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5 Ways To Keep Your Fundraising Systems in Great Shape

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With digital giving rising another 32 percent in 2020, it’s more important than ever to make sure your online and offline fundraising systems are working together.

Thinking about the experience your donors have when making donations is important – and a key factor to keep in mind for new nonprofits in the beginning stages of creating fundraising systems and processe

A glass jar filled with paper money and coins sits on a white desk ready to be incorporated into an organization's fundraising system!

1. Learn the Language of Fundraising Systems

The first step is understanding how the different pieces of the online giving process work together. 

Some key terms include:

  • Online donation tools, which refer to services that allow you to collect donations online through simple forms or web pages. Crowdfunding sites are good examples of online donation tools.
  • Payment processors handle the back-end processes involved in approving and executing the transfer of funds from your donors’ bank account to your organization’s. Some of the more popular payment processors include Stripe, Fundly, and Square.
  • Your Customer Relationship Management system – or CRM – is where your donors’ information and giving history is housed, along with any other data your organization chooses to include and track. 

Whether you’re accepting donations, selling goods, or managing ticket sales for an event, you’ll need some combination of these three things. Most major CRMs include both online donation tools and payment processing systems within their functionality.

2. Invest In the Right Tools for Your Organization

Providing an easy, seamless donor experience is one of the best ways to cultivate a growing donor base. Choosing the right tools to accomplish this will depend on your organization’s unique needs. 

Consider the cost of the tools you’re looking at. You’ll need to expect a subscription or usage fee, usually charged monthly or annually, as well as any per-transaction fees. For credit card transactions, standard processing fees usually fall into the 2.5 to 3 percent range and are simply the cost of doing business. While it can be frustrating to lose a percentage of your donations this way, it costs a lot more to lose donations entirely because you don’t offer an easy way for donors to give online! 

You’ll also want to take staff size and capacity into account when making your decision. If you have a small staff or one that isn’t particularly tech-savvy, avoid sinking a lot of money into tools that require heavy maintenance and add significantly to your workload. In this case, less really can be more.

3. Consider How Donors Experience Your Fundraising Systems

While simply accepting donations through platforms like PayPal or Facebook might seem like easier or more manageable solutions for your organization, using these tools as your primary method of collecting online donations can create several barriers to giving for your donors:

  • An obvious association with often-polarizing brands means that if a donor doesn’t particularly like that other brand, you run the very real risk of losing out on that donation – through no fault of your own!
  • Because that other brand is front-and-center, it means your organization’s brand isn’t… And you’ll have less ability to keep the focus on your mission and values.
  • Donors will need to log into the platform before they can complete their donation to you, which adds another step to the process – especially if they don’t already have an account on the platform you choose. And every step is another chance for them to abandon their donation! 

Your own digital real estate is always your most valuable online asset. Don’t underestimate the benefits of hosting your own donation pages on your website.

A tablet lies flat on a desk with a hand poised above it, ready to tap. There is a credit card beside it on the desk. Online fundraising systems are crucial to your organization's strategy.

4. Don’t Overlook Your Offline Fundraising Systems

Online donations are likely to be only one part of your fundraising strategy. If you’re receiving checks in the mail or collecting cash donations at in-person events, then don’t overlook your offline systems. 

Any single donation – online or off – requires some kind of response or follow-up. What’s your process for providing donation receipts or sending thank-you letters with the appropriate tax language? Are you keeping all of your records in the same place?

Incorporate your digital fundraising systems into your broader process of accepting and processing donations as an organization.

5. Regularly Review and Adjust Your Processes 

Understanding how donor contributions happen and are processed and then staying on top of your system will go a long way toward eliminating a lot of confusion and extra work for both you and your donors. It will give your donors the peace of mind of knowing you’re handling their financial data well and operating as responsible stewards of their donated funds.

As you grow and change, so should your systems. Make sure you’re regularly evaluating your donation processes from your donors’ perspective, and make necessary adjustments as you go.

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