Your nonprofit is always on the lookout for ways to step up your donor engagement and bring in more revenue. You’ve likely hosted a variety of in-person events before, but have you considered taking the entire fundraising process online?

Virtual fundraising is one of the most powerful strategies at nonprofits’ disposal. With virtual fundraising, your nonprofit isn’t bound by geographic barriers, giving you the ability to grow your reach and revenue. Plus, by understanding how to run a virtual event experience, you can easily conduct hybrid events, empowering you to engage two audiences at once.

To realize these benefits and many more, your nonprofit’s team will need to dedicate ample time to planning your virtual fundraising event. After all, it’s important to be intentional about how you will keep supporters engaged and laser-focused on your mission when they’re on a screen. However, with the right tools and strategies, you’ll be well-prepared to design an unforgettable virtual experience that will strengthen donor relationships and boost revenue.

Use these top programming tips to make your next virtual fundraising event the best one yet:

  1. Plan early and conduct several test runs
  2. Keep your program short and sweet
  3. Centralize the virtual event experience
  4. Schedule your activities strategically

An effective virtual event will keep current supporters invested in your cause and help new ones see the value in supporting your organization over time. Time to dive in!

1. Plan early and conduct several test runs.

To help supporters feel immersed in your event, you need to leverage a comprehensive online fundraising solution with livestreaming capabilities. Livestreaming allows your attendees to engage with your organization in real time and feel like they’re connected to your community, even if they’re miles apart.

To shape your livestream programming, it’s critical that you plan early and determine exactly what this will look like from a supporter’s perspective. For example, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will your virtual event occur alongside an in-person event? If so, what will your remote supporters see at times when your virtual and in-person activities aren’t in sync?
  • Will you play any pre-recorded videos during your livestream? What will these videos show and how will they keep supporters’ attention?
  • Will you create breakout rooms or allow supporters to speak in a live chat to create a sense of community?
  • What other engagement tactics will you use throughout your livestream?

In addition to considering what you’ll show during your livestream, you also need to make sure you have all your technical bases covered so your program can go off without a hitch. After all, nothing turns off a supporter more than a virtual experience with lags or technical difficulties, which can quickly lead to supporters getting distracted or clicking off your livestream altogether.

Make sure to lead several test runs with your virtual event staff and volunteers. Essentially, this is like a dress rehearsal before the big show! Test your technology and request that your team members practice their various roles. For instance, invite your speakers and presenters to go over their speeches and ask your emcee to run through their script.

This way, you can proactively work out kinks and ensure everything is ready to go on event day. This will make executing and managing your event a much smoother and more positive experience.

2. Keep your program short and sweet.

Keep in mind that donor attention spans are getting shorter online, so it’s better to create a high-quality, short virtual event as opposed to a lengthy one.

While an in-person event might last hours, we recommend your virtual fundraising event last about 45 minutes to 1 hour in length. This means that every minute of your program needs to provide value to donors while simultaneously showing them why your organization is worthy of their support.

For example, let’s say your nonprofit is thinking of hosting a gala fundraiser. While you might invite multiple board members and beneficiaries to give lengthy speeches at an in-person gala, this approach in a virtual setting will quickly bore your audience and risk losing their attention altogether. Instead, you could reserve the first ten minutes of your livestream for opening speeches, then dedicate the rest of the event to online auction bidding and entertainment to keep motivations high and your supporters hooked.

Carefully map out your virtual event’s programming and the allocated time associated with each activity. Then, stick to this agenda as closely as possible to ensure you don’t go over time.

3. Centralize the virtual event experience.

Your nonprofit has plenty of technology options when it comes to hosting your virtual event. However, haphazardly piecing together more than one virtual fundraising tool makes it more difficult for your staff and your donors.

Opt for an all-in-one fundraising platform to streamline the event experience from beginning to end. The right fundraising solution will enable supporters to register, donate, place a bid, and find the link to the live streaming program all in the same central hub. Plus, your team will have everything you need under one roof to maximize your chances of success.

The OneCause guide to fundraising platforms recommends investing in software that allows for:

  • Flexible branding and creative campaigns
  • Versatile fundraising options, including peer-to-peer and text-to-give
  • Social integration to expand your reach
  • Gamification tools, like fundraising thermometers and scoreboards, to inspire friendly competition
  • Engagement with a multimedia experience
  • Ability to curate virtual, hybrid, and in-person donor experiences
  • Silent and live auction capabilities that update in real-time
  • Donation capability without leaving the livestream

Look for a solution that will empower your organization to easily design, plan, and lead any type of fundraiser so you can drive a higher ROI year over year.

4. Schedule your activities strategically.

Your virtual activities need to appeal to your donors’ interests and maintain their attention to increase your chances of fundraising success. This means strategically engaging supporters during your program is of the utmost importance. Think about how you’ll schedule each of the fundraising activities during your virtual event.

For example, when you’re hosting a virtual auction, be sure to:

  • Conduct your paddle raise or live appeals before the main auction. Everyone can participate in a live appeal (but everyone might not plan to bid in your auction), so tackle it first while the energy is at its peak.
  • Keep your bidding segments rolling smoothly. Live bidding segments can be extremely exciting, but don’t let them dominate a huge portion of your event. Have your emcee/auctioneer present the items one at a time, track bids, and discuss donors’ impact for a while, but close them out one at a time in the background. This will help prevent the segment from becoming too number-centric and overshadowing your mission moments.
  • Take advantage of the last-minute fundraising frenzy. Just as you would at an in-person event, send out a “last call for bids/donations” text message. Sit back and watch your fundraising numbers rise!
  • Give viewers something to stay tuned-in for. How will you conclude your event? If you want viewers to stay engaged for the entirety, give them a reason to stick around. Major announcements, raffle drawings, and performances can all be effective ways to wrap up.

It’s equally important to think through how you’ll keep your remote attendees engaged throughout the entire event experience. Luckily, there are plenty of platforms and tools you can leverage to engage supporters throughout  your virtual activities, including:

  • Live chat: Most livestream platforms allow you to encourage communication throughout the live stream. Take advantage of these capabilities and connect with your audience in real time with important updates and announcements. You can also empower your supporters to chat with each other and create a feeling of community.
  • Social media: Social media isn’t just a powerful pre-event marketing tool! In fact, you can use social media during your event to maximize supporter engagement and participation. For example, you might invite supporters to get together for watch parties and post pictures online with a creative hashtag, or tune into a special behind the scenes live stream on your social channels. NXUnite’s guide to Instagram for nonprofits recommends leveraging in-app features like video stories and polls to drive extra engagement.
  • Text messaging: Reach supporters directly via text messaging by sending push notifications throughout the program, sharing outbid notifications if you’re hosting an auction, and reiterating your fund-a-need or live appeal.

If you notice a decline in event engagement, try a variety of different gamification and engagement tactics to regain supporters’ attention. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what resonates with your supporters.

Unleash your nonprofit’s potential by tapping into the wide world of virtual fundraising. A well-designed virtual fundraising event can help increase your visibility, strengthen connections with new and current supporters, and enable your organization to meet its goals. Best of all, nearly any event can be adapted into a virtual offering with the right plan, so leverage these top tips to create a winning online event that will leave a lasting impression on donors.

You know your nonprofit is in need of major gifts, so you’ve put together a team to scour your donor database for the best possible prospects. You’ve found a few who you think might fit the bill, but how do you know if you’ve really found a viable prospect?

Major donors are a vital part of any successful long-term fundraising plan, so it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure you’re moving in the right direction. Looking out for these four signs in a prospect can help you stay on the right track:

  1. They’re clearly aligned with your nonprofit’s mission.
  2. They have multiple capacity markers.
  3. They’ve demonstrated a habit of charitable giving.
  4. They’re a highly engaged supporter.

