Digital Fundraising

The world of fundraising has changed, gone are the days where museums and galleries could rely on one or two large grant applications or support from their local Councils. Charities are having to change the way they fundraise, and fast.


The digital world has some great tools as part of your wider fundraising strategy, enabling you to reach new and bigger audiences, but as with more traditional marketing and fundraising routes you will need a well thought through plan and focus.


Let’s start with the assumption that “whatever digital fundraising you do, you can’t predict the next big thing” Howard Lake, Fundraising UK

The next big thing will come from your supporters, for example the #nomakeupselfies campaign raised over £2million for Cancer Research in less than 48hrs. It was a viral phenomenon started by the online community in response to the obsession with perfect celebrity selfies.

What we can predict about the next big thing is that it will be visual, it will be creative and it will be inspirational. Charities can’t predict what will happen and when but you can work to keep your audience engaged and inspired, and they in turn will generate their own exciting and interesting content.

Key to digital fundraising is choosing the right platforms for your organisation, understanding that quality wins over quantity every time, and that less is definitely more. If you have limited resources then you may just want to choose one platform that you know your supporters use e.g. Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You don’t have to have a presence on all platforms all the time. A regular review of the level of engagement you get will soon tell you if you’re on the right one.

There are three fundamental ways to fundraise digitally, these are:

  • Paid – where you pay to promote your campaign or organisation e.g. Google AdWords
  • Earned – this is when your supporters share your content and create their own, effective when your content is high quality
  • Owned – this is your content e.g. on your website, on Twitter or Facebook

So, what are the most effective ways of fundraising digitally?


The most effective is still good old email.

It’s worth taking some time to look at your newsletters – how often do you send them out, how good is the content, are they pages long with lots of text, are there clear calls to action? Do your newsletters leave people feeling involved, motivated, and valued? There are some great tools online for helping send out well put together newsletters, have a look at


Your other essential tool is your website. If you do absolutely nothing else, make sure that your website is great. No one ever went bankrupt from not using Twitter, but a poor website will turn people off straight away. Make sure the website is simple, easy to navigate, loads quickly and has great up to date content that is aligned with your business and fundraising strategies.

 Image supplied by Howard Lake, Fundraising UK.

Check the speed of your website at

This means that when people share your content, it is as effective as possible in helping you reach your fundraising goals. There’s no point in paying for ads and generating earned social media to drive traffic to your website if the content isn’t up to date, or the site takes too long to load, or people have to negotiate a labyrinthine set of drop downs. Make sure that you have lots of high quality pictures and not too much text.

Another top tip is to make sure that you have visible simple to use join and donate buttons, make sure it’s as easy and quick as possible, this means that people who can’t visit in person can still be involved. Finally, you can’t track people on social media, the only way you can tell how effective a campaign is by getting them to your website, and getting them to donate, sign up, become volunteers etc.…

When someone has donated, or signed up they’re feeling good, so ask them to share that good feeling – and make it easy for them. You’ll probably recognise this if you buy online from any of the large retailers like Amazon, Eventbrite.

Do you know where you are on Google rankings? You may think it doesn’t matter as people will search for the name of your museum, but that’s only people who know who you are and what you do. There are thousands of others who don’t but would love to find out. The reason this is important is because new technologies like Google Home or Amazon Echo only give people the first search result, for example, I asked Google Home for ‘museum in Cornwall’ and it gave me the Bob Marley Museum in Cornwall…Jamaica. You need to make your website easy for Google by making sure that you reflect your keywords in headings and subheadings, ideally on one page.

Social Media

There are a few simple rules for social media fundraising:

  • When you’re running a fundraising campaign, a good guide is that no more than 1 in 20 posts should be about asking for money, people very quickly tune out, focus on engaging people through great stories.
  • When you do make a direct ask, make it easy for people. Don’t expect them to fill in forms or have to wait for people to get back to them.

  • Make your ask a very clear call to action, with why it’s important and how much you want.
  • Always thank people, always encourage them to visit your website and to share.
  • I’m going to repeat here – quality over quantity, if you don’t have the resources to do it well then don’t do it at all. Have a look at your organisation’s social media for the past 6 months, is there a clear strategy, how much time has been spent on it and for what returns, could it be better?

You may want to think about working with a partner to increase your social media reach, this can open up a whole new audience to you. Carefully selecting partner organisations can add credibility to your ask and drive more people to your website. Not all partnerships are equal or appropriate, so you must make sure that you undertake due diligence and the necessary risk assessments. A great example of local partnership working is with charities and the Co-op.


Paying for Promotions

Paying to promote your organisation or fundraising campaign can be really effective, and a very good way of boosting your campaign and driving new supporters to your cause. Google and Facebook ads are probably the most well-known, and can be targeted to very specific groups of people.

Your Campaign

A few random Tweets will not make an effective digital fundraising campaign, so get organised and plan ahead. Decide which platforms you’re going to use, what message you’re going to put out and when. As mentioned before, make sure that your website is up to date, functioning well and reflects the messages your putting out – otherwise all that hard work will be lost. Consider using or to help manage your time effectively.

Images supplied by Howard Lake, Fundraising UK

Get benchmarks in place at the start so that you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign, review regularly and be prepared to be flexible and change approach if things aren’t working. Don’t forget to include actual donations in your benchmarking.

Part of your planning should involve research into if any high-profile people have some sort of connection with what you do, has anyone high profile been tweeting about heritage, maritime, Cornwall – whatever it is have a look. Is there anyone high profile a patron of a similar organisation, or have they fundraised for one before? Get everyone in your organisation on message and reaching out to their contacts, you never know who is watching.

If everyone in your organisation is involved sharing your content on platforms that they use, you will grow your audience, but make sure it’s in a controlled way – great content is key and quality control is essential. Join networks and groups online where you can share and spread the word.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Some simple stats to consider:

                  Source: BuzzSumo


Video is becoming increasingly important with 74% of all internet traffic video:

With digital technology getting cheaper and better, it’s now relatively simple to take great pictures and videos and edit them simply. Try using or graphic design tools to re purpose existing images and create strong impactful messages, and  to turn blog posts into exciting and engaging videos. Think about interesting ways of getting your message across.

Some Final Thoughts

It’s about inspiring people

Get your supporters to do the work – give them the tools and make it easy for them

Always say thankyou

Remember – “Twitter isn’t the point, relationships are the point. Relationships are always the point” Marc Pitman. Using digital technology for the sake of using it is a waste of resources, using digital technology in an effective and creative way can reap dividends for your organisation.

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