I often hear fundraising professionals say that they don’t need to promote online giving because their donors are mostly senior citizens. But research shows a different story.

  • In a 2014 Dunham+Company study, 59 percent of donors 66 years old or older had given online.
  • According to Ekklesia360, 51 percent of people who responded to direct mail made their gift online.
  • NonProfit Source states that 25 percent of donors give via their mobile device.
  • Forbes shared that 82 percent of online Baby Boomers have a social media account — with an average Baby Boomer having a total of four accounts.

We know that older generations are increasingly giving online, and Millennial and Gen X donors are also preferring to give through online methods. What steps can your school take to modernize your development office?

Strategy #1: Consolidate your databases

Many offices have the “keeper of the spreadsheets,” where one person has many spreadsheets containing years of donor information and data. Other schools might have several people that specialize in a certain spreadsheet all their own that only they are responsible for updating. Neither of these methods are a best practice.

The first step is to consolidate all that donor information into a single place — a place where you can update addresses, track event registrations, and manage your mailing lists.

By housing all information in a single system, you ensure that all email appeals, direct mail campaigns, and thank you letters are sent to the most up-to-date address every time. Breaking down information silos also allows your staff to identify patterns in donations and develop new strategies.

Strategy #2: Alumni spotlight program

Give your alumni a reason to follow you and increase student and parent confidence in your school’s education outcomes.

You can start by interviewing an alumnus about his or her success and how the school influenced their career. Put that two-minute video on social media, and then utilize the conversation as an article in a school blog or e-newsletter. By tagging that professional on social media, you increase the chance that he’ll share with his friends and family, expanding the story’s reach.

Also, what do you think will happen the next time you email that alumnus a giving campaign letter?

Strategy #3: Social media advertising

The fundamental structure of social media is to keep the platform free for individuals by making the brands and organizations pay to reach their followers. Unfortunately, this means the most effective way to reach the majority of your followers on social media is to create an ad — especially one that gets alumni to start sharing it with their friends. The best ads are those that inspire, create urgency, and invite people to be part of a bigger purpose.

For instance, many organizations hold vehicle raffles. Why not promote that raffle using ads on social media? It’ll catch people’s attention and give your alumni something to chat about with their former classmates.

Your alumni want to connect with you and their classmates on social media, so give them something worth sharing!

Strategy #4: Stream your gala

Why would you limit an alumni event to the room’s capacity? Bring your fundraising gala online by streaming the event live on Facebook. Not only does this expand your event’s potential impact, but it also ensures every one of your followers sees the event live at the top of their feed if they log in during the event.

Then utilize your audience, create positive peer pressure, and use the love of notoriety to amplify your efforts. Create a challenge where donors’ names are streamed live and on giant monitors in the room. Give your audience an example of a Twitter/text message to send to their friends and encourage them to ask for $10 or more within the event’s time frame. This is a great strategy to attract new donors and make crowdfunding fun.

Strategy #5: Streamline your donation page

Everyone seems to have a message they want to put on the donation page – the president’s letter to alumni, a link to the Phonathon, other concurring campaign appeals, plus photos of students – the list goes on and on.

Take away the clutter. State how the gift will be used in one sentence. Use one giant photo. Allow people to start giving as soon as they land on the page – no “click here” or additional steps.

Strategy #6: Modernize your registration process

If your registration process requires someone to print a form, fill out a document by hand, and hunt down a scanner to connect with the school, you’ve just created three obstacles to someone attending your event.

Make the process simple. Think of how easy Amazon makes it for you to purchase a product – the fewest amount of clicks and information asked for. This is what your alumni expect.

Create an online form with only the most necessary information. Every question after question number five is a great way to convince someone the process is “too much of a hassle.”

What’s next?

The good news is that if you put these six simple strategies to work, you will stand out and start seeing results. Last year, Prenger Solutions Group conducted a nationwide research project with diocesan development professionals. More than 80 percent of those who responded gave themselves a failing grade when it came to digital fundraising. With a little effort, you could be one of the 3 percent of organizations earning an “A” grade.

As the old saying goes, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” If your fundraising has plateaued or is losing steam, now’s the perfect time to change your system to transform your results.


Nic Prenger founded Prenger Solutions Group to help schools and churches adapt and thrive in the new world of digital fundraising. His team of experts use technology to help your organization raise more money with fewer headaches. Nic can be reached at [email protected] or 1.844.333.5252.