5 Tips for More Effective Member Engagement

For organizations with membership programs, finding a way to consistently engage members on a long-term basis often feels easier said than done.

If you think your member engagement strategy might be lacking, never fear! In this article, we’ll lay out 5 simple tips for increasing member engagement within your organization.

We’ll show you how to:

  1. Offer a variety of involvement opportunities.
  2. Make your interactions personal (and relevant).
  3. Provide educational resources.
  4. Leverage your members’ online presence.
  5. Keep retention in mind.


With our strategies in mind, you’ll be well on your way to an excited, engaged group of members.

If you haven’t started a membership program at your organization yet, why wait? Learn how membership programs can provide your supporters with new benefits and opportunities, and start your own today!

With that in mind, let’s dive in!

Offer a Variety of Involvement Opportunities

1. Offer a variety of involvement opportunities.

Depending on your organization’s membership model, member events and activities might be a staple of your member stewardship strategy. Even if your program is more hands-off by nature, you too could benefit from providing active ways for members to get involved.

When the only interaction your members have with your organization is a monthly newsletter (or even worse, just an annual fees invoice), they’ll be less likely to choose to renew their membership when the time comes.

If you want to keep your members connected to your cause, you’ll need to give them plenty of options for involvement. For example, you might consider:

  • Volunteer opportunities. Chances are, your members joined because they care about the cause your organization supports. There’s no better way to have a hands-on impact than through volunteering, so offer your members opportunities for community service or helping out at your next event.
  • Member appreciation events. Your members do a lot for your organization, so why not host an event dedicated to thanking them? Not only are member appreciation events fun to attend, but they promote community-building among members. (And meeting a group of like-minded, supportive individuals is a huge perk of membership programs!)
  • Committees and task forces. Since your members are the backbone of your organization, let them get involved at an operational level. Hosting a fundraising event? Organize a planning committee! Planning your next advocacy initiative? Put together a dedicated task force to oversee the project.

No matter how you get your members involved, what’s important is that you do. When members have plenty of choices for how they engage, they’re more likely to find a way that works for them and continue supporting your cause on a long-term basis.

Make Your Interactions Personal (and Relevant)

2. Make your interactions personal (and relevant).

It’s tough to engage members who don’t feel welcomed or valued within your organization. In order to keep members connected to your cause, you’ll need to show them you care about them on a personal level.

You may be wondering how it’s possible to interact with all of your many members on a one-on-one basis, but thanks to membership management software, giving your supporters individualized attention is no longer an issue.

Similar to how your nonprofit CRM stores donor data, membership management software tracks all of your members’ information in a centralized database.

Not only will your software give you a clear picture of your members’ interests, histories, and preferences, but it will also equip you with tools to make sure all your member communications are tailored to fit the members who receive them. You’ll be able to:

  • Approach members through their preferred communication channel. Use your membership management software to find the best way to contact your members. That way, you won’t waste time emailing members who never check their inboxes, and you won’t waste money sending direct mail to your most tech savvy supporters.
  • Automate renewal reminders based on custom fee schedules. Who needs a blanket “Renew now!” message when you can easily send reminders to members who are actually near their membership expiration date?
  • Store members’ participation histories, and use those insights to inform your messages. When you know which members engaged most actively with past events or campaigns, you’ll know whom to target first when advertising similar opportunities in the future.

With membership management software on your side, you’ll be able to understand your members in a meaningful way and use that newfound knowledge to craft a communications strategy that’s right for each of your different supporters.

Bonus: If you haven’t found your perfect software fit, we recommend checking out Double the Donation’s list of top member management tools!

Provide Educational Resources

3. Provide educational resources.

In order to help your members grow as advocates of your nonprofit’s mission, you should offer educational resources and exclusive content that your members can’t get anywhere else.

When you help your members develop new skills and grow their knowledge, you’re really investing in the future of your organization’s cause. After all, your members are some of the most dedicated supporters your nonprofit has, and they’ll be the ones who make your goals a reality!

To provide valuable educational content for your members, consider the following strategies:

  • Promote discussion online and in-person. Host a forum (or create one on your members’ web portal) to encourage discussion about relevant issues in your community. By engaging with one another, your members will be able to brainstorm solutions, debate timely issues, and learn from one another.
  • Offer workshops and classes. Bring in thought leaders and specialists from a related field to enlighten your members and teach them valuable skills they can use to better the world around them. Not only will your members have tangible growth to show for their membership fees, but they’ll be excited to give back to your organization using their newfound knowledge.
  • Curate fresh content. Make your website the hub of all things related to your cause by regularly providing relevant news articles and original blog posts.  Designate a member of your staff to tackle these tasks, or set up a member committee. Ask members to contribute their thoughts, too!

By educating your members, you’ll empower them to do even more for your organization. Not only will members thank you for the informative resources, but they’ll feel more prepared to take on advocacy campaigns and engage with your cause in their own communities.

Leverage Your Members' Online Presence

4. Leverage your members’ online presence.

We’ve already touched on a few ways that your organization’s website can play a part in your member engagement strategy, but actually, it’s your members’ online presence that can be the biggest game-changer for your membership program.

By understanding your members’ online activity, you can better meet them where they want to be met. When your membership program has online engagement opportunities set up in the right places, you’ll be amazed at how responsive your members are!

In order to use your members’ online activity to its fullest potential, you should:

  • Determine your members’ preferred social media networks. Consult your membership management software to see which social media sites your members are active on. If you don’t have this information available, take some time to analyze your membership program’s demographic to gain some insight into the channels they’re most likely using. (Or, you could always send out a survey and simply ask!)
  • Create exclusive communities. Some social media sites make it easy to create protected groups or pages where your organization can house discussions and membership-related posts. And don’t forget: your membership software can help you set up a member portal where members can interact with one another and with your organization.
  • Make sure you’re mobile-friendly. More than likely, a large percentage of your members will be accessing your web content from the convenience of their smartphones. Go the extra mile to make sure your member portal, organization website, and all emails are optimized for mobile access.

In the digital age, it’s important to take advantage of the many online engagement opportunities that are now available. Modernize your membership program by taking it online!

5. Keep retention in mind.

Keep Retention in Mind

As you plan your member engagement strategy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the different elements and become distracted from your goals.

No matter what your engagement targets are, your main goal should always be the same: to keep your members coming back year after year! 

When retention is at the front of your mind throughout the engagement process, you’ll be more likely to design initiatives that encourage your members to stay active from one renewal period to the next.

Additionally, you can make retention a more manageable effort when you:

  • Automate renewal-related tasks. Some membership management software allows members to automate recurring membership payments so that they never have to worry about re-subscribing. Or, you can automate personalized renewal reminders to specific members based on a custom schedule.
  • Optimize the renewal experience. Make sure your membership application is easily accessible and hassle-free to complete. Whether your form is online or on paper, it should be well-designed and user-friendly.
  • Add value to your member renewal letter. Unfortunately, member renewal letters are a forgotten art for many organizations with membership programs. Add value to your letter by reminding your members of your program’s benefits in a personalized way.

The renewal process shouldn’t keep your members from staying engaged for another term, so keep retention in mind from the beginning.


Show your members how much you appreciate their involvement by creating a member engagement strategy that caters to their needs and adds unique value to their membership experience.

With these tips in mind, you should have no problem planning engagement opportunities that leave your members more empowered than ever and excited to stay a part of your program for years to come.

For more ways to engage your members, check out these resources:

fundraising-software-ctas-personal-demo
Shopping for Text-to-Give Software: 5 Essential Questions

Shopping for Text-to-Give Software: 5 Essential Questions

Has your organization been thinking about shopping for text-to-give software? If so, you might be at a loss as to where to begin.

Since services can be handled in a multitude of ways and this channel has evolved significantly since it was first introduced, text-to-give is still shrouded in mystery for many nonprofits. It could even be argued that text-to-give is the most misunderstood fundraising software of them all!

To help guide your search, we’ve identified 5 of the most important questions nonprofits should be asking when shopping for text-to-give software, including:

  1. What text-to-give model makes the most sense for us?
  2. How will we be using text-to-give?
  3. What are the costs?
  4. Is the provider part of the Mobile Giving Foundation?
  5. Does the service support integration with our CRM?

The right answers to these questions will be dependent on your nonprofit’s needs, but we’ll walk you through what to consider when contemplating each of them so that you’re sure to end up with the perfect solution.

Let’s get started!

What text-to-give model makes the most sense for us?

1. What text-to-give model makes the most sense for us?

Text giving can be conducted with two different models: a shortcode-based model or a keyword-based model.

To give you a lens into the advantages and disadvantages of each, let’s unpack how they work:

a.) Shortcode-based models.

For those of you unfamiliar with text-to-give, shortcodes refer to the shortened phone numbers (usually 5-6 digits) to which donors send their donations.

With shortcode-based text-to-give models, the vendor will assign a unique shortcode to each nonprofit using their services. That means your nonprofit won’t have to share a phone number with any other organizations, and all donations directed to that phone number will be associated with your nonprofit.

This model is beneficial since it significantly reduces the chances that your donations will be directed to the wrong organization. The major downside, however, is that shortcodes can be expensive to implement.

In fact, it’s estimated that most shortcodes cost somewhere between $3,000-$10,000 dollars. At such an expensive price, the potential benefit that this model provides may not be worth the investment.

b.) Keyword-based models.

The other type of text-to-give model differentiates nonprofits by assigning them keywords.

Keywords are short words or phrases that donors send in the body of the text message to specify which organization they’d like to send their donations to. Depending on how many campaigns you’re using text-to-give for, your nonprofit might have multiple keywords associated with your organization (to give a basic example: “DONATE” may be the keyword for your annual campaign, while “PEER” may be associated with your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.)

Instead of sending their donations to a unique shortcode, donors instead send their donations to a universal shortcode, meaning that all donations for all of the vendors’ clients will be handled through the same phone number.

Since your organization has to share a shortcode, you’re more likely to run into donation processing errors (for example, a donation landing in the wrong nonprofit’s bank account). Not to mention, autocorrect can further reduce the chances that the donation won’t successfully make its way to your nonprofit.

The upside is that this model is usually much more cost-effective than shortcode-based models, since it’s easier for the vendor to set up and host only one phone number.

Now that you understand these two models, you’re probably wondering: how do we decide which one’s right for our organization?

Well, it depends on two major factors:

  1. Your budget. Obviously, if your organization is working with a more limited budget, you’re probably going to want to opt for a keyword-based model.
  2. The volume of text transactions you’ll be processing. If your organization is planning on making text-to-give a permanent donation channel, it likely makes more sense for you to choose a vendor who uses a shortcode-based model. Since you’ll be processing a much higher volume of donations than you would if only using text-to-give for a specific effort, knowing that donations will be processed accurately is well worth the investment! Not to mention, you should be able to set a higher number of keywords so that you can differentiate between multiple campaigns.

In short: Text-to-give vendors have two ways of differentiating transactions between nonprofits: shortcodes and keywords. Consider your budget and usage needs to pinpoint the best solution for your nonprofit.

How will we be using text-to-give?

2. How will we be using text-to-give?

Many text-to-give vendors price their services by splitting them out into packages. These packages are usually tiered based on the number of keywords your nonprofit can set and/or the number of donor text messages you’re able to receive.

That’s another reason why it’s important to consider how frequently your nonprofit will be using text-to-give before you settle on a solution.

If you’ll be implementing text-to-give as a regular donation channel that donors can use to give to any of your campaigns or projects, you’ll want to opt for a vendor who doesn’t place limits on these factors (or one who offers additional messages or keywords at a low cost!).

If, on the other hand, you’ll only be using text-to-give as part of a certain campaign or effort, your nonprofit probably doesn’t have to shell out the money for such an expansive package. Just make sure that your software can accommodate the number of keywords you need and the volume of messages you’re anticipating.

In short: Text-to-give vendors often place caps on the number of keywords your nonprofit can set and/or the number of text messages your donors are able to send. Double-check that you’re purchasing a package that fits the scope of your needs.

What are the costs?

3. What are the costs?

Perhaps the greatest concern that nonprofits have when shopping for new software is how much it’s going to cost.

Unfortunately, as with many types of fundraising software, text-to-give services often include many hidden expenses that your nonprofit might not recognize unless you’ve been alerted to look out for them. Not to mention, the fact that this software can work in different ways further complicates an already complicated pricing model.

Let’s break down text-to-give costs to give your organization a better idea of what you should be looking out for:

  • The list price. Obviously, your organization will have to pay for the actual software package. Packages usually cost somewhere in the hundreds annually.
  • Shortcodes. As we mentioned earlier, if your nonprofit opts for a shortcode-based text-to-give model, expect to pay an extra few thousand dollars.
  • Payment processing fees. Unless you’re working with a Mobile Giving Foundation provider (more on those below), your nonprofit will more than likely incur some payment processing fees. Fees will vary based on the processor and the payment method, but they usually fall somewhere between 4-10% of the total transaction, in addition to a flat rate per donation.
  • Vendor fees. Many vendors also tack on additional convenience fees to cover integrations, shortcode hosting, and the other resources necessary for text-to-give software to function.
  • Vendor services. While many vendors will include setup, training, and maintenance fees in their packages, some will charge them as a separate cost. Make sure you’re clear on whether or not these services are built-in.
  • Additional messages and keywords. Remember: you may have to pay for additional text messages and/or keywords if you exceed those included in your software package.

Of course, your organization may not have to shoulder all of these costs. However, it is important to be aware of them so that you’re never surprised by any budget-breaking expenses after you’ve signed the contract.

In short: Text-to-give pricing can be less than transparent. By understanding the costs of this software, your organization will be better equipped to land at a solution that actually fits into your budget.

