Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday (December 3rd) is a little less than 90 days away — so now is the perfect time to buckle in and start thinking about your nonprofit’s plans to maximize your end-of-year fundraising. With $400 million raised online in the U.S. in 2018, Giving Tuesday is one of the largest days of global charitable giving.

But the grassroots momentum shouldn’t start and stop on December 3rd! As you focus on your year-end game plan, prioritize building a small-dollar fundraising program that will empower tens of thousands of people who want to support advocacy work and set you up for future success far after the end of the year. By taking the time to grow your network and grassroots your Giving Tuesday now, you’ll be ready to connect with passionate supporters this giving season and engage them in years to come as sustainers and vocal ambassadors of your cause.

Our team’s got you covered! We’re a nonprofit ourselves, and we’re excited to help you build a stronger fundraising program and have a more successful giving season with the help of small-dollar donors.

We’ve put together all the end-of-year advice and checklists you’ll need so you can easily follow along to grassroots your Giving Tuesday. For the rest of the year, our team’s focus is making sure you’re ready to encourage supporters to give and join your movement. Each week we’ll deliver the best strategies you need straight to your inbox, so you’ll have a toolbox full of concrete, specific tactics to use during giving season. By the time December 3rd arrives (and far after that), you’ll be ready to raise more money for your cause and reach more supporters.

Here’s your checklist to get your #GrassrootsYourGivingTuesday planning started (and a preview of the tips and tricks we’ll be sending over the next couple months!).


Grassroots Your Giving Tuesday Checklist:

1. Sketch out your organization’s theme for the giving season.
□ Choose a theme for your year-end fundraising campaign that reflects the mission of your organization and that you can weave into your communications this giving season.
□ Nail your theory of change: Explain the problem you are looking to solve, and tell donors how they can help be part of the solution. Your work is important, and you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to explain why when the time comes.

2. Plan your fundraising strategy and timeline.
□ Create a content calendar and establish your timeline for sending emails and posting social media ads.
□ Make sure your fundraising strategy hits multiple channels. You’ll want to run ads on Facebook and Twitter to boost your content, but the vast majority of online donations still comes from email.

3. Build your email list so you have a large network excited to see your future content!
□ Add a pop-up to your website asking people to join your email list and receive important updates from your nonprofit.
□ Prepare your social media ads that encourage supporters to sign up for your email list.
□ Make sure you’re ready to collect emails of attendees at your fall events!

4. Loop in your stakeholders.
□ Explain how your board members can help mobilize their own networks this giving season.
□ Utilize ActBlue community forms to engage your advocates as fundraising champions this end-of-year!

5. Polish your contribution forms and website.
□ Make sure you’ve optimized your site, so when people land on your homepage, they now see a pop-up encouraging them to pitch in this giving season. And if you do not use a pop-up, make sure your donate button is prominent on your website.
□ Do you have a branding on your contribution form? Take some time to clean up your form’s design so it encourages people to give, but isn’t distracting. A couple quick changes can make a huge difference!
□ Make sure your contribution form is optimized for mobile (our forms are mobile-optimized and accept Apple Pay and PayPal!).

6. At last, prepare for post-Giving Tuesday!
□ Pat yourself on the back, take a deep breath, and treat yourself!
□ Come up with a plan to thank your amazing donors and involve them in your organization’s work for the next year.
□ Establish an email series that welcomes new donors who pitched in during end-of-year fundraising to your movement. You can keep your new donors engaged and build a community of excited advocates for your cause!


We’re excited to meet you in your inbox each week with the best practices you can rely on, and we’ll be posting our top tips for fundraisers on Twitter (so give us a wave!). And we’re always just a call away to talk digital strategy that fits your nonprofit — hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us if you have any questions or need a good joke to keep you moving this giving season.

Tips from our nonprofit fundraising experts

At AB Charities, we love helping other nonprofits fundraise better by building small-dollar donor bases to sustain their work. Who exactly are we? We’re a team of fundraising experts passionate about talking nonprofit digital strategy and answering any technical questions about making the most of AB Charities accounts and our platform. Our grassroots fundraising platform gives nonprofits of all sizes access to easy, modern tools like mobile-optimized contribution forms and a saved payment universe of over 7 million ActBlue Express users who can give to you with a single click. And as a nonprofit ourselves, we know the stresses that come with raising funds for important advocacy work. It’s a huge reason why we’re usually on the road doing face-to-face trainings and making small-dollar fundraising less intimidating (and less lonely). And we don’t want to stop there: We’re bringing our top digital fundraising tips to you right here!


Adri

Adri

Nonprofit Outreach Manager
Gemini

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Focus on building your recurring donor base! Recurring donors will be more invested in your organization and mission and are more likely to take other actions like signing petitions, volunteering, and encouraging their networks to donate to your organization. Having a strong recurring program also helps organizations budget, and this additional source of revenue allows for more flexibility to run programs and cover things like overhead costs!

Top tip for using AB Charities
Don’t be afraid to ask us for help! Our team is happy to help you create brandings for your forms, help you access donor information, and give demos to teach your team how to get the most out of your AB Charities account. We’re all passionate about empowering organizations to run strong, successful digital fundraising programs, because we understand how important your work is. We want you to have all the tools and skills you need in order to not only sustain but grow your organizations and expand your impact.


Kiersten

Kiersten

Nonprofit Outreach Director
Virgo

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Mobile is becoming extremely common as a way for supporters to engage with your nonprofit and donate! Make sure your donation forms are optimized for mobile (we have Apple Pay and PayPal on our forms!) so supporters can donate via mobile no matter where they are. This is especially true for supporters who may not have internet access or who have mobile networks like 3G with slower page load times. Big picture, make it easy for a supporter to give no matter their device! They already want to support you, and you’ve empowered them to take action — so you’ll want your fundraising platform to make it as easy as possible for them to give.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Chat with us! We’re here, and we want to help. There are a ton of optimizations that you can make to your contribution form to help increase your one-time and recurring donations.


