7 Fundraising Actions That Successful Nonprofits Do Differently

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By Korrin Bishop
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Published June 2, 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a partner to thousands of nonprofits, Classy spends a lot of time learning about what makes each of them successful. A large part of that is examining what actions define fundraising strategies that bring in more online donations and keep donors engaged each year.

That’s why we sought to uncover trends among successful nonprofits on the platform and what they do differently early on.

Our findings are now your roadmap.

Below, you’ll find the proactive actions taken by nonprofits who increased their online donations by 84% with 122% more transactions in just 90 days. You might be surprised how small steps can lead to such significant results, but you’ll definitely feel inspired with clear action items to take starting as soon as today.

What Makes Nonprofits Organizations Successful?

While the insights you’ll learn from below are based on organizations who saw success in their first few months using the Classy platform, here’s a snapshot of what success has also translated to for a couple other nonprofits that maximize Classy’s capabilities to engage their communities.

what makes a nonprofit successful statistics

7 Fundraising Actions Taken by Successful Nonprofits

Through our analysis of nonprofit trends, we found seven key steps that successful nonprofits leverage to raise funds for their missions. 

1. A successful nonprofit dedicates time early on to master the details.

The first indicator of a successful nonprofit organization is the amount of time they spend on the details that bring their fundraising campaigns to life right from the start. 

They set aside time daily to prepare themselves with actions such as:

  • Learning about new tools to enhance their campaigns
  • Reviewing their activity wall of donations to personally thank donors
  • Finding new opportunities to build donor relationships
  • Reviewing new donations that have the potential to become recurring gifts
  • Customizing default social media language to display when campaigns are shared
  • Adding donor support contacts to each campaign
  • Editing and customizing emails associated with each campaign

Consider how much time you’re spending on your fundraising platform, and schedule room for the details into your routine so it becomes second nature. Personalized interactions go a long way with donors, and simply uncovering new opportunities to expand your recurring giving program can sustain revenue all year.

2. A successful nonprofit gets more teams involved right away.

Teamwork makes the dream work, so set aside time early on to get internal alignment on your fundraising strategies. Successful nonprofits involve more users in their fundraising efforts, and, specifically, within their fundraising platform. Help your teammates understand the tools available to them so they can maximize their roles within your organization.

Aligning around fundraising goals from the start helps to build trust between teams and show teammates how they can play important roles in your success. It’s all about showing each member the value their participation delivers to the area of your organization they care about most.

Here’s what this can look like for various teams in your organization:

  • Development and fundraising can create beautiful campaigns and report back on how they perform to continue informing new ideas.
  • Finance can reconcile donations and surface insights on incoming revenue.
  • Direct services can share client testimonials that help you to tell the story of your nonprofit.

Invite your colleagues to join your efforts by clearly outlining the impact they have on your organization’s fundraising success. Beyond just fundraisers, your designers, marketers, and operations teammates can all find the benefit of being in tune with the system you use.

3. A successful nonprofit launches a variety of campaigns.

Successful nonprofits diversify their revenue stream by continuing to build a variety of campaign types. 

Analyze your current revenue streams and see where you can allocate resources to campaigns you may not be currently maximizing. These could include approaches such as:

You’ll want to try launching campaigns that last all year in addition to your themed events and end-of-year plans. 

The other important factor to note is that the virtual component of these campaign types is allowing nonprofits to reach wider audiences across the world. Virtual success is here to stay and offers you more opportunities to build campaigns you may not have had the resources for previously.

4. Successful nonprofits know what fundraising tools they have access to—and they use them.  

As it is with any technology we use, there are features that aren’t as obvious if you don’t take the time to learn and explore them. Successful nonprofits not only understand what’s offered in their fundraising platforms, but they are smart about using each and every feature to enhance supporters’ experiences. 

For example, you can use what you know about your donor base to add suggested donation sizes to campaigns. You can also customize your default donation amount for different segments of donors to optimize the average gift size.

Here are a few more ideas on how to maximize your fundraising tools based on what moves the needle for today’s donors:

  • Give the option for donors to cover fees as a default to incrementally see more return on investment from donations
  • Offer donation matching to drive urgency and increase gifts in a short time
  • Respond personally to new donation activity
  • Set up a mobile payment option to boost conversion rates with a seamless experience that reflects your brand
  • Customize your donation receipt with a signature for a long-lasting personal touch

Once you create your initial campaigns, there’s so much more you can do to think through and test the donor experience from start to finish. Begin looking at how you can make these small shifts today, and set yourself up to regularly check in on reports to determine how you can iterate each month.

5. Successful nonprofits know the future is recurring giving.

Recurring donors are over 400% more valuable compared to one-time donors. Additionally, when looking at one-time donors who start a recurring gift subscription, 23% go on to make an additional one-time gift on top of their subscription. Recurring gifts provide your nonprofit with consistent month-to-month revenue, which can be particularly valuable during uncertain economic times. 

Subscription-based payments have become common across sectors—think Netflix or Spotify, as examples. Gen Z is particularly used to the subscription model. While supporters in this age range may not be ready to make large gifts at this point in their lives, they may be drawn to supporting a variety of social causes through smaller, recurring gifts that fit their current budgets.

Nonprofits can also adjust the frequency of recurring gifts to best fit their supporters’ needs. For example, while a monthly donation may have been the norm for recurring giving in the past, donors may prefer to set up an annual, semi-annual, or quarterly recurring donation instead. Successful nonprofits offer flexibility to meet the needs of their donors’ lifestyles and budgets.

6. Successful nonprofits offer more ways for donors to give.

Successful nonprofits know that the payment options they offer donors matter just as much as the layout of their fundraising donation page and their promotions. Offer your donors a way to make an instant donation from anywhere they are. 

The world is moving fast toward new transaction experiences. We’ve seen this with face-recognition authorized payment through Apple Pay and one-click purchases on Amazon. This functionality is gaining traction and the sooner you can bring it into your fundraising strategy, the better positioned you’ll be as its popularity rises.

Many nonprofits are already bringing this experience to the donation process with digital wallets like Apple Pay, Microsoft Pay, and Google Pay, as well as through ACH or e-checks that pull payments directly from a bank account versus a credit card. 

These are important shifts, as The State of Modern Philanthropy 2021 shows that the average monthly recurring gift made through ACH on Classy is 55% larger than recurring gifts made with credit cards. Additionally, there’s a 11-14% lift in mobile conversion rates when digital wallets are enabled.

7. Successful nonprofits keep things exciting with donation matching. 

Successful nonprofits use donation matches to maximize the potential of their existing campaigns. These nonprofits also know not to believe donation match myths that would hold them back from their full potential. Some of the ways they do this include:

  • Expanding donation matching beyond just employee match programs
  • Incorporating more significant gifts from individual donors
  • Combining individual gifts for a matching fund
  • Using multiple matches throughout your campaign during lulls
  • Introducing matches outside of just the end-of-year giving season
  • Strategically marketing matches to maximize the results

Donation matching can seem like a no-brainer, but there’s always more to try out. Bring your creativity to life with new ways to surprise your existing donors and attract new ones with the potential of a doubled impact.

Online Fundraising for the Modern Nonprofit

What makes the organizations we’ve reviewed successful is the array of options and flexibility they have access to in their fundraising platform. Each of these is a key element of a future-ready fundraising strategy. To move your cause forward, start by identifying new opportunities for growth—such as those from this list of successful actions, as well as diving into our latest report, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2021, for more data and insights on how nonprofits can both safeguard and scale their organizations into the future.  

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