donor engagement

11 Epic Donor Engagement Strategies for the Modern Nonprofit

This piece was authored by Blake Groves. See full bio at end of article

Now with over 1.5 billion monthly users, Facebook continues to be the reigning champion of social media sites and one of the primary channels for modern communication.

So, why not use it as a medium for engaging potential donors?

Because social media is a relatively new tool, most nonprofits simply have no idea where to start when it comes to reaching out to their donors. While this is normal for a platform so new, going in blindly and without a proven strategy can do some real damage to a nonprofit’s success with Facebook. What may be worse, though, is that others have let themselves become defeated by all of the (often misguided) criticism floating around.

The truth is that with so much information out there, it does take hard work and a little bit of strategizing to stand out from the crowd and successfully engage your donors. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. If done right, using social media as an engagement platform can greatly deepen your supporter relationships and bring you excellent results.

Our job today is to get your nonprofit heading in that right direction.

Here are 11 epic donor engagement strategies for the modern nonprofit:

  1. Consider peer to peer
  2. Make posts personal
  3. Follow the 20% text rule
  4. Advertise yourself
  5. Host an event
  6. Practice content curation
  7. Create urgency
  8. Make sure you’re mobile-friendly
  9. Include a call to action
  10. Define a directed goal
  11. Enlist the help of software

    1. Consider Peer to Peer

In order for Facebook to really work for your cause, you want to build as much engagement as you can around your Page and content. So, how do you foster the engagement needed to raise funds on Facebook?

Consider growing your social media presence and awareness of your cause by running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and capitalizing on the networking possibilities that social media has to offer.

For those of you who haven’t tried them yet, peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns mobilize your supporters to fundraise on your behalf by—you guessed it—requesting donations from their peers.

Generally, the best way for fundraisers to request donations is by posting about your campaign on their personal social media sites. Fundraisers include a link to an online donation page with each post, so that their peers can donate at the click of a button.

Peer-to-peer campaigns can be an excellent means of engagement, because they put your organization into contact with people that you would have never been able to reach on your own.

Additionally, people are on social media primarily to communicate with their friends, so they’re more likely to engage with a post from someone they know.

When they see friends posting about your organization, the hope is that peers will take enough interest in your cause to like your Page and keep interacting with you.

Takeaway: Because fundraisers have already established the trust of their peers, you’re more likely to engage people who were once out of your reach.

Check out some social media tips for peer-to-peer fundraising.

2. Make Posts Personal

Telling a personal story is one of the most successful ways to get donors interested in your organization. Think of it this way: you’re trying to get to know supporters better and establish deeper relationships with them.

Similarly, as people who are potentially investing in your cause, supporters also want to get to know a little more about you.

Make it easy for them by sharing pieces of your organization’s story in your posts.

Your story could include:

  • Why your organization is passionate about the cause.
  • How your organization got involved.
  • Achievements that your organization is most proud of.
  • Anecdotes about defining moments.
  • What you’re doing specifically to work toward your cause.

Telling a personal story will make your posts more heartfelt and help you to win your donors’ trust. It will also help you brand your organization in a meaningful way so that your overall social media strategy is more cohesive.

Takeaway: A well-crafted story gives donors a face to associate with your organization. When they feel like they know you, they’re more likely to build a relationship with you.

3. Follow the 20% Text Rule

Visuals add excitement to your posts and are much more likely to grab supporters’ attention than posts that include just text.

In fact, studies have shown that online browsers are around 80% more likely to read the content on a post that includes a color image.

If that’s not reason enough to incorporate pictures into your posts, we don’t know what is!

But when it comes to advertising on Facebook, all images must adhere to the 20% text rule as per Facebook’s advertising guidelines. While the rule sounds technical, it’s actually pretty manageable to stay on top of.

If your nonprofit runs ads or practices content boosting, it’s a good idea to follow this rule with all the images that you post to Facebook. This cuts out the extra step of changing images or recreating them with less text when you decide to boost a post.

Instead, all your content will be ready to promote at a moment’s notice. This can be especially important when running on a deadline to raise funds through Facebook!

Takeaway: When you add visuals to your posts, your chances of engaging donors increase exponentially! Be ready to boost by following the 20% text rule from the beginning.

4. Advertise Yourself

On that note, Facebook isn’t just a communication channel… it’s also a marketing tool.

To draw attention to your cause and get noticed by your donors, you have to advertise your organization a little bit. With Facebook advertising features, you can boost the most important posts to expand their scope.

The site gives you a number of different price options based on how many people you want your post to reach. You bid however much you want to spend, so you always have control over your budget.

If you see that one of your posts is doing particularly well, consider paying a little to boost the post so that more people will see it.

