All posts by Aspire Contributor

How to Multiply Your Reach With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Digital tools have enabled nonprofits to expand their reach further than they could through traditional means. Whenever your nonprofit posts on social media, texts and emails supporters, or hosts virtual events, you’re taking steps to build your network and attract more attention to your cause. One of your best assets for online outreach may be a little less obvious: your supporters. 

Each of your supporters has a personal network that extends beyond your nonprofit. Many of your supporters’ friends and family may also be interested in supporting your nonprofit, and you can get in touch with them through a peer-to-peer campaign. Plus, with a peer-to-peer campaign, new supporters will be more inclined to give to someone they know personally than to your nonprofit performing cold outreach. 

Peer-to-peer campaigns have several moving parts, and helping your volunteer fundraisers find success requires a combination of careful strategy and the right software tools. To help your nonprofit maximize its reach through your peer-to-peer campaigns, this article will explore how to:

  1. Provide your volunteers with resources. 
  2. Onboard your volunteer fundraisers. 
  3. Invest in peer-to-peer software. 
  4. Follow up with new donor contacts. 

These tips can be used for all types of peer-to-peer campaigns, whether you’re fundraising, launching a nonprofit advocacy campaign, or promoting an event. No matter which type you’re hosting, be sure to support and thank your volunteers throughout the entire campaign to solidify their connection to your cause and potentially earn a long-term volunteer. 

1. Provide your volunteers with resources. 

Donors are motivated to give for a variety of reasons, and many of them choose to support causes that they or their friends and family have a personal connection with. In fact, according to 360MatchPro’s fundraising statistics, Millennials are far more likely to support and engage with causes if their peers already are. 

Of course, many nonprofits already know that peer-to-peer fundraisers work, as 360MatchPro also reports that 39% of nonprofits use a peer-to-peer fundraising platform. However, knowing your nonprofit should host a peer-to-peer campaign and knowing what resources your volunteers will need during your campaign are two different things. 

To help support your volunteers, be sure to provide them with:

  • Fundraising pages. Peer-to-peer campaigns work because the donors this fundraiser attracts have personal relationships with your volunteers. You can make the most of these connections by allowing donors to give to specific volunteers through customizable fundraising pages. Encourage your volunteers to make these pages their own with photos, their stories, and other personal details. 
  • Information and statistics. Your volunteer fundraisers believe in your cause, but many of them might need a little help pitching your nonprofit to others. Provide your volunteers with stories and statistics about your cause that they can share while campaigning on your behalf. 
  • Outreach strategies. What is the most effective way to reach potential donors? Chances are that few of your volunteers are fundraising professionals, and your nonprofit can help them answer this question by providing advice on how to best reach donors. For instance, some nonprofits implement peer-to-peer texting strategies to take advantage of high text message open rates. 

By providing volunteers with resources, you will improve their ability to fundraise on your behalf and also create a better experience for them. Remember that peer-to-peer campaigns are also an opportunity to engage volunteers and build stronger relationships with them that can secure their future support.

2. Onboard your volunteer fundraisers. 

While your volunteers could theoretically jump straight into fundraising after they’re recruited, doing so will likely lead to a confused and uncoordinated campaign. Be sure to set up an onboarding process and have your volunteers complete it before giving them the go-ahead to start fundraising. 

For most nonprofits, the onboarding process will likely include sending volunteers several helpful documents they can refer to throughout your peer-to-peer campaign and arranging a meeting to touch base with all volunteers and answer questions. During your onboarding process, make sure you cover the following steps:

  • Teach them how to use software tools. As mentioned, providing your volunteers with personal fundraising pages can help them gather more support. To help them make the most of these pages, spend time teaching them how to customize their page and share templates they can use to get started. 
  • Go over branding guidelines. While you should encourage each of your volunteers to share their own stories and personal relationship with your nonprofit, you’ll also want to provide them with information about your nonprofit branding strategy. For example, you might share specific phrases they should use when discussing your nonprofit, promotional images they can share and other general advice for how to properly represent your organization.
  • Connect them with their manager and other volunteers. Throughout your peer-to-peer campaign, there might be times when your volunteers will need help. Make sure they know who your volunteer manager is and how they can get in touch with them. Additionally, encourage your volunteers to get to know one another so they can support each others’ campaigns. 

During the onboarding process, you should also discuss your peer-to-peer campaign’s general strategy to make sure your volunteers and your nonprofit are on the same page. This might include when they should launch their campaigns, what social media platforms they should use, and what your campaign’s overall goal is.

3. Invest in peer-to-peer software.

Online peer-to-peer campaigns rely on software to function, and the platform your nonprofit chooses will shape your campaign’s fundraising strategy. There are many different peer-to-peer fundraising solutions available, each focusing on a different aspect of peer-to-peer campaigns. When assessing solutions, look for the following features:

  • Fundraising pages. Customizable fundraising pages should be one of your top priorities to help your volunteers put a personal touch on their campaign. Be sure the solution you choose has user-friendly customization tools so your volunteers can easily edit their pages. 
  • Reporting and analytics tools. Your peer-to-peer campaign will generate a lot of data from both your volunteers and new donors. Ensure your peer-to-peer software solution has real-time reporting and allows you to create custom reports and segment your supporters based on key metrics. 
  • Event management features. If you’re planning to run an event alongside your peer-to-peer campaign, consider choosing a solution with event management tools. These can include event registration pages and communication tools, so you can quickly send out event invitations to donors your volunteers connect with during your campaign. 

If you invest in a new peer-to-peer solution, be sure to give your team time to familiarize themselves with your software. This way they will be able to better help your volunteers learn how to use key features and can provide assistance if they run into any technical issues. 

4. Follow up with new donor contacts. 

Many donors who give during peer-to-peer fundraisers tend to only give one-time gifts, as they donated to support their friend or family member and are less familiar with your nonprofit. However, with the right data management and communication strategies, your nonprofit can increase your ability to retain even these donors. 

During your campaign, you will collect basic information about these donors, such as their contact information, the size of their gift, and that they have a connection to one of your volunteers. This information might seem limited, but it can still be useful for your outreach efforts. Salsa’s guide to smart engagement technology provides insight into how your data can help your communication strategy, especially for automated messages:

  • When to communicate. When should you get in touch with your new supporters? While you should send a thank you message immediately after your donors’ first gift, when should you next get in touch with them? Run A/B tests to find both how frequently and the best times of day to send messages. For example, you might find that emails tend to see higher response rates in the middle of the day around lunchtime, whereas social media posts do better in the evening. 
  • How to communicate. What channels should you use to message your supporters? During a peer-to-peer campaign, if your volunteers primarily used Facebook to perform their outreach, your nonprofit might receive higher engagement rates if you send Facebook messages rather than emails to these donors. 
  • What to communicate. Tailor each message to its recipient. This means including personal details, such as addressing each supporter by their preferred name and referencing their participation in your peer-to-peer campaign. Additionally, when it is time to make another donation request, try basing the amount you ask for on the donors’ previous gift. 

Additionally, be sure to also follow up with your volunteers after your peer-to-peer campaign. Thank them for all of their hard work, and consider other appreciation activities, such as hosting events or sending small gifts like your nonprofit’s merchandise, to help build long-term relationships that can come in handy during your next peer-to-peer fundraiser. 

Peer-to-peer fundraisers can be complicated campaigns with several moving parts. But with the right management strategies, your nonprofit has the potential to expand your outreach far beyond your current supporter network. Be sure to provide your volunteers with the tools they need and take the steps to make sure you stay in touch with them. Good luck!

About the Author

Craig Grella

Craig Grella is a Content Marketer at Bonterra, the leader in social good technology. Bonterra enables and elevates the hardworking people at organizations that do social good by bringing together best-in-class tools and technology. In his role, Craig serves thousands of nonprofits and advocacy organizations across the U.S.

Craig focuses on digital strategy using email marketing, online advertising campaigns, SMS campaigns, CRM management, reporting/analytics for KPIs, and more. He’s also the founder of Think Big Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in political consulting, digital organizing, and issue advocacy.

Why Should You Choose Online Waivers? 4 Main Reasons

As fundraising and event software continue to rapidly evolve and improve, your nonprofit has probably gathered a small arsenal of important digital tools and resources to boost your operations. After all, different event software solutions not only allow you to remotely engage with your supporters, but they can also help you process data more efficiently and give you a leg up as you try to reach new audiences from all over the world.

However, among the different event tools you’ve gathered over the past few years, there’s one powerful piece of software that you may have overlooked: online waivers. 

Legally and safety-wise, liability waivers are already a crucial event management tool. But by investing in a dedicated online waiver solution, you can make the most of this seemingly innocuous part of the event check-in process, maximize event success, and improve your supporter relationships.

In particular, we’ll cover the following major benefits of using online waiver software, as well as features to look out for:

  1. Convenient event registration processes
  2. Data-driven supporter insights
  3. Increased personalization efforts
  4. Future event planning assistance

No matter if you’re hosting a fitness-filled 5K or an elegant gala, online liability waivers can have a significant impact on the quality of your activities, management abilities, and future event communications.