As we explore each of these signs in more detail, keep in mind that every prospect you consider should have some kind of relationship with your organization already. Cultivating potential donors that you have an existing connection to is much easier and more effective than starting from scratch. With that in mind, let’s dive in!

1. They’re clearly aligned with your nonprofit’s mission.

The goal of major donor research is to find prospects who have the affinity, capacity, and propensity to give in large amounts to your nonprofit, as they’ll be the most likely to make a major gift.

The first indicator, affinity, refers to a prospect’s personal alignment with your mission and warmth towards your cause. For someone to consider donating thousands of dollars to your organization, they need to have a strong, secure belief in the work you do. But how do you tell if a donor is truly aligned with your mission?

To find out if your donor has the affinity to give a major gift, look into their:

  • Past involvement with your nonprofit: If a donor has attended multiple events, given in-kind donations, or provided other support to your organization in the past, it’s likely that they believe in your mission and will want to help again in the future.
  • Personal connections: Existing relationships with your nonprofit’s board members or other major donors can indicate that your prospect has similar views and may be on the same page about your mission. 
  • Other relevant affiliations: Is the donor active with any like-minded nonprofits in your community? Do they donate to political campaigns that align with your organization’s values? Look for affiliations that demonstrate the prospect’s interest in and dedication to similar causes. 

Along with these indicators, explore any notes your staff members have made about the donor in your donor database. For example, if a note says that they seemed especially interested in a certain aspect of your cause, they may have a high affinity to give to campaigns relating to that aspect.

2. They have multiple capacity markers.

Next, determine if your prospect has the financial capacity to give a major gift. Using wealth screening tools and philanthropic databases, you can find information about financial markers your donors have that indicate they may be in a good financial position to make a major gift.

DonorSearch’s wealth screening guide points out that major donor prospect screening has evolved to encompass more than just wealth data. Now, aspects such as a donor’s affinity and propensity to give to causes like yours are also considered. However, it’s still vital to ensure that your prospect has the financial means to make a major gift before moving any further in the research process.

The ideal prospect should have multiple markers that indicate a high capacity to give. These might include:

  • A high-income career
  • Owning real estate
  • Business ownership or affiliations
  • Stock holdings

Beyond prospect research databases, you can look for these markers in real estate property records, matching gift databases, SEC filings, and even social sites like LinkedIn. If your prospect has more than one capacity marker, they likely have funds available to give.

3. They’ve demonstrated a habit of charitable giving. 

After ensuring that your prospect has enough warmth towards your cause and the financial means to give a major gift, check if they have the propensity to do so—essentially, do they have a habit of giving to charitable causes like yours? 

To find propensity information on your donor, follow these steps:

  1. Find your prospect’s giving history in your own donor database first. Have they donated to your organization before? Which campaigns have they donated to? How much?
  2. Explore resources like other nonprofits’ donor lists. Check if your prospect’s name appears on the donor lists of any organizations with similar causes. 
  3. Look at other organizations’ boards. Serving on another nonprofit’s board demonstrates a significant commitment to supporting charitable causes.

For example, say the prospect that you’re zeroing in on is named Chrystal. You know that Chrystal has a high position at a prominent tech company, owns a vacation home, and supports a local politician whose values align with yours. When researching her propensity to give, you find out that she contributed to a capital campaign you hosted a few years ago. By looking at donor lists, you see that she regularly donates to environmental causes like yours, and you learn that she serves on the board of another nonprofit in your community.

Chrystal has the affinity, capacity, and propensity to give a major gift to your nonprofit, so you make an outreach plan and start cultivating your relationship!

4. They’re a highly engaged supporter.

Lastly, supporters that you already have positive, long-term relationships with can make some of the best major donor prospects. If your prospect checks all of the boxes we’ve discussed and they’re a highly engaged supporter, there’s a good chance you’ve found your next major donor. 

Specifically, pay attention to those who:

  • Attend your fundraising events frequently
  • Volunteer often
  • Serve on your board
  • Provide feedback on programs
  • Have expressed interest in particular upcoming campaigns or initiatives

Those who have already demonstrated interest in these types of involvement activities can also be easier to cultivate and steward after they make a gift. According to Donorly’s guide to finding major donors, it’s important to provide major donors with opportunities for meaningful engagement beyond donating to develop a lasting relationship. For instance, if your prospect already loves to volunteer, providing additional opportunities to sustain that relationship will be a breeze.

Once you’ve identified that your major donor prospect has markers in each of these categories, you can get to work on strengthening your relationship with them as part of the donor cultivation process. If you need help navigating this process or creating a thorough cultivation strategy, don’t be afraid to reach out to consultants who can help.

The time has come for your nonprofit’s annual fundraising gala. However, you find yourself facing an entire laundry list of planning to get through to ensure that the gala is a success—from securing a venue to lining up the evening’s entertainment.

Fortunately, there’s a way to lessen the load on your nonprofit’s event committee and budget. Why not host your gala in a virtual or hybrid format? According to vFairs’ Future of Virtual Events survey, 77.2% of event professionals, including those at nonprofits and corporations, prefer virtual events because they have higher attendance rates than in-person events.

In this guide, we’ll walk through six essential planning tips for hosting a memorable virtual or hybrid fundraising gala:

  1. Understand what makes a virtual or hybrid gala unique.
  2. Make your gala programming engaging.
  3. Invest in necessary software.
  4. Reach out to corporate sponsors.
  5. Promote the gala.
  6. Nail your follow-up communications.

When you incorporate virtual elements into your fundraising gala, you’ll still be able to leverage all the opportunities of an in-person one, including silent auctions and interesting speakers, to engage your audience members wherever they are. Let’s get started!

1. Understand what makes a virtual or hybrid gala unique.

The first step to hosting an effective virtual or hybrid gala event is to recognize how this type of opportunity is unique from traditional in-person events.

Here are some of the common differences:

  • Use of live streaming tools. At your gala, you’ll likely have a speaker to inspire your event attendees to take action for your cause. You wouldn’t want your online audience to miss out on this awesome opportunity! Live streaming these elements of the event helps everyone participate.
  • Shorter event duration. While people may plan the majority of their days around your in-person event, the same can’t be said for virtual and hybrid opportunities. Plan for these events to be slightly shorter — between 60 and 90 minutes is ideal.
  • Lower event costs. There’s no need to book a venue or a caterer for your online gala. All you need is an online platform, which comes at a much lower rate. While you may still have some in-person costs for hybrid events, your expenses will be lower than a fully in-person event.

Regardless of if you’re hosting a hybrid or online gala, it will still take a few months of planning to create an event that wows your attendees. Be sure to give yourself ample preparation time, especially if you’re less familiar with virtual events.

As you begin marketing your event, emphasize the benefits of online events for your attendees. For example, you might discuss the convenience of bidding for silent auction items online or the comfort of being able to attend the event online from the couch.

2. Make your gala programming engaging.

When you prepare for a virtual or hybrid gala, you first and foremost want to make sure that your attendees are engaged throughout the entire event. Therefore, you need to plan proper programming that will keep them entertained.

Some ways to spice up your next gala programming include:

  • Launching a silent auction. Procure items that will inspire friendly competition and start a bidding war among your attendees. Handbid’s guide to silent auction items emphasizes that your items need to align with the interests of your audience to entice them to bid. They should also be items that would be challenging to get anywhere else.
  • Incorporating gamification. What’s more entertaining than competition among friends? Gamification allows nonprofits to encourage light rivalry among supporters. For example, you might include a leaderboard featuring those who have made the greatest impact by bidding at your auction. Attendees will chase this type of recognition! Or, you may include a fundraising thermometer, showing how close your nonprofit is to reaching a goal and encouraging attendees to do their part.
  • Live streaming entertainment. Entertainment options are plentiful whether you’re hosting an online or hybrid gala. You might incite some laughs with a comedy show for your audience, offering it live in person and streamed over the web. Or, you could provide musical entertainment for guests with a band!

