• Nonprofit Learning Lab

iDonate Answers All of Your Questions About Online Fundraising

Updated: Jul 8

This is a guest blog post and is posted with permission from iDonate.





Whether or not you were able to attend iDonate's free webinar "Shifting Your Focus: Raising Funds and Engaging Donors During a Crisis", you're likely to have a lot of questions about online fundraising. This is new territory for all of us, and iDonate is here to help. Below is a list of questions asked by real participants during this webinar, all answered by fundraising professionals to help you better navigate this difficult transition.


Q: What if our Development and Operations/Marketing departments are not aligned with when it is appropriate to start asking people for donations? For example on our website - our org is posting resource activities for kids to do from home, and we (Development) think that is awesome, but that we should include a message that we still need support to create these online resources.

A: Yes! You are in the right place. This is a tricky one. I have found that many people don't want to ask and instead want to provide resources. That's great but can't get in the way of fundraising. There is also resource overload right now - for sure you tie an ask (digital) for money to continue to support your organization along with value you sharing.


Q: We are concerned about approaching donors in a time of crisis where everyone might be worried about money.

A: Don't worry about contacting your donors. Now is a nice time to check in with them, ask how they are doing and thank them for support. Think of this as a moment to reconnect and get to know your donors again.


Q: Are there any ways that orgs are promoting giving through DAFs and family foundations?

A: Many people are asking DAFs and family (or private) foundations to double down on their giving. It's really hard to approach new ones but if you have a relationship with a DAF funder or family/private foundation - you should ask if they will make a gift, put up a match, or something to help you. You could also always include in materials that they can support you via their DAFs too as a way of giving.


Q: Can the dining in fundraisers still happen for take out?

A: I think this will vary by location but yes. Most regions still allow for take-out/delivery and it would be a great partnership with restaurants. Especially if you are looking to transition from gala to something different. I have seen caterers shift to picnic baskets/platters that would be fun to consider.


Q: Colleagues who don't have children simply have NO IDEA how thin I am stretched...

A: We can totally relate. We remind each other daily to allow for grace. Parents who work have it the hardest right now!


Q: Considering our current situation, what are some ways to ask local business for donations?

A: Start with ones that you and your board patronize regularly. They know you already spend money there so it is an easier start.


Q: How do we differentiate from all the other asks being made?

A: I would focus on storytelling - craft a story about how this impacts your nonprofit. Your supporters want to know what that impact is!


Q: How do we engage our donors through technology when a majority of them are in generations that are less likely to be technologically savvy, many of our members do not use computers?

A: Start with phone outreach. You may be able to collect a renewal by just checking in. If any have email, try that angle. But many people are desperate to talk to someone outside of their house right now. Phone calls will mean a lot to someone who is either lonely or needs to connect.


Q: How do you ask for dollars when donors retirement funds are in the red? Or have lost their jobs?

A: Check in first. Ask people how they are doing. It means a lot right now that you check in. We have not seen a major dip in gifts, though gifts might be smaller in size.


Q: How does our organization, which doesn't provide life and death medical services, ask for donations now?

A: Focus on storytelling - lead with a story on how this impacts your nonprofit with a link to give...soft ask.


Q: How to ask for donations with a recession on the horizon?

A: Don't be afraid to engage your donors - for profit companies are doing on-air with multiple ads on TV and radio. Work on stewardship, reconnect with your donors and check in.


Q: What was the video thank you app you suggested?

A: Vidyard, www.vidyard.com


Q: I need some ideas of how to link fees/payments to online programming.

A: Show an impact meter, or value of donation dollar for services.


Q: I've found that printers are not active.

A: They are also struggling, if they have supported you for a long time, share their business as a thank you on social media.


Q: My job can be done remotely, but as an organization we're still working through how we serve people going forward.

A: Yes! This is challenging. We will continue to talk about new needs and new fundraising opportunities, including digital.


Q: My organization was beginning to build its individual donor program. What do you recommend we do during this time? Our current individual donor base is very small, bellow 10.

A: It is important to realize that right now people might not be looking to support new organizations unless you are doing something to address current community needs. If you're looking to build a base...I might turn those 10 individuals into P2P fundraisers for your organization so you can help build your list.


Q: My team is all successfully working remotely, but the what to do next is still in flux. I'm a planner and have no idea how to plan for such an uncertain future.

A: I totally understand. I'm a planner, too. In fact, I love planning special events/fundraisers. I would recommend looking at which parts of each fundraiser could be done digitally. And, in conjunction with that, I'd create a storytelling communications plan.


Q: Obviously many "social service" types of orgs need more at this time. Any advice about arts orgs., museums, theaters, other "nonessential" to try and raise funds??

A: Share past performances, community impact, the arts are getting people through this. Think of all the Instagram concerts, authors doing free readings, art classes, virtual museum visits. Arts will keep people sane right now.


