Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

How to ask for donations online: 5 tips for nonprofits

April 05, 2021
Reach passionate supporters of your cause like these protesters with advocacy advertising.

In the digital age, online fundraising is essential to boost your nonprofit organization’s revenue. With a robust online fundraising program, you can reach many people at once and connect with supporters no matter their location, all at a lower cost than traditional fundraising methods like direct mail

Online giving is also convenient for donors as it allows them to make a gift from their phone or computer in just a few minutes. However, you’ll still need to focus on building strong donor relationships and making fundraising asks that donors will be receptive to. 

For nonprofits that are just launching their first website, you might be wondering how best to ask for donations online. In this guide, we’ll walk through six tips to improve your online fundraising strategy. Let’s get started.

1. Simplify your donation promotions

While it can be tempting to create detailed marketing materials for your online fundraising efforts, keeping your designs simple often makes them more memorable for supporters. To make your promotions stand out and direct supporters to take the intended next step, opt for digital ads and social media posts that have a clean design and large, bold donation buttons. 

Keep in mind that donating online should be convenient no matter what channel you reach donors through. If you use email marketing, provide clear links or donate buttons in the body of the email that lead directly to your donation page. Then, streamline your donation form to collect only the donor information you need, like their name, contact information, and payment method. Most nonprofits also put a donation button in their website’s navigation bar so users are always one click away no matter what page they visit.

2. Include a clear call to action

The most important function of your donation page is to inspire action from your viewers through calls to action. When asking for donations online, be specific about what you’d like donors to do.

To write an effective call to action for the top of your donation page, try these tips:

  • Be concise—stick to one sentence of ten or fewer words.
  • Include a strong action verb like “donate,” “join,” “act,” or “save” toward the beginning of the sentence.
  • Incorporate your nonprofit’s purpose. 

For example, an animal shelter could write “Donate today to help dogs and cats in need,” or an environmental organization might say “Join the movement to protect our oceans.” While the tips above apply to your donation page’s primary call to action, you can also use the donate button to inspire action by highlighting it in a bold color and adding a phrase like “Give Today!” to it.

3. Be transparent

The more honest and open your organization is, the more trustworthy you’ll become to donors. Remember that donors wantto give to causes they’re passionate about, but they also need to know how their money will be used. Increasing your nonprofit’s transparency helps your organization earn donors’ trust and pinpoint how their funds are used.

To be more transparent, nonprofits can:

  • Share testimonialsReach out to beneficiaries you’ve served or longtime volunteers and ask if they’re willing to share how your organization has impacted them. These personal stories show donors exactly how their gifts can make a difference.
  • Publish your annual reportNonprofit annual reports highlight major accomplishments and help readers learn about your purpose. These reports also help you build credibility by including information about how your organization has managed its finances.
  • Join a standards program. These programs work with nonprofits to ensure they follow certain guidelines. When your nonprofit is accredited by an agency like the Better Business Bureau, it gains a third-party “seal of approval” that adds another level of trustworthiness.

Being more transparent with your donors can lead to a boost in online donations. Keep in mind that building trust with your supporters takes time, and your nonprofit will need to put continuous effort into building and maintaining this trust.

4. Make your purpose clear

Another element to include on your donation page is a short paragraph explaining your nonprofit’s purpose. Focus on how your nonprofit is getting the job done in addition to explaining what the job is. Here are a few tips for explaining your cause to donors:

  • Be specific. Include some examples of your nonprofit’s programs and past successes to make your purpose more concrete. If you run an animal shelter, you might highlight your robust network of fosters and volunteers, explain the routine and emergency medical care you provide to dogs and cats, and share statistics on how many animals are adopted from your shelter each year.
  • Link to your website’s purpose page. If supporters are interested in learning more about your organization before they donate, provide them with this resource. Make the link open in a new tab to remind them to go back to your donation page when they’re ready.
  • Use pictures. Including photos of your organization at work and your beneficiaries (with their permission, of course) helps supporters visualize what you’re doing with their donations and connect emotionally with your cause.

Additionally, make sure to clarify what communities your organization operates in. Donors often connect with nonprofits that work in their area or are impressed by organizations that operate in a wide variety of places, so seeing either of those pieces of information could convince them to donate.

5. Consider donors’ values and thought processes

When you make an appeal to your donors, it’s important to understand why they are giving to your cause in the first place. Ask yourself a few questions to put yourself in your donor’s shoes:

  • What issues and values are most important to me? 
  • What are my motivations? Do I want happiness, fulfillment, a tax break, or simply to make the world a better place? 
  • Do I want to help or advocate for a certain group?

Conduct research and get to know your donors to make sure your purpose hits home with your target audience. By centering your purpose and values in your appeal—and emphasizing the ones that your audience cares most about—you can motivate donors to support your cause.

Improve your nonprofit's online fundraising strategy

Remember that as your audiences grow and change, so will your online appeals. To keep track of your donors’ evolving preferences, consider conducting surveys or performing demographic research to identify patterns and trends. Also, make sure to invest in the right solutions, such as Bonterra Guided Fundraising (formerly Network for Good), to get your online fundraising efforts off the ground.

Ready to Get Started?

    Guided Fundraising
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Fundraising ideas