Selah

Selah

Nonprofit Outreach Associate
Aries

Top online fundraising tip for nonprofits
Take some time to nail a theory of change in your fundraising emails! Your donors will always be asking themselves “Why give now? What will my contribution do?” So it’s critical to: highlight the problem your nonprofit is looking to solve, explain what the solution is, and emphasize that donors are a key part of the solution — in this case, a specific sum of small-dollar donations. A (simplified) example might look like: “Our organization works hard every day to improve road safety here in our community, and we need your help. Our free brake light clinic is all set to reduce the chance of car accidents on Main Street: but we still need to get the word out! Just $50.00 will cover the costs of printing flyers that we’ll be posting up around town. Can you pitch in $5.00 today to close this gap and make a change? If 10 people chip in, we’ll be ready to hit the streets!”

A clearly articulated theory of change that answers the right questions goes further than you might imagine in composing an effective ask. Not only will you add an honest sense of urgency to your emails, but you’ll make it clear that donors are part of your team, and you’re getting things done together! It also goes a long way in developing a healthy relationship with your small-dollar donors, building trust, and displaying your nonprofit’s accountability and transparency.

Top tip for using AB Charities
Once you’ve built trust and rapport with your donors through your fantastic emails (featuring your well-written theory of change, of course), AB Charities features some excellent tools for building a sustainers program of recurring donors. Our unlimited, customizable forms have features that encourage supporters to commit to feasible, long-lasting gifts, and we make it easy to pull donor data and build a cohort of engaged supporters who give regularly.

You can also use AB Charities to send a personalized contribution form to your most committed donors to build and steward long-term donor relationships that much more effectively!


We’re a team of dedicated nonprofit fundraising experts who love brainstorming digital strategy that fits your nonprofit and making fundraising all about big numbers and big laughs! You can always give us a wave on Twitter. And if you have any questions about our tips above or making the most of AB Charities, hop on a one-on-one strategy call with us!

Making summer matter as a nonprofit fundraiser

Summer is an incredible time for your nonprofit to sharpen all parts of your online fundraising program so you’re keeping up with best practices and setting yourself up for a strong end-of-year. The pace of life might seem to slow down with the warmth, but small-dollar donors are ready to take action for causes and organizations in need no matter the time of year. This summer is only halfway over, and small-dollar donors have already raised $1.3 million for groups helping parents and children separated at the border. And you can see in our 2018 cycle in review that the number of new donors has skyrocketed at critical moments throughout the summer months.

August is traditionally thought of as sleepy, but there are strategies you can implement now to make the most of summer. Keep reading for high-impact steps to build a robust, streamlined program before the fall and set yourself up for big fundraising rewards.

Build:

1. Your email list.

Summer’s the perfect season for taking your organizing outside and adding emails to your list. With the warmer days finally here, think about hosting events that bring supporters together for your cause and build a sense of community that can translate into a strong base of grassroots donors. From a house party to a rally, cook-out competition to a bike-a-thon, outdoor events are great opportunities to collect emails on paper or digitally. You can sell tickets, collect free RSVPs, or do a combination of both using event forms on AB Charities. And just because you’re hosting an event doesn’t mean you can’t make a face-to-face donation ask! AB Charities makes it easy for you to collect donations at events with our Entry Mode feature, so multiple people can easily make secure donations on the same device. We’ve also made sure our contribution forms are optimized for mobile — it’s why this past quarter, over 50% of contributions made through our platform came from mobile devices!

Rural Utah Project Event

2. Your recurring donor base.

Invest time into building a strong recurring program while Giving Tuesday and other deadlines are still months away. Recurring gifts give you the amazing flexibility to budget for the future! And by nurturing a solid community of monthly supporters now, you’ll gain the superpower to plan for the big events and campaigns for your cause later in the year. You can begin by asking for monthly gifts of *smaller* amounts than one-time donations. You can also turn on our Smart Recurring feature, which encourages donors making a one-time contribution to make an additional, lower monthly gift.

Here’s a pro-tip: If you have inexpensive gifts like stickers to give supporters, you can ask people to make a monthly donation to receive a sticker. A simple email that says “Where should we send your sticker?” and includes a donation ask can build your recurring program!

Polish:

1. Your open rates.

Let go of inactive subscribers in your email list to boost your open and donation rates. Your emails are some of your most important communications with your supporters, and creative and authentic emails can build meaningful relationships with your base that raise more money in the long term. Metrics like open rates also affect whether your emails end up in Gmail’s Promotions tab or spam, so you’ll want to take your open rates seriously!

2. Your email targeting.

If you haven’t yet, segment your email list into groups of supporters organized by donor behavior. It’s easier than ever to group people by previous donation sizes using AB Charities’ tools for data on donor segments. Once you clean up your list and prepare your targeting, you can send more intentional, personalized emails that meet your donors where they’re at. And it’s this kind of detail in knowing your donors’ behavior that improves your fundraising results!

3. Your forms with A/B testing.

A/B tests are a great way for you to identify the most successful parts of your contribution form so you can make optimized forms that raise the most money. Our A/B Test Tool makes it super easy for you to run head-to-head tests on your forms, including comparing different form titles and ask language. Does a simple branding or fancier one connect with your supporters more? After testing various form versions, you’ll be left with a powerful baseline for all future forms you make!

Nourish!

