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Every agency, marketer, and fundraiser can list their favorite best practices that they think will help grow your online fundraising. But truth be told, none of the best practices that get recycled over and over are anything new.

And in most cases, these best practices don’t actually make an impact on your performance. Or worse, they’re actually hurting your revenue. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this post on why best practices are hurting your fundraising.

I’d like to suggest 5 online fundraising ideas that we’ve tested and proven can actually work to grow your revenue. Now, these aren’t best practices. And they shouldn’t be applied blindly. Always make sure to test every new idea to make sure it’s moving the needle in the right direction.

Idea #1 – Get rid of your email template.

Many people cringe at this idea thinking, “If I don’t use a template, it’s going to take me hours longer to send my email appeals.”

But getting rid of your template will actually save you time, and could help you bring in a lot more revenue from your email appeals. Here’s why:

Our donors are experts at sniffing out marketing. Any that looks like or sounds like marketing will more often get deleted than read. People give to people, not email machines. So our emails need to look like a real person sent it, not a robot.

Instead of using lots of graphics, images, branding, and colors in a nice HTML email template, try doing the following:

  • Send your email from a believable person (This could be your founder of you’re at a small nonprofit. Or maybe your Director of Development if you’re a larger organization.)
  • Send a plain text email that looks and sounds like it was written by a human being.
  • Instead of using HTML buttons, paste in the full URL of your landing page.

We have applied this tactic with every nonprofit we work with and continue to see incredible results. Here’s just one example:

Experiment #4647

Online Fundraising Idea #1

Idea #2 – Call your donors by their name.

Call your donors by their name.

The simplest way to start building a stronger relationship with your donors and potential donors is to call them by name. This isn’t a ground-breaking idea, but you might be surprised at how many organization don’t do this.

Instead of jumping right into your email appeal, try saying “Hi Jeff.”

This is exactly what we did in experiment 5707 with [organization] and we saw a 270% increase in clicks.

Experiment 5707

Online Fundraising Idea #2

Idea #3 – Craft an effective value proposition for your donation page.

Craft an effective value proposition for your donation page.

Whenever we start working with a new nonprofit organization, one of the first things we look at is their value proposition. We’re trying to answer one simple but crucial question:

“If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to your rather than to some other organization, or not at all?”

Many nonprofit donation pages have little or no copy that adequately answers this fundamental question. And there’s a huge danger in assuming that a donor is already ready to give just because they land on your donation page.

So take a look at your donation page and make sure you use copy that answers “Why should I give to you?”

Consider these 4 factors as you write your copy:

  • Appeal – Why would I want to donate?
  • Exclusivity – How is this different than any other organization?
  • Credibility – Why should I trust you?
  • Clarity – We don’t need to be persuasive; we just need to be clear.

In experiment 6623 with [organization], we applied this idea and added value proposition copy to the donation page. This resulted in a 150% increase in donations.

Experiment 6623

Online Fundraising Idea #3

Idea #4 – Write longer ads.

This is probably the most counter-intuitive idea from this whole list. You’ve probably heard a speaker, a blogger, or maybe even a colleague say that people don’t read ads. Or even that people don’t read online.

But after running several similar tests, we’ve learned that writing longer ad copy can actually strengthen the value of your offer, and build a stronger motivation to convert.

Here’s an example of an experiment that we conducted with Harvest Ministries. We wrote a Facebook ad that was way longer than the “best practice” ad. By doing so, we saw a 316% increase in emails acquired.

But it wasn’t about the length, it was about the value conveyed through the length of the copy.

Experiment 6045

Online Fundraising Idea #4

Idea #5 – Ask for a donation right away.

I recently had a conversation with a friend from an organization I used to work at, and he asked an interesting question: “How long does it take to convert a new name into a new online donor? 13 months? 14 months?”

This question was remarkable to me because I think it highlights a pervasive idea in online fundraising. Most agencies and digital “experts” say that it often takes a year or more to convert a new name into a donor.

In reality, we see substantial conversion rates when we make an instant donation ask.

This means that the moment someone signs up for your newsletter, downloads an eBook, enrolls in an online course, or any other time they submit a form – you should be asking them to donate right away.

Turning Likes Into DonorsAnd I don’t mean send them a donation ask in your email welcome series. You should turn your confirmation page into a donation page that connects the offer someone just downloaded to the value proposition of your organization.

There’s a lot to unpack in that strategy, so if you want to learn more about it, consider checking out Jeff Giddens’s eBook on Turning Likes Into Donors. This book will break down how to use Facebook advertising to target likely donors, capture their email address, and use an instant donation ask to convert new donors.

More Online Fundraising Ideas

These 5 online fundraising ideas are just a handful of the hundreds of ideas we’re testing every day. In fact, we’ve made our entire research library available for free to every marketer and fundraiser out there. To date, our library contains 1,415 experiments where we’ve tested new ideas to prove what works in online fundraising.

You can get even more ideas to test in your online fundraising by exploring our full research library.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.