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Allyson Kapin 12 min read

Online Fundraising Best Practices

Did You Know?

* 300 billion was raised in 2008 (Giving USA);

* $15 billion was raised online in 2008 – a 44% increase over 2007) (Blackbaud);

* $21 million has been raised by Causes since its launch three years ago;

* 30% of online giving happens in December. (2008 donorCentrics Internet Giving Collaborative Benchmarking Analysis);

* The average online gift was $144.72, according to BlackBaud though M&R’s benchmark study noted that the average one time online gift was $81.


How Does Your Nonprofit Measure Up?

This was the opening question Jocelyn Harmon (Director of Nonprofit Services for Care2.com) and I posed during our presentation on "The Art and Science of Fundraising Online" for the Association Foundation Group.

If your organization's average online gift is lower than you would like or your organization has not developed a well thought out year-end online fundraising campaign in the past, then you need to make changes to your online fundraising program ASAP. (You should also check out the webinar “The Procrastinators’ Guide to Year-End Fundraising” coming up on July 22nd at 2PM EST).

Seven Online Fundraising Strategies You Can Do Right Now

Create Killer Landing Pages

Tell people what you want them to do quickly. Be clear how their donation will make a difference. One tactic that has been successful for the nonprofit CARE is to provide their donors with two simple pie charts that illustrate how funds raised are allocated below the credit card donation form.

Also give people several options to contribute money – one time giving, monthly giving, etc.

Cut The Wonk

You nonprofit will raise more money by telling compelling stories that resonate with real people. Donors are human beings (not ATM machines) and they need to feel connected to your organization and to your story. Save your press releases for the media, and your “talking points” for policy makers.

Build A Great List

You need invested people on your list to fundraise. There are two main ways nonprofits can build lists:

  • Organic Cultivation: via your own website, events, social networking sites, direct mail, etc.
  • Paid Acquisition: Online acquisition (like Care2) Google Ad Words, email appends, chaperoned emails, etc.

Cross Promote

The best way to reach your donors is to connect with them wherever they are – which means everywhere. Make sure you cross promote your fundraising campaigns across multiple channels such as your website, email appeals, social networks, direct mail, telemarketing, etc. Also be sure that the content is edited for each channel since each one has its own unique tone and voice.


As I mentioned in Five Fundraising Tips to Add to your Checklist, querying and segmenting your online membership may not be a ton of fun, but it’s vital to the success of your online fundraising program. You need this information to tailor appeals to different segments of your list. Why would you send members of your list who have never donated to your organization the same exact appeal to members who have donated $250 3x in the past 12 months? These two audiences are connected to your nonprofit very differently and therefore should receive different appeals that match their level of engagement.

Close The Loop

Don’t forget to thank your donors and tell them if you met your goals. This simple strategy has proven to help build better relationships with donors. Also make sure you include any compelling stories, successes, or photos so donors feel that their donation made a difference.

Measure The Results

There are myriad amounts of ways your nonprofit can measure the success of your online fundraising campaigns. Here are a few key ones:

  • Open Rates: What percentage of people opened up an online fundraising appeal.
  • Unique Web Visits: How many unique visits to the landing page.
  • Conversions: What percentage of people who clicked on the donate link, donated money.
  • Click-Through Rates: How many people clicked on a donation link.

What You Can Expect

  • Email fundraising response rates were .13%, and email advocacy response rates were 4%.
  • Online fundraising grew overall by 4.5% between 2008 and 2009.
  • Expect an annual email file churn around 17%.

Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.