Bonus: Learn more about text-to-give pricing! Check out this helpful article from Qgiv.

Is this provider part of the Mobile Giving Foundation?

4. Is the provider part of the Mobile Giving Foundation?

The Mobile Giving Foundation (MGF) has been around since text-to-give’s conception.

For those of you still unfamiliar with them, the MGF is a nonprofit who’s dedicated to increasing the prevalence of mobile fundraising for charitable causes. It does so by acting as the liaison between text-to-give software vendors and cell service providers.

Currently, 6 different text-to-give providers fall under the MGF’s umbrella:

  1. Activistic
  2. SUMOTEXT
  3. Connect 2 Give
  4. Hipcricket
  5. Give by Cell
  6. Mobile Commons

Sounds great, right? In reality, it’s not.

Mobile Giving Foundation providers process their transactions with the help of cell service carriers. Instead of processing donations within the software, these providers tack the donation amount onto the donor’s phone bill to be paid with the rest of their cell service.

This model leaves much to be desired for nonprofits. Take a look at these disadvantages:

  • It can take months for donations to hit your account. Cell phone bills are paid retroactively, meaning that donors won’t actually pay their donations until the billing cycle after they texted their donations. That means it can take weeks or even months for your nonprofit to see your text donations.
  • Service carriers will often take a chunk of your proceeds. Cell service carriers will be handling all of your organization’s donations, so they can take whatever amount they please. With MGF providers, a significant portion of your donations may not actually go toward your cause.
  • Donations are often capped at minuscule amounts. Service providers have placed an arbitrary cap on donation amounts, only allowing donors to make gifts as high as $10. This limit can really hamper your fundraising potential.
  • You’ll have to work with two parties for one effort. If your nonprofit ever runs into issues with text-to-give, you’ll have to go through both the vendor and the service carrier to resolve them, which is a huge hassle.

As you can see, providers who fall under the MGF are less than ideal. It would be wise to opt for another text-to-give vendor!

In short: Mobile Giving Foundation vendors place many disadvantageous limits on text giving. To make the most out of this fundraising channel, your nonprofit should choose a vendor who handles their services independently.

Bonus: To learn more about the Mobile Giving Foundation, check out this resource.

Does this service support integration with our CRM?

5. Does the service support integration with our CRM?

If your organization is rolling out a text-to-give campaign, you’ll hopefully be receiving lots of new donor data!

But in order to leverage that data to further your fundraising, you’ll need a way to efficiently and effectively capture it in your nonprofit CRM so you can view text-to-give transactions in conjunction with the rest of your supporters’ engagement history.

By far the best way to handle data transfer between platforms is by integrating your text-to-give tool with your CRM. That way, all data entered through your text-to-give platform will automatically be filtered into your donor profiles.

However, some text-to-give platforms support easier integrations with your CRM than others. Be sure to ask your vendor of choice about the compatibility of their platform with your existing software.

If the software can’t be integrated, your nonprofit is going to have a much harder time managing data. Not only will it be harder to stay on top of keeping constituent profiles current, but you’ll also be eating up staff time and opening up a larger margin for error.

In short: Using text-to-give software that’s incompatible with your nonprofit CRM can have many negative consequences on your data management. Look for a vendor who supports seamless integration with your existing platform.


We hope that your nonprofit feels more confident about what to look out for when shopping for text-to-give software. If you’re ready to look into providers, check out this list of top text-to-give tools!

In this article, we'll cover 6 ways that charity auction software can support your organization's next auction.

6 Ways Charity Auction Software Can Support Your Next Auction

Charity auctions have been a staple of nonprofit event fundraising for years, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’ve grown stale!

Charity auction software has breathed new life into traditional charity auctions. With technology on hand (and in hand!), planning an auction will be much more manageable for your nonprofit and participating in an auction will be more fun and convenient for your supporters.FIn this article, we’ll cover a few of the many capabilities of auction software and how they can support your event to make it more successful.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Centralized planning
  2. Online auction catalogs
  3. Online ticketing
  4. Online auction venues
  5. Mobile bidding
  6. Reporting and analytics

If you need a little more context on charity auction software before we begin, you can consult this resource.

Auction software enables nonprofit organizations to plan their charity auctions centrally, providing numerous benefits.

1. Centralized planning

What is the feature?

The term “auction software” can refer to multiple pieces of technology. However, it’s most commonly used to refer to the main event planning module, which includes both the general and specialized event planning features nonprofits need to put together successful charity auctions.

This software provides nonprofits with one convenient place to track and store all event-related data, such as:

  • Basic event details (date, location, etc.)
  • Auction item and package information.
  • RSVPs, seating charts, and tables.
  • Basic attendee data.
  • Bids and other auction-related contributions made by supporters.

In other words, with robust auction software, you should be able to take care of all planning logistics without leaving the platform!

If you’re interested in using software to plan your charity auction, then here are two of the top software providers:

  • BidPal – With BidPal’s software, you can track your event’s registration, RSVPs, and catalog your auction items. They offer features that can support any auction (live, silent, or online).
  • Accelevents – This software provider offers event planning tools to help small nonprofits prepare for your auction. Accelevents has a dashboard that lets you set up your silent auction with quick and easy steps.

Looking for more event planning software for your charity auction? Check out this comprehensive list of 14 providers. 

How can it improve your auction?

There are a few significant benefits to using one centralized platform for planning your charity auction:

i. You’ll receive a more comprehensive view of your event.

If you’re planning each aspect of your charity auction in different platforms, your organization won’t be able to see how all of these aspects fit together to make up your event.

When you can’t see the holistic picture, wrangling many moving parts into a cohesive whole becomes much more challenging.

Isolating your data sources will also limit insights into your auction, making it more difficult to pinpoint areas for improvement. While this may not be a huge problem as you’re planning your first auction, it can really hamper your success when you host auctions in the future.

For example, say you’re tracking RSVPs in an online ticketing platform and manually recording bid activity. While you might be able to see who attended your auction and which items received the most bids, you won’t known which supporters bid on which items, who the highest bidders were, and other valuable information that can make your next auction more profitable.

ii. You’ll save time.

When all auction data is housed in one place, your organization won’t have to waste time switching between platforms, comparing different information sources, and importing and exporting data.

Instead, all event information is right there, ready to be accessed quickly and conveniently!

Additionally, auction software automates many of those time-consuming logistics that nonprofits once had to do by hand (like assigning bidder numbers and generating bid sheets) to make the planning process more efficient on the whole.

iii. It will be easier to upload auction data to your CRM.

Auctions can provide your organization with a wealth of valuable donor data on supporters new and old!

But in order to capitalize on this data, you’ll need to import it into your nonprofit CRM after the event so you can view it in conjunction with all of the other donor data you have on file.

When all of your data is housed in one place, transferring it will be much easier.

Not to mention, many charity auction software vendors support integrations with a range of popular nonprofit CRMs, simplifying the process even further.

In summary: Auction software serves as a comprehensive event planning solution that enables organizations to take care of all aspects of planning in one place. Planning centrally gives you a more thorough understanding of your event, makes planning more efficient, and streamlines data management.

Auction software enables nonprofits to put up online auction catalogs, which is more environmentally friendly, efficient, and cost-effective. 

2. Online auction catalogs

What is the feature?

Auction catalogs list out images and descriptions of all auction items for bidders to browse prior to the event.

They’re important for auction advertising, since they can motivate more supporters to attend. After all, wouldn’t you be much more inclined to spend time and money on attending an auction if you knew there was an item you just had to win?

While once these catalogs had to be physically created, printed, and distributed, now organizations can host them online—with the help of auction software, of course!

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Your organization creates item records in the item management module of your software. Along with a vivid description, remember to include all important details, such as the starting bid amount, market value, minimum raise, etc.
  2. Your organization generates an event-branded online auction site that hosts your catalog. The site automatically pulls the data you’ve recorded to create item listings, so setting up your site is a breeze!
  3. Once you’ve customized and branded the site to your liking, all you have to do to share your catalog with supporters is to send them the link!

How can it improve your auction?

Opting for an online auction catalog over a physical one presents many major benefits:

  1. It’s more efficient. Using software to compile a catalog takes easy 3 steps, whereas creating a physical catalog would be a much more involved and time-consuming process.
  2. You’ll expend fewer resources. Printing out a catalog means that your organization has to shell out money on paper, printing services, and mailing costs. With software, you’ll be able to cut down on advertising expenses significantly.
  3. It’s kinder to the environment. Since you’re not printing anything, using an online catalog is much more eco-friendly!
  4. You can host an online auction. Online auction sites are a multipurpose tool. You can support online bidding right from your site to host an online auction and increase event profits (but more on that later!).

What are some recommend auction items?

When you’re looking for auction items or experiences to showcase in your catalog, it’s important to find items that:

  • Play into your donor’s interests. If you want your donors to bid, you need to have items that they want. Think about guests that you’ve invited and request items that they’d be interested in owning.
  • Are rare and unique. When an item or experience is both unique and desirable, it’s possible that you could have multiple supporters driving up the price, thus helping your raise more funds.
  • Offer some variety. While it’s important to cater your items to your donors, don’t let that stop you from providing a variety of different options

In summary: Using auction software enables your organization to generate an online auction catalog, making event advertising more efficient, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

With auction software, your organization can sell tickets online to provide donors with a more flexible event experience. 

3. Online ticketing

What is the feature?

The auction sites generated by auction software have yet another useful capability: online ticketing.

Your nonprofit can host an event registration form on your online auction site where your supporters can go to purchase tickets whenever they’re ready to RSVP “yes!”

Most robust charity auction software should even allow your nonprofit to set multiple ticketing and sponsorship packages (e.g. individual tickets, couple tickets, tables, etc.) so that your supporters can choose the option that works best for them.

How can it improve your auction?

The ability to purchase tickets online will make RSVPing much more convenient for your supporters.

Instead of having to wait in line at the box office, donors can simply turn on their laptops or take out their smartphones to make the purchase. Such convenience should result in a bigger turnout at your event!

Of course, you could always sell tickets online through a third-party platform, but then your ticket data will be stored separately from the rest of your event data (and we already discussed how problematic that can be!).

In summary: Auction software enables organizations to sell tickets to their auctions online, providing their donors with more convenience. Furthermore, all ticket data will be recorded centrally so it can be understood in conjunction with other event information.

Using auction software, your organization will be able to run an online auction, opening up your event to more supporters. 

4. Online auction venues

What is the feature?

The benefits of online auction sites don’t stop there! As we mentioned earlier, these sites can be used to support an online auction.

All your organization has to do is select the option to open up online bidding.

To get bidding, supporters will have to register by inputting their basic information and payment methods. They can then place bids right from the item listings on your site!

How can it improve your auction?

If your organization is only running an online auction, then auction software isn’t merely beneficial; it’s necessary.

Using charity auction software is the only way your organization will be equipped with the tools you need to facilitate online bidding.

If you’re hosting an in-person event (a live or silent auction), on the other hand, you can also open online bidding to provide more supporters with access to your auction. With all of the bidding taking place online, even donors across the world could feasibly participate!

Of course, having more participants fighting to win auction items should drive up event profits. More people bidding means there’s more money to go around!

You can either open up your online auction in advance of the event (and have it close at the same time your event ends), or consequently, you could host an online auction after your live event to sell off any items that didn’t receive bids.

In summary: Auction software is a necessary tool for organizations looking to host online auctions. The ability to run an online auction can also benefit organizations hosting live events (live and silent auctions), as they can open up the opportunity to participate in the bidding to more donors.

One type of auction software is mobile bidding, which supporters can conveniently use to bid during a silent auction. 

5. Mobile bidding

What is the feature?

Mobile bidding is another type of auction software.

Separate from (but integrated with) the main event planning module, this type of software enables donors to consult your auction catalog and place bids from their mobile devices during a silent auction. It’s a convenient alternative to bid sheets, which require that donors handwrite their bids and bidder information every time they want to bid on an item.

Mobile bidding also includes a number of other useful, secondary features, such as:

  • Text notifications for communicating with bidders during the auction.
  • By proxy bidding (guests can set the software to bid for them on certain items up to a preset amount).
  • Donation portals where guests can submit gifts outside of the bidding.
  • Scoreboards that display item information in real-time so that supporters can stay plugged into the event.

It’s a powerful tool that your organization should consider implementing during your next silent auction!

How can it improve your auction?

The convenience that mobile bidding provides can help your auction in a number of ways:

  1. It increases profits. Donors will be more inclined to bid when doing so is as easy as taking out a phone (which they’re probably already using during the event, anyway!). Having a convenient bidding option results in silent auctions that are about 3x more profitable than those that use bid sheets.
  2. It makes item checkout more manageable for your organization. Trying to close bidding on items, collect bid sheets, determine winning bids, notify winners, and herd everyone to checkout to process payments is a huge hassle. With mobile bidding, however, winners are automatically determined and their payments are automatically processed, making the checkout process much easier on your organization.
  3. You can reach more participants. Mobile bidding adds a digital component to your silent auction. Since supporters can access item listings and bidding online, even bidders who aren’t at the venue can participate!

In summary: Mobile bidding can give your silent auction a modern edge, all while helping you increase bid activity and simplify auction-day logistics.

Using auction software, nonprofits can run numerous reports that will help them gain the insights they need to plan more successful events. 

6. Reporting and analytics

What’s the feature?

Charity auction software enables nonprofits to run reports on nearly any facet of their auctions, from item performance to guest habits to overall event health and more.

The robustness of the reports you’re able to run will vary from vendor to vendor, but either way, software should give you the tools you need to evaluate your performance.

How can it improve your auction?

Using auction software is the only way to gain deep, quantitative insights into your event.

