Building online donor engagement

You hear it all the time – donor engagement is the key to fundraising. But how do you engage donors when the only thing you know about them is their email address?

Most online fundraising plans focus on acquiring new people to your list followed by solicitations. While some prospective donors can go from hearing about your organization for the first time to making that first gift in a short period of time, even more can’t and won’t. So they are left on your mailing list, receiving intermittent communication followed by a barrage of requests to donate.

But if you want to build a meaningful relationship with your donors and to start cultivating them for major gifts, you need to build ways to get your mailing list more involved with you.

Think of it like this:

You must give people ways to interact with you. Get them to take a step towards you with meaningful activity.

Once they do that, they are engaged, and more likely to make a donation.

Here are five ideas for mini-campaigns that help you engage your list:

Ask them to share some content

Whether it’s a call to action to call your elected officials, to share a victory story, or an article with information about an issue or a problem (5 things to know about homelessness), asking your mailing list to share important information is a way to get their buy-in.

Create a virtual volunteer opportunity

Think of something people can do from their desk like calling local officials, sharing encouragement with students going back to school, a short research project, or printing a flyer and hanging it in their workplace.

Sign a card or a petition

Set up a simple form that allows your audience to sign a “virtual card” or use a service like kudoboard or group greeting to collect messages. This small act shows is an easy way for your audience to participate in your mission. Similarly, starting petitions and collecting signatures gets your audience involved in a different way. Just don’t leaving your audience hanging – make sure to follow up on the impact of their actions. 

Send a short survey

Create a dialogue with your audience with a short survey. Ask your list why they feel strongly about your cause, ask about their story, or ask a question to see if they understand the issue. You’ll learn some things and the act of filling out the survey can be the start of a deeper relationship.

Invite them to a short virtual event

You never know what your list might be interested in, so think broadly about invitations to virtual events. Whether it’s a volunteer training, a virtual meeting where you share your results, or an interview with some inspirational leaders, chances are you have a lot of opportunities to build engaging virtual experiences.


Keep in mind these keys to success:

  1. Make it easy to do
  2. Make sure you can track their participation
  3. …so that you can thank them for participating
  4. And finally, tag them in your database as taking this action