Keep your audience in mind as you choose your gala’s entertainment and programming. Gauge your audience’s interests and plan programming that will fall into those interests. This will serve the dual purpose of driving engagement at your auction and building long-term relationships with your supporters for the future.

3. Invest in necessary software.

Once you’ve determined the type of programming you’ll have as a part of your gala, it’s time to make sure you have the tools necessary to make those plans a reality. Online and hybrid galas will require specialized software with the capabilities necessary for your event to succeed. For your gala, you’ll probably need access to tools such as:

  • Registration forms. When you promote your gala, provide links to your registration form to allow your attendees to sign up for your event.
  • Live streaming software. If you host a hybrid event, live streaming tools will make your in-person activities available for your at-home audience. If you host a fully virtual event, you’ll need these tools to provide an immersive experience for your online guests.
  • Mobile bidding tools. If you’re hosting an auction as a part of your gala, invest in auction software with mobile bidding tools. This will allow in-person guests to bid on your auction from their tables and your virtual audience to easily engage with the auction.
  • Donation pages. If an event attendee wants to donate to your cause, why deny them? In fact, you can encourage these additional donations with easy-to-access donation pages built through your organization’s software.

Make a list of all the additional features you’ll need for your organization’s unique event needs. Then, when you enter into conversations with providers, you won’t be distracted by fancy bells and whistles of solutions that may not serve your needs. Always consult your list and make sure you will have everything necessary before investing.

4. Reach out to corporate sponsors.

Corporate sponsors are a game-changing aspect of any fundraising event, including your virtual or hybrid gala. With corporate philanthropy becoming a priority for many companies, it’s an ideal time to tap into their generosity and cultivate impactful partnerships.

When seeking corporate sponsorships for your event, follow these best practices:

  • Identify businesses with similar values. When conducting research on potential corporate sponsors, narrow down your list by focusing on the ones with values aligned with your nonprofit. This makes them much more likely to be interested in supporting your fundraising efforts.
  • Leverage existing connections. Chances are, your board members already have some relationships with business leaders or other significant contacts in the community. If so, have them reach out directly to these individuals to consider sponsoring your fundraising gala.
  • Highlight the benefits of sponsorship. Often, companies choose to get involved with nonprofits to boost their reputation and engage their employees. Encourage potential sponsors to support your upcoming event by emphasizing how you’ll feature them in your programming and display their logos.
  • Set sponsorship levels. Corporate sponsorship levels make it easy for companies to contribute toward your fundraising gala at a level that they’re comfortable with. Depending on how much they invest in your event, you’ll offer varying incentives as well.

If handled properly, corporate sponsorships can become long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Remember to publicly recognize your sponsors for all of their support and specify how they played a role in your gala’s success.

5. Promote the gala.

The next step for an effective gala? Telling people about it, of course! You’ve planned an entertaining evening, so you simply need the guests to attend. When you promote your hybrid or virtual opportunity, be sure to meet your supporters where they are: online.

Create a full-fledged promotion strategy for the gala with these tips:

  • Use a multi-channel marketing strategy. A multi-channel strategy will reach your supporters on several platforms, informing them about your gala and encouraging them to attend. Getting Attention’s marketing guide suggests leveraging platforms like email, direct mail, video marketing, social media, your website, and more for promotion.
  • Get supporters excited about programming. Market the specific, exciting elements that you’ve planned for your event such as the band you chose to perform or the keynote speaker who will deliver a speech. You might even ask performers if they could also promote the event on your behalf.
  • Ask team members to spread the word. Team members, volunteers, board members, and even other supporters can all do their part to promote your event. Ask them to share key pages on social media to get their friends and family excited about the event.

In all of your promotional materials, be sure you provide a link or QR code to make it easy for potential attendees to find your registration page. This makes it more convenient for them to RSVP and let you know they’re coming right away!

6. Nail your follow-up communications.

Whether your gala hosted hundreds of guests or was a small affair, no event is over until you’ve followed up with all of the supporters and guests who worked hard to make your gala a success.

To nail your follow-up communications, consider the following strategies:

  • Send personalized thank-you cards to guests. Nothing says thank you like a handwritten or personalized card. Thank all of your guests with a note of thanks that extends beyond an automated appreciation email.
  • Set up meetings and phone calls to directly thank major donors. Major donors gave a great deal to your cause, so show them the gratitude they deserve. Set up meetings with them and call them on the phone to thank them for their generous support.
  • Don’t forget to show gratitude to your volunteersIn the hustle and bustle of thanking donors, many nonprofits forget about another key group that made the event possible: their volunteers. Reach out to these supporters and thank them for their generous contribution of time.

In these messages, always address the supporter by name to personalize the interaction. Then, directly thank them for their specific gift. These supporters gave to make a difference, so this is a great opportunity to explain the impact they’ll have. Finally, provide the next steps to continue engaging with your cause, whether that be following your organization on social media, checking out your volunteer opportunities, or registering for your next event.

Providing virtual events for guests is a tried and tested strategy now. Take what you’ve learned over the past few years and strategically build the best possible event that maximizes our return on investment. By using the tips and strategies in this guide, you’ll be well-suited to create one of these incredible events.

Have you ever believed something that wasn’t true? According to Forbes, there is a direct connection between what you think and the outcome of your work. In other words, you’re lowering your results if you aren’t believing the right thing. This sentiment rings true in the world of small business fundraising.

In small business circles, there are a lot of opinions stating that fundraising is not a viable strategy. However, organizations that don’t take advantage of it will likely face missed opportunities, limited funding, and overall restricted growth. In fact, as a critical source of sustainable funding, fundraising just might be the key to your small business goals.

In this guide, we’ll dispel common small business fundraising myths that can quickly steal your potential and replace them with updated realities to inform your fundraising efforts. Let’s begin.

Myth: Fundraising is only for nonprofits.

The term “fundraising” is most commonly used in nonprofit fundraising. So, it’s no surprise that many believe fundraising is off-limits for small businesses. However, this belief is simply not true.

Reality: Fundraising is not limited to nonprofits, as small businesses can also benefit from fundraising for capital growth, expansion, product development, or other business projects.

As an example, let’s explore how a new gym might use fundraising to hit its business objectives:

  • Facility expansion and upgrades: As a gym grows in popularity, additional fundraising dollars could be used to open new locations, hire more experienced trainers, or invest in new equipment. Finding support for new gyms to get their feet off the ground is essential.
  • Marketing and promotion: It’s always nice to have extra wiggle room in your small business marketing budget. For gyms, they can spend fundraising dollars to plan community outreach programs or fund eye-catching outdoor campaigns to spread awareness.
  • Member incentives: If your business has a membership program, you know that member perks are a primary driver for member acquisition and retention. A gym can use fundraising to increase membership and become more competitive.

Fundraising can diversify your organization’s revenue streams to give you an extra leg up on your competition. Accessing additional funds can be a game changer, especially if you’re just entering the small business market.

Myth: Fundraising is too complicated and time-consuming.

If fundraising feels like too much trouble, there is a good chance you’re thinking about it in the wrong light. Fundraising can be easy to conquer if you delegate responsibilities, choose proven methods, and set realistic goals.

Reality: Although fundraising does require planning, the right tools and strategy make it a valuable addition to your business development.

Fundraising can quickly become too complicated if you dive in without a plan and a proven method. For inspiration, here are some top fundraising strategies that are easy to pull off:

  • Crowdfunding: Online crowdfunding is a reliable way to market your business and raise funds. According to NXUnite’s guide to crowdfunding, you could look into either reward-based or investment-based crowdfunding. For reward-based crowdfunding, companies could use a platform like Kickstarter to send supporters something in return for their support. On the other hand, investment-based crowdfunding involves selling a part of your business in exchange for funds.
  • Grant research: For startups, especially, grant research is a worthwhile fundraising strategy. Resources like The U.S. Small Business Association and Google for Startups offer valuable grant opportunities. For example, Google’s program provides funding for every stage of your development with its “start, build, and grow” opportunities.
  • Fundraising web store: For an easy fundraising solution, host a fundraising web store to sell branded merchandise. Select an easy-to-use platform that will enable you to easily stock your store, price your products, and streamline the checkout process. If your business is newer, a fundraising web store offers the additional perk of spreading your visual brand.