Let’s dive in.

One of the most well-known benefits of the online waiver is its convenience, both for event participants and your nonprofit’s staff. By removing traditional concerns tied to liability waivers— such as storage, organization, retrieval, and security—you can streamline the signing process and create a safer, more efficient environment for all parties involved. 

In particular, online waivers can boost convenience and simplify the event check-in process by:

  • Providing secure cloud storage. Instead of having a huge closet with filing cabinets full of untouched paper forms, you can keep all your waiver information safe and secure in an online database. Waiver information can even be pulled in seconds if you need a particular form.
  • Allowing off-site signing. With an online waiver provider like Smartwaiver, participants can sign their liability waivers before even arriving for an event, thus skipping the lines on arrival and ensuring an easy, stress-free adventure. 
  • Integrating with marketing materials. Your online waiver can easily be embedded into your own website and/or online registration form for further accessibility and security. Some participants may not feel comfortable inputting their personal details and contact information in an unknown web form, but this way, they never have to leave your trusted domain to do so.

If your nonprofit has yet to make the switch to online event waiver software, now is the perfect time to do so. Take this as an opportunity to research further benefits and start building the foundation that will make event registration as seamless and as comfortable as possible for your donors, advocates, and loyal supporters.

If your nonprofit is already a proud user of online liability waivers, now is an opportune moment to use previously collected data to improve your engagement and donor stewardship strategies. 

Your staff can easily sort through, analyze, and make the most of the donor data from all the online waivers in your database. After all, one of the greatest benefits of online waivers is the ease of collection of useful data, so don’t let this resource go to waste. 

Using your data for marketing purposes is one of the smartest moves you can make, as attendee data can help you to build more effective outreach campaigns as you try to engage, retain, and acquire more support.

Here are some key data points that can be extracted from your online waivers (and some examples of what you can do with them!): 

  • Age: Find out what age group the majority of your supporters fall into. If your audience tends to skew younger, you may want to strengthen your online marketing practices, while an older audience may prefer traditional advertising efforts, such as direct mail. 
  • Gender: Do your events tend to cater to a predominantly male audience or are your activities composed of mostly female participants? Maybe your nonprofit appeals equally to all people, and that should be highlighted in your outreach efforts.
  • Location: Make note of whether the majority of participants come from around the same area as your nonprofit, or whether you have a good portion of tourists or other visitors partaking in the events. Then you’ll know how, when, and where to focus your marketing.
  • History: Take a look at whether your participants tend to return after their original experience with your nonprofit. If you have plenty of first-time visitors but few follow-ups, you may want to adjust your guest communication strategy to draw in repeat attendees.
  • Referral: In addition to basic contact information, consider asking participants where they heard about your nonprofit (online, word-of-mouth, advertisement, etc.). This is a great way to recognize the impact of various strategies and/or communication channels.

When you analyze and better understand the demographics and lifestyle trends of your current supporters, you’ll have a better idea of how to target those same supporters and others just like them. For more information, check out this AccuData guide to effective data marketing. Learn more about the type of data your team should be tracking so you can create a plan for successful growth.

In addition to any other marketing and communications strategies you may implement, one particular aspect to keep in mind is personalization for each supporter. 

Instead of sending out blanket, over-generalized event emails to your supporters, consider taking a more individualized approach. As you may have already encountered by personalizing your fundraising appeals and other donor outreach methods, personalization can have a powerful positive impact on your supporters, their view of your organization, and their likelihood of engaging with you in the future.

When you deal more personally with your supporters, you can create strengthened donor, volunteer, and attendee relationships that will last far longer than any single event. This is what makes it so important to extract online waiver data and infuse it into your event invitations, updates, and thank-you messages after the fact, strengthening your donor communications.

If you use your online waiver software correctly, you can easily find event attendees’ history with your nonprofit—such as what activities they’ve participated in, whether they’re a repeat customer, and how long it’s been since they’ve visited. Let them know you look forward to seeing them in the future, and consider offering perks like discounts, event merchandise, and other incentives to reconnect with your organization.

Finally, it’s important that your supporters have something to look forward to, especially as you try to steward newer supporters into lifetime donors and advocates of your nonprofit. Start planning events to boost excitement and build on the momentum you’ve gained from your previous events.

Thanks to the internet and other online tools, you can start to drum up interest well before the time of an event. With online waiver software, you can let eager participants sign weeks– or even months— ahead of time.

Additionally, you can effectively use donor data you’ve collected from previous event waivers to jumpstart your planning. Use information like past attendee numbers, audience demographics, and even mobility and accessibility limitations to create an event that’s as appealing as possible for your supporters.

Events are a critical part of how you engage with your nation of supporters, which makes it incredibly important to keep them going as smoothly as possible. Make sure you have the right resources to maintain an efficient process, from the planning stages to registration and the completion of your event.

Not only do online liability waivers protect your nonprofit from lawsuits and legal damage, but they can also offer protection and guidance as you navigate the best practices for creating events that are as efficient and effective as possible.

By streamlining event registration and enhancing future event planning endeavors, your online waivers provide assistance in getting your event management processes into high gear and setting up your organization for greater event success!


This article was contributed by Daryl McCarl, Director of Business Development at Smartwaiver, the leading digital waiver service trusted by thousands of organizations around the world.

5 Ways to Build Community With Supporters on Social Media

You have likely seen nonprofit organizations using social media platforms like Facebook to fundraise, usually in the form of peer-to-peer campaigns. Fundraising on social media is a great strategy for nonprofits, but it’s not the only way your organization can use social media. 

When used correctly, social media is an essential tool in a nonprofit’s marketing strategy. In this guide, we’ll cover a few ways that you can use social media to build community with your supporters and strengthen donor relationships: 

  1. Use your platform to inform supporters
  2. Show the inner workings of your organization
  3. Engage with your followers 
  4. Go live! 
  5. Showcase your brand personality 

With these tips, your organization can properly capitalize on the benefits of social media for building a strong and loyal supporter community. Let’s get started!

Use your platform to inform supporters

While creating educational posts about your cause is important (and is likely something you already do), you can also create informative posts about things like how your nonprofit uses donations or how text-to-give works. Educating your followers about not only your cause but how they can get involved and how your organization actually works, will reduce barriers to involvement and increase their trust in your organization. 

For example, you could create a post with multiple graphics for Facebook and Instagram that walks supporters through how they can donate through text-to-give and how it works on the back end. You can also create video versions of these graphics to use on TikTok or Instagram Reels to reach more people! This not only helps non-tech-savvy supporters who would like to donate, but it can also help resolve any concerns about the security and validity of mobile and online donations. 

Bonus tip: After you share this kind of post once, you can reshare it or link to it when marketing new campaigns to continue providing that resource for new and existing supporters alike. You can also re-create updated versions if you need ideas for new content to post!

Show the inner workings of your organization

While you’re giving followers an insight into how donations work at your organization, you can take it a step further and get staff and volunteers involved. 

  • Staff or volunteer story “takeovers.” Various members of your staff, or even volunteers, can take turns being featured on your stories talking about what they do at your organization, why they’re involved, and more. 
  • “Day In The Life” posts. This type of content is usually best as a video or on stories. Have your social media manager record what volunteers or members of your staff do in a day to show followers how your organization works. 
  • Highlighting staff and volunteers. Another option is to introduce your staff or volunteers with static posts featuring an image and a “get to know me” blurb in the caption. Have them talk about themselves, what they do at your organization, and why they chose to get involved. 

Sharing more about the internal workings of your organization and the people that make your work possible is a great way to boost employee engagement. It’s also a creative volunteer engagement idea that can make volunteers feel more like insiders at your organization. Most of all, it helps supporters get to know your organization better, which will increase their connection to you and your cause. 

Engage with your followers 

Social media should not be looked at as a one-way medium. While you’re putting out content to your followers, you should also be engaging followers instead of just expecting them to interact with your content. 

Snowball’s guide to donor engagement highly recommends interacting with your supporters on social media to strengthen your relationship. Not only will this make your followers feel a stronger connection to you (and that you care about them!), but it’s also what the algorithms want to see. The more that accounts interact with each other, the more they show up in each other’s feeds. So, it’s in your best interest to engage with followers. 

To engage effectively, you should: 

  • Respond to comments and DMs in a timely manner.
  • Post to your stories (on platforms with this feature, like Instagram).
  • Use engagement stickers on stories like polls, quizzes, and question boxes.
  • Create a hashtag for supporters to use, then interact with and reshare relevant content in that hashtag.

No one likes a one-sided conversation, not even on social media. Taking the time to interact with your followers and show them they’re not just a faceless “like” to you will increase their connection to your organization and potentially boost your posts’ reach! 

Go live! 

Almost every social media platform now has some version of a “Live” feature that allows you to interact with supporters in real-time. You can go live to share an update while speaking directly to the camera, or do so during an event to share the excitement and success with supporters who couldn’t make it. Some organizations also use Lives to do educational discussions with experts or Q&A sessions for supporters. 

