This resource is useful for smaller foundations and not-for-profits with lean teams seeking to increase smaller charitable donations through their marketing efforts. Or, for larger organisations seeking to move away from traditional marketing outreach toward lower-cost digital channels.

In this article, we’ll cover 5 key steps to create a digital fundraising campaign that includes:

  • Step 1: Data built audiences
  • Step 2: Campaign development
  • Step 3: Email communication
  • Step 4: Google Ads
  • Step 5: Social Ads

A little bit of background:

Fundraising campaigns have traditionally included direct mail and phone calls to generate support from new and previous donors. This can put enormous financial pressure on already strained marketing budgets, rendering these activities out of reach for many organisations. Digital transformation is accelerating rapidly and can provide less cost-prohibitive solutions for organisations running fundraising programs.

This resource is intended to guide you through the steps of setting up a digital fundraising campaign to help reduce costs, improve the return on marketing campaign investment, and grow your database of contacts to approach for future campaigns.

Step 1: Data built audiences

Step 1 - Data Built Audiences

The richer the data, the better the outcome. Your organisation likely has a tool that captures contact records of past donors and subscribers. This is your first-party contact data and a valuable asset when you create a digital fundraising campaign. Extract these datasets as a CSV file and where possible attempt to ensure you have the contact records first name, email address and contact number for best results. Check your organisations privacy policy first.

If you have a Seer account, we recommend looking at the Seer Giving Index dataset on the platform (you can sign up for a free Seer Standard account to access the dataset here). The Seer Giving Index provides a score out of 100 based on a communities propensity to give. Factors included within the model are reported donations, volunteering rates and the SEIFA Index. Results are provided by SA2 (Statistical Area), which is approximately the size by population of a suburb. The purpose of exploring this dataset is to refine your geographical targeting when you create your digital campaign. The asset will aid your organisations ability to reduce spend in locations that are unable or unlikely to participate in your fundraising campaign. For those with a Seer account, you can access the templated Pre-packed Suitcase that uses this dataset here.

For Plus users: To further enhance targeting, you may find the Intergenerational Transfer of Wealth dataset useful. The dataset provides additional value to the Seer Giving Index by including age brackets, household type, sex and estimates on wealth transfer over time. Get in touch to learn more.

Step 2: Campaign development

Step 2 - Campaign Development

Christmas and End of Financial Year campaigns are widely popular in the sector. To optimise your fundraising campaign budget look at other events where your organisation’s message could get better coverage and lower cost advertising bids through paid digital platforms. A place you might want to explore is National or United Nations World Days, Weeks, or Months. Ensure you select a topic that reflects your organisation’s key interests as it provides you with a meaningful reason to communicate with your audience.

Personalisation is key. A simple way to address this in your campaign is through imagery. If you’re targeting specific locations, include an image from that region to support your campaign. Tools such as Unsplash provide a database of royalty-free images and can be searched by location if you need help finding the right imagery.

Your landing page. Connecting your organisation’s mission and purpose with your campaign will drive success. When building a landing page, provide context on how a person’s donation will contribute to your organisation’s work as well as outcomes from previous donations. Where you can, add imagery that shows the work you conduct and be sure to add alternative text for accessibility on your website. Make sure that your images are optimised for the web to help search engines find your page and to avoid people leaving due to slow page load speeds. WP Beginners provides a useful guide on image optimisation. Ensure you have your donation capture form prominent on the page.

If you’re seeking assistance on campaign creative you can create a free Canva account to create banners for your website, emails, social media, and additional assets you might need. For those after a more robust solution including copywriting services, landing pages, and/or creative visit The Xfactor Collective to find a for-purpose specialist.

Tip: When planning when to launch your fundraising campaign, be mindful of other digital retail events that take place during your selected window. Events such as Black Friday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and so on can be highly competitive in paid digital channels. Organisations like retailers and experience providers often plan larger spends across digital channels during these periods that may limit your fundraising campaign’s return on investment or visibility.

Step 3: Email communication

Step 3 - Email Communication

Email is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. When pursuing an email series to complement your campaign, consider the following.

Cadence. Plan your campaign and give it space for success. Generally speaking, it will take at least 3 attempts to get someone over the line. When considering a multi-channel campaign, you’ll want to account for that across various touchpoints. A good email open rate is between 20-30%. If your campaign lasts a month then you’ll want to consider a weekly communication to your audience to allow for open rates combined with visibility across additional channels for best success.

Personalisation. This has become an expectation in the digital landscape. Most email platforms will provide you options for personalisation generally through what will be called a token. A simple way to increase your engagement is to greet the person by name in the subject line and at the beginning of your content. If you have opted to use images by location and have location data available against your contact record, create separate emails by regions where possible. People connect best when they see things they know well within the communication.

