How to get started raising money online for your non-profit

So you have a small or brand new non-profit. You need to raise some money, and you think online might be a good method, but are not sure where to begin. How do you get started fundraising online?

At PowerThru, we see that question on occasion. A digital consulting firm like ours may not make sense when you're at the beginning, but here's some advice to get you started when you're very small.

Online fundraising is very much email-based. Social media is great for many things, but it does not (as of yet) deliver the day in-day out funds that a solid email program does. Which means you should start by building an email list of your supporters. But also step back for a moment: for most non-profits, online fundraising is only one leg of the stool. Make sure you are reaching out to large dollar donors (in person, by phone, by mail), holding fundraising events, applying for grants, and possibly running a mail program for your small dollar donors too.

How do you get started techwise? There are lots of great CRM software solutions (i.e. mass email, fundraising, online actions etc.) out there that will do many different nifty things for non-profits, but I'm assuming you don't have much of a budget or capacity yet. You could begin with the usual Constant Contact, but another mass email solution to look at is MailChimp. For a list of under 2K people, it's free (hard to beat that price). ActionNetwork is another great cheap (or even free for individuals and small groups) solution.

What you do NOT want to do is use somebody's personal email account for sending mass organizational mail. It doesn't look professional, people will be reluctant to donate, and you may run into deliverability or sending problems for more than a very small handful of emails.

You'll also need a basic website (with a PROMINENT email signup link), and social media properties (also with email signups!). It will be hard to fundraise online successfully without those at a minimum, to show your organization has credibility. Wherever you have your domain name registered, see what cheap/free solutions they offer for building a simple 1 page website (enough to get you started for now).

You'll need a way to process online donations via credit card. These days most online donors do not have the patience to mail off a check, so it must be as easy as possible for them to give via credit card. If you're a c4, take a look at ActBlue. If you're a c3 or not eligible for ActBlue, you could look at PayPal. Note that down the line, you may want a full CRM for your organization: MailChimp, PayPal etc. are good tools for when you're just getting started and need to keep costs low. This is another area where ActionNetwork shines, since it has the donation piece too.

So you have the basics. Now how do you use them?

The size and quality of your email list will have a large effect on how much you can raise.

But having a good list is only part of it. You also need to ASK.

If you are a 501(c)3, you may be eligible for a Google grant too. That won't be as helpful as an email list of dedicated supporters, and making sure people can sign up for your list via your website and social media. But it couldn't hurt in getting the word out about you, especially if your website is brand new and the search engines don't know your organization yet.

More about how to get started raising money online, from our blog.