The shift to digital

How to improve member engagement and fundraising experiences in nonprofits

The shift to digital
The shift to digital
The shift to digital

Managing membership associations and nonprofits is complicated and complex, especially in an environment where member engagement matters more than ever. COVID-19 descended upon us so quickly that many associations and nonprofits are still struggling to reconcile the consequences.

There’s no doubt the pandemic has had a significant impact on normal fundraising experiences and cycles. Adding to that, your membership base has also been adversely affected due to a wavering economy that may not allow for the normal allocation of extraneous funds to the philanthropy of their choice. According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, “it will be a difficult time for fundraising [in] 2020 and well into 2021.”

Making the shift to digital so you can pivot with greater agility

Just as everyone has been forced to shift mindsets in today’s business environment, nonprofit organizations have been reckoning with rapid shifts and pivots in how they conduct business. Pivoting does not come easy in normal circumstances and especially not in an unexpected crisis with little or no preparation. For a nonprofit, shifting and pivoting can mean something as huge as changing major fundraising experiences and mechanisms. For example, if galas accounted for the bulk of fundraising, then a pandemic seriously limits in-person events where many conversations with potential significant donors may take place.

Your strategic plan probably relied on potential funds from your 2020 galas and conferences, but now all of that has changed. Your organization has a mission to fulfill and it may require a shift to digital in order to make that happen. It may have been a goal to use digital experiences as a major donor touchpoint in the future, but now it is a necessity.

How does the shift from in-person fundraising to digital happen? It’s more than just increasing the size or prominence of your website’s “donate now” button. It’s about creating better digital experiences for your donors and ensuring that the donation transactions actually occur.

Meanwhile, the pressure to remain relevant, increase member engagement and provide value mounts. Whether your members are B2B or individual donors, they may be questioning whether the dues and fees they are paying are essential expenses right now.

Increasing your agility and ability to pivot

Organizations must become quickly responsive to rapidly changing circumstances through practicing an agile and iterative approach. Agility doesn’t necessarily mean practicing agile methodologies, much like in a software environment. Rather it means the ability to pivot in times of change in a way that may not have been planned, yet can be executed incrementally and quickly.

Applying these agile principles to a shift to digital is optimal when thinking about change—especially when it could affect the survival of an organization. Remember, you’re competing with other philanthropies with competing causes. Not only that, declining revenue and stagnant memberships are also limited as organizations do more with less.

Starting your shift to digital with small steps

As Celerity’s CEO, Ken Quaglio wrote in a recent article for Forbes, there’s a way to ignite digital transformations. Successful digital transformations often don’t start off as huge endeavors; some start off small and with very concrete purpose.

For example, enhancing digital experiences for increased donorship can start with a research analysis to understand more about your membership base:

  • Who’s using your website to make donations and who’s not?
  • Who’s clicking the “donate” button and who isn’t, and why?
  • What about your demographics?

You may find you’re focusing on your older membership base while your younger crowd – the influencers who rely on social and mobile for all transactions – could be effective donors through micro-donations. Using social channels allows for the democratization of information and makes it easier for younger members to gather content outside of the traditional association channels.

Making the shift to digital for a more responsive enterprise—and membership

There are so many points to consider when it comes to digital fundraising experiences, member engagement and other digital experiences. The past year has shown that our continued ability to adapt to conducting business online has increased significantly and may result in permanent changes to business models. Celerity is adept at identifying the gaps in user experiences in order to maximize donations and improve donor engagement across the user journey.

In the second part of this series, we’ll discuss a few ways that we often partner with associations and nonprofits to develop approaches for the shift to a responsive enterprise.