Without software, your organization might still receive some observational insight into your performance (for example, you might hear feedback from guests and volunteers, and you’ll be able to get a good idea of which items performed well just by keeping an eye on the bid activity during the event). However, the problem with observational insights is that they’re also subjective.

The reports you can generate through auction software will enable your organization to more effectively pinpoint areas for improvement, backed by cold hard data. You’ll be better able to keep honing your events so that next year’s auction will be as successful as possible!

In summaryWith auction software, your organization will be able to run powerful reports to receive the objective insights you need to improve your event performance down the line.


Charity auction software can help position your event for success in numerous ways, both fiscally and when it comes to engaging your donors. We hope that our article has illuminated just what a powerful tool it can be!

To learn more about fundraising software and all of the ways it can improve your efforts, check out this guide.

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7 Ways a Consultant Can Help Organizations with Fundraising Software

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Every nonprofit understands the importance of fundraising. You’ve probably used fundraising software to help you through the process. Finding the right software and learning how to use it can take time. And your time is valuable!

Have you ever thought about hiring a fundraising consultant? Consultants help you with your fundraising software. Not only can they suggest different software options, but they can also assess your needs and figure out what types of software would best benefit your fundraising strategy.

Let’s look at seven different ways that a consultant can provide help to your organization when it comes to fundraising software. 

  1. Software setup and migration
  2. Software training
  3. Major gift fundraising
  4. Web design
  5. Annual fundraising
  6. Peer-to-peer fundraising
  7. Payment processing

Click on the category you’re most interested in or read through the entire article.

Fundraising consultants can help nonprofit organizations with software setup and migration.

1. Software setup and migration

Setting up new software and transferring your existing data, also known as data migration, can be a difficult process.

It takes more than just moving the data to a new software. Let’s look at what a transfer entails: 

  1. Making sure that your existing information is compatible with the new software.
  2. Exporting and importing the information.
  3. Testing everything to make sure it’s operating correctly.

However, you don’t have to complete the process on your own. In fact, some software vendors make data transfer a whole lot easier by evaluating your data beforehand. That way, they can determine if the transfer is easy enough to do on your own.

And if finding a software vendor that offers these skills seems like a difficult task, a fundraising consultant can help. They can narrow down your software choices to only include vendors that offer full or partial help with data migration.

If you anticipate that you’ll need assistance with data migration, let your fundraising consultant know early on so that they only search for software vendors that offer some aid.

The bottom line: Software setup and data migration can be a frustrating process if you don’t have the right assistance. Make sure you ask your fundraising consultant to look for software that offers set up and/or data migration services.

Consultants can train nonprofit staffs on various fundraising software platforms so they can utilize the software to its full capacity.

2. Software training

Let’s face it; understanding fundraising software isn’t a walk in the park. Learning how software functions can be difficult, especially if you don’t have any prior experience handling that type of software.

That’s why you should consider choosing a software vendor that offers training on how to use their tools. Software training is about more than just mere “button pushing.” It’s about truly understanding the software and learning the tools to make your day-to-day tasks easier. 

If having a crash course on how to use your new software is something that’s important to you, let your fundraising consultant know. They can help you find vendors that offer training courses.

In addition to helping you look for software vendors, a consultant can help train you and your staff on how to use the new system.

That’s why it’s so important to find a firm that’s experienced with fundraising software. Having the support of a consulting firm is beneficial because:

  • A consulting firm understands what your nonprofit needs. Therefore, the consultants can teach you how to use the tools that will be most helpful.
  • They can spot challenges in the way you’re currently managing your fundraising and offer solutions on how to resolve those issues using your new software.
  • You can use the firm for strategical support and other fundraising services later (if you’re happy with their training).

Working with a consulting firm can be a great asset when you’re learning a new system. Unlike working with the software vendor, a firm understands what your nonprofit needs and can tailor the training to match your preferences.

The bottom line: Training can help you navigate your new fundraising software so that you have all the knowledge you need to get started. If training is important to you, let your fundraising consultant know early on in your search.

Bonus: Salsa offers different software training courses. Check them out here if you want more assistance.

Consultants can help nonprofits be more successful in their major gift fundraising by helping nonprofits pinpoint and cultivate major gift prospects.

3. Major gift fundraising

Major gift fundraising can be greatly beneficial to your nonprofit. Though major gifts are relatively scarce, they have great fundraising potential because you receive a substantial amount from just one contribution.

Major gift success relies on four key factors:

  1. Prospect identification helps you discover what supporters have the possibility of becoming major gift donors. That way, you can reach out to those supporters first.
  2. Solicitation is the art of asking for donations. It’s about learning the best approaches and when to ask for donations.
  3. Stewardship happens after donors give. You need to be able to interact with them in a way that encourages donors to give again and support your cause in other ways.
  4. Cultivation is the next step in the stewardship process that helps further develop your relationships.

Luckily, you don’t have to do all the hard work yourself! With the help of your fundraising consultant and software, you can create a plan that incorporates all four of these skills into your major gift fundraising.

Prospect research software can help identify possible major gift prospects based on their giving history, organization involvement, and RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary value) score.

A consultant can not only help you find the right software, but they can also help you develop strategies that will help you cultivate better relationships with your donors. 

The bottom line: With the right strategy and fundraising software to back you up, you can make major gifts a successful way to raise funds.

Nonprofit software consultants can help organizations with web design, enabling them to create more attractive and effective websites.

4. Web design

Your website is the online headquarters for all things related to your organization. It’s the place supporters and potential donors alike will come to learn about ways to engage with your nonprofit and even make a donation.

That’s why it’s so important that your website represents your organization in a good light. For instance, a good website should have:

  • Easy to navigate pages.
  • A donate button on the homepage and other pages.
  • Consistent branding throughout the website.
  • A mobile-responsive design so that every viewer has a similar experience.

Of course, these are just some of the things that you should include in a well-designed website. Your fundraising consultant can also evaluate your site and offer you more suggested improvements based on current trends

If you have limited resources or don’t have someone on your staff with web design experience, that’s okay! Fundraising software can help you design a website without knowing HTML or CSS code.

Your consultant can help you find and pick a fundraising software that includes website design.

The bottom line: As the saying goes, “a first impression lasts a lifetime.” Your nonprofit’s website is like your online first impression. Give donors a good feeling when they encounter your website, whether it’s just to learn more information about your cause or make a donation.

Nonprofit consultants can help organizations with annual fundraising by developing strategies for increasing the annual fund.

5. Annual fundraising

Software can play a huge part in making you successful with your annual fundraising efforts. Since annual fundraising encompasses a lot of different things, like matching gifts, major donations, fundraising events, and so much more, software can help you navigate these different areas.

Talk with your fundraising consultant and see what types of software he or she would suggest you get.

For instance, your consultant might suggest matching gift services to help promote matched giving. With matching gifts, your nonprofit can potentially double the donations you receive. But that’s only possible if donors submit a request to their employer.

However, most donors don’t make a request because they don’t know if their company has a matching gift program, and if they do, donors don’t know how to submit a request.

Your consultant can suggest different matching gift software services that make it easy for your nonprofit to promote matching gifts throughout the donation process.

Some matching gift services offer a search tool that can be embedded on your donation page (or any page you want!).

Let’s look at an example:

matching-gift-page-aspca

On the ASPCA donation page, there is a tool that allows supporters to search for their company and learn about their matching gift program. That way, donors are more knowledgeable about the process before and after they give.

Of course, this is only one way you can improve your annual fundraising. Your consultant can suggest other options along with fundraising software to help you.

The bottom line: Your annual fundraising is a combination of many different types of fundraising strategies. With the help of your consultant, you can find technology, specifically fundraising software, that can make things a little easier.

Bonus: Learn more strategies to improve your annual fund.

Nonprofit consultants can help organizations expand their reach and receive more donations when running peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

6. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fun and creative way to raise funds for your nonprofit, but to host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, you’ll need to use a good platform.

Just so we’re on the same page, peer-to-peer fundraising is when your nonprofit sets up a campaign where donors raise funds on your behalf. Supporters can create a fundraising page and then solicit donations from their friends, family, and acquaintances.

Finding the right platform is important for both you and your supporters. A good platform will make it easy for anyone to create and promote fundraising pages. Ask your consultant to help you find a platform that has everything you need.

If you’re unsure about what you need, here are a few features that make up a successful fundraising campaign:

  • Social sharing buttons
  • Fundraising thermometers
  • CRM integration
  • Individual and customizable pages

While a consultant can help you find a platform, they can also help you craft a strategy to market your campaign and interact with supporters. That way, you can increase the chances that your fundraising is successful.

The bottom line: In order to have a successful peer-to-peer campaign you need to find a good platform and have a solid strategy to guide you. A fundraising consultant can help you with both!

Bonus: You can learn more strategies for peer-to-peer fundraising with this useful guide.

Nonprofit software consultants assist nonprofits with finding suitable payment processing services.

7. Payment processing

Payment processing is what happens behind the scenes when a supporter makes a donation. It’s the process that makes sure that your donors’ payment information is verified. Additionally, payment processing can help you avoid fraud and other online scams.

While the process isn’t something that’s often discussed, it’s important to fundraising and online donations because it makes your donors fee safe and protected when they give. Payment processing is essential if you accept online donations.

Work with your consultant to better understand what payment processing is and how it affects your organization.

Your consultant can also find a payment processor that offers your nonprofit security and is PCI-compliant. PCI compliance means the processor follows a strict set of rules created and enforced by the Payment Card Industry.

Additionally, your consultant can help you figure out how to let donors know that you’re keeping them protected every time they give. The different possibilities include:

  • Adding the payment processor’s name and logo on the donation form to let donors know it’s protected.
  • Educating donors on payment processing and fraud.

The bottom line: Having payment processing software is crucial if you want to accept donations online. Your consultant can help guide you through the procedure of picking a processor and educating your staff on payment processing.

Bonus: Click here to learn more about the payment process with this helpful guide from iATS.


Hopefully, you’ve learned how a consultant can help you with finding and operating fundraising software.

If you’re considering hiring a fundraising consultant, think about the ways that they can help improve your fundraising—whether it be through software training or by finding you the platform that matches your needs.

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This article will take beginners through a crash course in nonprofit payment processing, giving them everything they need to know to optimize the virtual transaction experience.

Nonprofit Payment Processing for Newbies: The Crash Course

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Given that it’s so technical, payment processing for nonprofits can seem like a daunting subject.

However, considering that all online fundraising relies on payment processing, it’s important for organizations to have a basic understanding of this process and the tools they need to carry it out effectively.

In this article, we’ll give you a crash course in nonprofit payment processing, answering questions such as:

  1. What is payment processing?
  2. Why is payment processing essential for nonprofits?
  3. What types of payment processors do nonprofits work with?
  4. How do organizations conduct payment processing?
  5. What kinds of payments can nonprofits accept?
  6. What payment processing security measures should nonprofits have in place?

Don’t worry if you’re less than tech-savvy or if you know nothing about payment processing; this guide is designed for complete newbies and will outline the basics of payment processing in layman’s terms. Now, let’s get started!

 

In this section, we'll discuss what the concept of payment processing encompasses.

1. What is payment processing?

Payment processing refers to all of the backend steps that occur once a donor initiates a virtual transaction with a nonprofit organization. It encompasses the whole transaction process, from the minute a donor submits their payment information until the donation has hit your nonprofit’s bank account.

There are a couple of tools that nonprofits must have available to successfully complete this process:

  • The payment gateway. The payment gateway completes the first step of the transaction by verifying the donors’ payment information. It ensures that the payment method is valid and runs checks to spot potentially fraudulent transactions.
  • The merchant account. The merchant account is a bank account that’s used to hold funds as the donation is being verified. It’s where the money is housed as it’s being transferred from the donor’s bank account to your nonprofit’s bank account.

In order to receive funds, your organization must have both a payment gateway and a merchant account set up, no matter which payment method the donor is using.

To sum up: Payment processing refers to all of the behind-the-scenes steps that must occur to transfer a donation from the donor to your nonprofit. Organizations must have a payment gateway and a merchant account in order to complete the process.

 

In this section, we'll discuss why payment processing is crucial for nonprofits.

2. Why is payment processing essential for nonprofits?

Without payment processing, your organization wouldn’t be able to accept any type of online or mobile donation.

In order to receive contributions from digital channels, whether you’re accepting standard donations through your online donation form, taking event registrations, selling merchandise, or conducting another type of transaction, your organization must have a payment processor working behind the scenes.

Nowadays, considering that online giving is only becoming more prevalent and donors are only becoming more and more driven by convenience, organizations must be able to accept online donations to remain competitive in the nonprofit space.

Using a payment processor ensures that your nonprofit can stay up with the times and provide your donors with a convenient and diversified giving experience.

To sum up: Payment processing is necessary for accepting donations and other types of contributions through online and mobile channels, making it an essential tool for nonprofits looking to engage modern donors.

 

In this section, we'll discuss the different types of payment processors that nonprofits work with.

3. What types of payment processors do nonprofits work with?

In order to conduct payment processing, nonprofits need to work with a payment processor. Payment processors provide both the payment gateway and the merchant account that nonprofits need to be able to accept online contributions.

There are two main types of payment processors:

i. Aggregators

ii. Dedicated payment processors

The services of aggregators may be suitable for some nonprofits, but most organizations who need payment processing capabilities should opt to work with a dedicated payment processor. To explain why, let’s examine each of these types of processors in more detail.

i. Aggregators

If you’ve ever used PayPal, Stripe, or a similar service, your organization is already very familiar with aggregators.

Aggregators are a type of payment processing service that allow nonprofits to conduct virtual transactions without setting up their own merchant accounts. The upsides of working with an aggregator are that it’s quick to get set up with their services, and they’re usually free to use.

