Digital Donor Diaries Part One: Inspire Comprehensive Fundraising Strategies

The age of the digital donor is upon us. This progression presents opportunities and challenges for the nonprofit industry. Those organizations that peek into the future to identify trends and remain relevant will more aptly respond to their donors’ needs.

We’ve outlined three steps to help inspire your future online fundraising strategies:

1. Identify your competitive advantages and conduct a competitive analysis.

The philanthropic space is crowded. In order to carve out your niche, you must identify your organization’s competitive advantages. What distinguishes your work from another organization that has a similar mission or cause?

For example – say your organization’s mission is to eliminate hunger in your local community, consider the following questions to determine your unique approach to this challenge:

  • Have you served your community for a significant amount of time? This indicates a commitment to the cause and your constituents.
  • Does your organization address the systemic issues contributing to food insecurity?
  • Does your leadership work alongside governmental leaders to develop cross-sectoral solutions?

Once you’ve identified your unique identifiers, create a list of your nonprofit’s competitors and outline your competitive advantages against theirs. This will allow you to focus your messaging on your key differentiators and build a strong, unique presence within your community.

2. Identify your competitors outside the nonprofit industry.

Donors’ perceptions toward philanthropy have changed. According to Give.org’s Donor Trust Report 2020, “participants are now more likely to say they want to support good business or social enterprise ventures and give to family and friends directly than they did at the beginning of the year.”

What does the data show?

In December of 2019, 5% of participants said they wanted to support good business or social enterprise ventures. This increased to 20% in August 2020.

In December of 2019, 17% of participants said they wanted to give to family and friends. This increased to 28% in August 2020.

What does this mean for traditional philanthropy?  
  • Donors want to be “closer” to their gifts.

Donors want to witness their gifts’ impact just as they experience their family member or friend receiving their gift. Identify what impact means to your donors – whether that is the number of constituents served or a breakthrough in scientific research – and report upon that impact.

Share statistics and stories with your donors via email, social media, or direct mail. The more quickly you share this information – the better.

  • Donors expect personal recognition for their gifts.

Donor recognition programs are commonplace in most nonprofit organizations. Given changing donor preferences, it’s imperative that development staff revisit these programs:

    • How often do you thank your donors?
    • Are your recognition letters automated, impersonal emails? Or, do you thank your donors via phone call or hand-written letter?
    • How can you mimic the sincere gratitude a family member or friend would share after he or she received help?

  • Donors are curious about other impact models.

You must remember that your donors are also consumers. As they engage with brands and make purchases, expectations for next-day delivery and personalized ad experiences translate to the nonprofit industry.

Donors will consider the for-profit sector as a meaningful outlet to enact societal change. They will even spend more on a product or service if the company emphasizes sustainability (Nielsen 2015 survey).

Your organization must consider these social enterprises as threats and develop strategies to differentiate your cause.

3. Examine the preferences of Gen Z.

As you build your donor acquisition strategy, you must consider the preferences of Gen Z (those born after 1996). Those within Gen Z are Digital Natives, meaning they have grown up with access to technology. With Google in the palm of their hand, members of this generation won’t hesitate to conduct their own research on organizations that solicit them.

Additionally, social media usage plays a major role in the lives of Gen Z. According to Sprout Social, “Sixty-six percent of Gen Z consumers state that social media is an essential part of their lives.”

How your organization presents itself online and within social networks will impact how those within Gen Z choose to engage with your nonprofit. Revisit your digital strategies and consider how to appeal to this tech-first generation.


There is no doubt that the philanthropic sector will continue to evolve. By developing your key competitive advantages, identifying your competitors, and responding to the needs of the digital donor, your organization will remain relevant and expand upon your critical work.

If your organization needs a digital technology makeover, StratusLIVE Ignite now offers an expanded offering that includes DIY, peer-to-peer, and team fundraising. Dig into these new features here.

Stay tuned for our next post in our Digital Donor Diaries series which will discuss how to Inform Comprehensive Fundraising Strategies. 

Posted by Kelly Perry

Kelly Perry is a Digital Marketing Manager, Nonprofit Solutions at StratusLIVE. She has over eight years marketing and communications experience within nonprofit technology and the publishing industries.

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