Here are some tips for going live:

  • Have a clear purpose for going live
  • Advertise your Live in the coming days and weeks
  • Make sure you have good lighting
  • Ask the viewers questions 
  • Address viewer comments on your Live
  • Download and save your Live to be repurposed or shared

The Live feature available on many social media platforms is an excellent digital tool for giving your followers a more personal view of and connection to your organization. Make sure you follow these tips to host high-quality Lives that your followers want to engage with!

Showcase your brand personality 

Social media can be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of content that gets shared every minute. It can feel difficult to stand out or even just show up in this environment. That’s exactly why it’s crucial to create a cohesive brand image that makes your content recognizable. You can do that by: 

  • Using consistent fonts and colors. Pick a set of fonts and colors (ideally ones that match your website and customized donation page branding) and use them on all of your stories and graphics so that followers can easily recognize your posts. 
  • Choosing content pillars. You can choose to post, for example, three main types of content, like educational posts, behind the scenes, and trending content, and then build a content calendar around those pillars. 
  • Turning trends into relevant content. On platforms like TikTok and on Instagram Reels, learning to take a sound that many people are using in their videos and apply it to your niche is crucial for getting eyes on your content. Duolingo’s TikTok account is a great example of an organization doing this.

Because social media is an important part of a nonprofit’s digital campaigns according to Getting Attention, you want to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd. Consider all of these tips when you’re putting together your social media content strategy to create a cohesive and unique brand image. 

Social media can be a difficult beast to tackle, but with the right strategy and intent, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for connecting with existing and potential supporters. While you’re focusing on creating a killer social media strategy, don’t forget to make sure your donation page follows best practices for when you successfully convert followers into donors! 


John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations. 

Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.

5 Online Donation Page Mistakes Nonprofits Should Avoid

What does an ideal online donation experience look like for a nonprofit donor? A few words might come to mind, such as easy, fast, or intuitive. And while donors want a seamless and simple online donation experience, the reality is that it takes a lot of effort on your nonprofit’s end to provide that experience. 

Of course, putting in the effort to improve the online donor journey is well worth it. Your nonprofit’s online donation page is a critical part of your digital toolkit. When a website visitor navigates through to your donation page and walks through the steps of contributing a donation to your cause, they’re providing you with the means to move your mission forward and giving your organization a vote of confidence that indicates they believe your work is making a difference. 

Though most nonprofits understand the importance of their online donation pages, important steps in the process of creating a donation page or maintaining it can sometimes fall through the cracks. Especially if your team lacks nonprofit website design experience, it can be easy to unknowingly make online donation page mistakes that actually hurt your donors’ experience. 

Luckily, there’s no need to be a coding expert or master web builder to avoid these mistakes. All you need is a content management system (CMS) built for nonprofits and a knowledge of missteps to avoid. In this post based on Morweb’s guide to donation page design, we’ll cover five common mistakes nonprofits often make with their donation pages: 

By knowing the mistakes to watch for, you can easily design (or redesign) an effective donation page that will meet your donors’ needs and help you pull in support. We recommend that you evaluate your own organization’s donation page as you read through this guide. This will help you identify whether any of these five mistakes are present on your own page and give you a headstart on fixing them.  

Let’s dive in so you can get started on improving your donors’ online donation experience! 

Mistake #1: Not branding your donation page to your organization.

The Mistake

Some nonprofits make the mistake of creating a generic-looking donation page. When a donor navigates to the donation page, it might look to them like it’s hosted by a third-party site, giving the impression that it isn’t a trustworthy tool to enter their contact and payment information into. Plus, without visual indicators of your brand, the act of donating might feel like a money grab instead of an act of generosity that will benefit your organization’s cause.

How To Fix It  

You can fix this common mistake by adding a few visual branding elements to your donation page. According to Getting Attention’s post on nonprofit branding strategies, here are some common elements you can consider adding:  

  • Logos: Your nonprofit’s logo is a visual representation of your work. Whether your logo is an abstract design or an emblem featuring a symbol that is important to your work, your logo gets people thinking about your mission. Place your logo at the top of your donation page to mark the page as a legitimate tool on your site. 
  • Colors: Colors are an important branding element because they set the mood and tone for a webpage. For example, a light pink color scheme communicates energy and positivity, while a neon pink color scheme might just be hard on the eyes. Choose your colors carefully and make your donation page coloring match the rest of your website.
  • Fonts: Even the look of the text on your donation page can have an impact on a donor. For your donation page, match the font on the rest of your website. Ideally, this will be a professional, easy-to-read sans serif font instead of swooping calligraphy or chunky, bolded block letters. 

Maintaining branding consistency on your donation page is critical for demonstrating your organization is trustworthy and professional. Much like leveraging a secure payment processor, branding your donation page can go a long way in building rapport and trust with your donors.

Mistake #2: Asking too many questions on your form. 

The Mistake 

Imagine one of your supporter’s friends learns about your nonprofit on Giving Tuesday. They get excited about the change you’re making in the world and want to donate. They arrive on your donation page and begin filling out your donation form. But after one page of questions turns into two and then three, this new supporter starts to become frustrated, feeling like the process is taking too much time. Not to mention, your organization seems to want too much of their personal information.

How To Fix It 

Asking too many questions on your donation form is a big online donation page faux pas, causing some donors to abandon their plan to donate altogether. There are three ways you can fix this problem: 

  • Ask only for necessary information, like contact information, donation amount, and payment information. 
  • If you are interested in getting extra donor data to use in donor communications down the road, include a few extra questions and mark them as optional
  • Ensure that your form sticks to one page in length to increase the likelihood of donors completing their gift. 

When donating only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require a donor to give over too much information about themselves, they’ll not only be more inclined to complete an initial gift — they’ll also be more likely to use your page to give again! 

Mistake #3: Failing to optimize your donation page for accessibility. 

The Mistake 

Even the best nonprofit websites out there sometimes miss the mark when it comes to making their donation pages accessible to everyone. An accessible web design ensures that all users — whether they’re hard of hearing, have visual impairments, or use screen readers — can access your content and use tools like your donation page. Without an accessible donation page, you could be missing out on donations from supporters whose only hurdle is being able to use your tool. 

How To Fix It 

Here are three simple ways you can make your donation page more user-friendly for all of your supporters: 

  • Add an accessibility widget. Your nonprofit-specific CMS should offer an accessibility widget that puts the power back in your supporters’ hands. This allows them to change the coloring of your donation page to greyscale, increase text size, highlight links, and change hard-to-read fonts to sans serif. 
  • Include alt text on all graphics and images. Alt text is a one-sentence description you add to the backend of images and graphics on a webpage. It helps to make sure that website visitors who can’t view your images (such as those using screen readers) won’t have any gaps in their experience with your page. 
  • Provide captions for all multimedia content. Some nonprofits like to include an inspiring video on their donation page that can motivate supporters to submit their contributions. If you include a video on your donation page (or any other type of multimedia content), provide transcripts or captioning for those elements. This will allow those with hearing impairments to get the information they need from these elements. 

Optimizing your donation page for accessibility takes only a few extra steps, but can pay off as you’re able to demonstrate to your supporters that you have their needs in mind, and, as a result, receive more donations. 

Mistake #4: Forgetting to include multiple giving options. 

The Mistake 

The experience of giving a donation to a cause you care about is very personal. After all, donations require sacrifice, as well as a deep investment in the cause you’re giving to. This is why donors like to personalize their giving experiences by taking advantage of different ways to give. Some nonprofits, however, neglect the opportunity to promote these different giving options on their donation pages, leaving their donors in the dark about how they can further their individual impact. 

How To Fix It 

Dedicate some space on your donation page to listing multiple ways to give. This will increase the likelihood that donors will take advantage of these opportunities that they might not have known about before. They may even inspire a donor to give more or give again, helping with your retention efforts. 

Here are a few options you might consider highlighting on your donation page: 

  • Your monthly giving program: Many donors would give on a consistent basis if it was easy. Try offering donors an option to check a box or sign up for your monthly giving program. This way, they don’t have to remember to return again and again to give. Instead, they’ll be billed each month. 
  • Matching gifts: If you partner with a matching gift software provider to help employees take advantage of their employers’ corporate philanthropy efforts, let your donors know on your donation page. An easy way to do so is to embed a matching gift database on your form that people can search to see if they are eligible for matching. 
  • Suggested giving amounts: Providing suggested giving amounts can help donors see what a “typical” donation amount is for your organization. Plus, they can encourage them to bump up the amount of their gift. For example, if a donor was planning to give $5 and sees a suggested donation amount of $10, they might double the size of their gift!

While you don’t want to overwhelm your donors with too many options, giving them a few choices when it comes to how they give to your organization can make their experience more meaningful. If your nonprofit is trying to decide which giving options to offer, try surveying your donors to see what most appeals to them. 

Mistake #5: Not thanking your donors after they’ve submitted a gift. 