While this might sound great in theory, not having your own merchant account can actually be problematic.

With an aggregator, your nonprofit will have to share a merchant account that the aggregator has already set up with all of the aggregator’s other clients. Seeing as these merchant accounts process a much higher volume of money each day, they’re much more susceptible to fraud than a unique merchant account would be.

In other words, if one of the aggregator’s clients ever became a victim of fraud, it would compromise the security of the whole merchant account. And, since the aggregator would have to address the problems that arise as a result of fraud for hundreds or thousands of clients, your organization likely wouldn’t receive very much support in the aftermath.

Not to mention, aggregators often place caps on the amount of money that nonprofits can receive. For example, popular aggregator PayPal only allows nonprofits to transfer $500 a month to their bank accounts. Since all other profits are tied up in the merchant account, those donations are virtually useless until they can be retrieved.

ii. Dedicated payment processors

Like aggregators, dedicated payment processors also enable nonprofits to run virtual transactions.

However, the main difference lies in the fact that with dedicated payment processors, nonprofits must set up their own merchant accounts.

Since these merchant accounts will only be holding your organization’s money, they’re much less vulnerable to fraud. And, if your merchant account ever did fall victim to fraudulent activity, your organization would receive more attentive support, since the processor would only have to resolve a much smaller-scale issue.

Not to mention, some dedicated payment processors only offer their services to nonprofits. Since they’re specialized, these processors can better address the unique needs and concerns that nonprofits face, making the whole payment processing experience more seamless for both the organization and their donors.

Plus, a dedicated payment processor is more likely to support integrations with your online donation software, nonprofit CRM, and other fundraising platforms, so it’s easier to collect donor data and create branded donation forms.

To sum up: Nonprofits can work with two types of payment processors: aggregators and dedicated payment processors. While the services of aggregators are more expedient to set up and cheaper to use, working with an aggregator can mean opening yourself up to a higher chance of fraud and receiving less support throughout the virtual transaction process.

 

In this section, we'll discuss the different ways that nonprofits can implement payment processing into their fundraising strategies.

4. How do organizations conduct payment processing?

Choosing the right type of payment processor is only the first step to deciding how your organization will implement payment processing. In order to put payment processing into practice, you must decide how your organization is going to conduct online transactions in the first place.

The right payment processing solution for your organization will depend on whether you’re completely new to online giving or have already established tools and strategies for receiving online donations.

If you’re…

  • New to online giving and you don’t yet have software for processing online donations, your organization will need to work with a payment processor who enables you to build custom online donation forms and integrate them into your website.
  • Experienced in online giving and your organization has already purchased online donation software or other types of fundraising software to facilitate virtual transactions, you’ll want to find a payment processor whose services can be integrated with your existing platforms. Many software vendors have partnerships with payment processors, so they’ll likely be able to help you select one that supports integrations during the buying process.

If you’re already using an established suite of fundraising software, the importance of integration can’t be emphasized enough. Integrating your payment processor and fundraising software allows the two platforms to communicate, automating data collection and providing your organization with the most accurate and up-to-date financial reports.

In simpler terms, by integrating, you can save staff time, minimize your room for error, and provide your organization with a more comprehensive set of constituent and fiscal data.

To sum up: Nonprofits can conduct payment processing in one of two ways: either by using a processor to build an online donation form or by integrating a processor with their existing fundraising software.

 

In this section, we'll discuss the various types of payment methods that nonprofits can accept with a payment processor.

5. What kinds of payments can nonprofits accept?

The type of payments your organization is able to accept depends on what your payment processor can accommodate. However, you should aim to work with a processor who offers plenty of payment options to provide your donors with the most flexible online giving experience.

There are two main types of payment methods you should be able to accept:

  1. Credit and debit cardsConsidering the sheer prevalence of credit and debit cards, your payment processor should definitely be able to accept all major cards, including Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.
  2. ACH paymentsCommonly known as eChecks, ACH payments allow the donor to initiate a direct debit transaction from their checking account. While less commonplace than debit or credit card transactions, ACH payments generally have lower transaction fees and a higher rate of success (bank accounts, unlike credit cards, never expire!), making them an ideal option for nonprofits.

By being able to process multiple payment methods, your organization can make donating a viable option for more supporters, because you’re more likely to accept the methods that your supporters carry.

Just keep in mind that all payment methods (including different types of credit cards) usually have various fees associated with them. Make sure to ask your processor to walk you through all of the costs so that you can be sure you’re working with a processor whose services actually fit into your budget.

To sum up: The payment processor you work with should enable your nonprofit to accept all major debit and credit cards, as well as ACH payments. Providing multiple payment options makes the online giving process accessible to more donors.

 

In this section, we'll discuss the types of security measures that nonprofits should have in place regarding payment processing.

6. What payment processing security measures should nonprofits have in place?

As smart fundraisers know, one of the keys to building loyal donor relationships and maximizing the money you’re able to raise is establishing a culture of trust. This is especially true when something as sensitive as payment processing is involved.

Any time a donor makes an online contribution, they’re inputting their confidential information. In order to make donors feel comfortable giving in the first place, your organization has to assure them that you take their security seriously.

The only way to do that is by working with a payment processor who upholds strict security standards. Your payment processor should be PCI-compliant, meaning that they adhere to a set of data security standards set forth by the Payment Card Industry.

Not only is upholding PCI-compliance essential for establishing trust among your donors, but also failure to be compliant could mean that your organization is hit with fees or penalties. In the worst cases, you could even be banned from accepting online donations altogether.

PCI-compliance is a crucial first step; however, when it comes to data security, it’s much better to be safe than sorry. If your organization would like a little extra peace of mind, you can look for a processor who offers additional security features, such as:

  • Card Verification Value (CVV). Requiring that donors enter the CVV number (the three-digit number on the back of all credit and debit cards) can reduce your risks of becoming subject to fraudulent activity, since donors will have to identify their payment methods in more than one way.
  • Address Verification System (AVS). Using a processor with AVS can also lessen the chance of fraud. This feature compares the billing address that the donor has submitted on your donation form with the one they have on file at their bank and alerts you if the two don’t match or appear suspicious in any way.
  • Minimum donation amount. Some processors require organizations to set a minimum donation amount. Doing so prevents your donation form from becoming a testing ground for fraudulent activity, since many fraudsters will test out stolen credit cards by giving small, random amounts (e.g. $1.34, $2.04).

Your organization should strive to make payment processing as secure as possible, but remember to keep it simple as well. Putting up too many barriers can cause donors to abandon the giving process before they click the submit button.

To sum up: Protecting your donors’ sensitive information leads to more successful fundraising, because it both establishes trust and ensures that your organization will avoid being hit with crippling penalties for violating security laws.


We hope our crash course has helped you realize that payment processing is nothing to fear! Even by knowing some of the basics, your organization can provide your donors with an improved online giving experience that’s sure to result in more donations.

For more about online giving, check out our guide on online donation software.

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In this article, we'll cover how different aspects of a well-designed nonprofit website can give your organization's online fundraising a boost.

Why a Well-Designed Nonprofit Website Is Crucial to Your Fundraising

We’ll let you in on a little secret: if your nonprofit’s website is poorly designed or out-of-date, it could be killing your fundraising.

Now that digital channels are so prevalent, visitors are more and more coming to expect positive, user-friendly online experiences from the nonprofits they support. Don’t provide one, and they won’t stick around long enough to make a donation.

In this article, we’ll discuss just why exactly a well-designed website is crucial to your fundraising, covering topics including:

  1. It establishes trust and credibility.
  2. It initially attracts donors to your cause.
  3. It optimizes the donation process.
  4. It leads supporters to other relationship-building opportunities.
  5. It makes data management more effective.

We’ll also delve into specific design elements to illustrate these points and to give you actionable advice as to how your organization can optimize its website to achieve better fundraising.

A well-designed nonprofit website establishes trust and credibility with your donors, leading to longer-lasting and more valuable relationships for your nonprofit.

1. It establishes trust and credibility.

Given how central your organization’s website is to establishing your online presence, chances are that it will be the first impression many potential donors have of your organization.

Of course your organization will want to create the best first impression possible. Impressing visitors from the beginning establishes your credibility, builds trust, and significantly increases the chances that visitors will become donors.

Cementing that excellent first impression starts with your web design. People are visual creatures, so their initial gut reaction will be in response to the look and feel of your site. If your site looks outdated or inconsistent, it can hurt your fundraising.

Here’s how your organization can make a great first impression.

i. Minimalism.

The first part of creating a credible website is to ensure your site looks modern.

Donors want to support nonprofits who are enacting relevant change now. If it looks like your website hasn’t been updated in years, they might mistake it to mean that your nonprofit is, at best, out of touch with current trends and, at worst, entirely inactive, neither of which will make them feel confident about giving.

Minimalism is key to keeping your website looking modern. Simplicity is always classic, whereas a complicated design means there are only more elements that could go out of style sooner.

To ensure your website stays simple:

  • Only include the content and elements that are absolutely necessary. Avoid packing your page with colors, photos, features, and large blocks of text.
  • Keep plenty of white space around your content.
  • Use graphic, streamlined fonts and icons.
  • Avoid stock photos that look “staged.” If you do have to use stock photos, they should be natural and candid.

Here’s an example of an attractive, minimalist website from Our House:

Since they opted for a simple design, Our House's website will look modern for years to come.

ii. Consistent branding.

Branding is what indicates that visitors are interacting with your nonprofit. It’s how you give your website an identity that reflects your own.

If some of your pages aren’t consistent with your logo, look, and feel, chances are your visitors will be wary of your website. They might mistake it to mean that they landed on another organization’s website altogether and question where their donations (and sensitive information) are going.

In other words, if donors are dubious about the trustworthiness of your website in any way, they’ll be far less likely to submit gifts or otherwise engage with your organization.

To institute standardized branding, you should:

  • Place your logo in the top, left corner of every page (pro tip: include it in your top navigation bar so you don’t have to worry about placing it manually!).
  • Establish a color scheme that’s in keeping with your logo.
  • Choose and use only one font.
  • Devise standards around how different elements will be formatted. For example, what shape and color will donation buttons be? What color will hyperlinks be? What types of images will you use, and how will they be sourced and stylized?
  • Remember to brand your online donation page and other webforms.

If your organization is designing your website yourself using a content management system, make sure to set all design standards as the default in your theme. That way, any page you create will automatically adhere to your brand.

A well-designed nonprofit can have an emotional appeal that initially attracts donors to your cause and convinces them to start supporting you.

2. It initially attracts donors to your cause.

Creating an attractive website that reflects your nonprofit not only helps your organization establish trust; it also helps you convey what you’re most passionate about in a way that’s impactful to potential supporters.

Let’s examine two important aspects of a well-designed nonprofit website—compelling images and heartfelt storytelling—to illustrate why this is the case.

i. Compelling images.

Pictures can convey complex messages instantly. Not to mention, pictures often evoke more impassioned and emotional reactions than text, since they’re more immediate and people are largely driven by visual cues.

These deeply personal reactions are exactly what drive people to start supporting nonprofits. By including the right photos on your website, your organization can foster deeper engagement and score more donations.

Include a prominent photo on your homepage (called a hero image) that embodies your nonprofit. The most compelling photos will be those of the real-life people you serve or the actual projects you’ve enacted.

Here’s an excellent example from the Rhode Island School of Design, who featured a photo of one of their current students:

The Rhode Island School of design has included a picture of one of their current students, adding a personal touch to their website and instantaneously conveying their mission.

You should also include other (ideally original) photos throughout your website. Just remember: don’t overload your pages with pictures. Too many photos will compete for visitors’ attentions and reduce visual impact.

ii. Heartfelt storytelling.

Storytelling is another way to create more impact through your website.

Your story personalizes your organization and emphasizes what makes you unique, helping donors put a face to your organization and connect more closely to you. This type of personal investment is what leads to lucrative, long-term relationships for your nonprofit.

Your story starts with your history, and continues into your future. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • How did your nonprofit begin? What figures were key to your conception?
  • What important accomplishments, moments, and failures have most shaped you?
  • What role(s) have your donors and other constituents played in getting you to where you are?
  • Where do you see yourself going in the future? Where do you want to be?

You can convey your story traditionally, or take a more creative approach. For example, check out how To Write Love On Her Arms portrays their story in a timeline format:

To Write Love On Her Arms has shared their story but putting it into a chronological, timeline format.

Bonus: Check out more amazing nonprofit website examples.


A well-designed nonprofit website makes the donation process easy and intuitive, leading to more online donations.

3. It optimizes the donation process.

We’ve talked about website aesthetics, but we have yet to cover another critical aspect of nonprofit web design: usability.

In order to keep donors on your website for as long as possible and maximize donation conversions, your nonprofit must create an intuitive experience that donors can navigate with ease.

Let’s see how it’s done.

i. Prominent donation buttons.

The online donation process starts with your donation button, which guides visitors to where they can embark on the journey to making a gift.

Don’t bury your donation button! Having to search around fruitlessly to access your donation page will discourage donors from even starting the process, nevertheless completing it.

Instead, make sure that your donation button is easy to spot from every location on your site. Include your button in your main navigation bar so that you’ll never forget to add it to a page.

You should also, of course, add your button to other relevant pages where visitors would likely want to access it. For example, homepages and “Ways to Give” pages would be logical spots to include your button.

ii. Mobile-responsiveness.

Now that a vast majority of American adults own smartphones (it’s estimated upwards of 90%), a significant portion of donors are approaching the online donation process from mobile devices.

However, many nonprofits haven’t quite caught up and optimized their websites for mobile, which can be a huge deterrent for donors trying to complete donations from a mobile device.