You already know that the post is successful when it comes to engaging your donors, so get it out there!

If you find that boosting your post is working, you can also use this feature to advertise your online campaigns when you need a little extra help in reaching your goals.

Takeaway: Sometimes a little shameless self-promotion pays off. As long as you’re strategic, boosting your posts can be an excellent investment.

5. Host an Event

Often, donors are more likely to engage with your organization online if you’re also making efforts elsewhere.

For maximum donor engagement, consider hosting a fundraising event to coincide with one of your social media campaigns or other online efforts.

People love events. They allow your donors to connect with their communities and do something fun—all while supporting a good cause.

Plus, donors will have an experience to associate with your posts, making your organization more vivid in their minds.

When it comes to hosting a fundraising event, the possibilities are practically endless. No matter what kind of event you host, just be sure to inform the donors of your online campaign and urge them to follow your Facebook Page.

Need a few ideas? Start getting creative with Salsa’s list of top fundraising events.

Takeaway: When you make efforts both online and off, there’s a greater likelihood that potential donors will come into contact with your organization.

6. Practice Content Curation

When it comes to looking for high-performing posts, you don’t have to stop at original content.

In fact, many nonprofits and their successful Facebook Pages follow what we call the 80/20 rule. A whopping 80% of your content on Facebook should be curated content! The last 20% is your own original content. That’s right—80% of the content that you post to Facebook should be shared from sources other than your own organization.

The best way to collect shared content is through a practice known as content curation.

Content curation occurs when one Page shares a piece of high-performing content to piggyback off that post’s success.

You might ask, “But isn’t that stealing?”

The answer is, quite simply, no.

You’re sharing a post directly from another Page, so that piece of content will still be associated with the Page from which it originated.

Not only are these curated posts more likely to engage supporters and broaden your reach, but you’re also helping other Pages do the same by spreading their content.

So, if you see that a Page you’re following has posted a successful piece of content that relates to your cause, don’t be afraid to share it on your Page too.

Takeaway: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When you practice content curation, you’re combining your efforts with others’ to bring more attention to both of your Pages.

Still not convinced? Read ActionSprout’s argument for content curation.

7. Create Urgency

Often, to engage, donors need some motivation. Give them a little push by creating urgency around your cause. One of the best ways to up the urgency is by hosting a matching donation drive.

This strategy motivates donors by telling them that if they reach a fundraising goal within a certain amount of time, someone will match the goal and double their contributions.

For this strategy to work best, it’s important to set a clearly defined fundraising goal and an amount of time to complete it in.

For example, you could say that you want to raise $50,000 toward building a new culinary wing for the local high school, and tell donors that you want to meet this goal in 72 hours. If they do, the sponsor will bring your total up to $100,000.

Of course, for a matching drive to work, you also need to find a sponsor who’s willing to provide a matching gift.

Takeaway: More urgency means more money. Because they know that they only have a small window of time to contribute, donors will have more reason to give—and fast.

8. Make Sure You’re Mobile-Friendly

These days, a majority of web browsing (around 52%) is done from mobile phones. That number shoots up to 80% when browsing Facebook!

That means if all the elements of your posts aren’t mobile-responsive, you’re missing out on the majority of your donors.

Although the Facebook platform ensures that your posts themselves will be mobile-responsive, it does nothing to ensure that your content is.

This tip is especially important when it comes to online donation forms. As a facilitator of one of your organization’s most important efforts, it’s critical that these forms are mobile-responsive. That way, when your supporters are ready to contribute, it’s always an option.

Takeaway: You don’t want to miss out on an entire platform that you can use to engage donors. Make sure your posts are mobile-responsive from the start!

9. Include a Call to Action

When donors are engaged by your posts, many will want to take the next step and become a supporter.

Make it clear how donors can do so by including a compelling call to action on all of your posts. Keep in mind that these calls to action don’t necessarily have to be asks for donations.

In fact, studies have suggested that it might be more effective to request different actions on social media first, and then ask for donations once supporters have interacted with your organization.

There are any number of asks that you can make, including:

  • Visiting your nonprofit’s website
  • Subscribing to your email newsletter
  • Signing a petition or completing another advocacy action
  • Volunteering at or attending an event
  • Sharing your post with friends

Making an ask other than “donate” allows organizations to engage donors for longer by approaching them through different channels.

This allows you to keep building trust for deeper nonprofit-donor relationships that can help you optimize your fundraising efforts down the line.

It also takes the pressure to donate off of people who are new to your organization and who might not be ready to take this step until they learn more about you.

Takeaway: Patience is a virtue. Hold off on asking for donations at first, and you might see better fundraising results down the line!

