Online Fundraising: A Complete Guide

Online fundraising gives your nonprofit new avenues for growth. There are abundant opportunities to reach new audiences and raise more funds between social media, your website, and online fundraising tools.

According to philanthropynewsdigest.org, online giving up was more than 20 percent in 2020. With current trends that number is only expected to increase. 

Collecting online donations is now a necessary part of many nonprofits’ fundraising strategies. If you are looking to get the most out of your online fundraising, keep reading, we have some great tips for you!

What is Online Fundraising? 

Online fundraising is more than just collecting online donations. It is the ability to share your story in new ways and reach new demographics. Online fundraising allows you to build a community and foster support in new ways. 

Why is Online Fundraising Important to Nonprofits?

Online fundraising offers new opportunities for nonprofit organizations.  It encompasses a number of activities used to engage your audience, convert one-time donors into recurring donors, and reach people beyond your standard demographics. 

Expand your reach and receive more donations

In the past, nonprofits relied heavily on direct mailings or fundraising events to solicit donations. Generally, their giving pool was localized to where they operated. However, with the internet, nonprofits can now reach more people and receive more donations. By leveraging social media and email, nonprofits can share their story with a broader audience for less money. In turn, more people learn about your cause, and some of that audience will turn into donors. 

Engage with Younger Donors

It is easier to go to where your audience is than to draw them away to somewhere else. Younger generations are active on social media and will engage with and share your content. Millennials are most inspired to give by social media. Therefore, having great social content will have a powerful impact on engaging this generation.

Increase Recurring Giving

When you collect donations online, it is easy to add a recurring donation option to your donation form. And, donors who are part of a recurring giving program on average give 42% more. So soliciting more online donations will increase your number of recurring donors, thus resulting in more giving. 

Hint: DonorSnap’s online forms allow you to set up a recurring giving option.

Tools to Help You Get Started with Online Fundraising

tools to help you with online fundraisi

An up to Date Website

Having a good website is the starting point for increasing your online donations. Nonprofits should make sure their websites are up-to-date. According to qGiv 75% of young donors are turned off by out-of-date websites. So having a modern, user-friendly website is essential if you want to collect online donations. 

Note: your website should also be mobile-friendly. Meaning, it should be responsive and look just as good on a mobile device as it does on a desktop. All information should be easily accessible and your online donation forms should also be responsive. 

Online Donation Forms

Online fundraising would not be possible without an online donation form. Luckily, you can easily create donation forms in DonorSnap. Also, DonorSnap’s responsive forms embed directly into your website.  All your online donations will feed directly into DonorSnap. 

Online Donation Form Best Practices

Online Donation Forms best practices
Embed the giving form on your website

When someone is making an online donation, they want to be sure they are in the right place. Therefore, it is important your donation form doesn’t change from the look and feel of your website. Unfortunately, some donation pages live on restrictive third-party websites without much customization. In turn, this could cause a donor to abandon the donation and make your non-profit lack credibility. 

Craft an impactful headline 

Your online donation form should be clear and free of distractions.  For this reason, a powerful headline should be the main text on your page. Think of a short and compelling message that will drive your visitor to take action.

Fine-tune your thank you page

After someone makes an online donation they are generally redirected to a thank you page. Often, a thank you page can be overlooked and is a generic thank you message. Be thoughtful about the message on your thank you page. For example, highlight how the donor’s gift will make a difference. Also, you could direct them to another part of your website if they want other opportunities to help.

Keep the page clean and free of distractions

Your donation page should serve one purpose, to drive donations. Because of this, you don’t want any additional or distracting information. Be sure your form collects the necessary information without being too long. You can put other forms for different purposes on other parts of your website, so be sure the donation form is dedicated to just that.

Communicate a clear call to action

Your donation page should drive a single action. A typical call to action is “donate now”, but you will improve online donations with a more powerful message. To start, think about how the donation will make a difference. Something like “Save a Life, Give Today” may trigger more emotion than a simple “donate now”.

Make your Donation Page Easily Accessible

Your website should have a clear link to your donation form on every page of your website. An easy way to do this is to anchor a donate button to the very top menu and the footer of your website. If you send out an email newsletter, include a donate button throughout the newsletter. Your social media accounts should all link to your donate page. In addition, if you are sharing social content as it is relevant to raising funds, include a link to your donation page in the post.

Nonprofit CRM

When you collect online donations you will want to keep track of them. Most CRMs will integrate with donation forms and feed the donor information right into your database. DonorSnap’s online forms allow you to collect online donations and load them into your database in a few clicks. 

Not all nonprofits use a CRM. Some of them will use PayPal to collect online donations and keep records in excel. Although this option works for those without a CRM, there are reasons that PayPal is not the best option for collecting online donations. It is worth investing in a CRM that works with a payment processor and integrates with online forms. 

Social Media 

You now have the opportunity to tell your story to people further away through social media. According to empower.agency, 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action. While nonprofits once aimed to gain supporters in their direct area, they now have the opportunity to connect with people further away. 

In addition, your supporters are going to be your biggest advocates, so give them something to share. The great news? Nonprofit organizations are content machines. Brainstorm with your team to come up with content ideas about how your organization has made an impact.  Creating shareable content will expand your reach, improve your trustworthiness, and ultimately increase online donations. With 90% of people age 18-29 using social media regularly, social media is also a great way to reach the younger giving pool. 

