We often think of fundraising as transactional, but I love the idea of creating “fundraising experiences” that acknowledges that donors want to be involved with nonprofits on an experiential level and not just passively donate. Supporters want to be well-informed about your mission and your impact and then have an opportunity to enjoy participating with and giving to your organization.
During challenging fundraising moments, it can be tempting to rest on what you know has worked in the past. Although it might have been successful before, those fundraising strategies could be outdated and negatively impact your goals. Those challenging times are often the best times to step out and try new things.
This blog post outlines three steps to reimagining fundraising experiences. But before we dive in, the most important thing you can do is make sure your technology is ready to accept donations in an easy-to-use and secure way. Elevate is a great place to start to create excellent donation pages. Make sure your donation page is clean-looking, works properly and is connected with data (think personalized ask ladders for donors based on their past giving behaviors). Otherwise, your efforts in creating fundraising experiences may have a much harder time bearing fruit.
1. Get Inspired
First, ask yourself what things get YOU excited about participating with brands or nonprofits. What unique and interesting things are others doing that make you want to be involved? Is it a video they shared? Maybe it’s the way they incorporate their fundraising into the daily habits you already have? Try not to limit yourself by budget or staffing constraints. There will be time for more practical matters, but this phase is all about dreaming. Focus your brainstorming around what you know about your supporters and what you think they’d like, too. Here are two examples to get you started:
The Gaming for Good podcast showcases several nonprofits who are mixing gaming and fundraising. In the same way that runners are sponsored for mileage in races, gamers can elicit donations based on the levels they reach or other milestones they accomplish.
Gigi’s Playhouse had to pivot their offline events to online events in 2020. They used that challenge as an opportunity to partner with Strava, a fitness app, to connect with a whole new set of potential donors.
You can read more about Gigi’s Playhouse and other nonprofits who are doing innovative things here.
2. Create Space for Creativity
If it’s not on my calendar it doesn’t happen, and that includes time for creativity. When I worked for a nonprofit, my team and I sat in my office for about 30 minutes and just shouted out ideas. We captured them on a dry erase board and then began to narrow down what was possible with our timeline and budget.
We had already taken the time to get inspiration so now we could take that same clay and reshape it into something that represented our values, our mission, and our donors. When things are moving quickly, it can be difficult to carve out time to be creative, but it’s the most important thing you can do in those moments.
The result of one of our brainstorm sessions was a campaign that took a donation amount and visually compared the impact of that amount. Say, $25 for an ugly Christmas sweater or $25 to provide jackets for those who need them. Our goal was to use only a few words, but let the visual be really impactful. That campaign was the most successful fundraising campaign we’d ever done. It was replicated on a national scale and even won a design award! Dedicating some time to creativity is worth it, I promise.
3. Adapt Quickly
Or another term that’s widely used in tech, “fail fast.” This means embrace the idea of trying something new, but make sure that you have good data to tell you whether or not it’s working. Capturing key engagement and donation metrics will help you to understand whether your new direction is working or if you need to try something else.
Define what you are trying to accomplish with the new strategy so you know whether or not you’re on the right track. If you design a campaign to engage donors, your target metrics should be engagement, not donations. There are industry best practices you can use to begin adapting to a more digitally-based fundraising strategy, like personalization, that are proven to be universally effective.
Another way to get creative with engagement is creating an online community with Experience Cloud where donors can log-in and connect with other supporters with similar passions. It also allows staff to stay connected to donors in a way that isn’t always asking for money. Donors can view impact reports that you decide to share which reiterates the importance of their gifts in addition to the standard acknowledgement letter. They even have self-service options where they can make a gift directly from the online portal, update contact information or even see their giving history.
When you’ve stretched your team to try something that’s maybe a little outside the box, make sure you’re capturing enough data to gauge effectiveness and pivot away quickly if it isn’t working. That process of failing fast and adapting quickly will get you one step closer to what will work.
Eager to learn more about tools that can help you fundraise? Tune in for our Digital First Demo Jam, where we’ll demonstrate technology solutions for 5 digital fundraising scenarios.
About the Author
Nonprofit Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce.org
Piper is a product marketing manager with Salesforce.org, helping nonprofits navigate the ever-changing world of digital marketing. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, Patrick.