Don’t overlook more traditional fundraising options either. Walk-a-thons, auctions, and other virtual events can offer a high ROI.

There are other creative options your organization can explore as well. For instance, did you know you get paid to repurpose your used running shoes to earn cash? Simply partner with a sneaker recycling provider like Sneakers4Good. Then, collect gently worn used or new sneakers and running shoes from your team, ship your sneakers to the provider’s warehouse, and receive a check. Your sneakers are then repurposed to fuel micro-enterprises within developing countries.

Myth: Fundraising is all about revenue and persuasion.

Another common fundraising misconception is that small business fundraising is about persuasion and revenue generation. Although making monetary requests is part of fundraising, it’s not the only facet of a productive fundraising strategy.

Reality: Successful fundraising is built on trust, authenticity, and connection between the fundraiser and donors or investors. Fundraising goes beyond monetary requests and creates meaningful relationships based on shared values.

There is a lot more that goes into fundraising than simply persuading supporters. Refining your communication and creating a connection is essential to build their trust. You might use these tips as a starting point:

  • Network: Strong relationships take time to build. Be sure to connect with your supporter community and offer them more opportunities to get to know your business. For example, you might host a pop shop for others to learn about your business, ask questions, or sign up.
  • Support others: A great way to earn trust and support is by rallying around a cause your community cares about. Research your community’s needs and look for ways you can enhance your current company practices to support them. For instance, you might offer a corporate matching gift program for your employees.
  • Maintain transparency: Be transparent in communicating how your organization will use any raised funds. Once supporters have backed your cause, regularly update them to share their impact. Doing so will foster trust and credibility with all of your stakeholders.
  • Share online: Build up your online presence by posting regularly on social media. Share a behind-the-scenes look into your business and allow others to get to know your everyday schedule. You could even host a giveaway to boost engagement. Through digital marketing campaigns like these, your audience will be more familiar with you before you start your fundraising efforts.

Link to your website for others to learn more about your organization. This way, they can better understand who you are and why your fundraising efforts matter.

That said, conduct a website audit to ensure your website is accessible and informative. Make sure users can easily navigate pages and get an accurate sense of your organization.

Fundraising for your small business does not need to be intimidating. You’ll see results faster,by connecting with your target supporter groups and choosing lucrative fundraising options. Be open to combining fundraising options as well. For example, you could apply for grants to cover a new facility and host a community fundraising event to cover additional costs.

As a nonprofit dedicated to animal welfare, your cause is noble and important. However, without proper funding, it can be difficult to better the lives of animals in need.

That’s where donors come in. Individuals who are willing and able to give are the key to any nonprofit’s success. But how do you find these donors and convince them to support your specific cause?

In this guide, we’ll explore five strategies for reaching donors who are passionate about animal-related missions like yours. Whether you run an animal shelter, rescue group, or rehabilitation center, these insights will help you secure the funding the animals in your care deserve. Let’s get started!

1. Build an Engaging Online Presence

Having a strong online presence allows you to expand your nonprofit’s reach and attract donors who may not have previously been aware of your work.

To get started, create a digital marketing strategy that includes the following channels:

  • Social media: Social media is ideal for sharing heartwarming rescue images, behind-the-scenes videos, and important updates. To increase visibility, NXUnite recommends reaching out to influencers in the space and asking them to share your content with their networks.
  • Website: Your nonprofit’s website should have a user-friendly design and provide valuable information about your mission, programs, and impact. It should also feature a designated donation page where visitors can lend their support.
  • Email: Use email newsletters to regularly communicate with supporters, sharing updates on rescued animals, success stories, upcoming events, and donation appeals. Use compelling subject lines to stand out from the crowd and improve your open rates.

If your marketing team is spread thin, consider using a tool like Gingr’s pet business software to automate outreach. With their easy-to-use tools, you can spend less time managing menial tasks like personalizing and sending emails, and more time focusing on what matters most: the animals.

2. Cultivate Relationships with Existing Donors

Your existing donors are the backbone of your organization. Show them that their support is valued through:

  • Personalized communications: Send personalized thank-you letters or emails that acknowledge their support and provide specific updates on the impact of their donations. For example, you might say, “Thanks in part to your $50 contribution, Maisy the beagle is now wagging her tail again.”
  • Donor stewardship events: Organize exclusive events such as donor appreciation dinners, behind-the-scenes tours of your facilities, and special meet-and-greets with rescued animals. These events allow donors to connect with your nonprofit’s mission, staff, and other supporters, fostering a greater sense of belonging.
  • Impact reporting: Provide financial reports, progress reports, or impact stories that highlight the tangible outcomes made possible through donations. This demonstrates accountability and builds trust, helping reinforce donors’ belief in your work.

When donors are made to feel involved through efforts like these, they are more likely to continue their support and advocate on your behalf.

3. Host Community-Wide Fundraising Events

If you’re looking to bring people together in support of your cause, consider hosting a community-wide fundraising event. Events are an opportunity to network and showcase your value to businesses, donors, and key stakeholders in the area.

Here are some popular animal-related fundraising events to guide your planning process:

  • Bark in the Park: Organize a dog-friendly event at a local park or outdoor space. For a registration fee, donors can participate in fun activities like a dog walkathon, pet costume contest, or agility demonstration.
  • Paws for a Cause Gala: Host an elegant fundraising gala that celebrates your organization’s mission. To generate revenue, the event could feature an auction with pet-themed items and live entertainment.
  • Pet Adoption Fair: Collaborate with other local animal shelters and rescue organizations to organize a pet adoption fair. Set up booths where attendees can donate and adopt animals in need of a forever home.

Regardless of the event you choose, be sure to thank donors for their support, attendance, and commitment to your cause. Doing so will cultivate meaningful relationships that last long after the event ends.

4. Leverage Corporate Sponsorships

Corporate sponsorships are partnerships between a nonprofit and a company, in which the company provides financial support in exchange for benefits like increased brand exposure and positive public relations.

To ensure your partnerships are a success, follow these steps:

  • Network. Attend networking events, industry conferences, or corporate social responsibility forums to connect with potential partners. Introduce them to your mission and explain your need for a sponsor.
  • Target businesses with similar values to your own. Reach out to businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to social responsibility and have a natural connection to animal welfare. For instance, if you run an animal shelter, a dog boarding business would be an ideal match, since you share similar target audiences and services.
  • Create a compelling proposal. Explain how the partnership will be a mutually beneficial venture. For instance, let’s say you’re asking a dog boarding business to donate to your upcoming fundraising campaign. In return, you will shout out the business on social media and mention them in a speech at your next event, thereby introducing the business to a new client base.

After securing a corporate sponsor, maintain open communication throughout the partnership, providing regular updates on the impact of their investment and seeking feedback on how the partnership can continue to be beneficial for both parties. Additionally, ask the sponsor to share your information with their employees and clients, as they may also be eager to give.

5. Use the Google Ad Grant

The Google Ad Grant provides eligible nonprofits with $10,000 in monthly ad credits to promote their websites through Google Ads. When you create a Google Ad, your organization appears at the top of the search engine results page for your chosen keyword, encouraging interested users to get involved.