While the sun’s shining, grow your relationships with your supporters through cultivation emails that aim to engage (and not just fundraise). Whether surveys, newsletters, or updates on your nonprofit’s work, sending compelling content builds trust and engagement with your list. Do you have swag and merchandise that are perfect for your supporters to sport in the summer? Try hosting a giveaway where you ask supporters to enter a contest to win sunglasses, hats, totes, or water bottles that show their grassroots pride!

Summer’s the perfect time to take big actions that can build up your grassroots fundraising. Don’t let the slow pace of these months fool you, and get started on strengthening all parts of your digital program with our tips. Still wondering where to begin? One of your first high-impact actions can be hopping on a one-on-one call with our team to talk through strategies that work for your nonprofit. We’re always happy to chat and answer any questions you have!

How to retain (and love) your grassroots donors

One of the smartest and most exciting strategies your organization can implement right now is prioritizing existing donors! Reaching fundraising goals can be much more than finding *new* donors. Making donor retention a key part of your fundraising program helps you build strong, lasting relationships with your incredible supporters that lead to more money raised over the long term. Your small-dollar donors are your most passionate advocates and investors in your mission, so treat them as the valued stakeholders they are! And donor retention doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some tips for showing your supporters some love and motivating them to stay in this movement with you.

Start off on the right foot with a welcome email series

Welcome emails are a great way to show people who are new to your email list that they’re part of something bigger! These emails are the foundation on which you’ll build relationships with grassroots supporters, so you’ll want to put in the time to craft content that makes people want to stick around and take action.

What’s the anatomy of a strong welcome email series? From the get go, the content of your welcome emails should reiterate that by joining your list, supporters are joining a community of critical participants for your cause, like this welcome email from Sunrise does:

Sunrise Welcome Email

Let your supporters know how they can begin taking specific actions, whether it’s donating, signing a petition, volunteering, or sharing on social media. Sunrise provides links for action steps to make participating as easy as possible.

You can set a precedent for honest, respectful communication by laying out to subscribers what kinds of emails you’ll send their way, like Grist does below. Additionally, think about giving supporters an easy way to unsubscribe from your email list or linking to subscription preferences like Grist does. (Giving an easy opt-out from the start also keeps your list healthy and clean from inactive subscribers, and your future self might just thank you later).

Grist Welcome Email

Make appreciation your bread and butter

Make it a point to say “thank you!” Appreciate your small-dollar donors by letting them know they’re an irreplaceable part of your larger mission. You can immediately begin showing donors your appreciation by automating donation receipts that acknowledge gifts. AB Charities already sends automated receipts to donors for you, but you can (and should) customize the “thank you” text in these receipts. With automated, customized receipts, you ensure every grassroots gift is acknowledged and every donor leaves the giving process feeling special and important to your cause.

Saying “thank you” after someone donates is important, but appreciating your supporters in all pieces of communication for sticking with you is just as important. Keep gratitude and respect at the crux of your fundraising program by thanking supporters in every email you send. Whether a fundraising email or a newsletter, a line at the end saying “thank you” shows people they’re part of your work — and your organization knows it!

Go beyond asking for money

When a big goal of your program is building lasting relationships with donors, send non-fundraising emails that share high-quality, approachable, and timely content with your supporters. Your emails should aim to engage people so they want to stay on your list, hear from you, and invest in your cause for the long term. Many of your emails can be cultivation emails — non-fundraising emails meant to share compelling content — so you’re not only sending hard fundraising asks. With thoughtful cultivation emails, you can engage folks as partners in the fight for your cause rather than solely as piggy banks.

Try sending cultivation emails entirely dedicated to saying “thank you.” Do you have exciting numbers and accomplishments to share? You can use a thank you email as a moment to emphasize the impact of gifts and express appreciation for your donors’ actions. And you don’t have to sacrifice fundraising, either — leave an easy donate button at the bottom of the email for people who are compelled to give. Here’s an example of a great thank you email from United We Dream:

United We Dream Thank You Email

Another possible way to engage supporters is asking for their input and opinions to let them know their voices are central to your movement. Many organizations send surveys, but Friends of the Earth checked in with their list by asking people if they could make a special volunteer call to discuss advancing climate change legislation:

Friends of the Earth Volunteer Call Email

Be ready to support donors who need help

An enjoyable giving process also means having the donor support to quickly solve donation problems. Make sure you have the infrastructure to address the needs and concerns of donors. That’s why AB Charities has a dedicated donor support team that spends one-on-one time with donors having trouble. Your fundraising platform should also offer tools for frictionless donations. For example, AB Charities has a free integration with Account Updater to automatically update credit card numbers so recurring donations don’t stop even when cards are lost or expired!

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to begin building lasting relationships with small-dollar donors passionate about powering your work and sustaining your movement for the long haul. Relationship management can feel intimidating, so our team is always happy to jump on a one-on-one call with you to help your organization retain (and love) your donors!

Need more hours in the day? Press pause to be more productive.

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Wethos Collective blog. In over a decade in the nonprofit sector, Janice has written fundraising appeals and grant proposals, led social media outreach, managed volunteers, executed rollout plans, managed donor and program databases, and learned the hard way that changing to a new website host means you’d better make sure that donation form still works!

wethos

Feeling burned out? I know this sounds counterintuitive, but put aside your to-do list for 30 minutes. Turn off your notifications, hide your phone, if need be, hide yourself in a conference room where your coworkers can’t find you. (Okay, maybe tell one person who understands the true meaning of the word emergency. You know, in case there is a fire or something.)

Then use that 30 minutes to brainstorm ways that you can get more hours back in your day. It takes time to make time. What would make it easier/less frustrating to do your job? Review everything currently on your to-do list and ask yourself these three questions.