10. Define a Directed Goal

With that being said, fundraising is your organization’s primary effort, so you’re likely going to be asking your donors for donations through social media at some point. Make your asks as persuasive as possible by defining a clear goal.

People are more likely to contribute to your cause if they know exactly what their contributions are going toward, so S P E L L it out for them!

Although they know in theory that their money is going to a good cause, donors want to see how their contributions are making a difference. They’ll be more motivated if they can see that their actions are bringing in concrete results.

It’s much easier to quantify your results and update donors on your progress if you’ve set a clearly defined goal.

Let’s go back to our example of raising $50,000 for a school culinary wing. With this ask, donors would know exactly what your organization is working toward and how much it takes to get there.

You can easily keep donors up to date on how the campaign is progressing with a fundraising thermometer. Then, once the wing is built, you could send them newsletters about how the wing is making a difference for students by featuring some of their personal stories.

This ask is successful because it tells donors exactly what they need to do and shows them results through both quantifiable data and personal stories. And, of course, never forget to include the link to your online donation page!

Takeaway: People want to know how their contributions are helping. Defining a directed goal leaves no room for doubt.

11. Enlist the Help of Software

Even the largest and most established nonprofits don’t go at it alone.

Many organizations rely on nonprofit fundraising software to help them hone their social media strategies and make them more engaging. Fundraising software organizes all of your nonprofit’s important data in one place.

By centralizing them, your once disparate data sources can communicate with each other to better inform your social media efforts.

For example, software would house your donor database, online donation processing and event planning operations in one place.

Not only would you have access to the biographical information included in your donor profiles, but you would also be able to link these profiles with your supporters’ interaction histories, such as:

  • Donations
  • Event attendance
  • Volunteer work
  • Membership
  • Opening and clicking through email campaigns
  • Sharing and commenting on your social media posts

With more complete profiles, you can subdivide your list based on certain criteria to better target your supporters. Facebook lets you group your donors into different lists, so you can easily share certain content with some supporters and different content with others.

Your donors will be impressed by how well you know them! Learn more about this software.

Takeaway: Software gives you more insight into your donors, so you can share the most relevant content for the best chance of engaging them.

At the end of the day, engaging your donors through social media is all about making your posts as relevant and as convenient as possible.

Remember, like with all of your efforts, your social media engagement strategy is a work in progress. Your organization will have to do some experimenting to see what works best, but these tips should start you off on the right track.

What Facebook engagement strategies have worked for your organization? Let us know in the comments!


This article was authored by Blake Groves VP of Strategy and Business Development at Salsa Labs. With more than 20 years in technology solutions and consulting, Blake comes equipped with hands-on knowledge of sales, consulting, product management and marketing. For the last 10 years, he has narrowed his focus to how Internet technologies can help nonprofit organizations, and prior to joining Salsa, he held positions at Convio and Charity Dynamics.

Facebook fundraising

Facebook can be your most Powerful Fundraising Tool

Increasingly, Organizations are Finding Success in Facebook Fundraising

Between 2012 and 2014, social donations rose by 32%.

90% of these social donations were made through Facebook. To really put that in perspective, the next highest platform, Twitter, sits at 3% of all social donations.

[well]The obvious conclusion: Social donation is growing and Facebook is king. [/well]

These findings came from a study conducted by DonorDrive, and are really quite eye-opening.

Increasingly, users are growing more comfortable with giving on Facebook and nonprofits, are getting better at encouraging and asking for these donations.

Social media (Facebook in particular) is the new frontier of giving. If your nonprofit isn’t fundraising on Facebook, you could be losing thousands in donations every year.

Here are some pro fundraising tips that will lead to more donations and passionate, engaged supporters:

Be Audience-centric

The most important part of creating a donation action is putting your audience first. Get to know them—look for patterns and clues. What actions and issues have done well previously? Past performance is a great predictor of future success. Look at past fundraising efforts and see what worked and what didn’t. You can also use Insights or the Page Analyzer to look at your posts and find what’s working. This will give you some clues on what your audience will engage with and support.

Be Solvable

Your audience has to believe that their donation will lead to positive change; can you express that? Let potential donors know how and where their money will be used. Make them believe their money will have an impact. The better you paint this story, the more donations your cause will receive, so spend some time here.

