Dialog Box


The 7 ‘Must Haves’ for Effective Online Fundraising

March 29, 2013

As published by Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine, 2013 



Most not-for-profit (NFP) organisations invest in web for two reasons:

  1. to communicate with the online segment of their audience;
  2. and to participate in online fundraising.

The latter motivation is driven by a steady stream of statistics and on-the-ground observations supporting the rapid growth of online giving (19% growth in 20121) versus near stagnation from traditional fundraising methods. 


While the importance of engaging a growing online audience is apparent, capturing this audience and converting them to online donors or fundraisers is challenging. Many organisations fail to achieve the right formula for online engagement, as evidenced by the enormous difference in fundraising success between NFPs that execute well versus those that approach the opportunity with more rudimentary offerings.


Approximately 80% of Australian NFPs achieve a maximum of 10% of their annual fundraising through online mechanisms2. This compares to a top echelon of NFPs who raise the bulk of their fundraising online, with leading NFPs such as Movember raising over $100M in 20123 with a digitally-led fundraising strategy.


Traditionally, rich online fundraising capability required heavy IT investment. In the mid-to-late 2000s an ecosystem of third-party website services emerged to help address this issue, however as technology progresses, delivering rich online fundraising within the domain of individual NFPs are more accessible for small-to-mid-tier organisations, enabling them to compete with the larger players.


There are 7 web capabilities that can dramatically improve engagement and fundraising outcomes for NFPs of all sizes, and are now accessible with modest investment.

1.       Basic Online Donation, Done Properly.


Almost all NFP organisations enable online donation. However, executing this capability correctly can yield superior results. Basic online donation must:

  • Be executed within the domain of the organisation. Redirecting potential donors to a third-party payment service can result in uncertainty and dropouts.
  • Providing the option and encourage regular giving.  In 2011, revenue from monthly giving rose 36% versus 23% for one time donations.
  • Don’t just send an automated e-mail receipt, send a receipt but also follow with a ‘thank you’ e-mail providing avenues to stay connected (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) or provide the next level higher support (e.g. events participation, membership)


2.       Online Gifting


Online gifting is relevant to both individuals and corporate audiences, and it doesn’t have to be an ‘eCard’ with a picture of a goat on it! 73% of Australians are happy to receive charitable gifts5, providing NFPs creative options for fundraising focused around key consumer spending events (such as Christmas). Delivering this service via an organisations’ website and promoted through social media can substantially improve giving outcomes during the Festive Season.


3.       Social Fundraising


Social fundraising, sometimes called peer-to-peer fundraising, is profoundly impacting the way NFP organisations recruit donors from the Gen X and Gen Y demographic. Particularly in Australia, where more than half of the population are active social media users6, the ability for a supporter to gain sponsorship from friends, family, and work colleagues for participation in events (e.g. fun run, walk up a mountain, growing facial hair, or indeed shaving) has resulted in the breakaway success of many new and traditional NFP organisations.


Compared to 0.08% response rate for blind e-mail marketing, a social fundraiser who e-mails his or her acquaintances will receive a 20% response rate for the cause supported.7 An individual social fundraiser on average raises $611, and more for endurance-related events.

Social fundraising technology has traditionally been expensive to deliver internally, but new services provided by organisations like Melbourne-based Engonet are bringing this capability to the broader NFP market.


4.       Get Serious on Mobile


By 2014, more than half of all web traffic will be initiated from a mobile device.8 Many organisations assume a ‘mobile’ strategy means having an App. This is a dangerous assumption, and reveals a misunderstanding of how consumers use mobile devices. Getting serious with mobile means enabling the easy consumption of content and the ability to execute actions (e.g. donate, sign up to an event, share content with friends) via a small screen.  Visitors who experience a poor first impression of an organisation because of their mobile implementation are less likely to re-engage at a later point.


5.       Intelligently Social


There is a big difference between having Facebook and Twitter pages, and having an effective social media strategy.  Well executed social media is dependent on three principles: relevance, frequency and integration.  Posting relevant, regular content makes good sense, however many organisations overlook ‘integration’. Social media integration is the  practice of folding social media into the broader web ecosystem communication strategy, and deliberately funnelling the audience from social media through to an organisation’s website where actions can be taken (such as donation, fundraising, and event registration). Effective integration converts ‘Likes’ to revenue generating actions and is essential to engaging Gen X and Gen Y supporters.


6.       Streamlined Events


Not-for-profit organisations typically think of ‘events’ in terms of fundraising. However, a broader view of events covers other scenarios such as training, workshops, volunteering days, movie nights, and of course fundraising events. Delivering the ability for an audience to learn about the various events run by an organisation, and enabling streamlined online registration and payment (if applicable), is an important pillar in generating engagement and revenue for all size not-for-profit organisations.


7.       Data Management


A beautiful web ecosystem may keep an audience engaged and interested, but to sustain this engagement overtime and build valuable relationships an effective web platform must track, manage, and report on user data throughout the ecosystem. Effective web platforms enable this by aggregating data from key interaction points, and provide reports on this to administrators who can take appropriate actions.


In summary, getting it right with web is crucial for organisations to engage meaningfully and successfully with their audience. Technology advances are enabling more advanced capability at reasonable investment levels, and should be actioned by not-for-profits who are serious about fundraising across key demographics in society.



  1. 2012 Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index (Convio)
  2. Nonprofit Use of Digital Channels for Fundraising and Marketing (Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine, 2012)
  3. Mo’ver & Out (Movember Foundation, www.movember.com)
  4. 2012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study (M+R Strategic Services, Nonprofit Technology Network)
  5. Australia Institute, 2005
  6. SocialBakers Social Media Report, 2011 (www.socialbakers.com)
  7. 2012 Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index (Convio)
  8. Morgan Stanley Research, 2010

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