Do you actually need to do this?

The quickest way to get back time is to go down your list and ask, of each item, “What will be lost by NOT doing this?”

At the micro level, this can be steps in a process. One low-lift example: Can you streamline an approval process? Maybe certain people only need to sign off if certain criteria are in play.

At micro and macro levels, re-evaluate wants vs. needs — just as you would with your budget. Maybe you want to run more events to attract new donors, but maybe what you really need to do is focus on continuing to build relationships with grassroots donors. Or maybe you want to revamp your website, but what you really need is a better digital strategy. Perhaps it is worth engaging a team of digital strategists to help you assess what items will have the most impact.

Do you need to do this?

Are you the only person who can do this? It can be scary to let go of things that you’re good at, or that you’ve always done. At the same time, it can be incredibly freeing not to shoulder a particular responsibility all by your lonesome. For example, to go on vacation and know that other people can handle things.

As you go down your list, consider whether any of these items could be good growth opportunities for a colleague. Or, perhaps, it is a tedious task that needs to be done but could be a little more evenly distributed than it currently is. What’s holding you back from delegating? Another low-lift strategy would be writing up a how-to guide (which is also important knowledge management, should you ever win the Powerball) or taking a screencast or training others. Ensuring organizational continuity is always time well spent now to free up your time later on.

Remember to leverage all the people on your team. For example, is your board fundraising? If not, perhaps it’s time to talk to board members about expectations.

Trying to figure out something new? Your nonprofit is probably not the first organization to tackle this challenge. For example, your cause is suddenly thrust into the news and the spotlight, and you need to come up with a fundraising plan yesterday! Or, you could take a page from these best practices in rapid response fundraising from AB Charities.

Is heavier lifting required?

Sometimes it is worth examining the opportunity cost of you doing X, when you could be making a bigger impact in other areas. Maybe you’d like to keep your hand on the wheel, but could get there faster with help, whether it’s extra hands or a particular skill set your team needs support with. There’s no shame in raising your hand — in fact, it requires maturity and confidence to ask for help. It’s what we often encourage others to do.

Admittedly, it can be challenging to ask for help when you’re not sure what you need. Wethos collaborative teams and the AB Charities team are always ready to support you and can even help you figure out what is needed.

Could this be accomplished differently?

We are often so busy getting things done that we forget to pick our heads up and survey the changing landscape — and sometimes we miss things, like technology that might make our jobs and lives easier!

Things you can do this week

Compound time saved with smarter habits

  • Are you asking for every single gift? Learn why you should ask for recurring donations and how AB Charities makes this simple and automatic (for you and your donors).

  • Does this need to be done in the office? Offices can be great for collaboration-heavy projects, but they are full of distractions. When you need to focus on a thinking-heavy project, perhaps it would be better to work off-site.

  • Should this be a meeting or an email or a phone call? Do everybody a favor and make a habit of asking this question regularly!

Invest upfront to multiply your time later

And if it is a thorny project that desperately needs to be tackled? Engaging a collaborative team of experts can help get you over a large one-time hurdle while also providing an opportunity to gain expertise you don’t currently have in-house.

Overwhelmed? Start somewhere, start anywhere — just start!

One pause and one deep breath can lead to another. I wrote this down so that you can come back to the resources and ideas. No need to tackle this all at once. Or alone — the AB Charities team is always available to help you with your digital fundraising, and Wethos collaborative teams are available to support you with a broad range of skill sets.

But now when you get overwhelmed, you can ask those three questions: Do I need to do this, do I alone need to be the one to do this, and could this be done a different way?

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on The Wethos Collective blog.

Rapid response fundraising: Raising money online for the frontlines

When your cause is in the news, it’s often because of a crisis or a unique moment of focus on your work. That means people will be more tuned in to your cause than at any other time and more likely to make a donation right then and there. With the right digital strategy, you can use these rapid response moments to build a community of grassroots donors that will sustain your work long after your cause is out of the headlines, because we know your work doesn’t end when the moment is over.

So when your cause is thrust into the limelight, how can you meet the moment and give people a way to fight back and make a difference with a donation? First, although social media can help you boost content, it’s often too fleeting to grab attention. The majority of money still comes from fundraising emails, where you can convey a nuanced message and motivate supporters to contribute.

Second, when you develop your plan for rapid response, you should think about prioritizing recurring donations. People who donate during rapid response often become invested supporters who intentionally give again, volunteer, and advocate for your cause beyond the moment. That’s why when your cause hits the news, you should ask for sustaining gifts and grow your base of monthly givers. You’ll want to make sure your fundraising platform has great tools for building a recurring donor program when traffic is high and your capacity is low.

With the right tools and strategy, organizations of all sizes and people of all digital skill levels can build a powerful rapid response fundraising program. Here are some best practices to help you do exactly this:

  • Make your donation ask specific and clear. Tell your supporters why you’re asking them to give right now! Big moments often bring new people into your reach, so emphasize your mission and make sure they understand the work you’re asking them to support.

  • Provide a call to action that empowers supporters to take action (for now and for the long term). Explain why donations are necessary to immediately work to address the issue or respond to the crisis.

  • Make it easy for supporters to choose monthly gifts. You know the work doesn’t end once the media attention is gone. With supporters motivated to contribute to rapid response efforts, make it clear to passionate people why they should consider making a monthly gift to sustain your nonprofit’s mission for the long run. When asking your supporters to make a recurring donation, keep the ask amount lower than a one-time donation to encourage people to commit to feasible, long-lasting gifts.