If your organization is eligible, it’s easy to apply for the program. Once Google accepts your application, you’ll be able to market your nonprofit and reach new donors by following these tips:

  • Choose relevant keywords. The funds you receive through the Google Ad Grant go towards bidding on keywords. These are words that users interested in your cause may search for, and by bidding on them, you can show up first for relevant searches. For example, your organization may choose “animal shelter donations” or “animal rescue group contributions” in order for potential donors to find your site.
  • Include a call to action. When people see your Google Ads, make it clear what action you’d like them to take. In this case, it’s donating to your cause. Include “Donate Now!” or “Help An Animal In Need Today!” in the copy of your Google Ad to encourage people to contribute.
  • Measure your success. The Google Ad Grant program gives you access to Google Analytics, where you can track your campaign success. See how many conversions, or donations, your ads inspired, and take note of which campaigns performed best so you know which keywords and copy to focus on for next time.

Adding the Google Ad Grant to your donor outreach strategy comes at no additional cost to your organization and can help you gain new support. If you’d like help applying for or managing your Google Ad Grant, consider reaching out to a Google Ad Grant agency.

By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to effectively connect with donors. Remember to always stay true to your organization’s values, maintain transparency with your supporters, and continuously seek out new opportunities for engagement. With persistence, you can build a strong donor base and make a meaningful difference in the world of animal welfare.

A fundraising auction has many moving parts—soliciting items, sending invitations, and finding a venue are just a few tasks on your planning committee’s to-do list. However, one item on your list merits your full attention: pricing.

Pricing is at the heart of a productive auction fundraiser. You could procure all the best items for your audience, but you won’t reach your fundraising potential if you don’t price them correctly. To really make a difference, you need to know how to set competitive but fair starting bids and bid increments. In this quick guide, you’ll learn how to:

Auction pricing can vary depending on the number and type of items you procure. To solicit items effectively, make sure you leave plenty of time to research potential donors and send donation request letters. Doing so will allow you to procure a range of enticing, high-value items. With this in mind, let’s jump in!

Determine Fair Market Value

Fair Market Value (FMV) refers to an item’s retail price or list value. It’s your “source of truth” for setting starting bids and bid increments. It should also be well-documented so item donors can accurately claim their tax deductions.’s silent auction item pricing guide suggests consulting the following resources in addition to researching the standard retail price to compare FMV:

  • Item donors: Reach out to item donors to understand their evaluation of the item’s FMV. Weigh their opinion the most heavily, as pricing their item correctly is one way to recognize them for their generosity. This is especially important for intangible items.
  • eBay or Amazon: For items donated anonymously or for ones that have an unknown FMV, research sites like eBay or Amazon for an estimate of the item’s listing price.
  • Previous auction data: Attend auctions or look into previous auction data to get a second opinion for any item prices you’re unsure about.

Bear in mind that most auctions have a combination of tangible and intangible items. The above sources work well for tangible items. However, intangible items, such as experiences or celebrity meet-and-greets, require additional research. Look into your audience’s demographics, preferences, and interests. How highly would they value this intangible item? When in doubt, ask them, or reference previous auction data to see how well similar intangible items performed in years past.

Set Starting Bids

After you’ve identified an FMV for each item, use this information to finalize your starting bids. As a general rule of thumb, set starting bids at 30-50% FMV to keep bidders invested without devaluing your items. The starting bid range is wide to accommodate the various types of auction items you’ve procured.

For instance, starting bids for items with the most bidding interest, such as a lakehouse getaway package, should be set closer to 30-40% FMV. Starting bids for lower-end or repeated items should be set closer to 50% FMV because if you think people may not be excited about an item, you’ll want to cover your bases as the chance for sustained, competitive bidding is lower.

To determine which items offer the highest revenue potential, refer to these sources:

  • Audience demographics and preferences: Consult your guest list to take note of the type of attendees you’ll have. Consider how they would value your items. For example, an audience of school parents will most likely value childcare services more highly than an audience of retirees. To go even further, NPOInfo’s guide to donor data management suggests digging deeper into your attendees’ average income and employment.
  • Audience interests: Discover what sort of activities or hobbies your audience members enjoy most. How do they spend their free time? An audience of avid golfers will most likely value a new golf club set more highly than a prized painting.
  • Item’s perceived specialness: Determine which factors could have the most sway in persuading attendees to bid. If your item is a pair of AirPods, for instance, is it the newest model? Or, maybe you’ve procured a one-of-a-kind, hand-made pottery piece.

Be sure to optimize your display for high-value items. For example, to show off any experiences such as a beach getaway, you’ll want to exhibit alluring photos of the exact location. Or, if you’re auctioning off concert tickets, let bidders see the concert venue, artist, and seat location. Capturing photos of your item will allow bidders to better visualize its value.

Set Bid Increments

To set the right bidding pace, set bid increments at 10-15% FMV. To determine where your bid increments should land, consider these factors:

  • Bidder feedback and fellow fundraiser support: Seek input from previous auction attendees and bidders to inform your bid increment strategy. You can also ask for advice from other seasoned auction fundraisers to guide your decision-making process.
  • Auction dynamics: Auction time limits, audience size, and item number are all factors that can weigh in on your bid increment strategy. If you have limited time available and a large number of items, it may make more sense to set higher bid increments.
  • High-value items: For items with a somewhat higher FMV, consider keeping the bid increments closer to 10% to inspire more competitive bidding. Conversely, for your top few FMV items, set the bidding increments closer to 15% to maximize your auction revenue.

Sometimes a Buy-it-Now option makes the most sense for your top item. It’s a way for bidders to secure their favorite item and skip the bidding process altogether. You can set a Buy-it-Now price at 150-200% FMV as traditional bidding should never exceed it. Use this option sparingly—an item with a Buy-it-Now price should not be used for unique and appealing items as traditional bidding wars will likely drive up the price more.

Use The Right Tools to Manage Bids

Keeping track of starting bids and bid increments is much easier with the right tools at hand. Customizable auction software can help you execute your online, in-person, or virtual auction with ease. When searching for the right auction software, look for features like:

  • Built-in bid calculations enable fundraisers to enter the FMV for each item and set starting bids and bid increments without having to calculate each by hand.
  • Outbid notifications motivate guests to increase their bids for high-ticket items as well as make sure they don’t miss out on their top items.
  • Online pre-bidding allows attendees to place bids prior to the event and can get the auction hype going in advance.
  • Mobile bidding lets attendees conveniently place bids through their phones. This feature eliminates the need for bid sheets and encourages a quicker bidding pace.
  • Virtual bidding enables virtual attendees to bid, chat, and live stream on a single screen. This makes the virtual bidding experience more interactive.

To get the most value from your software, research additional features that will streamline your event planning, execution, and follow-up. Features like auction item catalogs and procurement tracking can help you arrange your event while sponsorship displays and thank-you notes can help you finish the event well.

As you finalize your starting bids and bid increments, remember that attendees may not view the event the same way as you do. They are most likely eager to participate in an exciting auction experience rather than set on placing an exact number of bids. Therefore, it can be helpful to take a step back and remind bidders of why their contributions matter. Use storytelling tactics to help attendees visualize where their funds are going and how their auction participation will make a difference.

It’s no secret that fundraising allows nonprofits to operate day-to-day and make a difference in the community. However, for your nonprofit to thrive, the key is fundraising sustainably.

To achieve financial sustainability, your organization needs to focus not only on maximizing the amount of funding you bring in but also on bringing in several different types of donations. While fundraising events and year-end giving campaigns still have their place, diversifying your revenue streams helps ensure that you’ll have enough funding all year long.

To help you get started, here are five ongoing fundraisers your nonprofit can use to diversify its revenue:

  1. Online Shopping Fundraisers
  2. Gift Card Fundraising
  3. Charity eCards
  4. Matching Gifts
  5. Search Ad Grants Programs

In addition to providing your organization with year-round donations, these fundraisers can engage your supporters in new, creative ways. Making it easy to give again and again helps improve your donor retention rate, which also contributes to financial sustainability. Let’s dive in!

