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What is Digital Fundraising and How Can It Benefit Your Charity?

By Emma Bryant


What is Digital Fundraising? In short, it’s an essential tool for all charities and nonprofit organisations.

In today’s digital age, reaching supporters and raising funds has evolved beyond bake sales and charity dinners. Expedited by the Covid-19 Pandemic, digital fundraising has become a powerful solution for charities and non-profit organisations in the UK, allowing them to connect with a wider audience and raise more money for their beneficiaries and core work. But what exactly is digital fundraising, and how can you get started?

Digital fundraising refers to utilising online tools and platforms to raise money for your cause. This encompasses a variety of strategies, from creating a user-friendly website for online donations to engaging supporters on social media and leveraging crowdfunding campaigns.

Digital fundraising provides a number of benefits in addition to traditional fundraising techniques: 

  • Wider Reach: The internet allows charities to bypass geographical limitations and connect with potential donors across the UK, and even internationally.
  • Cost-Effective: Digital tools can be more affordable than traditional fundraising methods such as direct mail, allowing you to stretch your resources further.
  • Convenient for Donors: Supporters are able to donate anytime, anywhere, at their own convenience – no more waiting for community events or postal appeals.
  • Increased Engagement: Digital tools like social media allow you to build a community around your cause, changing the dynamic of supporter relationships. 
  • Access to Data: Digital tools and platforms provide a wide range of data to assess the success of your activities, from click through rates to sentiment analysis to conversion rates, allowing you to test, learn, and adjust your approach. 

It’s likely that your charity or non-profit organisation is already using digital tools for communication and awareness raising. Digital fundraising considers a more purposeful experience of using these tools that is geared towards donor acquisition and retention. 

Examples of Digital Fundraising in Action:

  • Charity Websites: A well-designed website acts as your organisation’s online hub, providing key information about your cause and the services you deliver. Often charity websites have multiple audiences from beneficiaries and clients to corporate partners. Digital fundraising considers how your website can be optimised for the purpose of fundraising, such as effectively communicating the impact of donations, and providing secure donation options.
  • Email Marketing: Regular email newsletters keep your supporters informed about your work, upcoming events, and success stories. Digital fundraising adds an additional dimension to your email communications, considering the supporter’s experience throughout their lifetime with your charity as well as planned appeals and campaigns, and relationship building strategies. 
  • Social Media Fundraising: Platforms like Facebook, X, Instagram and TikTok allow charities and fundraisers to share compelling stories, host live events, and generate interest in their cause. Digital fundraising looks at your social strategy to proactively leverage peer-to-peer fundraising and social influence to generate support for fundraising campaigns.
  • Crowdfunding/Peer-to-Peer: Platforms like JustGiving and GoFundMe enable your supporters to raise funds for events or challenges they are taking part in, or specific projects or campaigns your charity has created. This networking approach typically enables DIY fundraisers to attract a wider audience through social sharing features.
  • Online Donations: Integrating secure online donation forms on your website and social media pages makes it easy for supporters to donate at their convenience and in just a few clicks. Often smaller charities require a third party to provide this service. 

Getting Started with Digital Fundraising:

Most charities will be undertaking some form of digital fundraising already, whether that’s an email newsletter with a donation link, a Facebook birthday fundraiser, an online auction, or a donate button on a website. For smaller charities, the challenge with digital fundraising is often a lack of strategy and a reactive approach. In order to grow fundraising income through digital tools sustainably, it’s important to have a strategy which explores your goals, understands your target audience, and considers the best tools for the job. For example, if your organisation supports women fleeing domestic violence, it may be difficult for you to obtain images and video content which portrays your work, so Instagram might not be an optimal social platform for you, even though other charities are able to use it to great success – think animal rescue. 

To develop a more strategic approach to your digital fundraising, consider the following steps: 

  1. Develop a Strategy: Define your goals, target audience, and the digital tools you’ll use. Audit your current activity, explore your competitor’s approaches and consider the external factors which are affecting donations e.g. cost of living crisis.
  2. Build a Strong Online Presence: Create an informative website which is geared towards fundraising. Use donor centric language and emotive visuals to connect with supporters and drive action. Establish a presence on relevant social media platforms and encourage conversation, engagement and a sense of community. 
  3. Craft Compelling Content: Share stories that showcase your impact and inspire potential donors. Beneficiary stories as well as donor stories provide a mix of perspectives. Include a call to action (CTA) to enable people to respond to the story/case study. 
  4. Plan A Journey: Think about the supporter’s experience with you, what they know already, what they might not know, what they need from you, as well as what you’d like from them. As Tom Ahern (legendary fundraising copywriter) once said, “They are not your donors, you are their charity”. 
  5. Track Your Results: Monitor the performance of your key channels and campaigns to see what’s working and adapt your strategy accordingly. One huge benefit of digital tools is immediate access to data which is not as easily available in traditional forms of fundraising. Use the data to drive decision-making and mitigate risks. 

Digital fundraising is an ongoing process. 

To sustain growth in giving through the use of digital tools, fundraisers and charities need to develop a strategy that considers different supporter groups and takes them on a journey. Digital tools make it easier than ever to engage supporters and develop relationships with larger numbers of individuals, but it shouldn’t be a reactive process. By carefully considering the right tools for your charity, you can effectively raise awareness, support, and donations for your cause, making a real difference in the lives of those you help.


About the Author

Emma Bryant is a tutor for the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, delivers short courses in Digital Fundraising, and supports charities with their digital fundraising activities. Find out more at: www.eb-fundraising.co.uk