13 Expert Ideas on Using Technology to Improve Fundraising

Published by Adam Bluemner on April 25th, 2014
LinkedIn

In the non-profit world, an increase in giving isn’t just a number on a ledger. It means more meals delivered, patients treated, classes taught, or programs funded. In other words, it means affecting more of the change that motivates your mission.

And, the good news is that charitable giving is increasing. Blackbaud recently reported that overall charitable giving grew by 4.9% in 2013. In fact, online giving in particular helped to drive that change–growing by 13.5% in the same period.

The specific numbers testify to a general trend that is easy to spot. Innovation–and in particular web technology–is fueling improvements in fundraising. New fundraising technologies are helping non-profits:

  • Reach new donors in new places
  • Tell stories more vividly
  • Make giving easier for contributors
  • Maintain more frequent and relevant communication
  • Lower administrative costs & apply more money directly to causes

But as every non-profit fundraiser knows, when it comes to solving issues–it’s all about awareness. In order to create awareness of the technologies that are available to every non-profit seeking increased contributions, we went to the authorities. We reached out to top consultants, solution providers, software developers, and non-profits to get their take on the following question:

How Can Non-Profits Leverage Technology to Improve Fundraising?

Use video to tell powerful stories

Fundraising and crowdfunding in their purest forms are all about storytelling. And currently, the most impactful way to tell a story is through video. Videos provide a medium of easily digested and shareable content, while adding a certain level of palpability between the donors and the cause. Within our own platform, we’ve seen that the top grossing campaigns have all used video. The one caveat is to use video that shows the impact or potential outcome of the campaign. Even though creating a high quality video can be expensive and time-consuming, the ROI has been proven over and over again. Vipin Shri, Marketing Manager, CauseVox

Access cloud-based donor management software anytime, anywhere

The cloud-computing revolution is just now sweeping through the non-profit sector, as many legacy fundraising CRMs are switching to the cloud while new, next-gen products emerge. This is good news for fundraisers, especially those still struggling with locally installed software that is expensive and cumbersome to upgrade–or no software at all. One major benefit of cloud-based donor management software is that it can be accessed from any computer, anywhere, by multiple fundraisers with an organization. That means teams of two or more can collaborate more efficiently by inputting notes, interactions and pledges into a centrally accessible database, eliminating the risk of missing out on a donation because of incomplete, spotty or misunderstood record keeping. Steve Shattuck, VP of Marketing, Bloomerang

Let mobile apps make giving easier

For non-profits big and small, mobile marketing has leveled the field when it comes to raising awareness, attracting donors and rewarding them for their loyalty. The convenience and ease of use of location based technologies for charity is not only beneficial to you& but to your donors. Gone are the days of multiple, confusing actions to send in a donation. Give supporters an incentive to do good, give businesses an incentive to donate dollars and give your non-profit the sustainability it needs. Lia Reich, Marketing Director, Check-in for Good

Promote your mission with blogging and social media

Non-profit organizations often have incredible missions and a compelling story, but struggle with marketing their brands effectively to build a donor database that is effective and efficient. Moreover, they often have limited budgets, so making the most of every dollar is paramount. To succeed in the marketing world, I think non-profits need to create an inbound experience for donors starting with remarkable content to get people engaged. Blogging and social media should be a huge part of your fundraising plans: remarkable content and a plan to promote that content are the foundational building blocks of any great campaign. Brian Halligan, CEO, Hubspot

Sharpen your focus with feedback from donor management software

Every successful fundraising organization does one thing really well: build relationships. And building relationships means leveraging all the information and interactions that supporters have with a non-profit. Before too long, you run out of scraps of paper or flimsy spreadsheets to keep track of all this information. This is when non-profits begin using tools and systems to manage this key information just like any other professional. Non-profits do not have unlimited resources. They have to focus on where the most value is for their time and fundraising resources. Donor management systems help to tell non-profits where to focus. Over time these systems also help organizations to set better goals and play a vital role in achieving them. Steve MacLaughlin, Director, Blackbaud, Idea Lab

The two keys to increase fundraising through email campaigns are including testimonials that illustrate your impact and actually making it easy to donate. When you see a demonstration of your mission at work, ask for a testimonial. Be sure to take a picture and obtain a signed release allowing you to publish the story and photograph. Having a selection of testimonials on-hand that you can pick and choose from as the occasion arises will prove useful time and time again as you’re creating your donation letters by email. You also want to make the donation link easy to find. Include a link in the first paragraph, a button on the side and another link in the body of the text with the call for action. Don’t make donors hunt for a donation button or link. It can also help to design a specialized donation page that matches the design and theme of your email. Dodd Caldwell, CEO, MoonClerk

Increase giving options with digital wallets

Technologies such as digital wallets are continuing to gain popularity in the non-profit market because they provide a quick and easy way for people to donate. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are integrating digital wallets into their pages and companies like Google, PayPal, Visa and American Express have created their own digital wallet platforms. Because they save and protect donors’ private information all in one place, donors no longer have to take the time to type in their personal contact or credit card information and can donate online in just a few clicks. Non-profits can take advantage of this simpler and faster transaction process by incorporating digital wallet systems into their website, blog and social media pages. Tierney Gallagher, Account Executive, DNA Creative Communications

