Digital Fundraising 101 – Webinar with ActBlue and NDTC

June 6th at 7PM and 8:30PM EDT

Reading Time: 4 minutes

To watch a video recording of the webinar, click HERE

Raising money can often feel like a huge task to tackle, and one that takes up valuable time for a candidate and campaign.

But a digital fundraising program can help you raise real money and actually be an essential part of your organizing work. With the technology available today, you can easily get your message out to a diverse group of supporters and fundraise at the same time.

And the best part? By developing a small-dollar donor program, you’ll be building a true grassroots campaign that has buy-in from the people that you’re hoping to represent!

What is Digital Fundraising?

Digital fundraising is raising money online through mass communication (rather than, say, a phone call to a single person). We’re living in the social media age, but the vast majority of money raised online still comes through email.

Tweets or Facebook posts are often too short for a campaign to make a convincing ask, and they’re easy to miss since people are constantly scrolling through social media feeds.

Email actually gives you the space to tell a story that supporters can connect with, and unlike on social media, you know who you’re reaching when you send an email. You can use that information to make data-driven decisions about donation ask sizes and more!

The Basics of Digital Fundraising

You only need a few tools to start raising money online: a list of people to email, a fundraising platform to process donations, and a way to send emails.

Email list: Your email list is your most valuable asset. Why? If you don’t have someone’s email address, you can’t continue the conversation with them. Start building your email list by examining your personal network. Then make sure you’re driving people to join your campaign by collecting their email addresses on your website — a pop-up box that appears when someone first visits your page is a great idea.

You should also collect (legible!) names and email addresses at every in-person event. Ads are another great way to extend your reach. Try sharing a Facebook ad with a petition or a birthday card and ask supporters to provide their email address in order to sign.

Fundraising platforms: Once you have a list of people to ask for donations, you need a way for them to give! A fundraising platform is software that allows you to create online donation pages where supporters can give to you using a credit card (and in some cases, using Apple Pay or PayPal).

Mass mailers: After you have your list of email addresses, you’ll need a way to email those folks! A mass mailer lets you send a large volume of emails to many people, and provides data like open rates and unsubscribes. Smaller campaigns can use some mass mailers, like MailChimp, for free.

Setting Up Your Digital Fundraising Email

Once you have all of your tools, you can actually write and send your email! A really good fundraising email will be conversational, compelling, and urgent. But it will take time for you to get to that level! Here are some best practices for creating your emails and making your fundraising asks.

Do your research: We recommend signing up for as many email lists as possible to see what other groups are doing. Pay special attention to what large organizations or campaigns are doing to get a feel for what you want your emails to look and sound like. They have the resources to test different content, subject lines, layouts, and ask amounts, so if they send you an email it’s likely because they know it will work.

Use timely, accessible content: Even though you’re sending an email to hundreds or thousands of supporters, think of it as a way to deliver your message straight to individual supporters. Emails should be friendly and compelling, not press releases or complicated policy papers.

The best time to send a fundraising email is during a big moment that relates to your campaign (maybe your opponent said something awful or your state senate passed a controversial bill), because that’s when people are fired up and looking for a way to help out.

Responding quickly and giving them a way to donate helps them have an impact and allows you to quickly address an important issue with your supporters.

How Much Should You Ask For?

Think about how much you’ll ask for: It can be hard to know how much money to ask for. Sign up for emails from your opponent(s), other local candidates, and organizations in your area so you can see what amounts they are asking supporters for to get a baseline. Here are some other tips:

  • Email ask amounts are typically smaller than in-person ask amounts.
  • List the dollar amounts on your page from lowest to highest so people aren’t scared off by large amounts.
  • Customize dollar amounts depending on the type of donation you are asking for. One-time donations are typically bigger than recurring donations.
  • The average contribution size on ActBlue in 2017 was $32. That’s across thousands of campaigns and organizations in every state.

Making The Ask

Be specific and MAKE A HARD ASK: This is the most important part of your email! Supporters need to be asked directly for money.

A donate button at the bottom of an email doesn’t count as a hard ask. You need to write out the ask, and it’s best to include the amount you want them to donate, too (like: “Can you chip in $3 right now?”).

And if you actually want people to donate, make sure you’re not asking them to take any other actions, like reading an online article or signing up to volunteer. You need to keep people focused on making their donation.

Learn from your program: If you have the time and resources, try testing different subject lines or email content. Those are two variables that can make a huge difference in your response rates.

Whether you’re evaluating a test that went out to a small group or a send that went to your full email list, your main metric should be the number of donations you receive, not the number of clicks or your open rates.

Starting a digital fundraising program shouldn’t be scary.

Connecting with potential donors online is much cheaper and more efficient than hosting giant fundraising events, and it only requires a few tools. Plus, with emails you have the opportunity to reach folks around the country and build a truly people-powered campaign.

Learn More Live with ActBlue THIS THURSDAY

You can learn more about creating successful online campaign fundraising during our webinar with ActBlue this Thursday June 7th.

You’ll learn:

-How can I become an effective fundraiser?

-Why fundraising matters?

-Grassroots online political campaign fundraising. What is it? How can it be effective?

To watch a video recording of the webinar, click HERE



I'm a Marketing Associate at ActBlue, a nonprofit tech organization that builds free fundraising tools for Democrats, progressive organizations, and nonprofits so they can easily run grassroots fundraising programs. I work on external content, help run ActBlue's own digital fundraising program, and get to see the power of small-dollar donors in action every day!