5 techniques to improve donor engagement and increase fundraising

9 min read
Sep 9, 2021 5:56:42 PM

What we'll be covering in this blog post:


If you run a nonprofit or work with one then fundraising is always front of mind. Where is the next major gift coming from? How many regular givers do we have? And what strategies do I have in place to hit our fundraising targets? A few of the questions that maybe on the agenda. And despite fundraising being the absolute linchpin activity of all nonprofit organisations, it can still be the area that causes the most difficulty.

Not only do charities need to tap into the natural generosity of people but they must do so against a range of equally worthy causes competing for limited funds in challenging economic times. Add on a sprinkling of trust and accountability issues that are the hangover of ‘the old way’ of doing things, and it can be an uphill battle you’re facing.

As a result the fundraising process needs to go beyond holding out a cap and asking kindly for a little bit of money. Donor engagement is a holistic, strategic approach that covers all of the ways that you interact with charitable givers - both actual and potential. And the more considered, creative and dynamic your strategy, the better chance you have of attracting - and more importantly, retaining - donors.

With that in mind lets explore some of the key techniques that nonprofits should be considering when developing their donor engagement strategies.

Show donors how their funds are being used

Accountability has always been important in the third sector, but for a long time it was OK that accountability was demonstrated only to the few - a board of directors here, an ombudsman there. Moreover, facts and figures were generally only found in end-of-year reports and were surprisingly simplistic in nature. The general public were rarely fed much in the way of tangible information.

But the nonprofit sector went through somewhat of an accountability crisis; questions about bureaucratic bloat, boardroom salaries and internal malpractice became the focus of media attention, and public trust hit an all-time low. It was a big blow, however it lead to a sector where transparency has become a core competent with a number of studies demonstrating that with the right approach to this value donations will soar.

The net outcome has been a need for much more in-depth, consistent and transparent accountability practices. And this isn’t just an issue of assuaging fears and scepticism that represent a hangover from historical issues in the sector: the simple fact is that we are now so used to a constant stream of data and information that anything which isn’t giving frequent or even real-time updates feels outdated and prehistoric. Modern audiences expect to feel informed.

This means that as a starting point, integrating ongoing reporting is a ‘shield’ that charities need to use against public scepticism and mistrust. But the good news is, it isn’t all defensive practice. Metrics can also be used as a ‘sword’ to actively motivate and engage.Screenshot 2021-02-25 at 1.43.00 PM
Greater levels of excitement, commitment and focus are fostered when donors have the ability to track the outcomes of their contributions in measurable, tangible ways. Think of it like the thermometer shaped fundraiser goals that have been scribbled onto whiteboards in offices and schools across the country for time immemorial; except envisaged as a real-time, globally accessible tool for the 21st century - displaying metrics not just for inputs, but more crucially: outputs. Animals rescued, emissions reduced, houses built, children educated: meaningful data that motivates donors to keep contributing.

Turn your volunteers into brand advocates

There can be few people more passionate about your cause than those that volunteer for you. They are the people who believe enough in what you do to devote not only their time, but their passion, emotion and energy into supporting your mission.

It would be a mistake to call this an untapped resource; the majority of charities already recognise that volunteers are the lifeblood force that drives so much of their organisation. But often, this recognition relates only to the practical and logistical; they focus on the physical activities that volunteers contribute, rather than the emotional energy they bring.

It’s important not to overlook the infectious nature of that boundless enthusiasm. If volunteers love and believe in what you do strongly enough to give so much of themselves to the cause, then who better is there to communicate the importance of that cause to others?

And it’s not just the power, passion and persuasiveness that these volunteers can speak with. It’s also a voice of legitimacy - a voice that a wider audience can trust more completely, and empathise with more directly. Charities are charities, but increasingly they are becoming tinged with the spectre of corporate cunning - and audiences are aware and cautious of calculated, manipulative marketing.

But volunteers, speaking truly from the heart - about their experiences, what they feel, what drives them, and why your charity matters to them - this carries a legitimacy and authenticity that can be almost impossible to communicate in any other way.

Screenshot 2564-09-08 at 08.58.29So how do you leverage this potential without interfering with it - without manipulating it, shaping it and polishing it to the point that it loses everything that was valuable about it?

You do nothing more than give it a platform. You allow the voice to remain entirely that of the volunteer, rather than cutting and shaping sound bites into a quick communication.

At Task, much of the system we have developed is given over to volunteer voice. They are able to log their experiences and activities, creating a personal portfolio of the work they are doing.

The net result is not only for volunteers to feel that they have voice and importance (therefore aiding in their retention and commitment to the cause), but also helping others to see just what it is that motivates them, and feel the importance and passion of what they do.