1. Online Shopping Fundraisers

Online shopping fundraisers allow supporters to give back to organizations and causes they care about while making everyday purchases online. You might have heard of the AmazonSmile program, which ran on this model until its discontinuation in early 2023. However, there are alternative fundraising programs your organization can sign up for that provide more flexibility and higher commission rates than AmazonSmile did.

ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause explains how your nonprofit can get started with an online shopping fundraiser in three easy steps:

  1. Partner with an online shopping fundraiser platform. This platform includes both a free internal-facing fundraising dashboard for your organization and a supporter-facing app that provides access to a wide network of retailers. Your shopping platform’s team will guide you through a simple onboarding process and answer any questions you may have during setup.
  2. Spread the word. Marketing is essential to a successful online shopping fundraiser. Your supporters will need instructions on how to get started and regular reminders to continue participating. The platform you partner with may be able to help with this step by creating branded landing pages, email templates, flyers, and other marketing materials for your organization.
  3. Track your results. You’ll be able to view real-time data on your fundraiser, allowing you to thank top supporters individually and hone your marketing strategy over time. To protect shoppers’ privacy, your organization will see just their names and overall fundraising totals—only the supporter will know exactly what they purchased.

During your online shopping fundraiser, your supporters can choose to shop at any participating retailer. They’ll pay the same prices they would normally and have access to all applicable discounts. The only difference is that they’ll use the fundraising platform’s app or browser extension when making their purchases. Over time, the small contributions from an online shopping fundraiser will add up to make a significant difference for your organization.

2. Gift Card Fundraising

Another way supporters can contribute to your nonprofit by making everyday purchases is through gift card fundraising. Similarly to an online shopping fundraiser, your organization partners with a fundraising platform that offers a variety of digital gift cards. Once supporters purchase these cards and have them delivered to their inboxes, they can forward the email to a loved one as a gift. A portion of each gift card sale goes back to your organization when the supporter purchases it.

You’ll get the most traction from gift card fundraising if you launch in either November (in advance of the December holiday season) or April (to prepare for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, peak wedding season, and school graduations). However, it’s best to leave your fundraiser open year-round so supporters can continue to purchase birthday gifts. While fundraising gift cards can be used for either online or in-person purchases, a digital delivery method provides maximum convenience for both your organization and your supporters.

3. Charity eCards

Online greeting cards help personalize the giving experience for supporters, deepening their connection with your organization. You can customize a variety of donation eCards for different occasions, from birthdays to holidays to awareness days related to your nonprofit’s mission.

There are three main ways to incorporate eCards into your organization’s donation processes:

  1. Create an integrated donation form that allows supporters to send an eCard to a friend or family member as an incentive for donating.
  2. Embed a widget into your donation confirmation page to provide the post-contribution option of sending an eCard.
  3. Add eCards to your nonprofit’s existing online merchandise store.

No matter which option you choose, consider marketing your charity eCards alongside a gift card fundraiser. This way, supporters can send an eCard and a gift card to their loved ones at the same time, all while contributing to a good cause!

4. Matching Gifts

Matching gifts allow your organization to double many donations you already receive. When a supporter who works for a business with a matching gift program donates to your nonprofit and submits a match request, their employer will also contribute, usually matching the original gift at a 1:1 ratio.

According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics, more than 26 million people work for businesses with matching gift programs, and 84% of donors say they’re more likely to donate if they know their gift will be matched. However, it’s estimated that up to $7 billion in matching funds goes unclaimed each year, mainly because many donors don’t know they’re eligible.

Your organization can help solve this problem and maximize your matching gift revenue in two ways. First, embed a matching gift tool directly into your online donation form so donors can quickly check their eligibility. Some of these tools also have auto-submission features, allowing supporters to submit match requests simply by entering their work email address. Second, actively promote matching gifts across all of your marketing channels to remind donors to request that all of their contributions be matched.

5. Search Ad Grants Programs

Although search ad grants programs aren’t fundraisers in the traditional sense, they can help offset marketing costs for your nonprofit. When you apply and are approved for one of these programs, your organization receives a monthly stipend for advertising on search engines. You can then use these marketing grants to support your existing fundraising efforts by driving traffic to your online donation page, event registration forms, and other key pages on your website.

The Google Ad Grants program is the most well-known of these programs. Your organization can apply for it in five easy steps:

  1. Confirm that your organization meets the Google Grant eligibility requirements.
  2. Register with TechSoup (if you haven’t done so already).
  3. Create a Google for Nonprofits Account and wait a few days for it to be approved.
  4. Prepare your website according to Google’s website policy checklist.
  5. Submit your grant application through your approved Google for Nonprofits account.

In addition to the Google Ad Grants program, Microsoft offers search ad grants through their Ads for Social Impact program. To secure this grant, your organization just needs to register for Microsoft for Nonprofits and complete the Microsoft Ad Grants application. Once your application is approved, you’ll be able to place ads across all Microsoft-owned and operated websites to boost supporter conversions.

As your nonprofit goes about its day-to-day operations, there may be times when unexpected costs arise or your fundraising campaigns fall short of their goals for reasons beyond your control. When this happens, having diversified revenue streams can help your organization maintain financial stability. Additionally, since nonprofit donations tend to peak at the end of the year and die down during the summer, running ongoing fundraisers can help you maintain momentum during slower times of the year.

For most associations, membership dues keep the organization up and running. Because members must renew their memberships each year to remain active and retain access to benefits, this is a fairly reliable stream of revenue for associations. Since strong, consistent membership is key to growing your association, it’s important to satisfy and engage members to motivate them to renew.

However, relying too heavily on dues to fuel your association can put pressure on staff to retain and recruit as many new members as possible. While staff should strive to retain and grow your membership base, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the demand to constantly reach new members to remain profitable. To relieve some of this pressure, consider further diversifying your revenue beyond membership dues.

While associations have relied primarily on dues, times are changing and revenue diversification is essential. In a 2016 study by ASAE, the organization found that on average, dues only make up 30% of total revenue for professional associations. In this guide, we’ll explore the following types of non-dues revenue streams and how you can implement them:

Remember that while your organization’s finances are important, members’ experiences should take first priority. To smoothly integrate these new revenue opportunities, consider combining your new revenue opportunities with members’ experiences through meaningful storytelling to promote the revenue streams. For example, you might feature a testimonial from a member who completed a course offered by your association and subsequently got a promotion using the new skills she learned.

To get started, let’s explore how conferences and special events can become valuable additional revenue streams.

Conferences and Special Events

For many associations, an annual conference or event is what their members look forward to each year. These events provide many benefits to members, such as networking opportunities, educational sessions and keynote presentations, and interactive workshops where they can learn new skills. They even have non-financial benefits for your association like assisting with new member outreach and supporting relationships with influential exhibitors and sponsors in your field.

Conferences also have clear financial benefits because attendees typically have to purchase tickets to enter—they might even purchase merchandise or food while at the conference. Additionally, any exhibitors at the conference will need to pay for their booth.

If your association doesn’t currently host a yearly conference (or is looking for ways to improve its events), follow these tips:

  • Use event planning software. Choose association management software (AMS) that offers helpful event management features. For instance, your software should automate conference communications, offer an eCommerce platform where members can purchase tickets, and have a mobile app that will help attendees navigate the event. Fonteva’s guide to Salesforce for associations recommends choosing a solution that integrates with your existing tech stack so all event data will flow seamlessly into your existing reports.
  • Market the event in advance. The key to profiting from a conference is attracting enough attendees and exhibitors. To reach these organizations and individuals, you’ll need to promote the event via association meetings, emails, newsletters, social media, and more. Make sure to reach out to your audience through the communication channels they prefer and use often.
  • Choose a flexible event format. If you run a large, multi-chapter association or your conference is well-known in your field, it’s possible that not every interested individual will be able to attend in person. To accommodate potential attendees who may not be able to travel and attend physically, offer a hybrid event. This way, those who wish to attend in person can, and other registrants have the option to tune in from their homes or offices.