The Mistake 

Every nonprofit professional knows the importance of donor recognition, especially when it comes to handwritten thank-you letters or big demonstrations of gratitude, like setting up a major donor thank-you luncheon. However, not every nonprofit adds an automated thank-you message or email to their online donation page experience. This can leave some donors feeling like blank checks instead of people who truly care about your cause. 

How To Fix It 

An initial thank you is an important part of receiving a donation, even if you’re eventually going to send a longer and more personalized thank-you message. Try setting up an email cadence that is triggered by the submission of a donation. Thank the donor for their gift and offer them additional opportunities to engage with your nonprofit, like following your organization on social media or signing up to volunteer at an upcoming event. Alternatively, you could add a pop-up thank-you message to your online donation process that displays after a donor completes their gift. 

The Gist 

Too many nonprofits fall prey to common online donation page mistakes that have easy fixes. Now that you know about these common problems, analyze your own nonprofit donation page with a critical eye. Try to take a step back and see your page from your donors’ point of view and make the needed fixes to improve the donor journey. A positive online donation experience will go a long way in helping you retain your donors’ support and increasing donor engagement. Good luck! 

Author: Murad Bushnaq is the Founder and CEO of Morweb. Since its inception in 2014, Murad has acted as Creative Director and Chief Technologist to help nonprofits spread their vision online through engaging design, intuitive software and strategic communication.

Apps for Nonprofits: A Crash Course About Handheld Tech

Scrolling through social media, paying for parking, checking email, and playing games— the tasks you can complete with a smartphone have drastically expanded since phones were first connected to the internet in the early 2000s. Whether virtual and hybrid events, smartphones, or working from home, individuals desire the ability to engage and participate in society from wherever they are, with the technology they already have on hand.

Of course, whenever new technologies are embraced on a wide-scale across society, your first question as a nonprofit professional is this: how can we leverage this tool in our array of nonprofit technology to increase efficiency, better connect with supporters and constituents, or even raise more funds?

In this case, the answer is to consider whether mobile apps for nonprofits will improve your operations and invest accordingly. In this crash course to apps for nonprofits, we’ll answer the following questions:

The forward motion of nonprofit technology innovation is swift, and new nonprofit technologies are emerging on a daily basis. The last thing you want is to be the organization that’s stuck behind the curve— something that can make the difference between a donation made and one that’s abandoned in the check-out process.

With that, let’s dive in.

What are apps for nonprofits?

There are a variety of mobile apps that may be useful for nonprofits in their daily operations. For example, Zoom is a helpful livestreaming tool for nonprofits to use when hosting virtual events or town halls, and it’s available in app form. Social media apps are helpful when it comes to broadcasting information to your online supporter base en masse, and the calendar app is helpful when it comes to keeping your team on track with daily operations.

Keep the role that these general apps play in your operations in mind when creating your overall technology strategy. For example, when you send out an email blast, it should be mobile-friendly to ensure supporters reading it on their iPhone or Android devices can do so without experiencing a drop in quality.

However, for the purposes of this guide, these general phone apps don’t fall within our definition of nonprofit apps.

DNL OmniMedia’s guide to apps for nonprofits defines them as:

“Apps explicitly created for the nonprofit sector, to meet specific nonprofit strategic needs.”

These are apps created by nonprofit technology providers to meet nonprofit-specific needs, such as volunteer management, event management, fundraising, or even internal scheduling. There are a variety of providers who have embraced this trend, so there are likely more options available on the market than you realize!

Why should you incorporate nonprofit apps into your tech stack?

Keeping costs low is the name of the game for nonprofit professionals, who seek to dedicate as many resources to their mission as possible. So, why should you invest in yet another technology solution, in addition to the solutions you already have?

The data around mobile phone use, pulled from the apps for nonprofits guide linked in the last section, makes a convincing argument:

  • 96% of Americans own a mobile phone, with 81% of those being smartphones.
  • 1 in 5 Americans accesses the internet through their smartphone alone.
  • 1 in 4 donors discovers new nonprofits to support through their smartphone.
  • 1/4 of donors donate through a mobile phone.

Not only is smartphone use widespread in the U.S., but for some donors, it’s their primary way of accessing any online materials. This is why many nonprofits seek mobile accessibility in all of their technology solutions, including donor management systems, websites, and more. Beyond accessibility arguments, there are a variety of benefits that occur when nonprofits incorporate mobile apps into their strategy, including:

  • The ability to make the most of exciting tech innovations. For example, mobile phones empower you to connect with “donors on the go,” showing that your nonprofit is ahead of the curve.
  • Access to more data than ever before. While the technology solutions you have currently certainly provide a plethora of supporter data, nonprofit apps give you access to data about a new audience— mobile supporters.
  • The ability to create custom-branded apps. Nonprofit apps are evolving, allowing organizations to invest in custom solutions that are branded to and built for their organization. This increases trust in the supporters who access the app.

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits of investing in a nonprofit mobile app, let’s cover the types of apps that are available to your nonprofit.

What types of apps are available for nonprofits?

When you consider the major groups your organization coordinates and the main fundraising efforts you conduct, there are likely nonprofit apps corresponding to each. Here are a few main types of apps currently available for nonprofits:

  • Volunteer and Membership Apps: These apps are supporter-facing tools that empower volunteers or members (if your organization runs a membership program) to manage their engagement with your nonprofit. Volunteers can sign up for shifts, log hours, and view their past serving history. Or, members can make dues payments, view upcoming events and opportunities, and stay updated on the latest news with your organization. Popular examples include Boardable for board management and Wild Apricot for member management.
  • Event Apps: These are apps created for managing major fundraising events. This includes charity auction apps, such as Handbid. These apps empower auction attendees to bid on items, make one-off donations, and keep track of their various bids to stay competitive and make counter bids throughout the event.
  • Advocacy Apps: These apps are designed to make it as easy as possible for supporters to advocate for specific legislative action on behalf of your mission. For example, DNL OmniMedia offers an advocacy app, MobileAction!, that empowers advocates with pre-filled contact information of key political leaders, pre-filled fields containing your ideal messaging on a topic, the ability to make calls or send messages directly from the app, and the ability to log advocacy actions in the app to report back to your nonprofit.
  • Internal Apps: This includes any apps created to increase internal efficiency. For example, Humanity is an app created for nonprofit staff scheduling. It allows you to auto-schedule shifts, monitor any risk of understaffing, and stay abreast of any shift trading that occurs on short notice.

If you make it easy for people to interact with your nonprofit, they’ll be more likely to do so. When volunteers can sign up for shifts from their phone, they’ll do so more readily. More auction bids will be made, driving the overall “winning bids” higher and higher. More advocacy calls will be made and messages sent, increasing the chances that the action you’re hoping to result will occur.

What should you keep in mind when investing in a nonprofit app?

Just as with any other nonprofit technology, you don’t want to invest in a nonprofit app without carefully considering and preparing for the decision.

First and foremost, ensure you’re investing in the right app for your nonprofit’s needs. For example, can it be branded to your organization? This drastically increases the trust that supporters will have in the app, so it’s an important consideration to keep in mind. Further, will it integrate with your other nonprofit technologies? The top solutions to consider are your constituent relationship management and online donation software.

Once you’ve chosen a solution for your organization, you’ll also want to consider whether your team needs any training to use the app. When you incorporate new technology, technical difficulties are to be expected — you want to prep both your internal team and supporters to respond accordingly. This could mean hosting a training in which you walk through how to use the app effectively or offering a one-page resource that breaks it down step-by-step. Either way, we recommend recording or otherwise taking notes on how to use the app, so this training can be easily replicated going forward.

If you’re wading into the waters of nonprofit mobile apps for the first time, consider working with a nonprofit technology consultant in the process. This team member can help you choose the right solution, integrate it into your existing technology strategy, and even train your team to use it effectively.

Engaging on mobile phones is only going to get more popular going forward. How is your nonprofit going to make the most of this innovative technology?

With nonprofit-specific mobile apps, you can better connect with supporters and staff members, increasing engagement with your nonprofit. And, with the help of a nonprofit technology consultant, you can ensure the process of investing in a new app goes smoothly. Good luck!

Author: Carl Diesing, Managing Director – Carl co-founded DNL OmniMedia in 2006 and has grown the team to accommodate clients with on-going web development projects. Together DNL OmniMedia has worked with over 100 organizations to assist them with accomplishing their online goals. As Managing Director of DNL OmniMedia, Carl works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues. Carl lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their two children Charlie and Evelyn.

4 Tips for Building a Microsite for Your Event

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Microsites are small, often temporary, websites with limited content centered around one topic.  This structure makes them perfect for promoting and hosting events for many organizations. Rather than cluttering your main website with event details, a microsite can host everything your guests need to know about your event in one place. 

When executed right, your event microsite is your central hub for driving ticket sales, boosting event registration and a platform place where you can build a following. While several design elements will overlap for many event websites, you can still get creative and be original while building your own microsite. 

