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  • Writer's pictureElisha Ford



Guest Expert: Effective Online Fundraising: Insights and Best Practices by DonorDock. Image is a photo of paper cut outs of little people holding hands standing on top of a stack of cash.

Ever found yourself feeling like a hamster on a wheel, tirelessly running to raise funds for your nonprofit but not quite getting anywhere? That's the uphill battle many face when it comes to traditional fundraising methods.

What if there was a different route?

Online fundraising has been gaining traction as a reliable method for nonprofits to collect donations. This approach is convenient for supporters, allowing them to contribute anytime, from anywhere.

Did you know? 69% of donations are made online!

The heart of effective online fundraising lies in crafting a message that resonates with potential donors and sharing that message where your donors live. The internet broadens your reach, making it possible to engage individuals who share your mission but may not be local.

Let’s dive into developing an effective online fundraising strategy for your nonprofit.

Essentials to Online Fundraising Success

The key to successful online fundraising lies in strategic planning. Like building a house; you need a solid blueprint to make sure you’re building something solid. In the digital fundraising world, three pillars support successful online fundraising: understanding your donor base, clarifying your goals and your messaging, and defining your donor journey.

Understand Your Donor Base

Contemplating the focus of your nonprofit's marketing strategy can be challenging. Is it really necessary to narrow it down to a specific group? The idea of reaching everyone seems like the ideal approach for growth, but can we truly achieve that by targeting just one persona? The reality is that not every nonprofit can resonate with everyone.

A more effective use of your time is to share impactful stories with those who genuinely connect with your mission. Consider this: donors who are passionate about your cause likely associate with like-minded individuals who share similar values. By tailoring your marketing efforts to your ideal donor, your nonprofit will consistently attract supporters who are genuinely enthusiastic about your mission.

Creating a donor persona, a fictional representation of your ideal donor, helps you hone in your marketing, so you can effectively fundraise online. This free donor and volunteer persona template helps you define your ideal donor, so you can build better donor relationships.

Photo shows a Canva template that DonorDock created for you to create donor profiles that help you define your ideal donor.

Clarify Your Goals and Your Messaging

Your fundraising campaign should start with a clear understanding of your end goals. What specific outcomes do you hope to achieve? Is your end goal a specific amount raised for a project, to add recurring donors, or do you have another goal? When you and everyone on your team clearly understand your goals, then you’ll have a clear guide to follow.

Once you understand your goals, then you are able to craft your messaging. Effective fundraising messaging clearly communicates your goals and objectives with language that resonates with your target audience. Are you likely to give to a nonprofit if you’re unsure where the donations are going? Likely not! The same is true of your donors. They want to have a clear picture of what they are supporting and where their money is going, so they know that it aligns with their values.

If you need help defining your messaging, use this free define your messaging worksheet.

Define Your Donor Journey

Just as a well-designed home is thoughtfully laid out so it flows seamlessly, you want to design your donor’s journey with your nonprofit, so they have a smooth experience. Understand the different touch points your potential donors will encounter, from initial awareness to the actual donation process. Tailor your interactions to nurture a positive and engaging experience at every step. A well-defined donor journey enhances the likelihood of converting interest to engaged donors.

Use this free donor experience map to help you define the journey your donors will have with your nonprofit.

Photo shows a free guide that DonorDock created called "Donor Experience Map"

Now that you’ve got a solid blueprint on which to build your fundraising house, let’s look at choosing the best channels of communication for your nonprofit.

Choose the Right Channels of Communication

When it comes to building a house, you need to choose the right materials for your specific needs. The same is true when it comes to choosing the best channels of communication for your nonprofit. Understand your target audience and identify the platforms where they are most active. Whether through social media, email campaigns, or other online channels, strategically deploy your messaging to maximize reach and impact.

Optimizing Your Website and Online Fundraising Pages

If you’re hoping to take advantage of online fundraising, then it’s crucial to focus first on your nonprofit’s website and donation pages. Simplicity and high quality go a long way when it comes to your nonprofit’s website. If you’re short on budget and time, it is better to have a website with only a well-designed homepage with a basic "About" section and a donation form.