Workflows. Over the course of your one-month campaign be sure to adjust your contact’s journey. If a contact has already contributed to your campaign, be sure to provide a thank you email. Rather than continuing to drive that contact to donate again, consider providing those who have already donated an update on the progress of your fundraising drive and what it will achieve. Encourage your contacts to share the effort with friends, family or colleagues through their own social media. This will help you reduce unsubscribes, with the potential to increase success through an expanded network.

Text and images. Make sure your email campaign has a positive text to image ratio. Emails that are image-heavy can often find themselves in junk or spam folders. A number of email service providers default to have images turned off which can mean if your email is image-heavy your message will be lost. A good rule of thumb is to have more than 50% of your email as text. Ensure your images are optimised for the web, emails that have heavy images can be treated as spam. Make sure you add alternative text to your images which will help from an accessibility perspective.

If you don’t have an email marketing tool yet, there are plenty of easy-to-use free options. You might like to explore MailChimp or a more full-service tool like HubSpot.

Step 4: Google Ads

Step 4 - Google Ads

For paid digital marketing options the more that you know about those most likely to contribute, the more successful your return on investment.

Location targeting. If you’ve explored the Seer Giving Index take note of which locations have a higher propensity to give. Location targeting will help you provide greater success for your fundraising efforts and can be easily defined within Google Ads. You can personalise location within your copy to increase engagement. For those organisations that are in a specific location or a known cluster of locations where you’ve experienced past success, be sure to add these locations to your campaign targeting.

Keywords. Be sure to match the purpose of your fundraising drive with the right keywords and include negative keywords to avoid showing up against Google searches that aren’t the right fit. Don’t rule out gifting themes. An increasing number of people are looking to provide donations as gifts. To ensure you’re appealing to the right people you might consider keyword phrases that consider your organisation’s primary location + gifting terms to reach a new audience.

Messaging. The better your Google Ad matches the keyword term or phrase you’re trying to target, the better the outcome. Your Ads placement will improve where it is best matched to the search result through an improved quality score, a score visible against your campaigns within your Google Ads account.

Bidding. You can manage your budget with ease via Google Ads so you don’t overspend. Bids can be capped for each campaign and keyword. If your campaign is particularly successful be sure to allow a contingency where you can increase your spending based on your organisation’s agreed return of investment.

Tracking. Ensure that you have tracking applied. This will help you understand what worked and what didn’t for future efforts. If you use Google Analytics it is simple to connect the two accounts.

Retargeting. Google Ads provides retargeting options where you can surface banners to audiences that have engaged with your website or Google Ad campaigns. Banners can be very effective in creating awareness and are generally very cost-effective.

If you’re new to Google Ads, check out the Google Ads checklist.

Step 5: Social Ads

Step 5 - Social Ads

Social media can act in two ways. Building awareness and causing an action. Building audiences can be very sophisticated and create fantastic results. For this article, I’ll focus on Facebook’s Ads Manager that will allow you the opportunity to provide ads across more than 20 platforms and placements.

Data. Facebook allows you to curate audiences. You can select locations as you can through Google which is where the Seer Giving Index can prove helpful. You can also add your own audience through a CSV file and expand upon that audience through “lookalike audiences”. A lookalike audience will look at your defined audiences and expand to other people that have similar interests and demographics. As mentioned earlier, be sure to check your privacy policy first.

Objective. Facebook Ads Manager offers a variety of objectives for campaigns from engagement to action. Make sure you select the right one for your fundraising campaign. You may wish to select differing objectives across your creative to get the best result.

Personalisation. More than many digital marketing tools, social media users have come to expect a certain level of personalisation. Localised imagery is a quick way to achieve this when targeting specific locations. Images with people in them tend to do best. You might want to consider this in your creative’s text to complement your image. For those using the Intergenerational Transfer of Wealth dataset, you can personalise further through additional demographics such as sex and age.

Retargeting. Facebook Ads Manager offers behavioural retargeting options too. You can create an audience based on people who like your Facebook page or visited your website.

Bidding. Facebook Ads Manager can be very cost effective and has similar solutions to Google Ads where you can set daily spending caps on your campaigns and optimise over time.

Post boosts. You may have an initial post on your Facebook page to launch your fundraising drive. Post boosts can be one of the lowest cost formats and you can get started simply from your organisation’s Facebook page. Most targeting options expressed earlier will be available to you.

Grow your community. Within the Facebook Ads Manager App you have the option to invite users who have liked one of your ad placements from the campaign section. It’s a great way to grow your community and can be a benefit for your future campaigns.

Comments and trolls. Unlike other formats, it is likely you will get comments on your campaigns through social. Simply keep an eye on spam or comments that are misaligned to your purpose. If the comment is genuine, be sure to respond.

If you’re new to Facebook Ads Manager, check out Facebook’s getting started guide.