The odds say that your charity’s website donations are not what they could be.  To maximize your online fundraising potential, your website needs to use a variety of proven money earning techniques.   Most charity websites only achieve a fraction of these strategies.  Put these 17 tips in action and will supercharge your fundraising program.

Traditional Fundraising Techniques

1. Make Your Stories Personal

There’s a quote commonly attributed to Josef Stalin that, ‘One death is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic.’ In other words, we have a hard time coping with and understanding large problems. So, it is important to share personal stories. On your website you need to highlight individuals you have helped or individuals that share a passion for what you do.  Plan Canada is effective at personalizing aid for girls with it’s Because I am a Girl site.  Plan uses the pronoun ‘I’ to highlight individual girls in developing countries and the difference they can make, AND to highlight how individual girls and women donors can make a difference.

2. Let the Donor Know the Benefit to Them

Some non-profits provide obvious, direct benefits to their supporters. For example, a hospital might save your life one day while an arts centre provides you with entertainment.  The direct benefit of other charities can be less obvious, but even the anonymous donor has a reason for giving. If you identify the motivations of your donors and help them achieve THEIR goals, you will raise more money.   Some donors will be motivated by the good feelings they get from making a difference. Hope for Paws does a great job of this with some of their videos of the animals they have rescued getting millions of views.  Other people want to know that their gifts are appreciated. Greenpeace provides its supporters with heartfelt thank yous that touch an emotional chord.  Meanwhile, other donors like recognition. Charity: Water has a playful way of recognizing some of its best supporters that encourages participation.  Whether you provide direct benefits or more secondary ones, your website should remind your supporters what is in it for them when they donate.

3. Be Specific About Who is Asking

There’s an old fundraising adage that says ‘people give to people’.   When charities ask for money through appeals such as a mail campaign, they typically have one or more specific individuals present the request. Unfortunately, many charity websites do not present personal requests.  When you use volunteers, staff or other stakeholders to make personal requests, people are more likely to act.  Your website should include personal requests from specific people complete with photos, highlighted quotes and signatures.  The One Campaign has been especially successful at using celebrities to personalize their appeals.

4. Be Specific About What You are Asking

When a charity asks for help to alleviate poverty, the scope of the problem can seem beyond comprehension. However, when asked to donate food, that is a task most of us can understand and support.  In addition to permitting people to choose which project to support (designated giving), you can raise more money by providing supporters with a specific request that includes a summary of the difference that a contribution will make. The Measles and Rubella Initiative is a good example of an organization with a strong specific request. They ask you to text to donate $10 to save ten children via vaccinations.

5. Create Time Urgency for the Donor

When it comes to spending money, people often postpone making the commitment.  This reluctance can be overcome. You can raise more money if you create a time urgency for people.  In the retail world, time urgency is created by offering a sale with an end date.  In the furniture world, they create urgency through opportunity and reduced commitment with offers such as ‘pay no money for six months’.   You can create fundraising urgency by identifying projects with fixed deadlines. You can offer your own version of a sale by offering donors a perquisite (perk) for a limited time. Finally, you can reduce donor’s upfront commitment by providing opportunities to pledge over time.

6. Use Testimonials

Every request for funds should be accompanied by supportive comments from those that benefit from your cause, third-party experts and from others that have donated to you.  Testimonials are a proven technique for fostering action such as  getting people to donate or to donate more.  Collecting good testimonials can be a chore.  However, it is a task that must be performed if you are going to maximize your fundraising potential. As an example, the American Red Cross does a good job of using testimonials to ask people to get CPR training, but the request could just as easily be to donate to such programs.


Website Strategies

7. Project Giving Opportunities, Goals and Funding Totals

Fundraisers have long used designated giving to attract larger donations.  Many non-profits take that a step further and provide options for designating gifts online.  Charities can be even more successful in their online fundraising if they provide details of specific projects requiring funding together with the target amount or goal to be raised and the funds to date for each project. Of course, charities love unrestricted funds, and it is appropriate to encourage such giving.  You will raise more money though when you give donors a choice.

8. Multiple Donate Buttons

Too many non-profit websites make do with a simple

DONATE button.  Even those that offer a choice of projects to support tend to funnel people through a single giving gateway first or after.   If you want to significantly increase website donations, providing a

DONATE button in every place you talk about a project that can be funded. When someone is emotionally moved by one of your stories, make sure it is very easy for them to support you.