A Streamlined Website Improves Your Online Fundraising

A streamlined and user-friendly website not only enhances the donor experience but also conveys a clear and impactful message about your organization. Focus on key elements that effectively communicate your mission, as this can leave a lasting positive impression on visitors and potential supporters.

Similarly, a cluttered, confusing form can turn away potential donors, which is why it’s important to choose the right online fundraising platform for your nonprofit.

Choosing the Right Online Fundraising Platform

A great online fundraising software solution can boost your ability to raise funds efficiently. A quality platform should offer user-friendly donation forms and secure payment processing, while also integrating your nonprofit’s donor database.

First, donors want the process of giving to be as straightforward and easy as possible. On average, nonprofits see a 17% donation page conversion rate, which means that 17% of the people who visit your website will end up giving. The less work a visitor to your site has to do to give, the more likely they are to convert to a donor.

On average, nonprofits see a 17% donation page conversion rate.

Second, donors want to feel confident that their giving is secure and actually going to your nonprofit. Using secure payment processing on donation forms that are branded to your nonprofit increases a donor’s confidence in giving to your nonprofit.

And finally, your nonprofit needs an online fundraising platform that integrates seamlessly with your nonprofit CRM and lets you automatically send both receipts and thank you emails to donors after they give.

If you're considering investing in a new platform, check out this helpful guide on the five best CRMs for nonprofits, as many of them offer online giving as part of their platform.

Engaging Supporters Through Email Campaigns

Email campaigns are an excellent tool for nonprofits. They let you engage supporters and keep them informed about your activities.

To truly connect with donors, make sure to share stories that your emails show the impact of their donations. Donors want to have a clear picture of the work that you’re doing, while also seeing how they fit into that work. Emails shine as a great method to share long-form stories. With an email, you can take the time to tell a story, share photos, or even share a video. Additionally, you can link back to your donation pages which keeps giving easy.

Another great benefit of emails is that, with the right software, you can track open rates, bounce rates, and click-through rates. This helps your nonprofit make informed decisions about what fundraising messaging is resonating well and what messaging is falling flat.

The biggest downside to email fundraising is that it isn’t often shared. You might tell a compelling story that would draw in new supporters, but your email audience isn’t likely to pass that message on. That’s where social media comes in.

The Power of Social Media as an Online Fundraising Channel

The strength of social media lies in the power of personal connections. With social media, your supporters can share your mission with their network, making it a top-notch online fundraising channel.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can be used to reach a broad audience with the message of your cause.

If you hope to leverage social media for your online fundraising, it’s important to understand where your ideal donor spends their time and what works well for each platform.

If you’d hate making videos of yourself or your ideal donor is in their 50s, then TikTok likely isn’t the right fit for you. However, if you’re hoping to connect with Gen Z, then TikTok would be more effective than Facebook.

Social media works well to reach a broader audience and is effective with shorter stories with compelling visuals. It’s important to plan for a shorter attention span when writing for social media. Consider using images or short videos to create an emotional connection. Make sure your pages and posts are easily sharable and that getting to your donation page is easy.

Going Back to the Pillars of Online Fundraising

When it comes to deciding which channel of communication is best for your nonprofit, it’s important that you go back to the three pillars of online fundraising. Knowing who your ideal donor is will help you decide which channel will be most effective at reaching them. It’s also important to know your goals and understand which channel can most effectively help you reach those goals. Then you can decide if your messaging is easily sharable or better suited to a targeted audience.


You've learned that Effective Online Fundraising is more than just collecting donations online; it's about reaching a broader audience, building relationships, and increasing support for your cause.

We’ve explored the three pillars of online fundraising success: understanding your donor base, clarifying your goals and messaging, and defining your donor journey.

We've also looked at how different channels can impact your online fundraising and we've seen the importance of selecting the right fundraising platform.

Moving forward with strategic planning is essential for clear goals and donor trust. Like building a house, fundraising takes time to create a clear plan and build a solid foundation with the right materials.

Meet The Author

Photo is of the blog author: Elisha Ford

Elisha Ford is a content writer at DonorDock. With personal experience in nonprofit fundraising, she is passionate about having a positive impact on the nonprofit world. Her days are spent researching nonprofit best practices and connecting with people in the industry, so that she can provide readers with valuable insights related to nonprofit organizations, fundraising, and donor management. 

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