Digital Fundraising for Nonprofits



Earlier this week, I read an article on Nonprofit Tech for Good about the emerging trends in online fundraising to watch in 2018. Some of these trends include digital payments on social media, the revival of email, mobile wallets for in-app fundraising, and the rise of international giving. Intrigued by this article, I decided to sit down with the Director of Digital Fundraising at Purdue University to get her take on all things digital and fundraising. Kate Jolly earned her Bachelor’s in Communication from Purdue and her Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Purdue’s Krannert School of Business. She has worked in fundraising for six years with most of her time spent in annual giving and most recently in digital fundraising. She is the mastermind behind Purdue’s Day of Giving, an annual online fundraising event that has been massively successful. In 2017, Purdue Day of Giving brought in over 15,000 gifts totaling over $28 million raised. This 24-hour event requires months of preparation and planning led by Kate’s expertise and vision.

Despite being extremely busy, Kate graciously agreed to answer my many questions…

In your opinion, how has social media changed the fundraising landscape for nonprofits?

It has added another channel for non-profits to target individuals. It has also added a great channel for them to show impact. It also allows non-profits to utilize their celebrities to his/her fullest potential – social has a huge reach!

A nonprofit is behind the curve in all things digital. What are the three pieces of advice you'd give to help them catch up?

1. Start with the donation form process – make it as simple as possible!

2. Revamp your website and email templates and ensure they are mobile friendly. You want your donor to make a gift in one-click once on your webpage!

3. Start small on social and only create accounts on platforms that you can actively manage. Nothing is worse than create accounts and letting them go stale.

What are some of the most effective digital fundraising methods? What methods do you think are less effective?

I think it depends on the non-profit and their cause. For example, text2give really works for the Red Cross during emergencies. I’ve recently seen a lot of the round-up initiatives and think they are very successful. For example, Brett Eldredge (country singer) posted on social media about rounding up on your Lyft ride for St. Jude. Crowdfunding can be very successful with the right cause. Days of Giving or Community Give Days are very successful, as they unite one school or community for one day to accomplish a single goal.

Utilizing just social posts without paid advertising will not be successful. There is typically a 2% conversion rate for social media asks on posts. Besides emergencies, I do not think text2give is successful; fulfillment rate is extremely low, as companies will not allow users to fulfill the donation.

What nonprofit(s) do you think do digital fundraising really well?

Children’s Miracle Network
Charity Water
St. Jude – check out their ‘This Shirt Saves Lives’ Campaign with country music stars!

Is giving online only popular for millennials? Or are other generations getting onboard with this new form of giving?

No, we’ve seen it be successful with all generations. For example, on Purdue Day of Giving we received gifts online from all decades ranging from 1950s-2010s. I think it is becoming ‘the norm’ and with online shopping and Amazon, people are becoming more used to the online process.

How can nonprofits use social media to cultivate new donors?

Show impact – infographics and short videos are a great way for nonprofits to show what they do with gifts.

What are the three most important elements of digital fundraising?

1. Be clear and concise – you only have 140 characters.

2. Vary your channel; use digital only in other channels. For example, mail a letter and instead of your typical reply card, only use an online giving link.

3. Steward individuals the way that they gave – for example, don’t send me tons of letters and mail if I’ve only ever given online. One or two mail pieces are okay, especially stewardship.

Do you have any other tips or pieces of advice?

Have fun and push the envelope on tone/voice. Social media is a channel for your non-profit to be a bit edgy and not as traditional.


Thank you Kate for the great advice!


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