Understanding Grassroots Fundraising: Getting Supporters To Give Online

Micah CaswellJuly 27, 2021

online fundraising

Online fundraising can be daunting, and with the majority of online donors giving small amounts, many may wonder if it is worth their time. It absolutely is. In fact, it’s a great tool to engage supporters and supplement your larger donor programs. 

As you start thinking about how your organization can position itself as the cause worthy of your supporters’ online donations, think about what has motivated you to give online to other organizations in the past:

  • How did they move you from supporter to donor for the first time?
  • What about their appeal caught your attention?
  • Why did you choose them for your donation over the other causes you support?

The answers to these questions can help you to shape your own organization’s online fundraising strategy. I can’t answer them for you, but I can share some tips to help you get that strategy off the ground.

Prime your audience to give.

People are inundated with emails, social media posts, and donate buttons, which means your fundraising requests need to stand out. Grassroots fundraising is an art and requires relationship building just like fundraising campaigns targeting large donors. 

When introduced to a potential large donor for the first time, you wouldn’t hit them immediately with a generic fundraising ask that just boiled down to “support us,” would you? The same principles apply to growing your online donor base. That’s why it’s important to prime your supporters so they are more willing to act on a fundraising appeal. Very few of us want to have an interaction that starts with someone asking us for money. 

When we talk about the Ladder of Engagement, it’s really just a shorter way to refer to the idea that supporters who have done one thing for you are more likely to do another. As they move up the ladder, they are willing to increase the investment of time, money, or social capital it takes to complete the next action. 

I’ve always seen email fundraising campaigns be most successful because it’s easier to segment your list and track where your supporters may be on the Ladder of Engagement. That’s not to say you shouldn’t include social media in your fundraising campaigns, but I recommend making email the center of your strategy.

There are two ways to move people up the ladder—over time and within a single campaign. To move people over time, you have to give your supporters actions to take outside of fundraising campaigns. Some examples of low-investment actions are signing petitions, sharing specific social media content, forwarding an email, or downloading a resource. It’s important to ask supporters to take low-investment actions in the same way (email vs. social media) you will ask them to take higher-investment actions like donating or direct advocacy.

Moving supporters up the ladder within a campaign is the same principle, but you do it all at once. For example, you send an email asking people to sign a petition. Once someone signs the petition, they are redirected to a specific fundraising page directly related to the issue in the petition they just signed. You can also then send a follow-up email to supporters who signed the petition but did not donate with direct fundraising appeals relating to the issue they have demonstrated is important to them.

Link to a donation page.

Remember that specific donation page I mentioned above? That’s important. Online fundraising campaigns should always link to a donation page that is specific to the campaign, not just your general donation page you have linked on your homepage. Take the time to build a page with content specific to your fundraising appeal. 

In your appeals, be clear about why you need money. Supporters want to know what impact their donation will have, even if it’s only $5. There are a few ways to be specific in your campaigns, so think about what will work for your organization and your supporters. Here are some examples:

  • Highlight one action the organization wants to take but needs money to do, like put a commercial on TV or supply backpacks to local kids in need.
  • Highlight an initiative the organization is working on and needs additional money to continue.
  • Highlight a specific issue area the organization works on.

And when possible, use a story to convey these ideas. We all love a good story.

You should also tell your supporters how much you need, or what your fundraising goal is, and give updates throughout the campaign. If you don’t have a specific goal, that’s OK too. But share it if you have one. It can be a powerful tool when paired with a great story or initiative that resonates with people.

Now you have engaged your donors and told them why you need their support, so it’s important that you use money from specific campaigns for the specified purpose. Don’t lie to or mislead your supporters. You need their trust and continued support. 

Don’t forget to say thank you.

You would never forget to send a thank you to a large donor, so make sure you’re showing your appreciation to your smaller donors as well. They need to know you appreciate them, and you need to strengthen the relationship so they will donate again and continue to support your organization in the future.

Am I suggesting you handwrite a thank you card for all of your online donors? No. Your interactions have all been online, so a thank you message or email online is all you need. Here is what I’ve always done to say thank you to my online donors:

  • Have the fundraising page redirect to a thank you page with some additional actions they can take like sharing or volunteering—keep walking them up that ladder.
  • Send an automated email acknowledging the donation with a receipt and some thank you language. Remind them of what the donation will be used for.
  • When the campaign is over, send a follow up email thanking all of your supporters and letting them know how much you raised. Remind them what the money is for and thank them for their support. 

Just let your donors know your organization values them and appreciates whatever amount they’ve given. 

Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

Filed Under:   Fundraising