Crafting a Fundraising Strategy: 5 Steps for Going Digital

Feb 26, 2019

Your nonprofit already understands the value of digital tools for its fundraising, marketing, and engagement goals, but have you built a comprehensive digital strategy that ties all of them together?

If one of your nonprofit’s resolutions for the new year is to refine your use of technology in your fundraising strategies, it’s crucial that you understand how all of your digital operations work together and can support each other.

While it’s possible to conduct an online fundraising campaign and a digital marketing push as completely separate projects, developing a comprehensive digital strategy that encompasses both of them is the smartest way to direct your nonprofit’s energies. An effective online fundraising strategy will boost your digital engagement all around.

There are 5 key steps to developing a comprehensive digital strategy:

  1. Define your fundraising campaign’s parameters.
  2. Find the right tech tools for the job.
  3. Build out your online fundraising strategy.
  4. Craft a communication plan to support it.
  5. Analyze your campaign’s results.

We’ve boiled the process down to keep it simple, but the main idea to remember is that your fundraising and communication techniques should rely on one another for success.

At DNL OmniMedia, we focus on providing customized technology solutions and nonprofit strategy consulting in a way that sets organizations up for continued success. We’ve found that thinking of fundraising, marketing, and other digital goals as entirely separate projects rarely yields the kind of results that a truly comprehensive plan can.

Let’s walk through the basic process of developing an effective fundraising plan that takes your digital communications techniques into account. This is the perfect time of year to get to work on developing new strategies, so let’s dive right in:

1. Define your fundraising campaign’s parameters.

Begin by determining the parameters that will guide the rest of your strategy. These parameters include both goals and constraints like:

  • Your fundraising and donor engagement goals
  • Your budget, deadline, and other ongoing projects that might affect this campaign
  • Performance of past campaigns and online marketing projects
  • The preferences of your online audience for particular types of digital outreach
  • Any technological constraints that might need addressing before getting started

Sit down with your team to consider all of the factors that will guide or constrain the development of your strategy. The scope of the parameters you consider will depend on your campaign’s overarching goals, but even smaller fundraising campaigns offer great opportunities to review and refresh your existing digital strategies.

Your campaign’s fundraising goal and budget are fairly straightforward parameters to determine.
If your team needs some help brainstorming other factors and constraints that need addressing in your strategy, though, follow these steps:

  1. Identify gaps in your existing process. Where did your last online fundraising campaigns fall short? Are there any recurring issues or patterns that require solutions?
  2. Study your data. Take a deeper look at past performance in your database. This will ensure you set ambitious but reasonable fundraising and engagement goals.
  3. Consider your technology. Examine your toolkit and your team’s skills; is it time to invest in any upgrades or new systems? Does your website need any work?
  4. Talk to stakeholders. Reviewing and discussing your goals and priorities with those who will be involved in executing your strategy is always a smart move.
  5. Think about the long term. What are your organization’s long-term priorities? Your new digital fundraising strategy must fit neatly within your big picture goals.

Another best practice when getting started on a new fundraising strategy is to refresh your team with the current state of the digital fundraising space. Sometimes new trends can help guide you towards or away from particular techniques.

For instance, according to Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics and analysis, donations from desktop-based browser users have decreased while transactions on mobile devices continue to increase dramatically. Developing specific techniques for securing mobile donations, then, would be a smart way to adapt your own strategy as it takes shape.

2. Find the right tech tools for the job.

Not every fundraising campaign requires investing in new tools, but depending on the scale of your digital project and its goals, it can often be a very smart move. Developing and implementing a fresh digital fundraising and communications strategy for the new year is the perfect opportunity to review and update your toolkit.

As nonprofit tech experts, we know a thing or two about how to find the right tools for your next campaign. Familiarize your team with these best practices:

  • If you already know your organization needs to purchase a new fundraising tool or marketing platform, don’t rush right into the buying process. Take a systematic approach to choose the tools that best complement your overarching strategy.
  • Conduct an audit of your existing tech infrastructure. What tools do you already rely on? Are they working well, or could they be improved? A tech consultant can be incredibly helpful for assessing your tech and developing a nonprofit technology plan.
  • Consider where your digital brand exists online, like your website, email campaigns, and social media pages. What tech tools do you use to manage those digital properties and engage with supporters? Identify any gaps in your communications toolkit.
  • Think about the type of campaign you’re planning to conduct. Campaign-specific tools are almost always a better choice than more generic fundraising platforms. Advocacy management software and dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising tools are great examples.

