Strategies for Donations

It’s All About The Money…

No, it’s not. You didn’t start up your nonprofit to make money. You started up to be a hero for your cause. Your initial drive was to gather momentum behind a movement and educate and convince others that it’s worth supporting. But, there is that big green monster that continues to hound at your heels as you strive to make a difference. Money.

Money, scratch, benjamins, bucks, cabbage, moola, sawbucks, makin’ it rain; whatever you want to call it, money is necessary to fan the fire of a nonprofit’s organizational goals and objectives. It pays for overhead such as website hosting, office support, travel, marketing, and at some point when your organization grows large enough, staffing and office space. But money doesn’t grow on trees does it?

Nonprofits rely on donors. Donors make the wheels go round and you have to find how to reach, educate and tell your story to potential and existing donors. It's not enough to have a web page and a ‘Give’ button on your website. People need to understand why they are giving and where their money is going.


Most people give money to a cause because they are moved at some emotional level. It may be religion, the environment, social justice issues or world relief efforts but the emotional hold isn’t enough on its own. People also need to know why a nonprofit needs their money and how they will use that resource.

The most effective way to relay your nonprofit’s needs is through telling stories. Stories are the glue that sticks your nonprofit’s mission to your donor's frontal lobe. They open a window into your organization to show the inner workings of how you are changing your part of the world. They relay to your donors and potential supporters your passion and your affect on those people/places/things your care about.

Have you ever looked at crowd-sourcing platforms and their most successful projects? You’ll notice that it isn't just the product/service/benefit people want, it’s also because there has been a compelling story behind that need request. When that story strikes a chord with people, those people feel compelled to donate and will pass on their recommendation to their friends to donate. This is how successful viral campaigns work; a well-crafted story strikes at the heart of an individual and their actions are affected by that story. That is why good stories about your nonprofit are important.

Now, that’s not to mean that you should sensationalize what you do to manipulate people.

  1. Just be clear, genuine, truthful and passionate.

  2. Always have someone proofread your story before publishing it.

  3. Check with others to see if your story is being received the way you want it to be.

  4. Use pictures and video where appropriate.

Let’s say your stories are compelling and you have people starting to donate. Well, your job has just begun! Donor retention is a big challenge for nonprofits. Those people who have given before are more likely to give again and recommend your nonprofit to their friends. One of the ways to have donors stay involved is to tell the story about what their donations have done for your cause. Narratives, video, pictures, and statistics let people know how their donations are working and how it’s empowering the change your organization stands for.

Millennials and the causes they support

Millennials are causing quite a stir for everyone trying to sell them an idea. Marketing people are trying to find out more about how this sub-group of our society works. We found that finding generational demarcations is not set in stone. The US Census Bureau defines the Baby Boomer generation as 1946-1964 but that is the only generation they classify. All other generations, Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials, are more fluid. There are plenty of researchers out there that pick a span of dates for these groups but that span changes from research group to research group. 

One thing they agree on is that, Millennials are people that have grown up with technology. Their lives have been immensely impacted by computers and mobile devices. This group of people has grown up with immense engagement in things they care about. Social Media recommendations, reviews, commentaries, and stories affect what they purchase and what causes they support.

This sub-group will most likely be donating online or using an app rather than sending you a check.  They’ll also let their circle of friends know about it via their social media profiles. This group cares about what they support. They want to be engaged and see the effects of their donations. 

Millennials will expect to have media to share with their friends such as videos or photos. It's important for your organization to visually document what you do and when you do it so that your donor can share the affect their donation is having in the world.

Needless to say, these efforts benefit your whole target audience so use what millennials need to carry your message to their circle of connections.


Partnering with other organizations is important for nonprofits. Finding other organizations that share your passions and beliefs is vitally important. Many times these partnerships can help spread the word about your organization to those that may not know about you. Through these important partnerships, the word of your message can be spread to other people that have similar interests.

Private organizations and companies may have programs for their employees that encourage volunteering and donating to local nonprofits. Larger corporations have employee grants and other funding programs to help nonprofits.

One program we have heard about is when a company's employees volunteer for your organization for a target amount of hours. If they hit an hourly target, the corporation they work for will donate a targeted amount of money. So you can see that being creating with partners can have a mutual benefit to both organizations.

Selecting a Donation Platform

We know nonprofits need funds, we know that nonprofits need to effectively tell their story and we know there needs to be some trusted software platform they can use to collect donations. But how do you select the right platform for you?

The Cost of Business

If you want to collect online donations, there is a cost to doing so. Nothing out there is free and it seems that everyone involved in your online fund gathering wants their piece of the action.

The online vendor who collects the money wants their piece of the action and that can be somewhere around $.30 a transaction plus about 3% of the donated amount. So if someone donates $100 to you, your bank account will only see $96.70. The bad news is that $3.30 out of $100 is a good deal. Many times vendors and banks collect more than that and cut much deeper into your bottom line. Some even charge a monthly fee regardless of how much or little you collect for the month.

Sharing the Burden of Transaction Fees

Does your giving platform allow for your donors to cover the transaction fees? Does it give them the option to cover those fees so that 100% of what they wanted to give gets into your hands? Not too many platforms offer this option but its a compelling feature that can further benefit your bottom line.

Flexible Giving

Your giving platform should support multiple ways of giving and enticing donors to donate funds. For example, you can have a general online giving button on your homepage. But, let’s say you have a funding goal for a special program where you want to collect $5,000. You should be able to set up a giving campaign that shows your donors how close you are to your end goal. Much like crowd funding campaigns. Your online giving platform should be able to support these different options.

Does your platform have a mobile app available so that you can collect donations on site at your events? They should. Remember, many people will be giving using their mobile devices and many times will give on the spot if the opportunity is available. 

There's Giving and Then There's Giving

Big Shifter has used several donation platforms for our clients and we are constantly on the look out for new platforms that best benefit them. We integrate those platforms into our client's websites so that their visitors fine a clear and easy way to donate to their cause. We help our clients write effective stories for their audiences. We love getting to know about our client's passions and why they started their nonprofit in the first place. Through our client partnerships we try to help them develop more than just givers to their nonprofits. We try to help them build relationships through the stories they tell.


Erik Kulvinskas Head Shot

Erik Kulvinskas has over 2 decades of web development experience that started way back before front-ends, back-ends, 'dot-coms' and social media. He loves making things easier to understand and more efficient to use. He loves spending time with his family, cycling and volunteering. He enjoys empowering others to be their best and leading others by serving them.

Erik Kulvinskas