Q: Our founder seems to be disconnected to what is happening in the world and wants to move forward with sending out a save the date for a gala. Is that insensitive?

A: I think it's okay to put something out there if it's a fall timeframe BUT I would caveat it may look or feel different. Some organizations we are working with have gone from galas to doing other giving campaigns -- so the save the date might need to be a bit flexible.


Q: Our organization does not provide "essential" services so it feels insensitive to fundraise. At the same time, we have to so we can keep providing programs and doing the still important work we do! How do we balance that?

A: Totally get it. I would recommend focusing on leading with strong, compelling storytelling. Lead with a great story showcasing impact and include a link to give.


Q: Question for anytime - we are not comfortable asking for money. I am alone ?

A: You are not alone, it is not always easy to ask, but think of it as a transaction. You are providing a service for the community. Practice on people you know and trust to get comfortable with the process.


Q: Thank you for mentioning that it is okay to fundraise in a crisis. People want to help and are looking for ways to do so.

A: Exactly! Lead with hope...and they will give.


Q: We would like to incorporate videos - but how do you not overwhelm folks?

A: Just like you would set up a marketing program, stagger them. Make them timely to the current situation.


Q: Virtual Gala. But how would this work digitally? Through Zoom? Just a landing page w/Auction, etc.?

A: Have them dress up at home and tag your gala on social media. You can have an online auction that you can open up to your entire audience, not just attendees.


Q: We are an ethnic minority community-based organization serving a low income immigrant community. We do an annual "Spring Fair" with fun activities for families. The funds are raised primarily through corporate sponsors. Then the families come and have a fun day! So...we obviously had to cancel the event. My question: Since our constituents aren't' our donors, how do we pivot this event? Yes, we could certainly reach out to our sponsors, but with what angle if they can't be visible to the constituents? Note: Many of our constituents are not online and don't speak English, so it isn't as simple as having a digital platform for an event. Thoughts on how to still raise the Spring $ and continue engaging? Thanks!

A: Talk to your donors - collaborate with other organizations that are putting something on and share. That way you are not reinventing. Do they lean on their churches for news and communication? Find out how your audiences get their information and work that way.


Q: We are providing a great service right now (mobilizing volunteers) but we are not a basic needs organization. We're worried about asking for money right now in the midst of funds being needed for urgent needs. When is the right time to try later?

A: It's ok to ask now. Talk to them about a possible pledge or ask when they would like to hear back from you.


Q: We have a 2019 Year-in-Review about to mail. Do we need to revisit the language and acknowledge the coronavirus even though it's a look back and a very soft ask? (Just a remit envelope, not a written ask.)

A: I think that it might make sense (if not printed yet) to put a relevant note about success of 2019 and new times in 2020. I think you say your support has been valued and that you hope they are well. That their dollars in 2020 are critical. I think its okay to recognize it is hard - perhaps as Lisa says maybe use monthly giving as an option.


Q: We have an event and silent auction in Sept. I feel like I can't ask business for donations now or in the near future. At what point do you think we'll be able to resume solicitations?

A: It's ok to talk with them now, but focus on businesses that you and your board patronize regularly. You can also start to create a list to start communicating with when we have a better idea of when we can get back into face-to-face events. Think about the gift card now, spend later idea.


Q: What about if you started a campaign and then put it on pause? When do you start picking it back up if your campaign 'captains' are not / unsure/ uneasy to begin the campaign again?

A: That's a good question. I think people still need a week or two to regroup. I think that you do the best of leading with hope (this too shall pass). Your organization is relevant and serves needs in your community. You have to give them hope and remind them that your mission is relevant. See if a few of the captains who are on board can help.


Q: What are the unique ways donors are finding to contribute? Can you give some examples?

A: I've seen one nonprofit use March Madness (NCAA) and ask people to donate what they would have bet on brackets; I've seen online galas where people posted pictures of themselves NOT dressed up.


Q: What do you do when you have admin/board that thinks it's inappropriate to do direct asks during this time?

A: Talk to them about how restaurants, auto dealers, for profits are reaching out with ads and promotions for sales. Do it in a way that does not feel icky, but people understand nonprofits need "sales" aka gifts to survive.


Q: What is a DIY or Peer to Peer fundraising event?

A: DIY is Do It Yourself. It puts the donor in the position to fundraise on your behalf (donate a birthday, etc.). This is popular via Facebook. Peer-to-Peer is your donors, volunteers, or supporters doing the fundraising on your behalf. GoFundMe and Crowdrise were two platforms that started this type of fundraising.


Q: When is too soon to start rescheduling an event either virtually or in person?

A: It's a great idea to be prepared just in case. Get your technology and/strategy in place in case things are still shut down. That way you can pivot easily and quickly if you need to.

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