Understand your contributors with social listening software

Before you even start fundraising use technology to analyze what sparks the interest of your donors. What do they respond to in your email and social media messaging? What falls flat? The value of listening to social media cannot be overstated. Use what you have learned to make intelligent decisions about the messages that will encourage donors to support you and evangelize for your organization and your fundraising efforts. Janet Fouts, Social Business Strategist, JanetFouts.com

Secure your institutional memory with donor management software

Of all the ways non-profits can use technology to improve their fundraising capabilities the most critical is to fully utilize their donor data management system. A good donor database helps create institutional memory about donors, volunteers, event attendees, and others. With fund development staff turnover at an all-time high, it’s crucial to get key information–who gives, when they’ve last given, and why they give–out of the heads of staff and into a central, accessible location. With great data and institutional memory it’s possible for staff, board, and volunteers to build deeper relationships with supporters, which makes segmenting your messaging easier and in turn makes your fundraising more effective! Lori Jacobwith, Fundraising Trainer, Coach, and Author, LoriJacobwith.com

Embrace the brave new world of the crypto-currency movement

The key to improving fundraising within the crypto currency movement, including Bitcoin, is understanding that this isn’t just about a potential new source of revenue. You have to be prepared to ultimately be engaged in helping to expand the merchant transaction relationship to truly be disruptive in this brave new world. Accepting Bitcoin is easy. Finding a way to get it converted to U.S. dollars and into your bank account is easy. Being able to have a seamless transition of accepting Bitcoin and other crypto currencies and then expending it in the same form to pay for your primary mission as a non-profit is the key to the kingdom. Spare Key is committed to the evolution that will get us to be able to come full circle and complete this holistic transactional engagement. Erich Mische, Executive Director, Spare Key

Save costs with cloud-based infrastructure

Practically speaking, the time and money saved by utilizing cloud-based solutions for data storage and the hosting of key applications has an immediate impact on each non-profit we work with. For example, the ability to have a server or website remotely hosted frees up vital resources that can be refocused on strategic fundraising goals rather than the peripheral. Steve Scherer, Director of Sales, CCB Technology

Offer live web chat

Chat benefits non-profit organizations in a similar way to how it helps classic businesses. Firstly, the chat can be used to replace phone or email communication with real-time conversations and instant answers directly on the website. Secondly, live chat provides the ability to target potential donors who are browsing the website and to address them by name with tailored messages. Providing the ability to start a chat with a real person validates the entire experience and improves credibility of the organization. It’s important to utilize all chances for contact as each and every person browsing the website can be a potential donor. Mariusz Cieply, CEO, LiveChat

Optimize the online donation experience

Donation management tools are essential for non-profits, particularly those looking to integrate their offline fundraising efforts into their web strategy. A good system for online fundraising should not only address donor experience by creating an efficient, user-friendly platform for processing donations and other types of fundraising revenue, but should also represent the aesthetic and ethos of the organization as well, with giving pages that are integrated components of the non-profit’s website. A strong donation management platform can incorporate all these essential features and lead to increased contributions, greater constituent engagement, and a much easier time raising money. Angelina Strosahl, Founder, DonationPay

Meet the Experts

  • Dodd Caldwell is an entrepreneur who has founded multiple companies providing technology solutions for non-profits, including MoonClerk. MoonClerk provides non-profits a platform that allows them to easily accept recurring and one time payments.
  • Mariusz Cieply is the CEO at LiveChat. LiveChat offers a web chat software tool that can be integrated with websites to provide site visitors an additional communication channel.
  • Janet Fouts is a Social Media Strategist, author, and Co-Founder of Tatu Digital Media. Tatu Digital Media provides website design and inbound marketing services for businesses and non-profits.
  • Tierney Gallagher is an Account Executive at DNA Creative Communications. DNA Creative Communications is located in Greenville, SC and provides non-profit organizations with PR, grant-writing, event management, and marketing services.
  • Brian Halligan is the CEO and co-founder of HubSpot and a lecturer at MIT. HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform designed to help businesses and non-profits generate more traffic and engagement with their communities.
  • Lori Jacobwith is a fundraising consultant, author, and the founder of the Ignited Online Fundraising Community. Lori specializes in providing fundraising coaching and consulting services to non-profits and is based in Minnesota.
  • Steve MacLaughlin is the Director of the Idea Lab at Blackbaud and serves on the Board of Directors for the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Blackbaud designs software for non-profits, including fund accounting, financial management, and fundraising applications.
  • Erich Mische is the Executive Director at Spare Key. Spare Key is a non-profit organization that helps parents with seriously ill or injured children by providing housing grant assistance.
  • Lia Reich is the Marketing Director at Check-in for Good. Check-in for Good helps non-profit organizations raise money and build awareness via a mobile app that allows people to turn visits to participating businesses into contributions.
  • Steve Scherer is the Director of Sales at CCB Technology. CCB is a leading provider of technology solutions for the non-profit and SMB markets, offering a variety of solutions including hardware, software, and managed services.
  • Steve Shattuck is the VP of Marketing at Bloomerang. Bloomerang provides cloud-based donor management software designed to help non profit organizations “reach, engage, and retain the advocates they depend on to achieve their vision for a better world.”
  • Vipin Shri is the Marketing Manager at CauseVox. CauseVox provides a turnkey website design platform for non-profits looking to easily set up a fundraising website and begin receiving online donations.
  • Angelina Strosahl is the Founder of DonationPay. DonationPay offers integrated payment pages, payment processing, and donor management tools to help non-profits fundraise online more effectively.