Social Media Best Practices for Online Fundraising

  • Plan social media content to complement your appeal campaigns
  • Create a content calendar to be sure you are consistently posting
  • Use hashtags to reach more people
  • Add a Donate Button to your Facebook and Instagram accounts
  • Create shareable content your supporters will be excited to share
Social Media “Shareable Content” Ideas
  1. Statistics on the cause you support (ex: how much plastic is found in our ocean)
  2. Inspirational quotes as they relate to your cause (ex: quotes about the healing power of art for an arts org)
  3. Donor/Volunteer/Employee spotlights: your readers will want to learn more about the people behind your organization
  4. Tips on how individuals can help support your cause (ex: ideas for using less plastic around your home)

Analytics Tools

When collecting online donations, it is helpful to see web traffic to determine the success of your online campaigns. Google Analytics is free and you can set it up on your website. Once set up, you can measure your web traffic, see what pages users visited, and even track donations. Also, having good analytics tools will help you update your website over time to improve the user experience and ultimately lead to more online donations. 

An Email List

Having a strong email list is important for today’s nonprofits. If you haven’t already, check out Nonprofit Email Marketing: 8 Best Practices, to see how a successful email strategy will help your organization. Likely, a new visitor to your website will want to learn more about your organization and email is the perfect way to share this with them.

There are a number of ways to build your email list. The easiest way is to have a signup form on your website. If you are using DonorSnap, you can set up a responsive form for collecting emails. Also, if you send out remittance envelopes, have a spot for donors to leave their emails. 

A Blog On Your Website

Your website provides you with the opportunity to share more about your organization. Therefore, having a blog on your website is a great way to draw in prospective donors. Whether you know it or not, your nonprofit is full of content that readers want to consume. Having a blog is a great way to share impact stories and more information about your organization. It also creates great content to share on social media.  In addition, blogs are a great way to draw in donors through inbound tactics. 

Inbound marketing is the process of creating blog content that answers readers’ questions. As a nonprofit, you are likely a subject matter expert in the area you serve. For example, if you are an animal rescue, you might create blog content with helpful tips on training a rescue dog. Then, when people search for tips on rescue dogs, they may land on your website. It is a way of bringing in supporters by providing answers to their questions. In turn, this also builds credibility and trust.

Getting Started: Developing Your Online Fundraising Plan

When embarking on any sort of fundraising journey, it is important to have a plan. Your online fundraising should be no different. Here are some steps to help you get started with your online fundraising plan:

Conduct a SWOT Analysis of Online Fundraising

SWOT Analysis for Online Fundraising

A SWOT analysis looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This can be a great way to start brainstorming with your team. To start, work through the different areas and ask yourself specific questions that pertain to each:

Strengths: What resources does your nonprofit have that will aid in online fundraising? For example, staff talent, stories collected, connections in the community, and so on.

Weaknesses: What areas do you lack that might make online fundraising more of a challenge? For example, a website that is not up to date, or a small team with limited time.

Opportunities: What new opportunities would online fundraising bring about? For example, can you reach a new demographic?

Threats: What threats could collecting donations online pose. For example, if you don’t have a good process in place for thanking online donations, could this hurt your fundraising efforts?

Use an Online Fundraising Plan Template

Having a plan written out will help you succeed. Therefore, a good fundraising plan template will help you organize your team and set realistic goals. Depending on your organization, you may also need approval from your board. So having a plan in an organized template will help you present your case. 

Your fundraising plan should include how much money will be spent,  how much time will be spent by staff, and realistically how much you think you can collect. These details will help you start out and allocate the proper funds and time to succeed. 

Create your content calendar

In addition to your fundraising plan, you should create a content calendar. Having a content calendar will help keep you organized and be sure your messages are spread out over the appropriate amount of time. This can be as simple as using a google calendar to mark when certain content will go out. Or, websites like Hubspot have a wealth of content calendars and templates that could also help your nonprofit. 

If you don’t know where to start, think about important dates for your organization. Below are some ideas to help you get started:

1. Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday is held the Tuesday after Black Friday, and was started as a way to encourage people to donate during the holidays. It has grown into a global movement that all nonprofits should be taking advantage of. Nonprofit organizations often have a campaign theme around Giving Tuesday and will share content leading up to it. On the day, it is important to stay active on social media, as well as send out emails to encourage people to donate. 

2. Your annual appeal

It is common to run an online campaign alongside your annual appeal that goes out in the mail. You can create content to accompany your print mailing, to target supporters at multiple touchpoints. Be sure that your lists are clean and organized ahead of time to save you trouble as you run the campaign. 

3. Local giving days

Many states run their own local giving days. For example, in Connecticut, the Connecticut Community Foundation runs Give Local, which is a give-a-thon designed to encourage local giving in the community.

4. Events you are hosting

You also should use the power of the internet to promote events you are hosting. Whether they are fundraising events or community events, this content will help your community stay engaged with your cause. 

5. Cause days

Cause days are a great way to ensure you have content ready each month. There are many online resources that share cause days, so you can pick out the ones that are more relevant to your organization. Be sure to take advantage of these days, get social, and use hashtags to help drive more donations to your nonprofit.


In summary, there are many tools at your disposal to improve your online fundraising. To get started be sure you have the following items to successfully collect donations online: 

  • A Good Website
  • Online Donation Forms
  • A Good CRM
  • Social Media
  • Analytics Tools
  • An Email List
  • A Blog on Your Website

If you have all of these tools you can start developing your online fundraising plan. It may be helpful to conduct a SWOT analysis and refer to a fundraising template to help get yourself organized. From here you can develop a content calendar and begin to spread your message. 

With all of these tools and practices in place, you can reach new demographics and solicit more donations. This is an opportunity to share your story in a new way and spread awareness about your cause even further.

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