The growth of mobile technology and social media has transformed the way that voluntary sector organisations fundraise and connect with their supporters. Although it has made it cheaper and easier to launch a campaign, it can be harder for some organisations to get their voice heard among millions of others.
What is digital and mobile fundraising?
Digital fundraising is simply fundraising using digital technology, which usually means fundraising online.
Increasingly, this is done using mobile technology, as more and more of us use our smartphones to access the internet. This means that fundraisers need to think about how, when and where people are donating, and how they expect to be able to interact with the online process.
Smartphones let us respond to a prompt straight away – if we see something we want to donate to, we can go online and donate in a few clicks. However, we also get distracted easily, especially if we’re on the move. If the donation process is too complicated, we’ll just give up.
There are many different methods and platforms that can make digital fundraising easier. They should always be used in combination with a good communications strategy.
Main methods of digital fundraising
Crowdfunding doesn’t have to be done online, but these days it usually is. Crowdfunding means getting lots of small amounts from lots of people, rather than trying to get a few big donations. It’s a popular way of funding start-up businesses that would struggle to get any major investors. Crowdfunding allows a lot of people to take a small risk or make a small donation; this way they collectively achieve a greater impact.
There are lots of crowdfunding sites that voluntary organisations can use to ask for donations for a specific campaign or project. CrowndingIn has a useful list of crowdfunding sites in the UK. However, you won’t get any donations if no one can find you – your crowdfunding site should only be one part of a wider communications plan. Find out more about crowdfunding in our guide to setting up a crowdfunding campaign.
Click to give
Sites like Everyclick let you raise funds for your charity as you search the web or buy from participating retailers. You can also set up your own fundraising page and encourage your supporters to use the service in order to generate donations as they shop.
Online charity auctions
If you can get your hands on valuable prizes, auctions can be a fun way to raise money while raising the profile of your organisation. EBay for Charity lets you run a normal online auction and donate up to 100% of the proceeds to your cause, as well as giving you back some or all of your listing fee. It can also help you run a ‘special auction’ if you have something unusual to sell.
Jumblebee is another site that can host an online auction for your organisation, either as part of a live event or alongside an ongoing campaign.
Remember that you still need to drive people to your auction page. If you have something unusual to sell, or if you have a celebrity item, think about how you could get press coverage by telling the item’s story.
Online donation websites
If you’ve ever given a donation or raised funds online, you’ve probably used sites like:
These sites make it easy for the fundraiser or organisation to set up a fundraising page, share their message and collect donations. They can also help to collect donors’ details for future contact.
However, apart from Givey, most of these sites charge a fee. Do your research and make sure you know how much you’ll be paying before you start. It might be worth paying more to get the functionality that you need, or you may just be looking for the cheapest option.
These sites can be very useful for fundraising events, or to allow individual supporters or volunteers to fundraise on your behalf.
Many voluntary organisations now have a ‘donate now’ button on their website. Don’t be fooled into thinking this will automatically result in donations – you need to drive the right people to your website, with the right message, in order to encourage them to donate.
Think about who uses your website most. Is it your service users? Are they your target donors? If not, how could you drive your target donors to your site? Is the donate button easy to find? Is it accompanied by a clear appeal to the donor?
Make sure that clicking the button leads to a simple process for donating. Most online donation sites, as well as Paypal, offer a donation button for voluntary organisations to embed on their website, while Facebook offer a ‘donate now’ button that redirects the user to your fundraising site.
Although this isn’t a platform, viral campaigns have been incredibly successful in raising money for charity, for example the #nomakeupselfie for Cancer Research or the #icebucketchallenge. These campaigns use a range of online tools – particularly Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat – to quickly spread a message around the world.
Some campaigns go viral unexpectedly: a celebrity retweets the message, or a video that wasn’t intended to be funny suddenly becomes so. However, most campaigns are well planned; you can’t just put it online and expect it to go places. You’ll need:
- a catchy, funny or heartfelt message that will make people laugh or cry
- something that is easy to share
- a clear ‘ask’ and easy process for donating – it’s useless getting people to share your message if they can’t donate
- ideally, a high profile person to or a lot of followers to get the campaign going
Giving by text
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) raises millions through text giving because it’s a quick and easy way to give. Supporters don’t have to be online or log in to a site – they only have to type a very short number and message into their phone.
As with all other digital fundraising, text fundraising will only work if you publicise it. Vodafone has partnered with JustGiving to offer a free text giving service, although there is a limit to the amount that a person can donate.
Think about why you might use text giving.
- Will it make it easier for your supporters to donate?
- Will it help you target a new group of donors?
- Do you have a very eye-catching campaign that prompts a quick response?
What makes a good digital or mobile fundraising campaign?
As with any donor fundraising, think about who your target donors are, how best to communicate/connect with them, and how they would like to give.
Make your campaign sensitive and appropriate to your cause. It can be funny, sad or thought-provoking, but it should be honest, non-patronising and include something that potential donors can relate to.
Tips for digital or mobile fundraising
- Build a detailed communications plan before you start, with key milestones and opportunities to repromote your campaign
- Make it easy to give. Smartphone or tablet users don’t want to fill in long forms or give away lots of details in order to donate. Make sure your fundraising page is linked into your payment system or PayPal account so donors have as simple a journey as possible.
- Make sure your online site is mobile enabled. With more people making donations on smartphones, you’ll lose donors if your page doesn’t load properly.
- Tell people what their donation will buy. For example, ‘£15 will a homeless young person a warm bed for the night.’
- Offer fixed donation amounts to make it easy for people, but always include an ‘other amount’ option.
- Publicise your progress using a donation tracker. These can encourage people to help you reach the end.
- Use Facebook or other social media to create a community around your campaign. Give your supporters messages that are easy to share, whether they’re tweets, videos, or stories that can be added to newsletters or print media. Keep your community up to date with your progress to maintain enthusiasm. Blogging can also help to build a community (see the Get more help section below).
- Say thank you to all of your supporters – throughout the process and when you reach your target.
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