Virtual fundraising campaigns and how they can work

As the reach of nonprofits continue to extend beyond their immediate location, fundraising practices have correspondingly evolved to open new avenues of communication with prospective donors otherwise thought unreachable. Several online payment processing services have been established to allow digital contributions, but fostering online relationships with donors is more than simply providing them with a means to give. Virtual fundraising requires more. 

Be specific
Charitable foundations are constantly fundraising, but digital audiences require more specificity when it comes to giving money to an organization online - there are plenty of good charities to donate to. Causes become much more compelling when they are clearly defined, and nonprofits can use that definition to then structure more creative fundraising messages. Providing an unambiguous focus to potential donors can give them something to really get behind.

Cultivate excitement and ownership
It's easy for organizations to make an online donation request, but without either a sense of ownership or excitement - or both - contributors may be less inclined give. Instead, provide supplemental support prior to the launch of a virtual fundraising effort. Host a local event or advertise to generate a buzz through multiple channels before the campaign even hits the web.

At the same time, include volunteers in the mix, make them a part of the celebration. By giving volunteers a small piece of ownership, their dedication to the cause can grow exponentially. Some organizations, like Fist ONE, a fundraising campaign launched by the Valencia College Foundation, have even gone so far as to allow their volunteers to host separate fundraising events, like an online charity auction.

Diversify communications and advertising
Email has become the simplest and most common method of contacting prospective donors. But rather than inundate a person's inbox with countless emails soliciting charitable gifts, nonprofits should be mixing up communication mediums.

Blogs, social media, radio or television advertisements, all are outlets available to organizations hoping to tell their story and spread their message. For nonprofits, adequately expressing origins and hopes for the future is one of the most effective means of connecting with potential donors.

Timing and planning are key
If an academic charity, like the Valencia College Foundation, launched an on-campus fundraising effort mid-summer, chances are the results would be less than promising. Knowing when, where and how to launch a campaign is an important aspect.

"In the planning you need to start very early on even collecting things like images, videos and the like, so that when it is unveiled everyone has already heard of it, felt it or seen it," Donna Marion, donor stewardship manager for the Valencia College Foundation, recently told nonprofit publication npENGAGE.

Launching a virtual fundraising campaign is cumbersome task, but if done correctly, it can help raises thousands for a cause.

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