  • Empower one-time donors to invest in your nonprofit as a sustainer. Not everyone will immediately opt to make a recurring contribution. You can use the Smart Recurring feature on AB Charities to ask donors who make a one-time donation to consider starting a smaller recurring gift. Smart Recurring is a great way to introduce donors to recurring contributions and is perfect for rapid response moments, when supporters galvanized to take action might also want to sustain your work for months.

  • Follow up with supporters who started but didn’t finish their contributions. On AB Charities forms, you can turn on our remarketing feature to automatically send follow-up emails to supporters who landed on your form but didn’t fully complete their contributions. Remarketing increases conversion rates and lets you get the most out of every ask. Customize your remarketing email text to remind supporters one last time why it’s important in this moment to give!

  • Customize your contribution form’s social share so donors can become your vocal ambassadors *in style.* Social share is even more important in rapid response moments: Supporters excited to share they donated can fill their social networks with your compelling images and messaging. By spreading your mission, they act as powerhouse organizers on your behalf and bring more people organically into your movement.

  • Get the creative work done ahead of time. AB Charities makes it really easy for any nonprofit to customize social share graphics with our free template (which you can find here). You can also plan ahead for the inevitable chaos of rapid response moments by making reusable social share settings that can be whipped out for any future form.

  • Send donors a thank you email! People who give in rapid response moments are often new donors, so you can use this email as an opportunity to turn them into long-term supporters of your organization. And you can go beyond an immediate thank you email! Build meaningful, lasting relationships with your donors by sending additional emails that let them know the impact of their gifts.

The power of rapid response fundraising is that it enables you to capture the energy churning in the news cycle and bottle it up, so you have the supporters and the resources you need to do meaningful work now and in the future. Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to put your digital tools (and new skills!) to work and fundraise whenever a big moment hits. And you don’t have to do it alone! Our team is always happy to hop on a one-on-one call and help you leverage your AB Charities account to lock down your strategy.

The last-minute tips and tricks you need for giving season

Giving Tuesday (and the end-of-year giving season) is just 9 days away — it’s crunch time, and we know you’ve been hard at work putting plans in place to make this busy time of year a success.

There are SO many ways to get creative and maximize your fundraising during giving season, and we wanted to share some of our favorite tips and tricks to help you hit your goals. Keep reading for some helpful last-minute tactics:

Approach fundraising from several different channels. Running ads on Facebook and Twitter can give your content the boost it needs to reach more folks. But keep in mind: The vast majority of online contributions come in via email. Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to get more folks in the door and on your email list through paid ads on social media. That way you’ll have a bigger list to reach out to for the rest of giving season and the new year.

Add a pop-up to your website asking for a donation. Use this space to provide a quick and compelling reason why you’re fundraising during giving season. That way folks heading to your website can give on the pop-up quickly and easily without even having to search around your homepage for a donate button.

Customize your contribution form… Every contribution form on AB Charities comes automatically mobile-optimized and rigorously tested to get you the highest conversion rates possible. You can take your form one step further by adding specific text and making a special Giving Tuesday branding, so people feel like they’re part of your organization’s big giving day.

…and your social share settings. We frequently hear from donors who are extremely proud of their donations and excited to share that they’ve chipped in, which is why we’ve built social share features right into AB Charities contribution forms. With so many people talking about giving online on Giving Tuesday, it’s absolutely crucial that you add social share content for the big day. You want to put your best foot forward if supporters are sharing links to your contribution forms.

Move your supporters up the ladder of engagement by asking them to help you raise money. Folks who are *already* engaged and supporting you can make an ask of their own personal networks on behalf of your work! Folks who care about your work can provide a new, personal perspective to fundraising asks and make a big difference in helping you hit your goals. With AB Charities it’s easy for your community of supporters to make their own fundraising pages.

Make recurring asks to keep folks engaged and fueling your work throughout the year to come. Recurring contributions are a great way to capture the excitement of giving season and turn it into long-term success. With AB Charities, you can set a deadline at the end of the year so donors can contribute a small amount each week from Giving Tuesday on, or you can set recurring contributions to run indefinitely every month, so you can keep the momentum going into the new year.

Use remarketing on your contribution forms. Enable remarketing on your AB Charities contribution forms and donors who abandon your form before completing it will automatically receive an email thirty minutes following their incomplete donation. This can make a huge difference in maximizing the amount of money you can bring in from a single ask.

Be sure to thank donors and think about ways to follow up and keep them engaged! With AB Charities you can customize the ‘thank you’ text on the automated receipts your donors will get after they’ve contributed. That personal touch can keep the connection going with your supporters and encourage them to come back and give again.

These are just some of the many creative ways you can maximize the money you’re raising this giving season. If you want to talk through your own ideas or ask our nonprofit team about any of the strategies shared here, we’re happy to chat. Reach out at support@actblue.com.

Happy fundraising!

3 strategies to leverage technology creatively in raising money

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Wethos Collective blog. In over a decade in the nonprofit sector, Janice has written fundraising appeals and grant proposals, led social media outreach, managed volunteers, executed rollout plans, managed donor and program databases, and learned the hard way that changing to a new website host means you’d better make sure that donation form still works!

wethos

When you don’t have the resources of a large organization behind you, being creative and adapting quickly is even more critical to making the most of what you have. Good news is that technology keeps making it easier to fail fast and pivot quickly without risking huge investments of time or money. Regardless of where your organization is in terms of technological maturity (or how aligned your use of technology is with your mission), there are strategies you can implement at any stage.

One: Choose platforms that provide a solid start.

If you want to leverage technology creatively, choose an online fundraising platform that provides a solid default along with the ability to customize the look and feel on your own. What does this look like for online fundraising? It means the product is designed with thoughtful consideration for the defaults — both how they support your mission-driven organization and a delightful donor experience.