If you choose to handle your organization’s tech needs without the help of a consultant, we recommend starting by studying up on the platforms you already use. For instance, even small nonprofits using the Salesforce platform can find professional-grade, fully functional, and affordable Salesforce donation and fundraising apps that install painlessly.

Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid standalone fundraising or marketing tools if possible. Look for options that integrate directly with your underlying system first.

3. Build out your online fundraising strategy.

Now it’s time to begin fleshing out the specifics of how your organization will raise money online during its next campaign. The most popular and effective channels for online fundraising typically fall into one of these categories:

  • Online donation pages. The most straightforward way to fundraise online, donation pages can be hosted on your website or even embedded in emails.
  • Crowdfunding platforms. These third-party services come in all shapes and sizes and make it very easy for supporters of your project to spread the word online.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising software. Peer-to-peer fundraising fully relies on your online community to share your campaign and raise money on your behalf. These campaigns can be fairly complex to manage, so dedicated software is a smart move.

Whichever online fundraising method you choose, make sure you have the right configurations in place to capture important transaction information in your database. Now is a great opportunity to refresh your data management habits to ensure your organization can really make the most of its new digital strategies.

Most importantly, your planning team needs to think carefully about which online donation outlets fit the best within your overarching goals. The type of donation tools you choose to use will have a number of impacts on the campaign as a whole, for instance:

  • Some donors respond better to particular forms of online fundraising, and others don’t.
  • The types of digital content and marketing techniques you use to promote your campaign will depend on the donation outlet you choose to use.
  • Standalone donation tools not integrated with your database will present a greater challenge in terms of data management.

Once you’ve chosen the digital donation outlet best suited to the goals of your campaign and to the preferences of your audience, build the rest of your strategy around it. All of the communications and marketing material you produce to raise awareness will essentially serve to direct donors towards it. This keeps the campaign organized and maintains energy.

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4. Craft a communication plan to support it.

As mentioned in the step above, each type of online donation outlet is best suited to particular marketing strategies.

For instance, online donation pages are well suited to a wider variety of marketing techniques. Donation pages can collect support for practically any type of online fundraising campaign, but that doesn’t mean your marketing strategy can be unfocused or disorganized.

For any online marketing campaign to succeed, it needs to very clearly direct potential donors towards a central location — in this case, your website where your embedded donation form can collect their secured gift. All of a nonprofit’s digital communication channels should work towards this shared goal. Here’s a diagram of the process:

Your website is the central location where potential donors learn more about your campaign and make donations. Digital advertising and marketing techniques like visual ads, SEO, and Google AdWords will drive traffic to your site. Content from your website provides material to promote in your social media and email campaigns, which both in turn drive more traffic to your site.

This is a fairly simplified version of the digital marketing process for nonprofits, but the main idea is that your communication channels should all work together towards promoting a single donation outlet that will convert visitors into donors.

Even if your campaign isn’t structured around a single online donation page, the idea of funneling your donors towards a central outlet remains the same.

Let’s say you’re conducting a digital advocacy campaign and have created a mobile app as the campaign’s central digital space for engaging supporters. Then, your social media posts, email streams, and action alerts would all direct supporters to get involved via the communication and donation tools hosted on the mobile app.

5. Analyze your campaign’s results.

Measuring your digital successes is an essential step in any campaign, so go ahead and take the time while developing your strategy to plan ahead. The most important step you can take to streamline the analysis process is to determine your campaign’s top conversion metrics ahead of time.

These are the metrics you’ll use to gauge the success of your campaign. For most fundraising campaigns, the total amount raised is an important metric to track, but it’s not the most important for measuring actual engagement. Consider these other common campaign conversion metrics:

  • Number of completed donations
  • Volunteer applications or sessions
  • Email and newsletter subscriptions
  • Pledge signatures received
  • Advocacy actions that were taken

Think about the main purposes of your digital campaign. Chances are it’s not solely to raise funds. Online fundraising campaigns are incredibly effective at engaging supporters, expanding your community, and raising awareness.

By choosing two or three conversion metrics ahead of time, you can expand the focus of your campaign without losing focus along the way. For more examples of conversion metrics that might work well for your campaign, explore the DNL OmniMedia guide to nonprofit analytics.


Any online fundraising strategy today needs to encompass much more than just collecting money from supporters. Your digital marketing and engagement techniques are intricately related and play significant roles in shaping the success of your campaign as a whole.

We’ve outlined the basic steps you should follow to plan your own comprehensive digital fundraising strategy, but be sure to make it your own. Take your time considering the ins and outs of your mission and goal, and you’ll be ready to get started in no time.

Carl Diesing