Think about it: if you had to adjust your screen, squint at small text, and fill in a bunch of tiny boxes to make a donation, would you be inclined to complete one? Probably not.

Ensuring that your website is mobile-responsive will maximize the number of donations that your nonprofit receives through these channels.

Many website builders utilize a responsive design framework, which auto-adjusts your website based on screen size. However, there are still a few things your nonprofit can do to make absolutely sure that your site is attractive and intuitive on mobile:

  • Use a vertical, one-column layout where possible.
  • Enlarge font and button sizes.
  • Leave plenty of white space around your content.
  • Don’t use Java or FlashPlayer.

Keep in mind that you might have to build a slightly different version of your website for each device. Consequently, you could always work with a web design firm who offers responsive design.


A well-designed nonprofit website gives donors a wealth of other opportunities for interacting with your nonprofit, helping you build long-term, lucrative relationships.

4. It leads supporters to other relationship-building opportunities.

Your website can not only help you secure that initial donation; it can also pave the way for your stewardship.

Let’s see how your website can help you transform those one-time donors into donors who give for life!

i. CTA buttons.

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are an essential part of any conversion strategy. They point users to the actions that would be most valuable to your nonprofit and provide them with other available opportunities to engage with you.

Your donation button is just one example of a call-to-action. However, considering that your supporters hold a variety of engagement preferences, your nonprofit shouldn’t fail to include other types of opportunities as well.

By doing so, you’ll be able to…

  1. Continue the conversation with supporters who are interested in learning more and potentially supporting your nonprofit fiscally, but who want to get to know you a little better before taking the leap.
  2. Keep building on relationships with donors who have already given by providing them with other ways to involve themselves with your organization.

In both cases, you’ll be able to cultivate stronger, longer lasting relationships with donors, whether it be at the very start or after the fact. Considering how valuable recurring donors are to nonprofits, your fundraising can receive a significant boost.

You should offer opportunities for donors at different stages of the funnel. For example, while a longtime donor might be interested in a more invested opportunity (say, a peer-to-peer campaign), first-time visitors to your nonprofit might just want to receive more information (say, signing up for an email newsletter).

Once you’ve identified the most valuable opportunities, place them organically around your site. Some CTAs might be appropriate throughout (for example, an email subscription box), while others would be very specific to certain pages (for example, the opportunity to register for an event might be exclusive to your event page).


A well-designed nonprofit website should be integrated with your other fundraising platforms, making data collection and management easier on your nonprofit.

5. It makes data management more effective.

The last part of what makes a well-designed nonprofit is what goes on behind the scenes. That’s right—integrations!

Many nonprofits don’t think to integrate their websites with their other fundraising software platforms. And while integrating won’t directly impact the success of your fundraising, it can indirectly influence it long term.

To explain why, we’ll look into one of the most common website integrations: that with your nonprofit CRM.

i. Nonprofit CRM and website integrations.

If your nonprofit is using a CRM to manage donor data and relationships, chances are that most of your efforts are already housed within the platform.

Considering that it forms the foundation for your online fundraising and engagement, your website should be no different. If you’re hosting a donation page and other types of forms, your nonprofit will be receiving a significant amount of data from your website.

That data is virtually useless if you’re unable to leverage it. To get the most value out of the data you collect, you must be able to use it in conjunction with all of the other data you have on file. Being able to study all sources together is the only way to receive a well-rounded view of donors and other constituents.

The most efficient and hassle-free way to get the data you collect from your website into your database is through integrating. Linking up your website and nonprofit CRM automates the data collection process, eliminating room for human error, saving you time, and giving you a more comprehensive set of data to draw from.

And when you have a complete and accurate set of donor data at your disposal, you’ll be much better equipped to implement the targeted, personalized fundraising strategies that lead to loyal donors.


We hope that you can see why a well-designed website is so essential to fundraising success. For more tips on how you can build a website that maximizes donations, check out this guide!

In this article, we'll cover 8 outstanding online fundraising ideas that your nonprofit should try in 2017.

8 Outstanding Online Fundraising Ideas to Try in 2017

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Fundraising is an old game, and it can often seem like there’s nothing new to try. It’s easy to slip into feeling uninspired.

In reality, this couldn’t be further from the case. There are always new and interesting ways to spice up your fundraising, and luckily, the rise of online giving and communication channels only opens up more possibilities for nonprofits.

By using digital fundraising channels, your organization can make giving more convenient for donors and appeal to more of your supporters’ preferences. Not to mention, you’ll be able to open up many of your efforts to a larger segment of your donor base, since you won’t be constrained by geography.

If your fundraising is feeling tired, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover 7 outstanding online fundraising ideas that your organization should try in the new year, including:

  1. Matching gift drives
  2. Crowdfunding
  3. Peer-to-peer fundraising
  4. Prospect research
  5. Amazon Smile
  6. Online auctions
  7. Selling merchandise
  8. Facebook fundraising

These ideas should help you give your fundraising a breath of fresh air while also appealing to modern donors who enjoy engaging with your organization online. Let’s get started!

Matching gift drives are an excellent online fundraising idea that can help organizations raise a lot of money quickly.

1. Matching gift drives

Matching gifts are an easy way to increase gifts to your organization without having to exert a lot of extra energy or expend too many extra resources.

To quickly refresh, gift matching is a popular form of corporate giving. Donors who work for companies with matching gift programs can submit their donations within the matching gift deadline, and their employers will then submit a donation of equal (or sometimes greater!) value to your organization.

It’s essentially a way to receive double the funds for the same amount of work!

Matching gifts are nothing new in the fundraising world. However, you can give them a new spin and incorporate them into your online fundraising strategy by hosting a matching gift drive.

Matching gift drives are essentially online giving days with a huge twist: if your donors reach the goal within 24 hours, a generous donor (usually a company) will match the amount you raised. 

Because they’re so urgent and donors have to drop what they’re doing and give now, giving days in and of themselves are an excellent way to raise a lot of money quickly. Add a matching gift component to that, and your fundraising can really skyrocket in just the span of a day!

How do you get started?

Of course, for this strategy to work, you’ll need a donor who’s willing to make a matching gift. Current corporate partners are always a good place to start, but if you don’t have one who’s willing to participate, you can also leverage your donors’ professional connections.

The easiest way to spot connections among your base and gain insights into which companies have matching gift programs is to use a matching gift tool (check out Double the Donation’s). By integrating this tool with your online giving software, you can place a field directly on your donation form where donors can input their employers’ name and see if they have a matching gift program.

That way, you’ll have a whole list of potential matching gift donors to draw from once your next (or first!) matching gift drive rolls around.

Crowdfunding is an excellent online fundraising idea that helps organizations reach a wide base of new donors.

2. Crowdfunding

Nonprofit crowdfunding is an oft misunderstood strategy. Many nonprofits are under the assumption that crowdfunding is only for individuals, when in reality, it can help organizations give their online fundraising a boost and acquire a wealth of new donors in a short amount of time.

When running a crowdfunding campaign, nonprofits fund a specific cause or project by collecting a large number of small donations from an extensive base of donors.

How do you get started?

To run a campaign and accept donations, your organization will need to use a crowdfunding website (like Fundly) to set up a campaign page that features your goal and reasons for raising money. These platforms also include social sharing tools so you and your supporters can easily spread the word to your networks over email and social media.

When choosing a platform, you should look for:

  • Mobile-responsive fundraising pages: With more and more people using their phones to browse the internet, you want your donors to have a good experience on your page no matter what device they use.
  • User-friendly interface: You should pick a platform that makes it easy for you to set up your page, and donors should find it easy to make a contribution.
  • Space to add images and videos: To persuade donors to give, you’ll need to tell your story and explain why you’re raising funds. Images and videos can enhance your narrative and keep potential donors engaged.

Use this list of features (and a list of your own must-haves!) to help you narrow down the many crowdfunding platforms available to you.

Since its fiscal and actual goals are so clearly defined and it relies on widespread sharing to be successful, crowdfunding is an excellent way to reach and appeal to new donors.

First-time donors often feel more comfortable giving when the purpose of their gifts is clear and tangible, and crowdfunding leaves no uncertainty.

For more about how to run a crowdfunding campaign and the many benefits that crowdfunding affords, check out our article on the subject.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an excellent strategy because it helps nonprofits both connect with their existing donors and reach a lot of new ones.

3. Peer-to-peer fundraising

While often used interchangeably, peer-to-peer fundraising and crowdfunding aren’t one and the same.

To clarify, while crowdfunding is something the nonprofit does, peer-to-peer fundraising is something that an organization’s supporters do on the nonprofit’s behalf.

Using peer-to-peer fundraising software, donors-turned-fundraisers create their own personalized donation pages and share them with their friends and families to help the organization meet a greater fundraising goal.

Personal pages are tied back into the main campaign page so that the nonprofit can oversee individual fundraising and the progress toward the overall goal.

Like crowdfunding, peer-to-peer has many benefits. Here are just a couple of its main advantages:

  1. It’s an active way to connect with current supporters. With peer-to-peer, supporters are literally stepping into the fundraiser’s shoes and working on behalf of your organization. As such, there’s really not a more active way to involve your supporters in furthering your mission, and you’ll have plenty of opportunity to connect with current supporters throughout the campaign.
  2. There’s a natural element of trust. Since prospective donors are receiving an appeal from someone they already know, peer-to-peer campaigns solve for the trust problem that nonprofits often face when convincing new donors to give. During P2P campaigns, donor acquisition usually receives a nice boost.

We could go on and on about the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising, but the bottom line is that it’s an excellent way to engage old donors and appeal to new ones. One might say it’s a win-win!

To learn all about peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and software, check out our ultimate guide.

 

Prospect research is an excellent online fundraising idea, because it helps organizations better pinpoint major donor prospects.

4. Prospect research

Prospect research is nothing new to fundraising, but it’s important to reconsider it in conjunction with your online fundraising strategies.

To quote this helpful resource from DonorSearch,

“Prospect research is a technique used by fundraisers, development teams, and nonprofit organizations to learn more about their donors’ personal backgrounds, past giving histories, wealth indicators, and philanthropic motivations to evaluate a prospect’s ability to give (capacity) and warmth (affinity) toward an organization.”

Nonprofits conduct prospect research to help them pinpoint prospective major gift donors among their constituent bases so they can better allocate their resources and focus their cultivation efforts.

Conducting prospect research is especially important when it comes to your online donors.

Since donors don’t usually give major gifts online and many online giving strategies naturally result in smaller donation amounts, it can be easy to miss out on major gift donors if you don’t know where to look.

To clarify, let’s give an example. Say a donor with the capacity to give a large gift landed on your crowdfunding campaign page to make a contribution. Since crowdfunding is a collective effort, your organization has set your donation tiers at a lower range than you would on your standard donation form.

Seeing the options that are laid out for them and following the spirit of the campaign, the donor selects the highest gift amount (let’s say, $100). They had the capacity to give a much higher gift (say, $10,000) but didn’t feel comfortable making such a large contribution in an online setting.

Without conducting prospect research, your organization would never have known that that donor has the potential to give a much larger gift if the relationship is cultivated in the right way.

 

Amazon Smile is an excellent online fundraising idea since it meets donors where they shop all of the time!

5. Amazon Smile

Chances are, there are many among your donor base who use Amazon to make purchases regularly.

Did you know there’s a way that they can also support your nonprofit in the process?

It’s not too good to be true! With Amazon Smile, your supporters can go about their regular online shopping and donate to your organization in one fell swoop.

How do you get started?

Your organization will first need to register here. Once you’re registered, your supporters can select your organization as their charity of choice so that each time they make a purchase through the Amazon Smile URL (https://smile.amazon.com/), it’s associated with your organization.

That’s all there is to it! Each quarter, your organization will receive .5% of all total transactions made from Amazon accounts that are linked to your nonprofit. 

It may sound like chump change, but if a lot of supporters participate and they’re making frequent purchases, it can really add up.

Getting set up is easy; it’s raising awareness that’s the hard part! To get as many supporters on board (and funds in your pocket) as possible, make sure to promote Amazon Smile and provide the link in your outreach.

 

Online auctions are an excellent fundraising idea, because the nature of auctions incentivizes lots of donations.

6. Online auctions

Charity auctions have been a popular event fundraising choice for years, but organizations have given them a modern twist by hosting them online.

And for good reason! Online auctions are a powerful event fundraiser and online fundraising strategy rolled into one.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of hosting one:

  1. They’re incentivizing. With auctions, donors are exchanging their donations for an amazing item or experience. Since there’s the possibility of walking home with something, auctions can incentivize more giving than other types of fundraising events.
  2. They’re cost-effective. Live and silent auctions can be more costly and involved to plan. Hosting an auction online cuts many of the costs associated with a live event, such as the venue, entertainment, catering, etc.
  3. Supporters everywhere can participate. Since you’re not hosting an in-person event, supporters near and far can participate in an online auction. You’ll be able to open up your event to a much wider portion of your donor base, and thus, increase your fundraising potential.

How do you get started?

If your organization is considering running an online auction, you’ll need to enlist the help of auction software.

This type of platform will enable you to build an online event site where you can list photos and descriptions of all auction items.

Attendees register by inputting their names and credit card information and can then peruse items and place bids right from the site.

Don’t forget to promote your online event and share the link so supporters will know you’re hosting an auction and can start getting excited about all of the incredible items for sale!

Bonus: Learn about how charity auction software can help you host your online auction.

 

Selling merchandise online is an excellent way for your organization to raise more money.

7. Selling merchandise

Nonprofits were once only able to sell merchandise to their supporters at fundraising events or during other rare in-person occasions.

Now, with the rise of online fundraising technology, organizations can set up shop and sell products right from their website (or email or social media pages) at any time!