Most of the time, we don’t give a ton of consideration to our defaults. Like when we reach out to our social networks (and only our social networks) when we need to staff up for a project and miss out on great talent who never knew there was an opportunity.

So take time when choosing a platform because that will be your launch pad. As a nonprofit organization, particularly if you’re a small to mid-sized organization, it is probably important that…

  • Your systems can talk to each other so you can work efficiently.

  • You have control over a donor’s giving experience and your branding.

  • You can customize, manage, and maintain this without having a full IT team in-house.

  • You can test and evaluate your efforts.

  • And, if you don’t have the time to, you know the system was designed based on rigorous testing of what is most effective.

Even if you are not looking for a new system right now, it doesn’t mean that you can’t look for new opportunities to optimize your current platforms or try new approaches.

Companies release updates and enhance functionality all the time. Even if you unsubscribed from the product updates, your vendor probably has a blog where you can check out any helpful new features you might have missed and get ideas for using them. Maybe you can even reach out to the vendor’s team and discuss what current features could help you accomplish X better! Or, if you’re looking to strategize across multiple channels (and potentially multiple platforms or systems), consider if it’s worth brainstorming with an outside team of strategy and design experts to figure out how to leverage them together to advance your mission.

Two: Test, test, test.

You know what they say about assumptions. So, how do you know that something is a terrible idea? Okay, maybe some you can recognize right as they exit your mouth, but you still need to throw some spaghetti at the wall before you can tell what sticks.

Technology makes it easier to know what’s working and what’s not. Make use of tracking, reference codes, or features that support A/B testing. If you’re wondering what A/B testing is, it is a basic science experiment: take two similar groups of people; give one group version A and the second group version B. Ideally, there would only be one difference between versions A and B – otherwise it gets very difficult to tell which difference is leading to different results (if they are different).

Platforms like AB Charities make it really easy to test different form titles, blurbs, brandings, videos, and more. However, you can test in any channel. Maybe you’re an elephant sanctuary and you want to see whether you get more clicks on a donation link via social media when you share photos vs. videos. While some platforms may allow you to set up different referral links, you can also compare the stats for the different kinds of posts. You’ll want to know which version they clicked on and you’ll need a way to measure the result (e.g. clicking a link, shares, etc.) depending on what outcome you’re hoping to achieve.

How do you decide what to test?

If data isn’t one of your love languages, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. But you know what? Using data to make decisions is something you’re already doing in your daily life. Ever looked at the fuel gauge on your car before getting on the highway and pulled over at the nearest gas station? Congratulations! You’ve made a data-informed decision!

Start with knowing what you would do differently. If one version performs better, what will you keep doing? What would you adjust or stop doing? If it’s not something you could or would change, then find something else to test!

Visualize your data for faster decision-making. Whether your system has dashboards, or you’re making a quick and simple Excel chart, you want to be able to look at your data and immediately know whether action is needed or if you should keep doing what you’re doing because it’s headed in the right direction.

Make adjustments based on what you learn. Dashboards are super useful for checking in to see if you need to change course, but only if you actually make those adjustments. If you’re wondering how you’ll do this on top of everything your team already does, consider adding some temporary capacity. Just as technology allows you to test and pivot quickly without a major investment, bringing on a freelance team allows you to benefit from the insights of specialists without having to add a permanent position (or search for a unicorn!) when you’re trying out new things.

Start small. Start light. Just start. It will be easier to keep the testing and learning and experimenting momentum going once you’ve gotten started and it becomes part of the way you do things.

Three: Remember that it is about the people.

Just because you haven’t met your donors in person doesn’t mean you can’t build a relationship with them. From the updates and acknowledgements you communicate to using social media to empower your supporters to advocate for your cause online, take advantage of the ways in which technology can help us (and our work) transcend borders.

Try out new or unexpected ways to engage with your supporters (and potential supporters).

Grow your network and deepen your connection with current donors.

  • Your supporters are proud to support you! Make it easy for them to spread the word with social share graphics.

  • Speaking of empowering your donors to share the amazing work you’re doing, have you tried peer to peer fundraising yet?

Customize your appeals for different audiences so that they have a great experience.

  • You probably have different versions of thank you letters based on how the gift came in or what it was for, right? If you have very different types of fundraising campaigns, or very varied types of supporters, consider creating different donation forms specific to each audience or appeal for a cohesive experience.

  • Provide more options when people sign up for your email lists. Giving your supporters more control over the content they receive means they’re more likely to hear about what they’re already interested in, and you can better tailor your emails.

Take advantage of viral moments and hot topics.

  • Whether it’s the next ice bucket challenge or current events that suddenly make your work top of mind, you’ll want to be able to take advantage of it. In addition to creating a topical donation form, consider setting up a landing page for new website visitors.

  • Consider whether to add ads (promoted posts on social media, Google AdWords, etc.) to the mix.

And for as much as we’ve talked about people being donors, don’t forget about other people! This includes volunteers who might be able to help you identify great stories to share, non-development colleagues who might have a new idea for you to test out, vendors who want to support your organization with even better tools, or a platform like Wethos, which will match you with a freelance team best suited to help your nonprofit strategize and think creatively about testing ideas or executing what you’ve already learned by leveraging the latest technology.

Just as the future of fundraising relies on getting everyone aboard, the future of work means finding a way to grow your team’s capacity sustainably.

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on The Wethos Collective blog.

How to find the right fundraising platform for your nonprofit

Being a nonprofit fundraiser is hard enough without being hampered by clunky, expensive tools. But finding the right fundraising platform for your organization takes work, especially if you’re looking to expand your small-dollar donations. You need time to research and test the options, and you might have to convince stakeholders with different priorities to trust you (hello, board members!) — all while keeping up your current fundraising numbers. To help nonprofit fundraisers everywhere, we’ve put together a list of questions you should ask when researching a new fundraising platform.