While an event does require some upfront costs and planning, it can be a large source of revenue for your association. To make sure your organization profits from the conference, carefully budget during the planning process, place effort into event promotion, and implement constructive feedback and suggestions into future events.

Continued Learning Courses

One reason many members join associations is to learn new skills and information. While covering new topics during meetings or hosting monthly educational sessions is a good starting point, offer members the chance to go deeper with educational courses.

Host these courses on your association website or learning management system and sell access to them on your eCommerce site. Morweb’s membership website guide recommends keeping these resources behind a paywall that members have to log into to access.

Some common ways to structure these learning opportunities include creating:

  • A series of video lectures or presentations
  • Interactive microcredential courses
  • Written guides in a PDF or eBook format
  • Mentorships or coaching sessions
  • Discussion-based courses (e.g., members enrolled in the course read an article each week and meet to discuss it)

If your organization is smaller or doesn’t currently have the resources to build a full course, don’t shy away from offering other educational resources. For example, you might record and compile a series of webinars given about a specific topic and sell access to the series to members.


Selling merchandise is an easy way to passively generate revenue. Once you complete the initial preparation steps, your staff won’t need to put in much additional time or effort into this revenue stream. All your association will need to do is:

  1. Design the merchandise. Make sure it includes your association’s name and branding.
  2. Stock up on inventory for members to purchase.
  3. List each item on the eCommerce website powered by your association management platform.

To boost your sales, take advantage of opportunities to promote your merchandise. Conferences are a great time to sell special t-shirts, hats, or bags that attendees can take home as a souvenir. Additionally, you might offer sales around special occasions such as Black Friday or offer discount codes to new members to motivate them to browse your e-store.


Fundraisers are exceptional for generating additional funding for specific programs, events, or valuable member perks. For example, maybe you need to fundraise in order to support your mentorship program that connects members with college students looking for guidance. Or, maybe your association wants to partner with a local nonprofit to raise money for both causes.

While often necessary, it can be difficult to motivate members to participate in fundraisers when they are already paying membership fees. Try out these strategies to inspire their support:

  • Be clear about the fundraiser’s purpose. Address any confusion about why you are fundraising at the beginning of the campaign. Because members already pay membership fees, they might feel more comfortable donating if they know there is a specific reason for the fundraiser. Be as detailed as you can to paint a picture of how their support will benefit the association (e.g., “With your support, we can book an industry celebrity to speak at our yearly banquet.”).
  • Tailor your fundraising asks. When you reach out to members for donations, make sure to personalize your messages. Start by greeting them by name and explicitly naming any support they’ve given in the past. If they are a long-term member, acknowledge their years of membership. Create email segments that group donors by their level of involvement or the relationship with your association to ensure you ask for appropriate amounts.
  • Have a stewardship plan ready. When a member decides to make a generous gift to your association, be ready to recognize this generosity. You might send donation eCards to members who donate to thank them for their support or even offer exclusive perks. When members see that you value their support (and that donating is rewarded with prizes and recognition), they’ll be more likely to donate again in the future.

When planning your fundraiser, utilize fundraising features in your AMS. These features will help you track fundraising progress, send donation receipts, and identify top donors. If your current solution lacks these capabilities, consider upgrading to a more comprehensive solution.

As you introduce these new revenue streams, remember to remain cognizant of things like donor or consumer fatigue. To avoid turning members off to these opportunities, make sure any new revenue stream you introduce will directly benefit members—and make sure those benefits are clearly communicated. Then, by the time renewal letters go out, members will be excited to renew and enjoy your organization’s new offerings.

On average, working adults receive 120 emails a day. That means that each time your nonprofit sends an email, it’s competing with over a hundred other messages vying for each supporter’s attention.

In these crowded inboxes, how do you make your emails stand out? Once they do catch your recipients’ attention, how do you lead supporters from email to your website to take action?

Optimizing the donor journey from email to your donation page will increase conversion rates and build stronger supporter relationships in the process. When you make it easy for supporters to donate, you’ll give donors a better online experience and increase the chances they’ll give again. We’ll discuss these four tips for how to do just that:

  1. Make every email actionable.
  2. Design landing pages that hold donors’ attention.
  3. Simplify your donation page.
  4. Ensure consistency throughout the donor journey.

Soliciting donations from email isn’t just about having the right marketing strategy. Every step a donor takes, from clicking a link and arriving on your nonprofit’s website to filling out your donation form, needs to be cohesive and well thought out. Let’s start with the email itself.

1. Make every email actionable.

When crafting emails, focus on what will compel supporters to visit your website and take the next step. Not every email needs to be a donation appeal to lead donors to your giving page. Simply guide readers toward your website, then let your website do the rest of the work.

Optimize the following aspects of your emails to gently nudge donors toward your website:

  • Subject lines: 64% of people decide whether to open or delete an email based solely on the subject line. Make your subject lines more compelling by personalizing them with donors’ names and conveying urgency. For example, the subject line “Jim, you still have 24 hours left to give the gift of sight” is more actionable than “Join Our Eyeglass Gifting Campaign.”
  • Content: Supporters shouldn’t have to spend a long time reading your emails. Craft short but engaging messages that use storytelling techniques to inspire readers to dive deeper by visiting your website.
  • Links: Depending on the content of an email, you could link to blog posts, campaign pages, volunteer signups, or directly to your donation page. Any link that leads readers to your website helps, but make sure the text clearly tells supporters where the link will take them. Linking your donation page over the text “Breanna’s story,” for example, could be confusing and misleading.
  • CTAs: Calls to action, or CTAs, are vital for nonprofit emails. These are the buttons, text, or images that ask readers to click to donate, sign a petition, or take another next step. Improve your CTAs by keeping them short, straightforward, and clearly actionable.

To check the effectiveness of these strategies, analyze your emails’ click-through rate (CTR). Determine which types of content and CTAs drive the most engagement from your audience, and use similar content for future emails.

2. Design landing pages that hold donors’ attention.

Once a donor clicks a link in your email and arrives on your website, you need to encourage them to stay on the site and explore your content.

For example, let’s say you sent an email about an upcoming fundraising gala and linked to an event registration page. There are plenty of aspects of this page you can optimize to not only get users to sign up for the gala, but also stay on your website.

When designing landing pages using your organization’s website builder, make sure they include:

  • Compelling visuals: Images, graphics, and videos often hold users’ attention better than text alone. Plus, photos of your beneficiaries, volunteers, or staff help build an emotional connection with supporters. On your gala landing page, you might include a photo of last year’s attendees or an infographic showing how much the previous gala raised for your cause.
  • Relevant content: The information, images, and links on a landing page should all be relevant to your audience and their interests. If you know your supporters will be most excited about the auction portion of your gala, for example, your landing page could provide a sneak peek of a few high-profile auction items.
  • Optimized UX: User experience (UX) refers to how easily visitors can navigate your website. Negative UX, such as a long page loading time or buttons that aren’t clickable, can cause supporters to leave your website quickly. Avoid this by testing each landing page to ensure everything appears and works properly on desktop and mobile versions.

Every landing page should also have a clear pathway to your donation page. This is commonly done by creating a universal banner that lives at the top of every page of your website and features a large “Donate” button.

One way to make this design process easier is to use a website template that was created with nonprofits in mind. Morweb lists the top nonprofit website templates you should consider, many of which include built-in donation buttons or embedded donation forms. Using templates like these can help you streamline the donor journey without spending too much staff time on technical details.

3. Simplify your donation page.

Imagine that a supporter visited your event registration page and can’t attend the gala, but wants to donate. They click the prominent “Donate” button at the top of the signup page and arrive on your donation page. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for, but your work isn’t done yet.

