Jumpstarts Your Online Fundraising Ideas

The internet has thousands of articles listing “online fundraising campaigns,” and every one of those campaign ideas is obsolete.

They’re as fresh today as an article on “how to use your phone to make a phone call.” If that’s all you’re doing with your phone, you’re missing out big time. The online fundraising ideas in those articles are pretty good –the problem is they assume your online fundraising campaign can only do one thing — just like a phone from the 1970s.

What “fundraising campaign” means right now

Fundraising campaigns right now are treated like totally separate items. A raffle campaign is one fundraising event that can have a prize or offer a 50/50 cash pot. If you want to have an auction though, that’s a different campaign entirely. An event like a gala dinner is treated as a totally separate third fundraising campaign. 

But that’s three campaigns: a raffle, an auction, and an event. That’s like having three phones: one for phone calls, one to surf the internet, and a third phone to request an Uber.

The internet can give you great information about what prizes to raffle or auction and how to plan a very cool fundraising event. But it can’t tell you how to combine them ALL in one awesome campaign.

Redefining online fundraising campaigns for responsive nonprofits

It’s not 1973 anymore. Can’t one online fundraising campaign do three kinds of fundraising at once? Or five? What about eight? Or more?

Much like octopuses have one head and many arms, responsive fundraising campaigns engage donors under one goal, with many activations to meet each supporter where they are in their journey.

An octopus is actually the perfect metaphor for these multi-activation campaigns because it’s one brain controlling eight different powerful tentacles. They’re flexible, long, and powerful. And when they all work together intelligently, they can do things that boggle the imagination. 

An effective and responsive online fundraising campaign needs to have those same “octopus” features. It needs to be focused on a central goal (the head), but have the flexibility and reach of multiple activations (legs). When every part of your online fundraising campaign works together towards a single goal, you’ll find that you reach more supporters. Most importantly, having multiple “legs” means you are making it easy for your supporters to choose how they want to engage with your organization. 

There are 10 common types of online fundraising campaigns that could serve as the “legs” for your multi-channel octopus campaign: raffles, sweepstakes, auctions, a-thons, crowdfunding, straight donations (donation pages/forms/buttons), events and tickets to attend, online stores, live streaming, and peer-to-peer.

The idea of having one online fundraising campaign that puts five or six of them together at a single URL is kind of shocking. What about eight? 

Is your attention span longer than your donors’?

Earlier this year, researcher Dr. Gloria Mark — a psychologist, informatics professor, Microsoft senior researcher, and Google Research Award recipient — published a startling discovery.

In 2004 the average attention on a screen was measured at 2 minutes 30 seconds. Some years later, her research pegged it at 75 seconds. Today, the latest research shows it has dropped to about 47 seconds. That’s how much time on average folks will pay attention to one screen, such as your online fundraiser.

But you can’t count on your donors to read her research and improve their attention spans. Your fundraising campaigns need to meet them where they are … where almost all of us are! It’s where you probably are too, and that’s okay. It’s normal!

Variety is the spice of life – and clicks and donations

The more variety we have, the longer we pay attention. And we don’t need research to tell us that different people like different things.

Fred might hate raffles but want to bid for an auction item. Judy might not want to click the “donate” button but would love to buy swag in your online store. Tracy might not want to attend your gala dinner but would gladly pledge each dance her daughter does in your dance-a-thon.

By providing several different kinds of fundraisers in a single online fundraising campaign, you keep people’s attention. And you’re certain to get more donations over time. Think about that. If you offer several ways to donate, or even a few, you’ll get more donations. It’s a no-brainer.

What the future of online fundraising campaigns will look like

In ten years, it will be so simple to combine different activities that people will barely remember the “olden days.” Nonprofits who just do one activity per campaign will struggle to compete for donations with more nimble – and fun – competitors.

It’s not hard to imagine what this will look like. You know how each of these fundraising activities works. You know what a raffle looks like, how an a-thon works, what a great peer-to-peer campaign looks like, and so on. Just imagine those fundraising campaigns together, with a single look and feel, on a nice web page.

Don’t feel bad—your fundraising peers haven’t noticed the online fundraising campaign revolution either

Nobody would blame fundraisers like you for failing to spot the early signs that the ground is shifting. It’s not super obvious. Not everyone in the fundraising software market has figured it out yet. Some vendors will only let you do one fundraising activity in a campaign. At most, they offer a handful of fundraising options that you can run in individual campaigns.

If you want to see change, you can look into cutting-edge technologies such as RallyUp that already offer this capability. If you’re not ready to change to a new technology you can start implementing the octopus theory of online fundraising campaigns at your organization today without making any tech changes. 

It’s your turn to lead

Lead the way into the world of multi-channel “octopus” campaigns.  Look into how your fundraising tools, such as your nonprofit CRM, can handle these types of fundraising campaigns. If they don’t have that as an option, check out some that do, or reach out to your vendor to tell them you need one campaign with many tentacles. Submit feature requests, call your reps, or nudge them. Do what it takes to grow your donations and do more for your cause.

This is where fundraising is going. You can get ahead of it. Or you can play catch-up later.

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Todd Shinabarger
Chief Information Officer