1. When was the last time you did a deep dive into your online fundraising?

Tech-native millennials are now 20-40 years old and will only become a larger part of your donor base as time passes, so in order to create sustainable fundraising programs most nonprofits today need to prioritize online grassroots donations. You probably know off the top of your head which big grants you’ve been awarded so far this year and which ones you’re waiting to hear about, but tracking online giving can be a lot more complicated. From dollar volume to donor retention, there’s a lot to look at! If you haven’t analyzed your online fundraising recently, take stock before you start researching new tools so you know what you need in a platform.

If it’s hard to get a good picture of your online giving with your current platform, then you know to look for a platform with easy access to reports and analysis. With AB Charities your reporting and refund data is front and center on your Dashboard, we make it easy to download CSVs for any time period or donation type, and we also have integrations with various CRMs. Your Dashboard is also home to multiple graphs, pie charts, and maps that are constantly updated to help you analyze everything from donation bands to geographic interest in your cause.

2. Will the new platform help your staff grow their digital skills and give you capacity you didn’t have before?

If you’re switching platforms, look for something that will help you raise more money and learn more. A transition is the perfect time to expand the scope of your team’s work and start building new skills. At AB Charities, we love to talk digital strategy and give advice to folks using our platform! Our fundraising experts can help you with the basics of a good digital program, from building email lists to writing effective fundraising emails, or help you implement more advanced strategies and tools for growing your small-dollar donor base. We love helping nonprofits fundraise better because we know that money will help them power more good work.

3. Does the fundraising platform have the right (money-making) features?

Don’t pick a platform because it has the most features — pick a platform that has the right features! Look for specific tools that will actually raise more money, not take up space or be so complicated that setting them up is a waste of time.

Any platform worth considering should make it easy for you to customize the look and feel of your contribution forms so they fit with your brand, but don’t stop there. AB Charities comes with an ever-expanding suite of intuitive tools that both novice and veteran fundraisers can use to connect with more grassroots donors and raise more money. With our smart recurring feature, you can easily customize a pop-up that will ask donors to make a smaller sustaining donation after giving a one-time contribution. And with our remarketing feature you can write a follow-up email to donors who visited your page but didn’t finish their contribution, and we’ll send it for you — no CRM required!

4. Will the platform make it easier for your donors to give?

Your fundraising platform should not only make your life easier — it should also positively impact your supporters. After all, if you switch to a platform that hurts your donors’ giving experience, what was the point? Online contribution forms that are easy for donors to use will increase your conversion rates in a real way, which is why all AB Charities forms are automatically mobile-optimized and constantly being tested and redesigned by our engineers for even better results.

Another common barrier for online donors is keeping track of which donations need to be updated when credit cards change. That’s why we’re proud to have a (free!) integration with Account Updater that automatically updates lost and expired credit cards used for recurring contributions made on AB Charities. Not only does this save time for your donors, it also helps you raise more money without having to lift a finger.

We’ve also seen that donors like being able to save their payment info so they can give easily in the future, which is why we built ActBlue Express. Five million small-dollar donors (and counting) have saved their credit card information with us and can give to any group using our platform with a single click. We offer Apple Pay for the same reason!

5. Will the tools be obsolete in a few years?

We all know it takes a while to get comfortable with even the most user-friendly fundraising software, so make sure you invest in tools that you can depend on for the long run. Look for platforms that try to stay one step ahead of trends, have the resources and staff to innovate, and don’t require you to pay to upgrade to the latest version or get new features.

AB Charities is a nonprofit first but a tech organization second, so we’re always working on something new. We have an entire team of engineers constantly running A/B tests on our contribution forms, and when their tests lead to higher conversion rates they apply the results sitewide so everyone benefits. We already offer integrations with many CRMs and platforms, and we also have open webhooks for you to make your own. And as a mission-driven organization, we love to hear from our users about new features you’d like to see!

6. Can you actually count on the platform’s support services?

Even the most experienced fundraisers need help at some point, and when it’s crunch time you might not have hours to sift through complicated online guides. Make sure there is a real person you can contact who wants you to succeed, not just a support email. In addition to giving you strategic fundraising advice, our team is available to answer questions at any time of the day.

7. Can you afford the fundraising platform?

There’s nothing worse than getting excited about new tools only to learn you’ll have to pay exorbitant fees and sign a years-long contract. As a nonprofit ourselves, we don’t use contracts or charge anything to use our tools. There’s a 3.95% credit card processing fee on all donations, and that’s it. All of the features and customer support we’ve mentioned in this post come standard — the smallest community nonprofits get access to the same tools national charities use. We believe in the potential of small-dollar donors to revolutionize the way nonprofits run, so we want to help as many organizations as possible!

We hope these questions will make your quest for a new fundraising platform easier and help you come away with the best tools for your team’s long-term needs. If you’re looking to make a change now or simply want to test AB Charities, email us at support@actblue.com and we’ll help you set up an A/B test with your current platform!

5 Steps to Flip the Ladder Sideways and Grow Your Grassroots Donors

This is a guest post written by Janice Chan, who often writes for our friends at Wethos over at The Nonprofit Revolution. In over a decade in the nonprofit sector, Janice has written fundraising appeals and grant proposals, led social media outreach, managed volunteers, executed rollout plans, managed donor and program databases, and learned the hard way that changing to a new website host means you’d better make sure that donation form still works!

