People Donate Easily at Home | Creativity Online. (2017)
 Tereza Litsa, Five Creative Examples of Charities Using Digital Fundraising | Hubbub. (2017)