Plenty of roadblocks can stop someone from completing an online donation. If the page doesn’t load fast enough, if there are too many prompts, or if anything on the page is confusing, donors might exit the page. Simplifying your donation page and only asking for necessary information gives donors a better experience and increases the likelihood of completed gifts.

Use these tips to simplify your donation page:

  • Limit form fields to include only straightforward, necessary questions.
  • Ensure your donation form is accessible on mobile devices.
  • Include suggested donation amounts so donors can quickly choose a popular donation size.
  • Test load times using Google Lighthouse and follow the recommended steps to improve your page’s speed.

Be sure to monitor your donation form’s bounce rate to see how many supporters aren’t completing their donations, then analyze why that may be happening. Make adjustments as needed, or send out a survey to donors asking for their opinions on the page.

4. Ensure visual consistency throughout the donor journey.

NXUnite’s biggest nonprofit web design tip is to ensure brand consistency across every page on your site. But don’t stop at your website — this brand consistency should extend to your emails, social media graphics, and every communication you send to supporters.

To ensure donors have a cohesive experience of your nonprofit throughout the entire journey from email to website to donation page, visual consistency is key. Specifically, the following branding and design elements should stay consistent across all website pages and messages:

  • Logo
  • Color scheme
  • Typography
  • Image style
  • Tone and messaging

Your website builder should allow you to easily customize branding elements across your entire site. There are plenty of email tools and templates that allow for quick brand customization, as well. Just remember to update all of your website pages and marketing collateral when you make any branding changes.

These tips will help you provide donors with a better overall online experience, leading to higher conversion rates and improved retention. Focus on reducing the number of steps donors need to take and making it easy for them to take action. Update your email and web design strategy as you identify areas of improvement, and don’t be afraid to ask for input from your internal and external stakeholders.

When it comes to auctions, the items your nonprofit procures can make or break your fundraising success. To maximize your event’s potential, your items need to be unique, high-value, and appealing to your specific supporter base.

One effective way to showcase your nonprofit’s auction items is to design a catalog. By listing all of the available prizes in a single booklet, along with additional information about your fundraiser and organization, your auction catalog can serve as both a marketing tool and a guide to the auction event itself.

To design an auction catalog for your nonprofit’s next event, try the following five strategies:

  1. Understand When to Create an Auction Catalog
  2. Incorporate Your Nonprofit’s Branding
  3. Write Item Descriptions With Your Audience in Mind
  4. Acknowledge Your Event Sponsors
  5. Develop Digital and Print Versions of Your Catalog

While some nonprofits pay professional graphic designers to produce their auction catalogs, it’s possible to make one yourself with the right tools and a little creativity. There are plenty of templates available online which you can customize to meet your organization’s needs, no matter your level of design experience. Let’s dive in!

1. Understand When to Create an Auction Catalog

Although creating a high-quality auction catalog isn’t as difficult as it might seem, it still requires an investment of time and effort. So, it isn’t necessary to make one for every auction your nonprofit might host.

According to the fundraising experts at Winspire, auction catalogs are best suited to in-person live auctions. These auctions tend to feature fewer items than silent or virtual auctions, and the list is finalized further in advance, giving you the time to create a catalog that include all of the items you’ll feature.

Attendees at an in-person silent auction are most engaged when they’re actively browsing the tables instead of reading a booklet, and it’s easier for virtual auction participants to view items directly in your event software rather than going back and forth between the platform and a catalog. For an in-person live auction, however, it’s helpful for participants to read through a guide to the event and choose the items they’re interested in before the intense bidding process begins.

The silent and virtual auction alternative to a live auction catalog is well-designed bid sheets. Above the space where participants write their bids and contact information, include a creative title, description, and photo of each silent auction item on the corresponding sheet to catch supporters’ attention.

2. Incorporate Your Nonprofit’s Branding

Branding makes your nonprofit recognizable and memorable for supporters, and it helps maintain consistency across various marketing materials. Your auction catalog is no exception. As you design the booklet, make sure it accurately reflects your nonprofit’s brand.

Kwala’s guide to nonprofit branding lists several essential brand aspects to incorporate into your auction catalog, including:

  • Your organization’s name and logoEspecially for newer supporters, these elements provide a first impression of who your nonprofit is and what you stand for, so they should appear on the cover page of your auction catalog.
  • A consistent color scheme. Make sure the text colors in the booklet contrast adequately with their background colors to improve readability.
  • Interesting but legible typography. Add visual variety to your catalog by choosing two fonts—one for headings and one for body text—that complement each other. However, to avoid a cluttered look, it’s best not to use more than three different typefaces. Also, make sure to choose typefaces that are easy to read, even for titles and other aspects of your catalog where you might want to add a visual flair.

Additionally, consider writing a few sentences in the booklet detailing your organization’s mission and how you plan to use the funding you bring in from the auction. This way, supporters can feel confident that their event contributions will further a good cause.

3. Write Item Descriptions With Your Audience in Mind

Your auction catalog should contain enough information to be a useful resource for event participants, but not so much that it could become overwhelming. In most cases, a total of 12-15 live auction items allows you to keep both the catalog and the event itself to a reasonable length.

As you describe each item in the catalog, consider your supporters’ perspective by following these tips:

  • Group the items into relevant categories. To appeal to different supporters’ interests, organize the catalog so they can easily find what they want to bid on. You might include categories such as travel, food and beverages, arts and entertainment, and family-friendly prizes.
  • Keep your descriptions concise. You’ll want to fit a maximum of two to three item descriptions on each page. Make them easy to skim by keeping paragraphs short and using bullet points when possible.
  • Mention any item restrictions. If concert tickets are only valid for certain dates or a vacation package limits the winner’s choice of airline, let supporters know in the catalog so they can make an informed decision about whether to bid on the item.

Next to each item description, include a related image—either a photo of the physical item or something related to the experience you’re auctioning off, like a picture of the destination the winner of a vacation package would travel to. This not only makes your catalog design more aesthetically pleasing but also gets supporters excited about bidding on each item.

4. Acknowledge Your Event Sponsors

Many fundraising events, including auctions, can benefit from corporate sponsorships. Some businesses may be willing to support your event through financial contributions, while others will provide auction items at a reduced cost or as in-kind donations.

However, for a partnership between a business and a nonprofit to succeed, it needs to be mutually beneficial. Your sponsorship requests should clearly state that in return for your corporate partner’s contributions, they’ll receive free publicity from your organization. The easiest way to do this is to include your sponsors’ names and logos in your event marketing materials—including your auction catalog.

If a business donated a specific auction item, include a brief acknowledgment under its description, such as “This item was contributed by [sponsor name]” accompanied by the business’s logo. Then, add a page listing all of your financial sponsors with a title like “Thank You to Our Event Sponsors” to show your gratitude and honor your agreement.

5. Develop Digital and Print Versions of Your Catalog

Make sure your auction catalog is finalized well in advance of your event, so you can both convert it to a PDF and send it to a print shop to make physical copies. There are two main reasons for this, and the first is convenience. During your auction, participants can choose whether they’d prefer to look through the print booklet or download the digital version on their smartphones.

The other reason is to improve your event marketing strategy, as aligning your online and offline efforts allows you to reach more supporters. Include a print catalog with any event invitations you send by mail, and link to the PDF on your nonprofit’s website and in emails to give supporters a sneak peek of your auction items.

An auction catalog is an essential tool for the success of any in-person live auction events your nonprofit may host. Well-written item descriptions convince supporters to bid on your high-value items, and incorporating your nonprofit’s branding into both the print and digital versions of your booklet helps align your catalog with your other marketing efforts. Plus, it’s a great place to thank the sponsors who made your event possible.

After your auction, revisit your catalog to evaluate its strengths and areas for improvement. As with any marketing strategy, time and practice will help each auction catalog you make turn out better than the last.