Wethos 1

Ever played that team building game, “All Aboard”? You’re in a group and you are given say, a hand towel or a telephone book (showing my age here, I know), and the goal is to get everybody on board without anyone having a foot touching the ground. Depending on the variation or the prop used, the boat may get smaller (e.g. towel is folded in half) or your group may get bigger — and still you need to get everyone on board without any feet touching the ground.

Often, working at a nonprofit organization can feel that way. You’re trying to serve the same number of people with fewer resources, or serve more people with the same amount of resources. This metaphor is not only apropos to programming, but to fundraising as well. You’re trying to raise funds from more supporters (get more people on board) with the same number of staff or resources. And yet, the more you raise, the more people (donors and clients) you can get on board.

It does not need to be an endless game of chicken, egg, chicken, egg.

That’s why you focus on major gifts and/or grants, right? We know it’s important to respect donors at all levels, but in terms of where we spend our fundraising resources (time, budget, attention), it is clear that we prioritize funders who can give large gifts. But it’s easy to take those smaller dollar annual gifts for granted — just send or share it out to enough people and build our lists and followers because it is a small percentage of volume, volume, volume.

Or is it?

We tend to believe, particularly if we are smaller organizations, in the myth of scarcity. That if we spent time focusing on small-dollar donors, it would take away from the time we spend on major gifts and grants, and that would cause much bigger problems if we didn’t have those. We act as if this were a game of musical chairs instead. And so we close ourselves off to the people who could help us.

Worse, we leave people feeling like their contributions won’t matter unless they can write a check with more than two digits in front of the decimal point.

The trick to playing “All Aboard” is that when you have more people, you can use each other to hold all of you up. The more people you have, the more people you can get on board. This is not musical chairs. But you have to involve every person on board.

One, value small-dollar donors.

Valuing small-dollar donors isn’t simply the right thing to do; it’s a key part of any smart fundraising strategy. Small-dollar donors provide increased revenue, can be more vocal supporters and ambassadors for your organization once they’ve invested in your work, and can donate multiple times.

Valuing donors is not about what we say but whether our donors feel like they matter to us. You know how we rush to address whatever it is that a major donor, funder, or board member raised as an issue, no matter how small? Or how we otherwise pay attention to all aspects of their donor experience? Sometimes it’s because they are important details; sometimes the details are simply important to them. Donor experience is key at all levels. What if we took the same care and put the same level of thought into how all of our donors experience supporting our organization?

Note that I said thought, not necessarily time. Often, we know more than we give ourselves credit for knowing. Like the fact that increasing numbers of donors give via mobile devices. Or that A/B testing is an effective way to experiment and see what works best for your particular donors.

But getting there seems overwhelming and, as a small or medium nonprofit, like it’s out of our league. However, technology advances all the time but so do the services available. Customizable, data-driven online fundraising platforms are no longer as out of reach as you think — not in cost or in staff capacity to manage and maximize.

Two, create a plan to grow the number of small-dollar donors.

Giving Tuesday doesn’t just magically happen as some type of positive penance amid the Cyber Monday hangover (Cyber Monday also not being a natural consequence of Black Friday).

Grassroots fundraising can change the game if you’re intentional about it. What does intentional look like? There is a strategy, there are planned efforts to grow the number of small-dollar donors, and these efforts are tracked, measured, and evaluated to inform future efforts. These strategies don’t have to break the bank, and the right expertise is also not as out of reach as you think! (Not entirely sure what you need? Platforms like Wethos offer free consultations that can help you define your project prior to hiring a freelancer.)

And remember how we talked about involving every person on board? Traditionally, fundraising has been about moving donors up the ladder of engagement over time, from smaller annual gifts to larger major gifts. But that’s ignoring a subset of donors who, for various reasons, wish to give lower amounts, or who perhaps would rather give smaller amounts more often, a.k.a. recurring gifts.

Flip the ladder of engagement sideways, like a platform you can build on. Challenges and matches can be a successful strategy for getting people on board, while giving your major donors a new way in which to support your organization and grow your capacity.

Three, set a goal to encourage recurring gifts from small-dollar donors.

Yes, we can ask small-dollar donors for recurring gifts, and yes, we can receive them. Even if the amount per donation is lower, the recurring nature means that a donor will likely give more than if you had asked them for a one-time gift. For example, you might only get $25 as a one-time gift but the same donor might be willing to pledge $5/month for 12 months (and $5 x 12 = $60).

You know what else? It is also a sign that this donor is more connected to your cause and your organization, which means they will probably be more likely to respond to your other calls to action. It’s also easier to ask friends to give when, hey, you support this organization every month.

Want recurring gifts? As with all fundraising, you won’t get what you don’t ask for. Build this into your strategy and your online giving forms. (Or take the time-saving approach and choose a platform like AB Charities where recurring gifts and management of them is already built in.)

Four, for any goals, figure out how you’ll evaluate your progress.

A big benefit of grassroots fundraising? Sample size. This makes it much faster to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. And whereas some donors may be fairly forthright about why they did or didn’t give to you, raising money online also gives you the benefits of tracking things like how many people visit your online donation page without clicking through — and where they dropped off in the process.

Five, apply what you’ve learned to value your grassroots donors.

And like that Brian McKnight song, we are back at one.

Best practices are not without merit, but they are not based on your particular organization or your supporters. Use what you learn to continue to figure out how to make all your donors feel valued, respected, and like their contribution matters. This will change over time. Good thing is that so do the tools and resources available to us.

You do what you do because your organization believes in our capacity to be better, in our capacity to make the world better. Believe in the capacity of your grassroots donors.

All aboard!

This post was written for AB Charities in partnership with Wethos and also appears on their blog, The Nonprofit Revolution.