9. Compelling Calls to Action

Speaking of donate buttons, your calls to action should be more tied to the benefits of your organization and tailored to each of your projects. So, instead of saying


SUBMIT, say things like




10. Active Project Updates

From time-honoured mediums such as print newsletters to the latest social media strategies, most charities understand the importance of updating donors and other stakeholders.   To increase both first-time gifts to projects and even second and third gifts, provide updates about your projects right where you ask for funds for those projects.  If you really want to boost support, email each donor with updates about the individual projects they have supported.  You can even let donors of unrestricted funds know where you used their money.

11. Search-Friendly Content

Showing up well in search results when people are investigating issues that are important to them can help you raise more money. If you want people to find your web pages when they do searches on Google or other services, those pages must include the words people will use in their queries.  The more prominently and frequently you (legitimately) you mention searched words on a webpage, the higher (on average) your page will appear in corresponding search results.   Given these search dynamics, sometimes the best way you can show up in search results is with issue specific content.  For example, a food bank might write an article about ‘income inequality’ to leverage the fact the issue has been in the news.  Landing pages, discussed in the next section, are also a way to create search-friendly content. The key, when planning and creating content to add to your site, is to prepare and write it with search in mind.

12. Landing Pages

Most non-profits know they need to optimize their site for search engines.  However, many do not realize the importance of landing pages.  Landing pages are web pages specially designed to attract search and advertising traffic to your website, convert that traffic and engage the visitors with a specific call to action.   Site homepages and even the main pages for fundraising rarely make good landing pages because they have to do too many other things to be specialized enough.   Sites with an active landing page strategy generate twelve times more leads than sites without (source: Hubspot).

13. Email Capture

A charity’s website and social media are two important vehicles for online fundraising. However, for many people, the best way to reach them online is still email.  Building an email list, and emailing people with updates and donation requests is a proven fundraising strategy.  You want to reach prospects as well as donors. So, you should encourage people to provide their email addresses.  A great way to secure email addresses is with a box (form) for people to enter their info. You should include an email capture on your home page, your main fundraising/development page, custom landing pages and other key pages on your site. To increase your response rate, you should also use free offers such as bonus content for those people that provide you an email address.

14. Project Specific Social Sharing

Most charities recognize the importance of making it easy for people to share their online content.  However, if you want to take your fundraising to the next level, you need to make it easy for people to share the individual projects for which you are seeking funds.  Each of your projects should have a unique URL and social sharing icons for sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.

15. Incremental Engagement Tools

Most charities know about the concept of the donor pyramid.   Often, donors start with small contributions, and smart charities work to secure larger and larger donations over time.  Like a donation pyramid, there is an engagement pyramid. Even before someone starts donating, you can take steps to get people more and more involved in your cause.  Provide great photos or graphics that people can share on social media. Encourage people to ‘like’ your content. Have your supporters sign a petition. Take advantage of tools that allow people to modify their avatars with a graphic pertaining to your work. Create discussion groups that people can join. Sponsor competitions for the best video related to your cause.  Once somebody has taken a number of online actions for you, you can ask them to become more involved by attending an event, donating money, contacting a politician or participating in peer-to-peer fundraising.  Develop a moves management strategy and you can turn passive spectators into your most valuable contributors.

16. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Opportunities

If you are not creating opportunities for your supporters to raise money online on your behalf, you are are leaving money on the table without one of the fastest growing types of fundraising.  Peer-to-peer fundraising is effectively a crowdsourcing appeal. It involves giving each donor and supporter his or her own webpage with a donate button, goal, amount raised, donor list as well as customizable text and photos.  Other tools include email templates and social media sharing tools.  A great peer-to-peer campaign allows people to create teams, provides leaderboards and sets fundraising challenges. Ideally, you give people a task challenge as well.

17. Start Today!

There is so much you can do online, that it is easy to fail to start or to stick to something like posting to Twitter.  However, your online priority should be to grow your website as a fundraising asset.  Like financial investing, the sooner you start, the richer your rewards will be. So, start small and do something new every week.  Pick just one of the 16 tips above and get started right now. Alternatively, put someone like the Pitcher Group to work for you and supercharge your online fundraising.

The Pitcher Group can help you implement each of these 17 online fundraising strategies. William Pitcher, the founder, has more than 25 years experience helping charities raise more money. Contact us today to start earning more.