In fact, many schools sell products to raise money. Branded items — like water bottles and t-shirts — make great keepsakes for students and teachers. Plus, students can contribute to their school and be rewarded for their support. 

Not only can these school products be sold online, but schools can also sell merchandise during sporting events and other fundraisers.

Selling merchandise can also raise awareness for your cause. When students wear your t-shirt, other students will ask them where they got it. Thus, spreading the word about your fundraiser.

The best part is that these benefits apply to any organization (not just schools!).

If your organization needs an effective way to raise a little extra money (and who doesn’t!), consider opening up an online storefront where you can sell branded merchandise to your supporters.

How do you get started?

You don’t even need to do the work yourself. With unique product crowdfunding companies like Booster, you can design custom merchandise (think: t-shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, etc.) and sell it through an online storefront.

Booster and similar companies will even stock and ship merchandise for you on an order by order basis, so you never waste money on overstock and you never have to worry about forgetting to fulfill an order.

Selling merchandise online is a relatively easy way to raise some extra money, and many donors feel more comfortable giving when they’re receiving something in return. Not to mention, your brand will get a boost every time one of your supporters rocks your products!

 

Facebook fundraising is a great online fundraising idea, because it helps you appeal to donors who like to engage with your organization over social media.

8. Facebook fundraising

Considering that social media has become one of the main ways that people connect, it’s important for nonprofits to incorporate social channels into their online fundraising strategies.

However, social media is still an uncharted territory for many nonprofits, and organizations are often unsure about how to utilize it effectively.

One easy way to get started with social media is by looking into Facebook fundraising. The social media king has taken many steps as of late to help nonprofits raise more money over social media.

The main development is the introduction of the “Donate” button. If your organization’s page is listed as a nonprofit, you have the option to add it right onto the cover image at the top of the page.

The button won’t allow donors to contribute directly from Facebook, but it does take them to the online donation form on your website.

While this is technically an extra step in the donation process, it can work to your organization’s advantage, since:

  1. Donors land on a branded page. Instead of filling out a generic donation form, supporters will be taken to a form that’s branded and customized to your organization. Being sure that they’re interacting with your brand establishes more trust among your donors.
  2. Donors are taken to more information. By arriving at your website, supporters have plenty of opportunity to interact with you further. If they’re not ready to make a donation, they can also click on your logo to learn more about your organization, furthering the engagement.
  3. All data is automatically collected. If your online donation form is integrated with your donor management software (which it should be!), then all of the data you collect on new supporters will automatically be recorded in your donor profiles. With a Facebook-generic donation page, you would have to manually compile that data and input it into your database, which aside from being a hassle, also opens up room for human error.

Adding a “Donate Now”  button to your Facebook page won’t cause your online donations to skyrocket overnight, but it can help you raise more through social media.

Supporters will have a readily apparent place to go to make a donation, which is an important first step to increasing your online revenue. When getting from point A to point B is as clear as possible, donors will be far more likely to follow through on their gifts!

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These fundraising ideas should get you well on your way to fundraising success once the new year rolls around. We wish you a happy 2017 and all of the best with your fundraising!

Crowdfunding is an excellent nonprofit fundraising strategy that can give both profits and donor acquisition a boost.

How Crowdfunding Can Help Nonprofits Raise More Money

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Often conflated with peer-to-peer fundraising or assumed to be only for individuals, crowdfunding is one of the most misunderstood forms of fundraising out there.

However, crowdfunding can help nonprofits to raise more money, increase cause awareness, and acquire a large base of new donors. It’s an excellent addition to any fundraising strategy!

In this article, we’ll clear up some of the mystery surrounding crowdfunding and explain just why exactly it’s so effective!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. What is crowdfunding?
  2. How do crowdfunding campaigns work?
  3. What resources do you need for a crowdfunding campaign?
  4. How can crowdfunding help nonprofits raise more money?
  5. Which platform should you choose?

By the time we’re done, you should understand the basics of crowdfunding and (hopefully) be inclined to try it out for yourself!

In this section, we'll explain what crowdfunding is to clear up some of the mystery surrounding it.

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding doesn’t differ that much from nonprofits’ regular online fundraising efforts. However, there are certainly a few major factors that set it apart.

To understand crowdfunding, it’s best to put it into context with annual giving, which as you know, is the nonprofit’s largest and most generalized fundraising effort.

With annual giving, about 60% of the fundraising goal is constituted by major gifts, which comprise only about 10% of the total annual fund. In simpler terms, a very small number of large gifts make up over a majority of the overall fundraising goal.

With crowdfunding, on the other hand, nonprofits reach their fundraising goals by collecting a large number of small donations. It’s a more collective effort that relies on a large number of donors to be successful.

Additionally, crowdfunding campaigns are usually more clearly defined than other nonprofit fundraising campaigns. They set forth a clear-cut goal, work toward funding a specific cause or project, and take place over a more condensed period of time marked by a set end date.

In a modern context, crowdfunding campaigns generally take place online, with the nonprofit sharing a campaign page over social media and email and encouraging supporters to forward the campaign to their networks, too. However, some nonprofits also host live crowdfunding campaigns during fundraising events, wherein they ask their attendees to help them meet a specific fundraising goal and supporters pledge donations in a live auction style.

In summary, crowdfunding campaigns are highly social online fundraising efforts that require the support of a large base of donors to meet their goals. They help nonprofits reach a definitive, quantifiable goal meant to be allocated toward a particular cause or project.

 

In this section, we'll walk you through how crowdfunding campaigns work, so you can start your very own!

How do crowdfunding campaigns work?

Online crowdfunding campaigns are relatively easy to host (after all, a lot of the work is done by having your loyal supporters help spread the word for you!), but they still take effort and thoughtfulness. Here’s a brief rundown of what a typical campaign looks like:

1. Set a goal.

To host a crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need to start by deciding which specific project or cause to center your campaign on. Then, set a clear, quantifiable goal by determining exactly how much you need to raise to fund it.

You’ll also want to decide on a timeframe. The typical crowdfunding campaign lasts for around 6-9 weeks, but they can be as short as 24 hours (giving days, like #GivingTuesday, are essentially a type of crowdfunding campaign).

2. Get set up.

You’ll need some special tools to facilitate your crowdfunding campaign (more on that below). Primarily, you’ll need to build out a main crowdfunding campaign page where you can explain your cause and goals and accept donations.

If you’re including a peer-to-peer aspect (which many crowdfunding campaigns do), you’ll also need to help your fundraisers create individualized donation pages that link up to your main crowdfunding campaign page.

When setting up your page, the goal should be to make it as digestible and shareable as possible. Include a brief but compelling story and relevant, high-quality photos to illustrate to prospective donors the importance of the project you’re raising money for.

The more that you can bring your cause to life and help donors visualize the positive impact that their contributions will have, the more successful your campaign will be.

3. Start sharing.

A common trait based on measuring the the top nonprofit crowdfunding platforms is that campaigns that are shared fewer than two times have a whopping 97% chance of failure.

In other words, sharing your campaign multiple times and through multiple mediums makes it exponentially more likely that you’ll achieve your crowdfunding goals. And it only makes sense; potential donors are far more likely to find your campaign if you’re regularly bringing it to their attention than they are to stumble across it amid the flood of other content in their inboxes and on their newsfeeds.

That means once your campaign start date rolls around, you should start sharing ASAP! Take to social media and send out a blast to your email list that includes the link to your campaign page. You should also encourage your supporters to share your page with their networks as well.

As the campaign progresses, it’s important to keep sharing your page regularly. Of course, you don’t want to bombard your donors with asks, but it’s essential to keep the campaign fresh on their minds.

4. Post regular updates.

Throughout the span your crowdfunding campaign, it’s also important to post regular updates.

Sharing regular updates serves two purposes:

  1. It breaks up your donation asks. By posting a variety of content related to your campaign, you’re more likely to avoid donor fatigue. Plus, it provides a more natural relationship-building opportunity with your donors when you provide them with valuable information instead of just asking.
  2. It encourages more giving. Keeping your donors updated helps them more clearly visualize what their contributions could achieve. This is especially true if you’re able to go beyond just sharing the progress you’ve made toward your fiscal goal and can give updates that show the actual work toward your project or cause that donations have already enacted. When donors can see exactly how their contributions can reap positive change, they’ll be more inclined to give to your campaign.

Ultimately, updating supporters throughout your campaign (especially if it’s over a more extended period of time) can influence how much you’re able to raise and how well you’re able to connect to your donors. Don’t forget to keep them posted!

5. Reach your goals!

If you follow all of these steps, your organization will be well-positioned to meet or even exceed your crowdfunding goals.

Once your campaign has come to an end, all that’s left to do is to give your supporters a final update, send everyone who contributed a thoughtful (and timely!) acknowledgement letter, and evaluate your performance to see if there’s anything you could improve next time around.

Crowdfunding campaigns require many steps, but they’re relatively easy to pull off when compared to other types of fundraisers. Just remember to tell a stirring story, share your campaign page frequently, and give your donors regular updates to nurture the greatest chance of success.

6. Say thanks!

Ok, it’s partially covered in #5 but we can’t stress the importance of saying thanks enough. Your friends, family, and supporters opened up their wallets and generously contributed to your cause.

Take the time to thank donors and let them know how the funds will be used. If you’re able to personally follow-up with individuals you’ll wow your supporters!

 

In this section, we'll go through some of the most important resources you need to help you set up your crowdfunding campaign for success.

What resources do you need for a crowdfunding campaign?

Any specialized effort requires specialized tools, and crowdfunding campaigns are no different!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. Crowdfunding software.

The most important tool in your crowdfunding tool belt will be crowdfunding software, a type of fundraising software built specifically to help nonprofits run crowdfunding campaigns. While it’s technically possible to run a campaign without specialized software, using a crowdfunding platform will simplify and improve this effort significantly.

Crowdfunding software enables your organization to build and customize a main campaign page where you can share your story, photos, and campaign updates.

You can even feature a fundraising thermometer on your page that updates in real-time as supporters submit donations to help donors visualize your progress (which, as we’ve already covered, leads to more donations!).

The other main feature of crowdfunding software is that it includes powerful social sharing tools that you and your supporters can use to spread the word about your campaign with just the click of a button.

When choosing crowdfunding software, keep in mind that there are two main models you can choose from:

  1. All-or-Nothing. With all-or-nothing crowdfunding models, your organization will only receive the funds you raise if you meet your goals. While all-or-nothing models may initially seem unattractive, their riskier nature can be a great incentive to work harder at promoting your campaign.
  2. Keep-It-All. A keep-it-all crowdfunding model allows your organization to keep all donations you receive whether you meet your goals or not. Keep-it-all models are safer, but you’ll have less motivation for meeting your goals.

There are literally hundreds of different crowdfunding platforms, but some of the most popular include:

  • Salsa Labs – The peer to peer fundraising software is perfect for nonprofits.
  • Kickstarter – It’s popular for individuals looking to bring creative projects to life.
  • Fundly – It’s popular for individuals raising money for personal causes such as medical needs, church trips, or pet-related causes.
  • Indiegogo – It’s popular for individuals looking to bring new products to market

The type of software you go with will ultimately depend on what works best for your organization (are you invigorated by a little bit of risk or would you rather be guaranteed at least part of your goal in return for the time and money you put into your campaign?), so think long and hard before selecting a platform. If you’re looking for more suggestions, we recommend you check the top list from Crowd101.

2. A strong online presence.

Online crowdfunding campaigns are best suited for those organizations who have a strong online presence and a base of supporters who are responsive to digital fundraising and communication channels.

If your donors have mostly interacted with your organization offline in the past, online crowdfunding might not be right for you.

3. A campaign manager.

As we covered in the last section, crowdfunding campaigns take constant upkeep to be successful. You’ll definitely want to assign one of your staff to head this effort and update your page throughout the campaign.

If you’re running a peer-to-peer campaign in conjunction with your crowdfunding effort, this person will also be in charge of helping your fundraisers get set up with their pages and providing them with assistance throughout the campaign.

4. Incentives.

While not necessary, incentives can help bring your crowdfunding campaign to the next level. By associating gift levels with rewards, you can motivate donors to give and potentially push your average donation amount slightly higher.

If you decide to use incentives, you need to be cautious of the type of rewards to give. Some donors may feel guilty about receiving a gift in return for their contribution, which can deter them from giving altogether.

Your rewards should be impact-driven. In other words, give donors incentives that will showcase their support.

For example, let’s say you were running a crowdfunding campaign to help build a new wing for your school.

You should pick items like branded products. Not only will the item have some use, but donors will have a sense of pride every time they wear or use the product.

With that in mind, your donation tiers might look a little something like this:

  • $25 buys X and is rewarded with a school spirit water bottle.
  • $50 buys X and is rewarded with a school spirit water bottle and t-shirt.
  • $100 buys X and is rewarded with a school spirit water bottle, t-shirt, and ballpoint pen.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to spend money on products to provide incentives; they can also be special experiences and opportunities, like VIP treatment at your next fundraising event. All that matters is that you provide incentives that will appeal to your supporters interests and motivate them to give.

Crowdfunding campaigns take some special resources. Make sure you have everything you need in advance to ensure that your campaign runs smoothly and successfully.

 

In this section, we'll discuss some of the benefits of crowdfunding and why they're conducive to helping organizations raise more money.

How can crowdfunding help nonprofits raise more money?

Now that you understand crowdfunding, let’s talk about why it’s such an effective strategy for nonprofits.

The structure of crowdfunding includes many aspects that naturally make it conducive to raising money more quickly and increasing donor acquisition rates.

