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The digital age represents an opportunity for nonprofits to increase giving. With merely a click of a mouse or tap on a phone, individuals can quickly learn about and donate to nonprofit organizations. Digital fundraising, specifically on social media channels, provides a way for nonprofits to connect to younger generations who do not have the time nor desire to receive lengthy appeal letters or printed newsletters. It is a rapidly growing medium that nonprofits must tap into if they wish to attract and maintain donors.
According to a 2019 Statistica report on social media use, users spend an average of 136 minutes per day on social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat. Facebook alone has 2.41 billion monthly active users, and that number is expected to grow to over three billion by 2021. Individuals are not only using digital channels to entertain themselves or connect with friends and family, but to connect with causes they care about.
Social media and online giving both increased six percent between 2010 and 2018. On the other hand, direct mail decreased by 26 percent. With 75 percent of the population on social media every day, nonprofits have an ever growing audience of vast ages to solicit their missions.
The benefits of using digital tools such as social media are plentiful. Below is a sampling of benefits nonprofits can enjoy when they use a social-first digital fundraising strategy:
Data collection: Digital technology not only helps donors learn about, connect and give to nonprofits; it provides a way for nonprofits to learn about and connect with donors themselves. Nonprofits benefit from data collection to sort and track donors and personalize messaging. For example, a nonprofit raising funds for childhood cancer research may see that the majority of its donors are mothers under 40 years old. The nonprofit can then run Facebook advertisements that only show to mothers who are under 40 years old.
Global reach: Nonprofits do not have to limit themselves to their immediate geographic location for support. Thanks to technology the world is literally at one’s fingertips. Messages can be shared worldwide, resulting in new supporters. In addition, because of technology information is available 24/7. The public can visit a nonprofit’s website, easily find financial documents, sign up to volunteer, make a donation, and even have text translated to their native language.
Instant results: With the ability to instantly reach their audience, nonprofits can share stories in real time, view statistics in real time and edit communications in real time. The Humane Society of the United States uses this method to raise funds during and after a major animal rescue operation.
Growth: Social media use continues to climb, with one person joining a social network every 6.4 seconds. Millions of videos are watched online every day. And more than 50 percent of online browsing occurs through mobile means. Users are looking for fast and easy ways to connect to each other and the causes they care about.
One does not have to look far to see examples of successful online fundraisers. In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. Participants were challenged to donate to the ALS Association or dump a bucket of ice water on their head before challenging three friends. The ALS Association raised $115 million from the challenge. After a video of koala being rescued from an Australian brush fire went viral, donations to the animal hospital caring for injured koalas saw an influx of donations. To date, the fund has raised more than $1.8 million.
Nonprofits wanting to capitalize on digital fundraising and technology should adhere to five recommendations.
By following these steps nonprofits will be well on their way to maximizing digital donations.
Crystal Nettles is a graduate of the Master of Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at Arizona State University. Nettles is a public affairs professional with experience in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from California State University, Fullerton, and will earn her master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management from Arizona State University in December 2019. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors, going to Disneyland and fostering kittens for her local animal shelter.