Whether you’re a nonprofit engaging in virtual fundraising for the first time, or a larger business accustomed to presenting to crowds of thousands, you should create your microsite with these four tips in mind:

  1. Invest in engagement tools. 
  2. Apply SEO best practices. 
  3. Set up analytics tools. 
  4. Follow accessibility guidelines. 

Before launching a microsite, make sure a microsite makes sense for your goals. Some organizations can greatly benefit from the increased exposure and data gathering potential inherent to microsites, while other, smaller organizations, may find more success in keeping traffic on their main website by hosting events there. 

1. Invest in engagement tools.

Your event’s microsite should be solely focused on your event to create a consistent, informative experience for your guests. However, this doesn’t mean you need to make a cookie-cutter microsite to run a successful event. Consider how you want to display information about your event and position your organization’s brand. 

Your microsite’s features and content pages will depend on whether your event is in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Here are a few features you should consider including and notes about how to adapt them for different event types:

  • Live-streaming tools. Live-streaming tools are a necessity for virtual and hybrid events as they allow remote guests to participate in your event through chat features. For in-person events, live-streaming is optional, but recording parts of your event to create promotional materials for future events is recommended. 
  • Real-time updates and measurement tools. If your event is raising money, counting down to something, or encouraging online participation from visitors, make sure you have tools that keep your supporters updated and engaged. Many of the best nonprofit websites invest in fundraising thermometers and similar tools to provide guests with a visual indicator of their funds raised. These tools make hybrid and virtual events feel like “an event” since the audience gets to watch something be accomplished in real time. You can also display your real-time measurement tools on a presenter during your in-person events to create excitement and increase participation. 
  • Event registration forms. Before your event starts, guests need to sign-up online. Your registration page should contain all relevant logistic details such as when and where the event is. For hybrid events, make sure you ask guests whether they will be attending in-person or online, so your event team can make the appropriate accommodations. 

While microsites represent your organization, they are a step removed from your main website, making them a perfect opportunity to show off a different side of your brand or experiment with new brand identities. If you’re interested in expanding your brand, consider how you can tie your new core values into your engagement tools, so guests can get firsthand experience with this new side of your organization. 

2. Apply SEO best practices. 

If you’re familiar with SEO best practices, you likely know that building a backlink profile is a necessary part of establishing a strong online presence. Your organization should strive to create quality content and accumulate natural links from external, trustworthy websites. Your microsite should also contain high-quality content since it can help your organization expand your main website’s link profile. 

When adding links between your microsite and your main website, make sure to do so deliberately and judiciously, as link-stuffing can decrease your websites’ search engine performance. However, a few well placed links will help guide traffic back and forth between your main website and your microsite, making it far easier for donors to stay updated on what’s going on with your nonprofit.

As an external website, your microsite will also have its own SEO ranking and can help new visitors discover your organization. Consider how you can attract new visitors by optimizing your microsite with keywords that are related to your organization without competing for keywords with your main website. The rankings of both of your websites could be harmed by too much of this competition. 

3. Set up analytics tools. 

Microsites have limited content and a more narrow purpose than your main website. This means microsites provide an opportunity to collect precise analytical data about your event. Set up your analytics tools before launching your website to collect data that’s relevant to your event. 

Dataro’s fundraising analytics guide offers several metrics nonprofits should consider tracking on their microsite: 

  • Donation volume. How often do donors give? The best nonprofit websites will see an increase in donation volume around the time of their event. 
  • Demographic data. Learn who your guests are by collecting basic demographic data like age and location. 
  • Conversion rate. Establish a few target actions such as registering for the event or donating, and measure how many people complete that action. 
  • Cost-per-dollar rate. How much did you spend on your event and how does it compare to the revenue your event generated? This metric is important for all organizations looking to measure their events’ success. 
  • Churn rate. For nonprofits, churn rate applies to donors who lapse out of a giving program. This can also apply to previous guests not attending subsequent events.

While you don’t need to be a tech expert to set up analytics tools and measure their results, some nonprofits might need extra help identifying what metrics they should prioritize for their microsite and implementing the tools to measure them. If your organization fits this description, you may benefit from seeking out a consultant. 

Consultants specialize in a variety of fields and topics. For example, as Cornershop Creative’s guide to nonprofit consultants demonstrates, the nonprofit sector alone has an extensive range of consulting services, including fundraising consultants, website consultants, marketing consultants, internal organizational consultants, and more. For your nonprofit, this means you’ll need to take the time to assess your specific needs to ensure you reach out to the right kind of consultant. 

4. Follow accessibility guidelines. 

Your event microsite can only reach its full potential if it’s accessible to all of your attendees. Every website you launch, including microsites, should follow basic web accessibility guidelines to welcome all visitors. 

Many of the best nonprofit websites follow accessibility guidelines, and it’s likely your organization has implemented a few already to improve users’ experience. Here is a list of just a few web accessibility best practices you might already be familiar with and should be sure to implement on your event’s microsite:

  • Add alt text and video transcripts to visual content. Alternative text and video transcripts allow all guests to engage with visual content such as images and videos. Make sure your alt text provides useful descriptions of the image rather than generic text. For example, the alt text “a group of people” isn’t as helpful as “guests at our organization’s previous event listening to a presentation.” 
  • Provide comprehensive directions on your registration forms. Make sure your registration forms have detailed instructions outside information fields. Directions inside information fields disappear once a guest starts typing, which can make them difficult to use for some guests. Plus, guests who step away from their registration and return to fill it out later will also appreciate the external directions. 
  • Use headings in hierarchical order. Headings group content together and let your microsite’s visitors know what to expect from each section of text. Make sure your headers have meaning by placing them in chronological order (H5s under H4s, H4s under H3s, and so on). Doing so will allow guests to navigate your content easily and find what they are looking for with minimal confusion. 

If you’re concerned about accessibility, consider reaching out to a web design consultant for advice. Web accessibility guidelines can be found online, and a professional web design consultant will be more than familiar with how to implement them on your microsite. 

Microsites are a tool, and when built and leveraged correctly, they can elevate your event and drive more traffic to your organization’s main website. Make sure you have the right tech tools backing your microsite, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a consultant to learn how you can take your microsite to the next level. 

Author: De’Yonté Wilkinson’s a late-80s baby who found his passion for web design and development during MySpace’s heyday, when he helped his friends create awesome profiles. He’s spent the last three years specializing in WordPress and conversion optimization, and is an active proponent of coding guidelines. In his off time he enjoys cooking, Rugby, and hanging out with his wife.

5 Benefits of a Continuous Improvement Web Design Approach

Think about a time when you learned a new skill, like how to ride a bike. Most likely, you weren’t an expert the first time you hopped on. It took a few tries to get going, but each time you got back up, you improved a little bit more. 

Designing your nonprofit’s website is a lot like learning to ride a bike. The first iteration of your website probably wasn’t exactly what you were hoping for, or you’ve since adjusted your nonprofit’s strategy and need to implement new features. That’s why a continuous improvement approach can be so beneficial for your website. 

Continuous improvement is the ongoing process of enhancing your website with small, incremental changes rather than major overhauls. Using this approach, you can improve your website’s design, structure, and other features a little bit at a time, leading to a stronger website overall. 

In this guide, we’ll explore the top benefits of a continuous improvement approach to nonprofit website design, as well as a few tips and best practices to make your approach successful. Let’s get started. 

Benefits of a Continuous Improvement Web Design Approach

There are plenty of ways to approach a nonprofit digital transformation. If your nonprofit is new or you’re looking for a major revamp, a complete and immediate website redesign and rebuild could be the right path. 

However, most organizations already have an established digital presence, complete with a comprehensive website, and they aren’t interested in radically changing their digital strategy. A continuous improvement approach allows nonprofits to take a slow and steady approach to website development, enabling organizations like yours to implement small, deliberate changes over time. 

A continuous digital improvement approach provides multiple benefits, allowing your nonprofit to: 

1. Avoid major overhauls.

A complete website rebuild or overhaul costs time and resources. Your marketing team will have to devote a significant amount of time to carrying out the overhaul, and it can be expensive to launch a new website from scratch. 

In contrast, a continuous improvement approach allows you to spread out the cost and time requirements over a longer period. This can greatly reduce your team’s stress and allow them to focus most of their time on other critical marketing and outreach tasks while your website receives continual updates. 

2. Maintain a consistent look and feel for visitors.

Put yourself in your nonprofit’s supporters’ shoes. Many of your supporters have stuck by your organization since the beginning, contributing donations, volunteer time, and advocacy work to support your mission. 

Imagine one day, these loyal supporters head to your nonprofit’s website, only to find that it’s unrecognizable. The structure, page navigation, branding, and other elements are completely different. This could serve as a major shock to your visitors and even cause them to doubt whether they’ve clicked on the right website!

The last thing you want to do is alienate your supporters or cause them to distrust your nonprofit. This is especially important if you’re using your website to collect donations online. If your supporters don’t trust you, they won’t feel comfortable giving you their personal financial information.

With a continuous improvement approach, you can maintain your website’s look and feel while making small changes that enhance your site piece by piece. This helps retain your supporters’ trust and ensures they don’t rethink their decision to donate or volunteer because of a confusing or unfamiliar website. 

