Building online donor engagement

Most online fundraising plans focus on acquiring new people to your list followed by solicitations. But what about the step that comes in between these two stages?

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’re a non-profit that wants 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 need to give people external to your organization ways to interact with you. Get them to take a step towards you with a 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Create a virtual mini-volunteer opportunity, preferably something they can do from their desk like, calling local officials, helping proofread college essays, or sharing encouragement with students going back to school.
  3. Sign a card or a petition.
  4. Send a short survey. Ask your list why they feel strongly about your cause, ask about their story, ask a question to see if they understand the issue.
  5. Invite them to a short virtual event like a volunteer training, a year-end webinar where you share your results, or an interview with some inspirational leaders.


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