Here are just a few:

1. There’s a social influence factor.

Since crowdfunding relies on a large collective of donors and widespread sharing to be successful, there’s a natural social influence factor that comes into play.

Crowdfunding software makes the fundraising process incredibly transparent; most platforms will display your progress in real-time, and many even show the names of donors who have given and how much they gave.

Being able to see that other donors have contributed can spur people to give, since they know that others have faith in the work you do. Plus, knowing how much others gave can make donors feel more confident about contributing, since they have a better idea of what they’re “expected” to give.

2. It’s urgent.

Crowdfunding campaigns are usually more urgent than other types of fundraisers, which can take place over longer periods of time and have no set end date.

Having such a short amount of time to donate and help you meet your goal will motivate donors to give fast! If they care about the work you do, they’ll have to drop what they’re doing and donate now, or else run the risk of missing out on supporting your campaign.

3. It’s clearly defined.

The clearly defined parameters of crowdfunding campaigns can make donors feel more confident about giving.

Since crowdfunding campaigns put forth a specific goal and work toward a specific project, donors can more clearly equate their donations with concrete results. They know exactly what their contributions can achieve and how much it will take to get there.

This concreteness provides the perfect context for new donors to give. Because they’ve never given to your cause before and aren’t familiar with the good work that you do, new donors often feel more comfortable giving when the results of their donations are made crystal clear.

There’s no doubt that crowdfunding does this, so if your organization can get the word out, you’re sure to be able to reach lots of prospective supporters that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise and recruit them to your cause.

In simpler terms, crowdfunding campaigns can give your donor acquisition a significant boost!

4. It’s easily shareable.

As we’ve touched on before, crowdfunding campaigns thrive off of being shared far and wide. In fact, crowdfunding software was built to help organizations create story-oriented pages that bring their cause to life in a very tangible way and share them over email and on social media with ease.

Because they’re so shareable and their format is ideal for recruiting new donors to your cause, crowdfunding is an excellent way to expand your organization’s reach. Being able to share quickly and in such an appealing format is another reason why crowdfunding can help you bring in lots of new donors.

The format of crowdfunding has many built-in benefits that can help nonprofits raise more money and acquire a high volume of new donors quickly.

How crowdfunding can help nonprofits - which platform should you choose

Which Crowdfunding Platform Should You Choose?

The crowdfunding platform you decide to use will likely depend on your fundraising needs.

If you’re not sure what to look for, here’s a list of features you can consider:

  • Social sharing buttons (in prominent locations)
  • Mobile responsive fundraising pages
  • Space to include images and videos
  • User-friendly donation process

Create a list of the features that you want, so you can find the right crowdfunding platform for your nonprofit.

To help you get started, look at this great list of crowdfunding platforms.

Best Crowdfunding Platform for Nonprofits – Salsa Labs

In addition to CRM software, an advocacy platform, and other fundraising software, Salsa Labs offers a crowdfunding/P2P platform for nonprofits to use.

The platform helps organizations connect better with their donors through social media integrations and targeted communications.

Learn more about Salsa Labs’ crowdfunding/P2P platform here.

B


We hope our article has demystified crowdfunding and encouraged you to try it for yourself! For more fundraising resources, make sure to check out our resource page. We have many comprehensive guides that can help you get on your way to better fundraising!

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Read our article to learn how your organization can avoid fatal mistakes that will cost your fundraising when shopping for donor management software.

Donor Management Software: 10 Fatal Mistakes that Nonprofits Make When Shopping

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Many nonprofit leaders see the benefits behind using donor management software and would like to purchase a platform of their own to help simplify their organization’s efforts and make more out of their fundraising.

However, since software is an intrinsically complex subject, the buying process can be somewhat involved. There’s a lot of research to be done, and there are a lot of considerations to be made. Many organizations simply don’t know what to expect and are intimidated by the thought of entering into the process for themselves.

That’s perfectly natural, and your organization should be concerned with approaching the buying process the right way. If you don’t handle the purchase with care, it can lead to many fatal mistakes that could cost you time, money, and peace of mind.

In order to reap the full benefits of your software, it’s important to enter into the buying process aware of what you should be looking out for. That’s why we’ll cover 10 fatal mistakes that nonprofits make when shopping for donor management software and how to avoid them (hint: being informed is the first step, so you’ve come to the right place!).

Here are the most common problems nonprofits run into:

  1. Not having a plan when buying.
  2. Not enough space for all donors.
  3. Not enough user spots.
  4. Difficult integrations.
  5. Going over budget.
  6. Unprepared to pitch to the board.
  7. Messy data transfer.
  8. Inadequate training.
  9. Lack of vendor support.
  10. No room to grow.

By the time we’re done, you’ll be well-equipped to purchase the perfect donor management software for your organization. Let’s start shopping!

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits are shopping for donor management software is that the organization doesn't give enough consideration to their reasons for buying.

1. The nonprofit doesn’t give enough consideration to their reasons for shopping.

The mistake:

If an organization consciously chooses to enter into a process that has the potential to be time-consuming, they obviously have to have a reason for doing so.

However, many organizations are blinded by the problem and, in their urgency to fix it, rush to a “solution” instead of giving their reasons for buying thorough consideration.

In other words, instead of looking for software that can actually address their needs, the organization ends up jumping on the first solution they see under the misguided impression that any software will be better than their current systems.

If you enter into the process blindly, chances are that your organization will purchase a solution that can’t fully meet your needs. That means you’ll have wasted a whole lot of time and money just to be left with the same problem that you started with.

The solution:

While it might seem overly simple, it’s important to sit down and give thorough considerations to your needs before you enter into the buying process.

Here are some common reasons why nonprofits shop for new donor management software:

  • They’re switching to a new data management system altogether, because…
    • They want to gain deeper insights into their donors.
    • They want to streamline their operations.
    • They want a more intuitive way to organize staff and volunteer efforts.
    • They want to optimize staff hours.
    • They want a better way to manage their data.
  • They’re switching to a new donor management software platform, because…
    • They want one that’s more scalable.
    • They want one that’s more affordable.
    • They want one that’s easier to use.
    • They want one with a wider set of features.
    • They want to work with a more supportive vendor.

However, considering your reasons shouldn’t just end there; instead, you should take it a step further and determine what features your new software must have to properly address those reasons.

Taking the time to think about your reasons for shopping will set you up for success, since you’ll be looking for the right solution from the start.

The buying process will be much shorter, and there’s a much greater chance that you’ll come out of it with a platform that can thoroughly address your needs.

Takeaway: Giving careful considerations to your reasons makes it more likely that you’ll end the buying process with donor management software that can improve the areas of your organization that you’d most like to change.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits are shopping for donor management software is that the organization buys software that isn't the right size.

2. The organization buys donor management software that isn’t the right size.

The mistake:

To accommodate nonprofits of various shapes and sizes, donor management software vendors often price their solutions by how many constituent profiles they can house.

That means that organizations must think about how many constituent profiles they need before starting the buying process.

Failure to do so could mean one of two things. Either:

  1. Your organization buys a platform that’s too small, and you can’t house all of your donors and other constituents, limiting your insights and leaving you with an incomplete data management solution.
  2. Your organization buys a platform that’s too big and wastes money on a solution that has more space than you need.

Either way, you’d be costing your organization something, whether it’s money or valuable donor information.

The solution:

Before shopping, get the most accurate count of your constituents that you can.

Remember: constituents aren’t just donors. They can also be:

  • Volunteers,
  • Members,
  • Event attendees,
  • Staff,
  • Board members,
  • Program participants,
  • Service recipients,
  • And anyone else who has a hand in supporting your mission.

Make sure to clean your database in advance so that you’re not counting constituents who are no longer engaging with you. Additionally, you’ll want to give yourself a little extra room for growth so that your software can grow with you into the foreseeable future.

You don’t want to have to enter into the buying process again too soon, after all!

Takeaway: The price of donor management software often takes into account the number of constituents the platform can house. Count how many constituent profiles you have and leave a little extra room for growth to ensure the solution you buy is the perfect fit for your organization.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits are shopping for donor management software is that the organization buys software that not all of their staff can use.

3. The organization buys donor management software that not all of their staff can use.

The mistake:

Similar to how donor management software is priced by the number of constituents it can house, the price of this type of software can also be influenced by how many users have access to it.

That means that your organization will definitely want to take a headcount of the staff members who will be using the platform, too.

If you don’t factor the number of expected users into your purchase, you could buy software that not all of your staff can use. And if your staff are unable to access the data they need to do their jobs, the success of your efforts will be severely limited.

The solution:

The ideal solution is to look for donor management software that doesn’t price by the number of users. That way, your software will always be able to accommodate everyone, regardless of how big your staff grows!

If that isn’t possible, consider which of your staff members need to use the software to do their jobs effectively before making the purchase.

While it can be difficult to predict how the new software will affect everyone’s roles, you’ll want to come up with the most accurate number you can. It can be helpful to survey staff in different departments to get a better feel for which data sources each staff member consults regularly.

Remember: donor management software is a highly comprehensive solution that will be storing most (if not all) of your constituent data. Chances are that most of your staff will have to consult it at some point.

If you’re not 100% certain whether or not someone will need to use the software, it’s best to err on the liberal side and count them in!

Takeaway: The price of donor management software is often influenced by the number of users who can access it. Factor in the number of staff members who will need to use your software to make sure you’re buying a platform that has room for everyone.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits purchase donor management software is that they buy software that can't be integrated with the other platforms they need.

4. The nonprofit purchases software that can’t be integrated with the other platforms they need.

The mistake:

While donor management software is a comprehensive solution, its feature set often needs to be expanded upon to address more of the organization’s needs.

This is done by incorporating additional fundraising software solutions into your donor management software, which either come in the form of:

  • Expansions. Expansions are standalone software solutions with wide feature sets meant to address a specific area of nonprofit efforts. They’re often developed by the same vendor, making integration with donor management software easy. A couple of examples would be peer-to-peer and advocacy software.
  • Integrations. Integrations are highly specialized solutions with more narrow feature sets meant to address a specific nonprofit effort. They usually need to be integrated with other types of software for them to work effectively, and they’re often developed by a third-party vendor, which can make incorporating them into your donor management software a little more difficult. A couple of examples would be wealth screening and matching gift services.

Not all donor management software platforms will support all expansions and integrations. And even if a platform does support certain add-ons, some will make incorporating these add-ons easier than others.

If your new software can’t be supplemented by the other features you use, you’re going to end up with an incomplete solution that can’t address all of your needs.

The solution:

If your software will be helping you with efforts beyond data management (and chances are, it will be!), you’ll need to think about how you’re going to achieve the full feature set you need.

You’ll either need to:

  1. Buy a more comprehensive solution. Many donor management software platforms have more comprehensive feature sets built in, so you may be able to get away with simply buying a more expansive solution instead of having to integrate.
  2. Find a solution that supports your current platforms. If your needs go beyond the scope of just one type of software and you’re already using other platforms to address those needs, you’ll want to find donor management software that can easily be integrated with the platforms you use currently.
  3. Find a solution that supports fluid integrations with platforms that can address your needs. If donor management software doesn’t include the full feature set you need and you aren’t currently using platforms to provide you with the missing features, you’ll want to find a solution that supports integrations with the types of platforms you need.

In any case, make sure that you’re buying a software solution that is able to provide you with the complete set of features that you need, so you can run your efforts as effectively and seamlessly as possible.

Takeaway: It’s often necessary for nonprofits to add expansions or integrations to their donor management software to achieve a more comprehensive feature set. Double check that the platform you’re considering can be expanded upon if you need additional features.

One common mistake that occurs when nonprofits shop for donor management software is that the organization goes over budget.

5. The organization goes over budget.

The mistake:

Your organization was smart and entered into the buying process with a clearly defined budget in mind. You stuck to your budget and purchased a perfect solution near the top of your price range, amazed at how far you managed to stretch your money.

However, once your software is all set up, you realize that you need to invest in training to get more out of its feature set. You do so, and end up just under your budget. Whew! Bullet dodged, but just barely.

Two weeks later, you use your software to process your first online donation, only to realize that you’re paying an exorbitant amount in payment processing fees. Further down the line, your software encounters a technical difficulty, and you end up having to shell out even more money that you haven’t budgeted for.

Now, you’re way over budget and are worried about how you’re going to cover all of the expenses, a scenario that could have been avoided if you had researched the costs of your software more thoroughly.

In other words, the money that should be going to further your projects and causes is being poured into one investment that could have been made more cost-effective if it had only been considered more carefully.

The solution:

Donor management software often comes with hidden costs, and the number quoted on the vendor’s pricing page isn’t always reflective of how much you’ll actually be paying.

That’s why it’s absolutely crucial to ask your vendor to spell out the costs for you before you make the purchase.

How the software is priced will vary by vendor, but here are some common costs you might need to ask about:

  • Support.
  • Training.
  • Data transfer.
  • Expansions and integrations.
  • Payment processing fees.
  • Updates.

Knowing what to look out for can help you ensure that you’re making a sound investment that fits into your budget so you aren’t hit with unexpected (and potentially crippling) costs down the line.

Takeaway: Donor management software frequently includes many hidden costs that aren’t always intuitive. Ask your vendor to walk you through each expense so you understand the true price of your software.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits shop for donor management software is that the organization is unprepared to pitch the software to their board.

6. The organization is unprepared to pitch the purchase to their board.

The mistake:

You’ve found the perfect donor management software. Now you’re ready to sign the contract and make your purchase official!

There’s only one thing standing in your way: board approval of the purchase.

You’re not sure how to go about pitching the software to your board, but you can see all of the benefits of making the purchase and are convinced your board will, too. Instead of preparing, you decide to follow your instincts and wing the pitch. If your board can see how impassioned you are about this purchase, you’re sure to win them over, right?