Practice the Right Content Strategies

Whether writing in the Facebook post or on the donation landing page, these tips work in all formats:

  1. Donate for change: Your supporters, no matter how loyal they are to your organization, are really donating to effect change on an issue they care about. That should be your ask.
  2. Chip in: It’s been shown in some nonprofits tests that using the word ‘donate’ actually reduces donations. Try something like ‘chip in’ or ‘pitch in’.
  3. Motivation: Using a motivational format can help catalyze activity. Try this simple format (whether in a few sentences or few paragraphs—depending on what’s appropriate): state the problem, share the solution, and tell people how they can take action to make that solution a reality.
  4. Emotion: Can you evoke an emotional reaction that will compel your audience to donate?
  5. Urgent: You only have your supporters’ attention for a few seconds. Is there a way to convey that this donation needs to be taken right away?
  6. Looking Good: Facebook is a social space. Your action should be something they want to be seen supporting. Will taking this action make your audience look good to their friends and family?
  7. Clear: Is it relatively simple to understand this donation action?
  8. Directed: It helps if the action is directed at a specific goal, e.g. keeping open a children’s hospital, saving a local park, passing legislation, etc.
  9. Goals: Set targets for donations and outcomes achieved. Targets put perspective on your campaign. No matter how much or little someone gives, they know they are chipping away at the set goal. They can easily see that their donation had an impact.

Top Tip: Issue not organization: Keep the fundraising appeal tied to supporting an issue, not the organization. Even your most dedicated supporters ultimately care more about the issues than the organization that works on them.

Pick The Right Image

Make sure that the image is powerful and attention-grabbing, but also relates directly to your action.

  1. Consistency: Your image should be the same for both the post and the landing page.
  2. Link Post: The link post format for images is optimal because when clicked, it will take your supporters directly to the landing page. Make sure that it is 1200×627.
  3. Text: If you have the ability, add your donation ask on the image text. If you decide to run ads as well, keep the text to no more than 20% of the image.

Upsell

Some organizations have found that they can raise almost as much from using an upsell strategy as from doing direct fundraising appeals. If you haven’t heard of it, an upsell is a secondary action. In other words, if you have a non-fundraising action such as pledging, the next page that the action-taker will see will be a fundraising appeal.

This upsell strategy can work well because many of your supporters who took the initial action will be the same type of people who are motivated to take a fundraising action. In fact, they might already be more committed because of the initial action.

  1. Relevant: Relate the upsell fundraising appeal as much as possible to the action or issue that the action-taker is supporting. For example, if your supporter is pledging to stop bullying, ask them to fund the effort to launch an anti-bullying campaign.

  2. Clean Transition: Make sure that the transition from the action to the fundraiser isn’t jarring. Think about elements like consistent voice, style and web address.

Don’t forget to Repost!

If you are finding a fundraising action that works, keep posting it until it’s not doing as well. Jewish Voice for Peace created 11 different posts to promote their one fundraising action, whereas the Bob Brown Foundation did three posts.

Make it Simple for Supporters to Give

38% of social donations happen from a smartphone. That means the simpler and more straightforward your donation ask is, the more likely supporters are to give. Eliminating unnecessary steps and being upfront with your ask will increase the number of mobile users who complete the donation process.

Do you have the Necessary Engagement?

There is one caveat to the strategies above. Outside of the rare exception of a serious viral moment, direct Facebook fundraising first requires a sizeable engaged community. Peter Deitz puts it like this:

“Consider engagement like an open rate. According to M+R, .07% of people who receive NGO fundraising emails donate. That means, on average, you need 10K people on your email list to receive seven donations.”

Let’s look at a successful donation action that illustrates the importance of this.

  • 2,800 people engaged with the action

  • 53 people donated

  • The average donation was $25

  • Bob Brown raised $1,300 total

This kind of response requires some serious engagement.

The lesson: You’ll need a lot of regularly engaged people in order to accomplish meaningful outcomes from social fundraising.

So if you don’t have at least a few hundred people engaging with your posts, consider putting a little more time into building your engaged audience first.

At the end of the day, it’s important to be flexible and not afraid to fail. Every supporter base is as different as the causes they support. It can take a little time to figure out what your audience responds to and how they like to give.

Be patient, learn as you go, and the pieces should fall into place.

Fundraising on Facebook

Jewish Voice for Peace Shows the Way to Fundraising on Facebook

By Drew Bernard, CEO ActionSprout

While ActionSprout has had a donation tool for over a year now, we just weren’t seeing signs that Facebook users were ready to pull out their credit card while checking their newsfeed. And the fact that the vast majority of Facebook users are accessing the platform from their mobile devices has made donating on the social network even more of a hassle for most users. Have you ever tried filling out a mobile form on the L train? – yikes!

That’s not to say Facebook hasn’t been playing an important role in many NGO’s fundraising efforts, it has. NGOs have found Facebook to be a powerful channel for acquiring new email supporters. They have also found that those Facebook acquired supporters have a high propensity to donate via email which is why this has been our recommended strategy for quite some time.

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