Beginners Guide to Creating a Digital Fundraising Strategy

Has your organization been having a hard time fundraising through the pandemic? A lot of nonprofits have. Traditional fundraising activities like events, galas, and auctions have come to a halt, and nonprofits need to find new fundraising methods. They’ve needed to ask themselves how to create a digital fundraising strategy. 

Creating a strong inbound marketing plan will attract new supporters for your cause, connect your organization to valuable donors, engage your constituents, and inspire your community. Digital Marketing can be so much more than a lead generator. It targets people at all stages of the giving cycle from awareness all the way to  conversions, donation upgrades, stewardship and recruitment. It’s a powerful tool that when done right will create a lot of benefits for your nonprofit. 

A digital marketing strategy goes beyond social media and email lists. It’s telling a powerful story. It’s like fishing. You want to cast your nets in the best spots possible. If you’re not planning out your route, you’ll barely catch any fish. With some hard work and practice, an online presence will create a consistent, sustainable funding source for your nonprofit. 

So why go digital? Besides the obvious reasons that our good friend Corona Virus laid out for us, digital marketing has always been an essential part of any business or organization. 
Even though the world is beginning to open up again, we don’t know what will happen next and need to prepare to operate at a distance for a while.

Our Guide Covers

  1. Why you should go digital
  2. Email marketing the right way!
  3. How to find sustainability in your monthly giving programs 
  4. What social media apps should you be using to connect your digital channels
  5. How to use livestreams to connect with your audience

Don’t Underestimate a Good Email Strategy

Email is not dead, and a great email strategy can make the difference between a thriving and dying nonprofit. In 2017 it drew in 28% of total revenue for nonprofits.

And what’s not to love about email communication? It’s fast, easily customizable and is delivered straight to your donor’s inbox. The best part is it costs almost nothing to send!
The downside of email is that because it's so accessible our imbox is often flooded with unread messages. So do you make your emails stand out from the rest? 

Segment Your Donors

It’s ok to have a mass mailing list for all your donors for something like newsletters. Everyone likes to receive heartwarming stories on how they made a difference. But what about fundraising solicitations? Events? Volunteer opportunities? When it comes to more specific messaging, you have to create mailing segments. 

Each message needs to reach the right people! For example, people who attended last year’s fundraising gala should receive emails thanking them for attending and be invited to participate next year. If someone who didn’t participate received that email they would probably be pretty confused and mark your content as spam.

There are several ways you can segment your list:

Giving history: Recent, lapsed, returning, monthly, etc
By location: Perfect for promoting events or advocacy in certain areas
Gift amount: major gifts, small gifts or in-kind donations
Interests: Do they have certain projects or programs they like to support? 
Phase in donor funnel: Long term vs new donors, prospects or lapsed donors
Website visits: Follow up with people who visit certain pages or fail to complete a donation

Make The Subject Line About Them

Your subject line only has one job, to get the recipient to open the email. To do this, you have to appeal to the number one interest on each one of your subscriber’s minds: themselves.

The simplest way to make your subject line focused on the reader is to include the word "you” or their name in your subject line. Bonus points if you use their first name.

For example:
  • We’ve Got Your Back
  • John, I need you to take urgent action on health care 
  • We made this for you!
  • John, have I heard from you yet?
  • Investigators need YOU! 

Have a Great Template and CRM to Track Your Email’s Success

The team at Donor Engine are giving you exclusive access to 3 of our top templates- one for peer to peer campaigns, your donation page and newsletter. Click the image below to download them all.  

Our software has a ton of free templates to choose from that require no coding experience. You just have to drag and drop to add and edit content. If you’re not a member of Donor Engine, use the templates below as inspiration to build and implement into your current software. 

Leverage Your Monthly Giving Program 

Monthly giving programs are an essential part of a sustainable fundraising strategy and should be a part of your digital marketing plan. Committing to an organization long-term may seem daunting for some so it’s best that you show them the benefits of supporting your organization long term.  It breaks down giving into smaller, more manageable amounts that can work better for your donors financially. 

Break Down the Donation

Give a tangible breakdown of how different amounts of gifts will be used within your organization. For example, $5 a month will provide clothing to one child, $10 will afford supplies for the year and so on. 

Donors want to understand the value of the contribution so they can feel good about supporting your organization. You can even break it down a step further by dividing a monthly donation into daily costs. A recurring gift of $10 is only 33 cents a day! Its a small commitment that can result in a huge impact in the long run.

Make Monthly Donors Your VIPs

Create extra value in your monthly giving program by adding perks and benefits for those who give regularly by developing a donor club (or giving club). For example, Habitat for Humanity calls their monthly donors "Hope Builders” and welcomes them into a group working exclusively to help people find safe and affordable housing. Add a section in your donation forms, encouraging visitors to join your club!

Segmenting your monthly donors is an easy way to add extra value to your monthly giving program and offer something special that one-time donors don't receive. Recurring gifts are a thoughtful commitment to your cause, and should be given special treatment.

Stay Social

Social media has become an essential part of any marketing plan. If you're not on at least one of the major social media platforms, you’re missing out. It can be overwhelming when starting, so don’t stress the idea that you need to be on every platform. Choose only the social media platforms that work best for your goals and audience demographic. 

We recently interviewed Social Media and Fundraising Consultant Julia Campbell on our podcast. She gave a ton of advice on building your social media campaign and measuring success and has a ton of amazing resources for nonprofits. Be sure to give that a listen and use the guide below to help you decide what social platforms work best for your donor demographic. 

What is the Best Social Media Platform For Nonprofits? 



With over 2.23 billion active users, Facebook is often the first choice for any organization. They also have lots of features to help you fundraise like donation buttons, pledge matching, peer to peer fundraising tools and analytics. Not to mention a ton of Facebook groups you can join to learn more about your cause, community and share your mission with others. 