Wrong. Your enthusiasm may be infectious, but your board still has a million questions about the purchase and raises a number of (founded) objections. Since you haven’t prepared, you can’t provide them with thoughtful and convincing answers or arguments.

Sensing your uncertainty, your board turns down the purchase and leaves you back at square one: without the donor management software you spent so much time and hard work selecting!

The solution:

If you want your board to give you the buy-in for donor management software, it’s going to take a convincing pitch. Plan out your pitch and practice it at least once before you actually go in front of your board.

Many vendors even have presentations and resources available that can help you make a persuasive pitch and will reduce the time you have to spend preparing a presentation.

Your pitch is much more likely to be convincing if you’ve thought it through and have prepared yourself for possible questions and objections. That way, you’ll come across as more confident and be able frame your argument in the way that’s most compelling to your board.

If you need some help with the pitch, check out this article about how to get the software buy-in from your board.

Takeaway: You’ll need board approval to purchase your donor management software. Prepare yourself for the pitch for the best chance of getting the buy-in.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits are shopping for donor management software is that the organization transfers its data incorrectly.

7. The organization transfers its data incorrectly.

The mistake:

Data transfer is one of the most crucial steps of buying new donor management software. After all, you’ll need to populate your new platform with your existing data to be able to use it!

Unfortunately, there’s no sugarcoating it: data transfer can, undeniably, be a headache. However, it is manageable. You shouldn’t avoid making the switch to new software just to avoid having to transfer your data.

Here’s what the typical data transfer process looks like:

  1. Cleaning and prioritizing your existing data.
  2. Making a full backup of your data.
  3. Exporting your data from your old systems.
  4. Transferring your data to the new software (often in stages).
  5. Customizing your donor management software to make room for data fields that might not have a clearly defined place.
  6. Cleaning your data again to eliminate any errors that might have occurred during transfer.

Seeing as the process can be long and involved, it can be all-too-tempting to skip some of these steps (especially the cleaning!).

However, cutting corners can lead to more errors during transfer and wasted time, since you’ll likely be migrating data that you no longer use. Not to mention, you’ll start off using your software with a less accurate and up-to-date set of data, which can limit your fundraising success.

The solution:

Take data transfer very seriously.

You should start out by doing a thorough cleaning of your existing set of data. That means:

  • Getting rid of duplicate records.
  • Deleting information that’s obsolete or that you no longer use.
  • Standardizing aberrant entries.
  • Re-confirming your donors’ contact information and replacing any out-of-date information (send out a quick email blast!).

The other steps will be dependent upon your current data management systems and how compatible they are with your new donor management software. It can be helpful to assign a project manager to come up with a data transfer strategy and oversee the process.

If you anticipate that data transfer will be particularly difficult, you might want to hire a consultant to guide you through the process. Many vendors offer data consultation services (often at a cost), so make sure to budget for consulting if you need it!

Takeaway: Data transfer is an important aspect of the buying process. Although transfer can be somewhat involved, resist the urge to cut corners. Completing the process thoroughly and thoughtfully will set your organization up for fundraising success.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits are shopping for donor management software is that they don't receive the training they need.

8. The nonprofit doesn’t receive the training they need.

The mistake:

How software training is conducted varies from vendor to vendor. Most provide multiple options to accommodate a range of budgets and levels of technical proficiency.

If this is your first time using donor management software and/or if your staff isn’t so tech-savvy, your organization will probably need to work with a vendor who provides more supportive training options that can be customized to your needs.

Not receiving the level of training you need could mean that you’re not able to utilize your software effectively.

And no matter how robust the feature set is, there’s no way you could possibly maximize your software’s functionality if your staff isn’t well-versed in how to use it.

The solution:

As with most of the points covered on this list, avoiding this mistake takes careful consideration from the start of the buying process. If you anticipate that you and your staff will need more in-depth training, make sure that you’re looking for a vendor who can provide it.

The format of training will likely vary slightly, but it usually comes in one of three basic forms:

  1. Pre-recorded videos. Many vendors have a series of pre-recorded training videos that will walk you through how to use the main features of your donor management software. While this type of training is usually cheap (or even free!), the downside is that training won’t be customized to your organization.
  2. Customized training. Most vendors also offer customized training that’s either conducted onsite or over the computer. This type of training is usually more expensive, but the benefit is that it will be catered to your organization’s unique needs and concerns, so you’ll be able to learn how the software works for you specifically.
  3. In-person training from a fundraising consultant. If you’d like a more hands-on approach, you can hire a fundraising consultant who specializing in software. Fundraising consultants can not only give a you basic tutorial, but they can also give you best practices and other strategies to make the software work for your particular needs.

Deciding on which training option will be right for your requires weighing the short term costs with the longterm benefits. While you might be shelling out more money for training now, in the future it could bring you a greater return since your staff will be better able to use your software.

Takeaway: The level of training you receive will have a huge bearing on how well your staff is able to use your donor management software. If you need a training option that’s customized to your organization, invest in one!

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits shop for donor management software is that the organization works with a vendor who provides inadequate support.

9. The organization works with a vendor who provides inadequate support.

The mistake:

Even the most high-tech software platform is bound to run into technical difficulties at some point. Using your software on a regular basis naturally results in wear and tear.

You more than likely won’t be able to avoid technical glitches altogether. What’s more important is that you’re working with a vendor who can address these glitches in a timely manner.

Consider this scenario: you’re ramping up for end of the year giving season, when all of a sudden your donor management software crashes. You frantically try and get in touch with your vendor, calling them, messaging them on their website, and sending multiple pleas for help over email.

You’ve been quick to get in contact, but the vendor doesn’t respond to you for another 3 or 4 days. In the meantime, your software is down and your efforts have come to a complete stop.

Finally, the vendor does get in touch with you, and you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Except that it takes the vendor another week to resolve your problem.

In the meantime, you’ve missed out on a whole wealth of fundraising opportunities, costing you who-knows-how-much money.

The solution:

No one knows your donor management software better than your vendor, so it couldn’t be more crucial to have someone who’s an expert in your software on-call if anything goes wrong.

Even if you have an in-house IT department, make sure that you’re working with a vendor who provides timely and attentive IT support.

That means that, not only should your vendor be readily available when you try to contact them, but they should also have a quick turnaround time for addressing any issues.

To gauge how helpful your vendor really is when it comes to providing maintenance, consult a second opinion. You can look at online reviews, visit product forums, and talk to current users to get a better idea of how well your vendor responds in times of need.

Takeaway: Your organization could be missing out on lots of fundraising potential if your donor management software is down. Make sure that you’re working with a vendor who provides timely and attentive IT support to minimize the amount of time that technical difficulties will interfere with your efforts.

A common mistake that occurs when nonprofits purchase donor management software is that they select software that doesn't give them room to grow.

10. The organization purchases software that doesn’t give them room to grow.

The mistake:

When shopping for donor management software, many nonprofits make the grave mistake of only considering the here and now. They don’t think about the near future and how their organization’s needs might grow and evolve.

Your organization should be looking to purchase software whose feature set can easily be expanded upon once you need it to address other efforts. Otherwise, you’ll either have to:

  1. Work with a solution that can’t fully address your needs, limiting the success and efficiency of your efforts.
  2. Invest in new fundraising software sooner, expending unnecessary resources.
  3. Use separate platforms for managing your different efforts, which isn’t ideal for many reasons. Your different data sources won’t be able to inform each other, you’ll waste staff time exporting data and switching between systems, and you’ll create a wider margin for error since much of data management will be manual.

It couldn’t be more crucial to sit down and think about where your organization is headed in the foreseeable future. Doing so will set you up for longterm success and prevent you from wasting time and money.

The solution:

Before you buy, anticipate how your organization’s efforts and needs might change over the next 5 years or so and what features your software must include to address them.

Ideally you’ll be working with a vendor who provides donor management software with a comprehensive feature set and a range of other fundraising software that can easily be added onto their donor management software. It’s much easier to integrate solutions that come from the same vendor.

If finding a vendor who provides a more comprehensive feature set isn’t possible, adding extra features can still be done through incorporating integrations.

Just remember: integrating two platforms from different vendors can often be difficult. You should make sure that your donor management software supports integrations with the type of software you’ll need.

Takeaway: Looking toward the future is imperative for purchasing sustainable donor management software. Consider what efforts your organization might need your software to help you with in the near future to make sure you buy a donor management platform that can grow with you for years to come.


As you can see, shopping for donor management software really isn’t as intimidating as it might seem at first.

All it takes is being aware of common pitfalls that nonprofits run into during the buying process and knowing how to sidestep them. Do that, and you’ll be on the right path to your perfect new software!

For more on fundraising software and the buying process, check out our fundraising software ultimate guide.

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Advocacy Advertising

What is Advocacy Advertising?

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At face value, it’s not exactly difficult to figure out the basic meaning of advocacy advertising. Just as it sounds, the term applies to marketing for various advocacy campaigns.

What does that practically look like?

If you’ve ever watched television during an election year, you’re deeply familiar with one type of advocacy advertising format: political ads. 

We’ll get to more of the specifics in a moment, but first, let’s dive into the reasoning behind advocacy advertising.

What does advocacy advertising accomplish?

The goal of advocacy advertising is to raise awareness of the cause at hand and persuade certain segments of the public to take specific action.

The most common hope of an advocacy advertisement is to draw attention to the people and/or cause you’re advocating for and gain traction with new supporters who will join in on your actions.

Because there is a massive realm of possibilities that you can advocate for, there’s an equally massive realm of advocacy advertising opportunities.

The most common focal points of advocacy advertisements include issues regarding:

  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Society

There are multiple levels of this kind of advocacy advertising, some with explicit regulations depending on the group at the helm of the ad.

What are common advocacy advertising outlets?

First, let’s separate advocacy advertising from commercial advertising. In commercial advertising, there is a product or service in play. In advocacy advertising, there is an interest, cause, or issue at the center of the ad. Advocacy advertising takes the persuasiveness of traditional advertising and uses it to the benefit of the cause at hand.

Advocacy advertisements can demonstrate a particular point of view (which can be controversial) about public issues.

This advertising can be led by a variety of organizers, including:

  • Nonprofits
  • Advocacy groups
  • Lobbyists
  • Corporations
  • Interest groups

Traditionally, when you hear the term advertisement, you think television. You picture a commercial during your favorite medical drama on Tuesday nights. 

Although there is certainly plenty of advocacy advertising on television, if we think back to the field’s basic definition — marketing to support a cause — we can expand our view to note that advocacy advertising does not stop with television.

Other types of advocacy advertising in the traditional sense include:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Radio

But, with the help of the modern technology and the internet, your organization can be readily equipped to advertise for your cause without sacrificing an arm and a leg in funding. You can:

  • Organize a social media campaign.
  • Promote through email.
  • Feature your advocacy on your website.
  • And more!

In order to be successful in your advocacy advertising, you need to weigh cost and resources against effectiveness. Scale your efforts according to what makes the most sense for your given situation.

Technology and the connectedness of the internet make it possible to accomplish your advocacy aims without a massive budget, so don’t be hesitant to use those advertising avenues that are readily available to you.

What about advocacy advertising regulations?

There are certain regulations placed on particular advocacy advertising efforts, depending on the nature of their work.

The ins and outs of the legalese and tax code regulations on certain advocacy groups and their advertising can quickly get extremely complex. Rather than delving into a dense legal discussion, for the purposes of this guide, let’s just cover two big terms related to the regulation of advocacy advertising. 

  1. Issue Advocacy
  2. Express Advocacy

Both are tied to political advocacy, and more specifically, political advertising. You know, those pesky ads that litter your television every election season.

The terms, issue and express, are the two main categories of political advertising. They come from a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1976, Buckley v. Valeo. The crux of their difference rests with the concept of what is subject to federal campaign regulations.

Let’s define each category on its own.

Issue Advocacy

For issue advocacy, any individual, union, or corporation can contribute without being limited by how much they can contribute. Additionally, they don’t have to report the funding specifics, who gave and how much, publicly. In other words, issue ads do not have to abide by federal election laws.

Issue advocacy, as determined by the court, is implemented to teach the public about issues and is therefore allowed under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Express Advocacy

Simply put, express advocacy is regulated by federal election laws.

Express advocacy directly prescribes that its audience help defeat or elect a candidate for public office. An express ad cannot be funded by corporate or union contributions, and it’s individual donors are only allowed to donate up to certain amount. Plus, any contributors have to be publicly disclosed.

Because express advocacy is determined by an ad’s recommendation regarding a candidate’s election, there are certain trigger terms that almost automatically classify an ad as express. These words, known as the “magic words,” include:

  • Elect
  • Support
  • Vote for
  • Vote Against
  • Reject
  • Defeat

Since the creation of this distinction between express advocacy and issue advocacy, there has been debate about it. Questions surrounding what advertising constitutes what and the legality of towing the line with issue ads that could also be considered express ads have regularly come up.

What about nonprofit advocacy advertising?

Nonprofits don’t face the same regulations because they are tax-exempt and are not supposed to be connected to political campaigns.

For example, imagine your nonprofit is focused on animal welfare. You can run advocacy advertisements to effect change or spur people into action, and you won’t have to follow regulations.

The same would go for various nonprofit causes from the arts to the environment.

When advocacy advertising is brought into the equation, it’s typically associated with television advertisements for politicians. That’s definitely a major aspect of this marketing sphere, but it does not cover the full range.

As a nonprofit considering advocacy advertising, think through the strategies you use to promote various fundraising events and campaigns. You can leverage your advertising to get supporters to participate in your annual fun run or donate to the campaign you’re running. Take those tactics and use them to advocate for the cause at the heart of your mission.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and promote your cause!

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