Maximise the effort securing that first donation

What is the gateway drug to giving? How do you get donors hooked on the high of making a difference? Securing a first donation is perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome because it involves changing mindsets and patterns of behaviour - pushing individuals to do something new and unfamiliar.

All too often, the strategy employed is one of guilt - with giving, positioned as a mechanism for relieving that guilt. But a task performed out of obligation is never undertaken as well as one that comes from a position of enthusiasm and excitement.

Encouraging donors by inspiring them with the positivity of your organisation’s stories, members and experiences is crucial, which leads right back up to the idea of reporting impact through both metrics and impact stories, and leveraging your existing volunteers and donors as advocates for the cause.

More often than not the great work a charity does is compiled into a dense annual report or newsletter which does not help bring-to-life the real impact for the beneficiaries. Much of this content and reporting on the work is thus wasted as few have the time to read through and digest the entire compiled report.

The emergence of online technology that can be used to repurpose impact content and efficiently deliver it as realtime stories, not only helps to increase accountability but also feeds into the ongoing content strategy for engagement, that is so crucial for donor loyalty.

- Rodney Heng, Managing Director, Catalyst for Social Good

There are the ‘little’ tricks - the practical elements that can help secure first donations. Consistent and identifiable branding that captures your essence and makes you recognisable is important, as is making sure ‘calls to action’ are easy to use, accessible, straightforward and obstacle free, leveraging technologies such as blockchain and other virtual payment tools. Paying attention to these little details can be just as important as the wider, overarching strategy you employ.

Implement a membership and rewards program

So you’ve used the points outlined above and secured your donor. Now what? How do you keep them engaged and giving? It would be great if that feeling of satisfaction they got was enough to sustain them, but the truth is, life gets in the way and the feeling fades. People become distracted. They forget.

The first step is simply keeping them engaged in the mission: always giving them reason to check back with you and watch your growth, read your stories, hear your vision. It’s a case of making your activities something they access as a form of entertainment and enrichment, just as they would any other online social feed. In essence, following the points we’ve outlined above.

On top of that though, it’s crucial to remind them of that feeling and remove the ‘life’ barriers that get in the way by making the process of giving easy and habitual. Returning to the point we raised at the outset, humans are naturally attracted to metrics and measurable progress - so give goals and rewards to trigger those pleasure centres of achievement, which reinforce the general feeling of contentment that comes from helping to make a difference.

Tell data driven impact stories

A dashboard really represents the culmination of all of these points above. A one-stop-shop to integrate relevant metrics and stories, to foster membership and interaction, and to give an overview to your audience (and potential donors) about the good work you do on a daily basis, in real-time.

That real-time nature is key, because it keeps audiences coming back - a point we highlighted as vital to engagement in the section above. Stagnant data creates a stagnant audience - but keep it updated (just like a dreaded social media newsfeed, but more wholesome) and donors will keep maintaining their contact points, which means they’ll be maintaining their engagement, and in turn - their commitment.Screenshot 2564-05-04 at 08.30.18At Task, we’ve developed a dashboard system that is intuitive for donors to access and browse, and for coordinators to manage, curate and collate data from. Creating visually compelling, easily understood visuals that are easily accessible through an app has the potential to significantly enhance the donor experience, creating a bond based on emotional connection, trust, accountability, excitement and engagement.

Looking to the future of fundraising

At Task, we’ve really pushed forward in the use of Blockchain technology to facilitate both financial and activity-based social accountability. We use Stellar blockchain technology to facilitate an ability to move liquidity at almost zero cost with a permanent and unalterable record - a huge element of importance for charities and NGOs that want to reduce administrative costs and strengthen transparency and accountability.

And our next big move is to allow charities to publish their work as verified impact in the form of an NFT - giving donors a new investment mechanism when supporting the causes they love.

What is an NFT? In simple terms an NFT is a unit of data stored on a blockchain ledger, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. This data (the NFT) is in the form of a token that can be bought and resold.

How can you attract donors with Impact NFTs?

Volunteers in the field who are trackingimage_2021-06-17_15-44-10 2 program data on blockchain are already creating NFT’s - digital validation of the impact that’s being created. This is represented through text and images with geolocations and other verifiable data, resulting in a piece of content that can then be published on an impact marketplace.

Whether it is the number of animals rescued, trees planted, or food distributed, it’s the ideal way to provide donors an opportunity to invest in verified impact - an investment marketplace where donors can purchase impact as a digitalised tradable asset.

So presenting impact via NFTs is a way to record qualitative and quantitive data as photos, videos, audio and text: the kind of things that are perfect for recording an impact, memory or occurrence. 

If you want to find out more about how you can tap into your most important resource - committed donors - or understand how you can use blockchain to publish impact to donors, then get in touch with one of our team.

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