Your organization will need to qualify for the Nonprofits on Facebook features, but once you do, there are so many ways you can use your page to your benefit. You can hold livestreams, post content, share pictures and videos, interact with supporters and even create your own groups! 


Linkedin isn’t just for B2B marketing. Having a Linkedin Profile and joining in on conversations within your cause’s sector is a way to build credibility and make new connections. You have the potential to reach new board members, volunteers and employees and search for corporate funding prospects. 

Create a page or use your profile to post updates and progress so everyone can see how great your organization is!  This also can create legitimacy for your non-profit and allow your staff to link to you - it’s also a fantastic place for skills development and sharing knowledge! 


With over 326 million active users Twitter is a great place to share information and start conversations. The best way to use Twitter is by having strong visuals and branding. Tweets with video attract 10x more engagement than those that don’t, so sharing GIFs or short videos is a great way to engage with followers. 

Take time to review your favourite nonprofit Twitter accounts to see how they are rocking the platform. Look at how they use features like hashtags, tagging, shortened links and images to help you plan your strategy. Steven Aguiar also suggests finding topics and commenting your thoughts on the subject to build awareness around your organization. 


Another incredibly popular platform, Instagram, is a great place to promote your organization. 38% of users check the app more than once a day, and 73% of users are likely to visit your website based on a post. 

Eye-catching and striking photos and videos are the best way to grab your followers’ attention to share your mission. By setting up as a business account, you will also be able to look at analytics and track your posts’ success. Not to mention their new Instagram live and Story features are a great way to have real-time conversations or share immediate updates with your audience. 

Remember to have a clear plan and a call to action to drive to a donation page, petition page or somewhere else to capture them! 


1.5 billion people and growing are on TikTok, making it one of the most downloaded apps in recent years, beating LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Snapchat. 41% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16–24, and people in this age demographic care a ton about activism, social issues, and everyday changemakers. 

If you are hesitant to download TikTok or still feel its a crazy app just for kids, you have to read our Complete TikTok for Charity Guide breaking down all of the trends, tips and features of the app.  This demographic may fit your mission!

Don’t Forget a Strong CTA

Regardless of the social media platforms you choose to use, you’re going to need a strong call to action. Tell your readers how to process the information you just gave them and what they need to do next. A good call to action is relevant and urgent to the reader, so make sure you’re communicating effectively and targeting the right people. 

It also helps to track the statistics of your posts. Instagram for business and Facebook both have built in analytics, but Google Analytics or Hootsuite can also help you track success. Testing is very important when it comes to social media, and doing a simple A/B test would be nothing without the help of social analytics! 

Hosting Digital Fundraising Events 

Whether you're in Canada or the USA there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the lockdown and in-person gatherings. Luckily, there are a ton of online fundraisers you can host that are just as fun and exciting! Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Live Streaming Ideas for Nonprofits 

  • Hosting a Q&A with your founder, Executive Director or Program Heads
  • Live performance showcasing your talents or donated from local talent
  • "A Day In the Life” showing what a typical day looks like at your nonprofit
  • Board discussion with other organizations or industry leaders related to your cause
Consider using these live events as "mini-telethons” and ask for donations during the steam.  Have the link to donate handy and be sure to track and measure success.  If you are hosting third party events, put together fundraiser packages that provide tips and tricks on how to raise funds and have a great time doing it!  Include templates, suggestions on who to ask and what level of donations to ask for.  

What Platform Should You Use for Live Streaming? 

It depends on the objective of your stream. If it's a Q&A with one or two people, Instagram and Facebook are great options because it is easy to use, and you can add a donate button and save to your page on Facebook. Youtube is great for bigger events like a panel discussion or long format performances. It can also be paired with Google Hangouts and Zoom so your guest can easily join in without a youtube account. 

When setting up a large event like a digital gala you should consider hosting the stream on several platforms in case of a technical issue or increase the amount of viewership your content receives. Nonprofit marketing agency Donor Curve hosted a digital fundraiser that raised over $100,000 for their client, and even with a technical stream, one of their platforms failed on them.

Twitch is a great option for long term streaming. You can also partner with an influencer for a fun digital fundraiser. Pretty cool, huh? Alyssa Sweetman is the Charity Program Manager at Twitch and has helped many nonprofits and streamers connect for digital fundraisers. 

She suggests contacting many different streamers and in a short email explaining what your organization does and how they can set up a fundraiser with you.  Think of finding and stewarding an influencer in the same way you would a major donor or a sponsor.  Develop a case for support and put an influencer package together. 

Promoting Your Live Stream

Make sure to let your audience know you’re going live by sending emails, posting on your social media and providing a link to the stream in advance. Engaging your audience a few weeks in advance right up to the time of the stream will give people enough time to prepare for your digital event. 

Depending on the type of stream you choose to do, you can also save it as a video added to your YouTube channels and edited for short social media clips.

4 Key Takeaways

  1. Personalize your emails by centering messages around your donors and creating different messaging for each segment. 
  2. Add value to your monthly giving program by framing it as an upgrade and build a community for your recurring donors.
  3. Be strategic in choosing what social platforms to use based on your goals and the platform’s demographics.
  4. Use livestreaming to connect with audiences and partner with other organizations or influencers to reach new audiences.


Testing is just as important as planning in your digital marketing strategy, so don’t be afraid to try different approaches to see what resonates best with your audience. Planning out your strategy is the best way to ensure success in marketing your nonprofit. If you aren’t using donor management software, it can give you a considerable advantage, especially when dealing with automated email campaigns. For more nonprofit advice, check out our podcast for conversations with industry leaders or join us in a demo to learn how to save hours in managing your nonprofit. 

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By on Oct 30, 2020, 12:00 AM


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