3. Use A/B testing to make data-informed design decisions. 

A/B testing is the process of creating two different versions of a web page and determining which is more effective for engaging visitors or driving conversions. By taking a continuous improvement web design approach, your nonprofit will have time to conduct a thorough A/B testing process and determine which versions of your website are the most effective. 

To conduct A/B website testing, follow these steps:

  1. Assess a specific webpage’s engagement metrics, such as your fundraising landing page for your current campaign. You can use your Google Analytics profile to conduct this overview. Look at metrics such as average time spent on the page, most clicked links on the page, and bounce rate. 
  2. Download a report for the page and store the analytics in your organization’s database. 
  3. Choose just one element to change on the page. For instance, you might adjust the wording on your call to action button that leads to your online donation form. Or, you might switch the header image from a photo of an individual volunteer to a group. 
  4. After a set period of time, such as a month, run another analytics report for the page. Determine if the change made a difference in visitors’ engagement with the page. 

A/B testing allows you to enhance your website’s user experience based on direct feedback from those who use it the most: your nonprofit’s supporters!

With a continuous improvement approach, you can test your most important website pages, such as your online donation page, ‘About’ page, and volunteer sign-up page. Choose a page to focus on and start making changes until each page is optimized for engagement.

4. Keep your site updated and secure.

Regular website maintenance is crucial for your website’s continued health. Maintenance activities include:

  • Updating your website’s core framework to keep up with new version releases and retain access to the best security features available.
  • Updating your plugins and modules to ensure your important fundraising-related tools continue working. 
  • Maintaining search engine optimization (SEO) best practices such as fixing broken links and finding ways to decrease load times. 

Kanopi’s website maintenance guide explains that a continuous improvement approach involves more than just conducting security, module, and plugin updates. A continuous improvement approach sets your website up to grow sustainably over time. This approach takes website maintenance to the next level by not just plugging leaks or applying quick fixes but creating a long-term growth strategy. 

5. Improve your SEO rankings.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website so that it appears higher on search engine results pages. Among many factors, search engines like Google look favorably on pages that are updated and recent.

You can regularly update your site’s content with a continuous improvement mindset. For example, you can routinely create blog posts and informational pages to add new content to your website. This shows search engines that your content is relevant and useful for people searching for topics related to your organization. 

For example, perhaps your nonprofit is focused on protecting dusky dolphins, a unique dolphin species that lives off the New Zealand coast. You have a page on your website dedicated to describing this dolphin species and the threats it faces in its natural habitat. You keep this page up to date with the latest statistics and progress reports about the species’ health. Doing so shows search engines that your page is an authoritative, useful resource for people searching for the term “dusky dolphins,” causing it to appear higher on search results pages and driving more traffic to your website. 

Best Practices for Taking a Continuous Improvement Approach

Before you can reap the aforementioned benefits, your organization needs a solid strategy for launching your continuous improvement approach. Here are a few best practices for incorporating continuous improvement into your organization’s digital strategy: 

  • Launch updates as soon as you can. Initiate site updates as soon as they’re available. This ensures that your site won’t suffer from security gaps or outdated technology. Place at least one staff member in charge of tracking and implementing site updates to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 
  • Create a branding guide. Whenever you implement a site improvement, you’ll want to make sure it’s consistent with the rest of your digital branding, from the design of your online donation page to your social media marketing materials. This gives your supporters a uniform, cohesive experience no matter what digital platform they’re using. Create a digital style guide that your staff and volunteers can use whenever they create new website content. 
  • Work with a web design partner. If you need a helping hand launching your continuous improvement strategy, working with a web design agency might be the right move. Kanopi’s guide to nonprofit tech consulting explains that these professionals offer services such as: 
    • Assessing your website’s current state.
    • Offering high-level recommendations for improving your website’s design, user experience, SEO performance, and other aspects.
    • Implementing recommendations and staying in touch to keep your site continuously updated.

These best practices will allow you to start integrating a continuous improvement mindset into your website approach.

Website design and improvement can be a major undertaking, but the process is critical for ensuring your nonprofit’s website remains engaging and useful for visitors. A continuous improvement approach is the most helpful strategy for maintaining an updated, modern website. Remember, a nonprofit web agency can provide a framework for introducing your organization to this web design approach.  

Author: As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne Stefanyk helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.

Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.

Payment Processing: Meet Your Marketing Secret Weapon

When most fundraising professionals describe their payment processing systems, they likely give a quick, technical definition of how these systems transfer payments from donors to organizations through an online donation page. But sophisticated payment processors are much more than a simple go-between to move revenue.

For one thing, payment processing systems aren’t exclusive to your donation page—they can integrate with event registration forms, online store checkout pages, and various other transaction platforms. Plus, you can leverage your payment processing system to reduce human error, save labor and time costs, and even strengthen marketing and communication strategies

From enhancing the donor experience with navigable widgets to increasing the efficiency of your fundraising appeals, here are a few of the lesser-known marketing benefits of a robust payment processing system: 

While the main function of your payment processor is to facilitate gifts and accept online payments, a powerful payment processor can do far more to optimize operations across your organization. Ready to explore how payment processing can revamp your marketing and communication methods? Let’s begin. 

Improve the online giving experience

In the grand scheme of the digital donor journey, the payment process may seem like a formality—an obligatory last step in a longer campaign of trying to convince donors to give. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Your donation form and the greater online giving process are some of the most important marketing materials at your disposal. 

They are one of the last impressions that a donor has of your website before their next visit, and a poor experience can lower their likelihood of completing current payments or giving future contributions. Luckily, the right payment processing system can help to ensure that donors not only go through with their gifts, but walk away with a better opinion of your organization.

Advanced payment processors help improve the online giving experience in several aspects, including user-friendliness and navigability as well as securing your assets. 

Enhanced user-friendliness and navigability

When it comes to creating an optimal donation page experience, ease-of-use should be one of your organization’s top priorities. After all, if a donor is held up for more than a few minutes trying to figure out your form, then they might give up altogether and abandon their payment. 

This is where a strong payment processing system can save your donors’ the precious time and energy required to successfully submit their online gifts. These essential payment processing features make the online giving process faster, easier, and more accommodating than ever with features such as:

  • Custom fields. Use custom fields to only collect what you need from donors. Ask them for simple answers to necessary questions, while still customizing your donation process to capture the unique data your organization is looking for.  
  • Different payment methods. Donors should pay how and where they want to. Find a processor that accommodates credit and debit cards, ACH, and international transfers.
  • Integration capabilities. Integrated payment processors are embedded directly into your donation form, incorporating seamlessly into your form’s design and eliminating redirects off of your website to complete the payment process. 

The giving process should be a smooth experience with as few headaches as possible. To accomplish this, there are many aesthetic and technical tweaks you’ll have to consider, but these streamlined payment processing tools are one of the easiest and most effective first steps that you can take.

Heightened security for your assets 

From a marketing perspective, a lackluster security system reflects poorly on your organization, potentially frightening donors away and deterring online donations. Additionally, poor security measures could even put your organization and your donors at risk of falling victim to fraud and malicious cyber attacks. 

While measures such as password security and SSL certificates can help to strengthen your website from data breaches, a secure payment processor can act as your first and most important line of defense in the donation process itself. These systems use sophisticated anti-fraud tools to protect sensitive donor information from the many dangers of a data leak.

In particular, the iATS Payments guide to nonprofit payment processing details a number of specific security features that boost the strength of your organization’s payment processor:

  • Tokenization and encryption. These features encode your donors’ data as it passes through your payment gateway, rendering it unreadable in the case of a security breach.
  • PCI compliance. This official security standard is set forth by credit card companies to distinguish payment systems of particular merit and strength. 
  • Additional anti-fraud tools. Dedicated tools to verify donor data, such as BIN or CVV2 identification, add an extra layer of security and safety to the online giving process. 

In the wrong hands, the online donation process can be a frustrating experience that creates a rift between public perception of your organization and how you wish to be perceived. But with powerful security features and robust UX capabilities, payment processing can make the online giving process as quick, navigable, and secure as possible for your online donors. 

Optimize your donor communications 

Your donor communications are a major component of your organization’s marketing efforts and overall fundraising success. These conversations are a driving force in donor engagement and retention, allowing you to more effectively encourage individual donors to give. 

Using donor data strategically allows you to personalize communications with supporters and appeal to their preferences and expectations. 

And what better tool is there to collect donor data than your payment processor? From their capacity to give to their preferred giving methods, your payment processor captures critical information in the giving process. This data can improve your donor communications in the following key ways: 

Better fundraising appeals

Whether you’re sending out an email or a handwritten letter to your donors, fundraising appeals are a cornerstone of your organization’s communication and fundraising strategies. And to make these messages as effective as possible, there are a few essential techniques and pieces of information that should be included. 

