How to Engage Digital Donors: Reach Them Where They Are

by | Nov 3, 2023

Charitable giving is down 10.5% after inflation. While the economy continues to be fickle, it is a tough time for nonprofits. 

But there are glimmers of hope. Online giving is growing, and you can tap into that potential by engaging digital donors. How? It starts by understanding where they’re at and then reaching them where they are.

The State of Online Giving

While overall giving is down, there are trends on the rise, including growth in online donations:

  • 42% increase in online giving over the past three years (Blackbaud).
  • 28% of online contributions came from a mobile device (Blackbaud).
  • $154 average text message donation last year versus $90 via email (Rally data/M+R Benchmark).

Digital donors aren’t only giving cash, they also donate non-cash assets like stocks and cryptocurrencies, not to mention grants from donor-advised funds. So when you invest in online fundraising, you’ll have the opportunity to tap into plenty of exciting ways to give.

Digital Engagement

These recent online giving stats show some signs of hope. That’s good news. But to really translate that into action, you have to keep the current trends in mind: 

  • Marketing 101: The average person needs to see a brand or service seven to nine times before they act (e.g., buy or donate). This is marketing basics, but it’s an important reminder that people are easily distracted. You can’t expect that sending a single email or making one social post will convince someone to give to your cause. You need a consistent online engagement strategy.
  • Mobile devices: American professionals are within three feet of their mobile devices 24 hours a day and look at it 150 times a day. If you want to reach people where they are, there’s no question they are on their mobile phones.
  • Email is down: Last year, email revenue accounted for only 14% of online fundraising, falling 4%. Inboxes are crowded, open rates are slipping, and email isn’t as reliable as it once was. The M+R Benchmarks Study shows that nonprofits are emailing more and bringing in less. As you develop your digital donor outreach strategy, plan to communicate your message across multiple channels.
  • Text message open rates: While the effectiveness of email appeals may be declining, there’s been a hugely positive response to text messages. At Rally Corp, we have found that nonprofit fundraising texts have a 90% open rate. (Compare that to 30-40% for email!) That means a text messaging campaign has the power to deliver better results, even with fewer subscribers than an  email list.

In short, you need a consistent strategy that embraces multiple digital and mobile channels.

3 Ways to Engage Digital Donors

So with that in mind, how can nonprofit organizations reach digital donors? The key is to reach them where they are.

1. Text Messaging

People are invariably on their phones, which makes SMS text messaging an ideal platform to reach people. It also helps that texting is way more effective than email for open rates (90% vs. 30-40%) and response rates (48% vs. 2-4%). Consider text messaging as an additional channel that can magnify your efforts.

Tip: Those impressive stats mean you can get double the results with a tenth of the subscribers. Your text audience doesn’t have to be huge to deliver.

2. Social Media

There is a lot of noise on social media, and it is hard to get people’s attention (but that’s where people are!). So when you do finally get their attention, it’s important to move them from the social media platform to your database. Invite them to sign up, RSVP, or donate so you have their contact info.

Tip: While it’s tempting to chase followers on social media, you’re building an audience you don’t own and could lose. Instead, focus on converting them from followers to subscribers.

3. Video Content

People love stories! Create and share short videos. It could be an update from a founder, a tour of a new space, highlights from an event, or a simple thank you. Add a clear call to action and send it to the channel people prefer. 

Tip: It doesn’t have to be a big production. A simple, heart-felt video can create a personal connection. 

So, while direct mail campaigns might always play a role in fundraising, there are plenty of new and/or emerging digital channels to boost donor engagement with your mission. 

Everyone’s Busy: Make it Count

The average American is exposed to 4,000-10,000 ads per day. So when people do take notice, make it count. Reduce the friction to act and capture consent for future conversations. 

Distilled from the advice above, these are a few practical ways to achieve just that: 

  • Create unique content for multiple digital channels
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a simple ask in the right format
  • Increase the ways to give available to online donors

That’s the best way to engage digital donors: make it easy to donate and get them to subscribe so you can follow up.

James Martin is a three-time tech founder and servant leader with over two decades of experience. As the founder of Rally Corp, he helps charities and causes rally passionate supporters with a human-centered text messaging platform built exclusively for nonprofits. You can follow Rally Corp’s updates on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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