Fundraising Letters’ guide to creating an effective outreach letter sheds some light on the five must-have elements for a successful fundraising appeal: 

  • Address donors by name
  • Employ emotional storytelling to draw donors into your organization’s narrative
  • Share your organization’s history and mission
  • Explain your current fundraising campaign
  • Give options to donate or help

Efforts like personally addressing your donors and offering special donation options can be directly aided by the data that your payment processor gathers. 

For example, aside from names and addresses, your payment processor should be able to collect and log gift sizes directly into your donor database. This data can then be used to personalize each appeal and maximize donors’ likelihood of giving by asking for specific gift amounts based on each donors’ unique capacity to give.

Providing additional forms of giving

When creating your donation page, give more than just the option to submit a single, lump sum. Increase and diversify your giving programs by including additional forms of giving, such as corporate matching gifts, recurring gifts, and volunteer opportunities. 

However, if donors don’t take advantage of these additional opportunities on your donation page, your post-gift messaging is another great opportunity for you to encourage participation.

For example, let’s say that a donor chose not to explore matching gift programs, but used their work email address in the donation process. Thanks to your payment processor, as well as your matching gift database, that email address will be loaded into your records, allowing you to promote this giving type to donors whose employers offer a matching gift program.

This is just one way that the data collection capabilities from your payment processor can enhance post-gift messaging, enabling you to strategically market your giving programs.

More effective thank-you messaging 

Expressing appreciation is another great way for you to leverage your payment processor’s data to improve your donor communications

Like fundraising appeals, these messages should be intimate, sincere, and personalized to the donor. Information such as donors’ names, their past giving amounts, their frequency of giving, and the campaign or program to which they gave are all essential to making each thank-you letter feel as earnest and as genuine as possible. 

Of course, this is also exactly the kind of data that a dedicated, integrated processor will collect and organize for you. Poor payment processing systems, some larger aggregators, and other processing tools without integration capabilities require you to export donor data from their records and tediously load them into your donor database. 

But an integrated payment processor cuts out these bothersome steps, automatically funneling everything you need to know directly into your records. This gives your team more time and energy to devote to optimizing your donor communications. 

Even seasoned fundraising professionals tend to underestimate or forget about the powerful “behind-the-scenes” tool that is their payment processor. Unlike your constituent relationship management system or your social media marketing tools, your payment processing system works quietly in the background, ironing out issues you might not have been aware of and fending off threats before you had even taken notice of them. 

Whether it’s protecting you from potential hackers or offering up critical data to strengthen your marketing and communications, your payment processing system is an invaluable tool in your organization’s outreach toolkit. 

Author: Peggah Azarvash is a passionate Sales Executive at iATS Payments with 10 years’ experience providing payment solution support and guidance to nonprofits.

Maintaining Confidentiality: Better Cybersecurity for Boards

Good cybersecurity practices start at the top and trickle down throughout the organization, which means your board members should lead by example. This powerful group is responsible for knowing everything about your organization, including its strategic direction, fundraising strategies, and any risks that threaten those plans. 

As a board leader myself, I understand the temptation of skimping on your cybersecurity practices — especially if you lead a small organization. Aren’t there much more important things that your team should be focusing on? Well, of course your team has a lot on its agenda, but you can’t push those initiatives forward with confidence if your security practices are lackluster.

Technology can be a powerful resource, but with it comes the threat of cyberattacks. Taking the time to educate your team on security issues and implement measures to counteract any challenges now can prevent some major problems later on.

There’s no better time to reassess your board security practices than now, as we enter the new year. To help, we’ll explore the following core strategies:

You don’t want poor cybersecurity protocol to get in the way of your board members’ responsibilities. Start devoting some time in your meetings to discussing different strategies. Your board will spend a lot less time worrying and a lot more time leading!

Implement password requirements.

It can be tempting to reuse the same passwords over and over so we don’t forget. After all, what’s more frustrating than trying to log into a platform in a time-sensitive situation just to realize you’ve forgotten your password? Well, I’d say that someone hacking into your account is even more frustrating than that!

Implementing password requirements, particularly on your board of directors, is a very simple step that any organization can (and should) take!

Between email, their board management solution, and any other platforms, your board of directors has access to a lot of platforms with sensitive information. Protect their accounts and implement password requirements like:

  • Minimum password length. Longer passwords are often harder to crack than shorter ones. Set a rule that passwords should be at least eight characters long (or even longer than that!). 
  • A mix of character types. This might mean requiring at least one of each of the following: lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters (like punctuation).
  • No commonly used passwords. You’d be surprised how many people use the same exact passwords. Provide everyone with a list of the most commonly used passwords, and ask that they don’t use those.
  • Frequent updates. The more often people update their passwords, the less likely it is that hackers will be able to crack them. Consider having people update their passwords every 180 days or so.

Simplify this step by using platforms that automatically enforce secure password requirements. That way, you don’t have to worry about anyone using a poor password and slipping under the radar. You’ll also want to mention that board members shouldn’t write down their passwords where anyone else can access them.

Offer scalable and protected solutions for remote workers.

There has been a massive shift to remote operations since the start of the pandemic. Like many others, I’ve enjoyed the flexibility of remote work. But we must recognize that going virtual presents major security risks that we haven’t had to face before — at least not to this degree.

While working from home, more data is being exchanged digitally than ever before. Not to mention, more people are using personal devices and home networks, making it easier for cybercriminals to attack.

Your board of directors in particular needs scalable security solutions to continue fulfilling responsibilities remotely without worrying that their work will be compromised in some way. Here are some steps you’ll want to take into account to make remote operations more viable and trustworthy:

  • Run secure virtual meetings. Meetings are a crucial time for your board members to discuss strategies and make important decisions. They need the option to continue meeting while physically apart. Boardable’s guide to hybrid board meetings explains that one of the primary concerns with virtual and hybrid meetings is cybersecurity. Whether your meetings are entirely or only partially virtual, the solution you use should prevent uninvited guests from joining. Just like for your virtual and hybrid events, select a protected solution that uses SSL certification to encrypt data and allows you to require a password to join.
  • Provide them with devices. While it’s likely not doable on a slim budget, some organizations provide their board members with devices that they should use strictly for board work. Doing this makes it incredibly easy to wipe the device if it’s lost or somehow falls into the wrong hands.

Cybersecurity oversight has now become a hot topic for boards everywhere because of remote work. Offering scalable solutions for members who engage in board activities remotely should be on the top of your priority list if it isn’t already.

Invest in secure board software.

A good bit of the work your board completes will be done within your board management platform. Between managing documents, deciding on important matters, and anything else they tackle, a lot goes on within this type of platform. 

Many resources point to secure software solutions as one of an organization’s first lines of defense. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at developing a website for the organization, collecting donations, or governing the entire organization. You should double-check that your solution implements the appropriate security measures.

In regard to board management, here are a few considerations to bear in mind when assessing the security of your solutions:

  • Secure Document Storage. Your board handles a lot of private documents between strategic plans, budgets, and governing documents. Make sure documents are encrypted when uploaded to your board platform. You should also be able to limit the audience for each document or folder. That way, users only have access to the resources they actually need.
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certification. SSL is the standard technology for keeping an internet connection secure and protecting any sensitive data that’s being shared between two systems. A board management platform that has SSL certification, which may also be referred to as its successor Transport Layer Security (TLS) certification, will safeguard any data shared between two online board users.
  • Customer Data Encryption. Make sure any data you share is protected, particularly payment information. You’ll need to pay for your board management solution, and the last thing you want is for your credit card information or any personal details attached to the account to be compromised. Ensure your credit card information is protected at every point in the payment process by making sure your board management provider uses a PCI-compliant payment processor. No need to worry about your organization’s funds this way.

Your board management platform provider should take security seriously. So when you’re looking for a new system, ask about their security policy and what measures they take to protect your information. It’ll be apparent if they take it as seriously as they should. This really goes for any software your team invests in.

You’ll also want to check that they assess their cybersecurity protocol on a regular basis. Trusted providers may regularly simulate a cyberattack on their system to check for potential vulnerabilities — often annually. This helps ensure that their platform is doing everything it can to protect your organization’s data.

Have a plan in place in case a cybersecurity breach occurs.

So you put all of this security protocol in place, yet a breach still occurs. What’s next? Well, you should have an emergency response plan in place and should always be prepared for the worst, even if it’s unlikely to happen. 

Bloomerang’s guide to nonprofit cybersecurity mentions that 68% of nonprofits don’t have documented policies to implement in case of a cyberattack. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of that statistic!

In the event that a breach happens, here are a few steps your team should take to reduce the chaos and get everything back in line:

  • Assign specific roles and define the chain of command. Clarify the roles of different team members. Some boards establish a specific committee devoted to managing cybersecurity. Within this committee, you might have someone who will organize internal communications, another person who will manage external communications, and someone else who will take mitigation steps.
  • Make sure everyone is on the same page internally. First thing’s first, make sure to communicate with your board and other internal leaders about what will be said externally. There needs to be a single version of truth regarding what happened and what the game plan is for moving forward, so everyone outside of the organization still has some trust in the organization during an inherently tense time.
  • Be transparent about what information was compromised. Defining reporting requirements is crucial before an attack ever occurs. While storing stakeholder data can be incredibly useful for campaigns, that also means security incidents often involve people who aren’t a part of the organization. Identify any legal reporting requirements and be intentional about communicating what information was compromised both internally and externally.
  • Define different mitigation strategies. There are different types of cybersecurity incidents that can happen. Do your best to plan for different kinds. For example, if there’s a data breach, would you shut the compromised system completely down? Who makes the call to do so? What steps will you take to strengthen uncompromised systems? 

Especially if your organization is large and well-known, you need to accept that there’s a chance your information will be breached despite your best efforts. Having an emergency response plan and updating it to account for new potential incidents will be immensely helpful if a breach does happen. 

Be sure to set aside some time on the agenda to revisit your response protocol with your board members every so often. That way, everyone will be fully aware of what they need to do in these cases. You’ll also want to share a report of all cybersecurity incidents with your board — at least annually. Any incidents that pass a certain severity threshold should be brought to the board immediately, allowing them to take the appropriate actions.

Final Thoughts on Cybersecurity for Boards

Especially with the shift to remote work, more boards and their organizations are talking about cybersecurity. It’s worthwhile to do your research and take extra precautions. Wouldn’t you rather do too much than too little and risk compromising sensitive information? What was just covered will give you a solid starting point.

If you need more ways to improve your cybersecurity protocol, brainstorm ideas with your board. Avoid group-think and put effort into thinking creatively about different cybersecurity issues. After all, two heads (or multiple in this case) are better than one!

Author: Jeb Banner is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a board management software provider for mission-driven boards. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Using Digital Tools and Resources for Your Nonprofit: 3 Tips

Have you ever felt like your nonprofit was juggling a million different goals at once? From raising awareness about your cause to increasing donor retention to identifying major donors to fulfilling your mission, and more, it can all start to feel like a bit of a circus at times!

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of digital tools and resources to help keep you organized as you help your nonprofit thrive. But sometimes, incorporating more digital tools into your already impressive juggling act might seem like more trouble than it’s worth! How can you cut through the noise and identify which tools will actually be helpful and which ones will just eat up more of your time?

We’ve put together this guide to help everyone from tech wizards to newbies make the most of all the digital resources available to nonprofits. Here are our top three tips for using your digital tools and resources to their fullest potential: 

  1. Go the extra mile with an optimized website.
  2. Build connections with donors using digital marketing.
  3. Maintain consistent branding. 

Whether you want to build the best nonprofit website, a fantastic social media presence, or a brand that your supporters will remember, digital tools can help.

And remember: you don’t have to be a coding genius or expert online marketer to make the most out of these tools. All you need is the idea, and many digital tools can do the rest. Adapting these tools to fit your skill level and goals is the best way to maximize their benefits. Let’s get started!

1. Go the extra mile with an optimized website.

The days of supporters sending checks to your nonprofit’s mailbox are long gone — online fundraising is the way of the present and the future. Online giving is crucial for nonprofits, and that’s why you need the right tools to make donating as easy as possible for your supporters.

For this reason, investing in fundraising software is a must today. Fundraising software can help you keep track of donors, manage data, segment your donors, and more. Overall, it can save your staff time and energy by automating important administrative tasks. 

But once you have the fundraising software, how can you get your money’s worth? Well, that comes down to driving donations to your nonprofit, which is where other online fundraising tools can come in. And the best tool for attracting new donors to your fundraising forms might surprise you — your website.

You might not think of your website as an online fundraising tool, but it’s one of the most effective ways you can encourage your supporters to donate.

Here are a few adjustments you can make to ensure your website drives donations: 

  • Focus on the donate button: What’s one easy improvement that can make all the difference? Make your donation button easy to find! Ensuring that your donors can easily find and click donate helps you avoid donor abandonment, or when a supporter gets frustrated by the donation process and gives up.
  • Brand your donation form: Donors want to know that their contributions are going to the right place. By branding your donation form with your logo, color scheme, and other brand elements, you reassure your donors that their funds are going to your organization.
  • Automate matching gifts: According to this 360MatchPro resource on matching gifts, an estimated $4-7 billion in matching gift funds goes unclaimed every year. Encourage your donors to verify their matching gift program eligibility by prompting donors to share their employer information when they make their donation.
  • Prompt donors to sign up for a recurring donation: Donors might not realize that a smaller recurring donation would be even more helpful to your nonprofit than a large, one-time contribution. When your donors fill out your donation form, ask if they’d like to sign up for a recurring donation and briefly explain the impact it would make.

Optimizing your website for fundraising can make a huge difference in the number of supporters who donate. Even seemingly minor details affect the likelihood of donors contributing to your cause.

2. Build connections with donors using digital marketing.

These days, nearly everyone is plugged in. Whether we scroll through social media to look at cute cat pictures, surf the internet in search of great memes, or use messaging apps to stay connected with friends, everybody is doing something online.

And that’s great news for you! Digital tools can not only help you increase your revenue, but they can also help you connect with more donors. How? Through the power of digital marketing. Because most people use the internet everyday, you have a reliable platform where you can reach more potential supporters than ever before. 

However, navigating the world of digital marketing isn’t so simple, especially because you aren’t the only organization trying to take advantage of the opportunities offered by online marketing. To truly connect with your donors online, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. That’s where your donor communications strategy comes in.

Your nonprofit already has an advantage — according to this study on consumer behavior, 84% of customers consider company ethics and values before making a purchase. Since your nonprofit is already doing amazing work to make the world a better place, you’re more likely to convince potential supporters that their money will go to a good cause.

So, your awesome work gives you an advantage over some organizations, but how can you stand out alongside other inspiring nonprofits? Here are a few ways that you can more effectively build connections through digital marketing: 

  • Personalize communications: How many times have you received a marketing message that says, “Dear Valued Customer”? It probably doesn’t make you feel very valued, since the company didn’t even bother to use your name. Instead of addressing your donors with a generic title in your digital communications, be sure to use their actual name, which can make outreach feel more personal.
  • Segment your donors: You can make your communications even more personal by segmenting your donors based on their shared characteristics and interests. For example, young donors and older donors likely have different motivations for contributing as well as different interests and perspectives. Develop unique marketing materials for younger and older donors so that your messaging aligns better with your respective groups. Your donor data management software can help you do this.
  • Share your annual report: Your annual report is a great way to keep donors updated on what your nonprofit is doing, how you’re using donations, and the impact that supporters can make. And, with the right tools, you can create a digital annual report that can arrive right in your donors’ inboxes. Sharing your annual report digitally can give your donors a glimpse into your accomplishments, which might inspire them to donate again! This Cornershop Creative guide on nonprofit annual reports can help you get started with creating your own digital report to share with supporters.
  • Express appreciation: Your donors are the backbone of your nonprofit, so they deserve some thanks. Many nonprofits only send thank you notes as an afterthought, which often means gratitude comes too late. Stand out from other nonprofits by sending thank you notes to your donors as quickly as possible. Using digital email marketing tools, you can even automate these thank you messages so they arrive as soon as the donor submits their contribution. But don’t forget to personalize your thank you note!

Using digital marketing tools, such as dedicated platforms for your social media and email marketing, tools to track your engagement metrics, or graphic design resources, you can cultivate meaningful relationships with your donors — all from your computer or phone.

3. Maintain consistent branding

Building your online presence and effectively using your digital tools requires a method that will help donors remember your nonprofit. What’s the secret sauce that nonprofits use to stay at the forefront of their supporters’ minds? It’s a simple recipe: an effective branding strategy.

Successful branding means that your donors and supporters will recognize your work, connect an event with your organization, or associate certain causes with your nonprofit. For instance, if you’re marketing an upcoming fundraiser, putting your logo on your marketing materials will help your supporters immediately understand that the fundraiser is your event. 

Here are the elements you should make sure you consider when building your brand: 

  • Logo 
  • Color scheme
  • Typography
  • Tone or Voice 

When building or updating your brand, be sure that it’s easy for you to make changes if needed. For example, let’s say you want to rebrand your website, but you quickly realize that your website builder won’t allow you to make any changes. In order to maintain your website and align your site’s aesthetic with your updated brand, you need to make sure you’re using digital tools that have flexible design options. 

For this reason, be sure that your digital tools offer the capabilities that you need now and that you might need in the future. You never know when your nonprofit will be ready for a rebrand, and your technology should help you, not hold you back!

There are so many incredible digital tools out there that can help your nonprofit. However, picking the right ones and using them effectively can be challenging. By identifying your fundraising and marketing needs, you can select the right tools to help you generate revenue and connect with donors. Plus, by following some digital best practices, such as consistent branding, your nonprofit can better develop a renowned digital presence. Good luck! 

Author: De’Yonté’s a late-80s baby who found his passion for web design and development during MySpace’s heyday, when he helped his friends create awesome profiles. He’s spent the last three years specializing in WordPress and conversion optimization, and is an active proponent of coding guidelines. In his off time he enjoys cooking, Rugby, and hanging out with his wife.