Digital fundraising dos and don'ts - Museums Association

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Digital fundraising dos and don’ts

From choosing a platform to sustaining engagement
Fundraising
Holly Black
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In response to Covid-19, the National Videogame Museum is promoting its fundraising campaign alongside all digital content

1. Embedding your strategy

Digital fundraising should not be limited to one particular department – it should be embedded across the organisation.
“Technology no longer lives in a cupboard managed by one department; it is becoming all pervasive,” says Matthew Bowcock in his Digital Giving in the Arts report.

Sarah Gee, the managing partner of marketing and fundraising consultancy Indigo, says that digital communications shouldn’t be given to the youngest person on the team by default: “Just because they might be the most digitally native, doesn’t mean they know the best way to do the job.”

2. User experience

Whatever channels an organisation is implementing, the user journey is key. It should be easy to donate with the smallest number of steps possible, because users drop off with every click.

Offering multiple payment gateways, using a suggested donation amount and providing a recurring giving option are all great tools for donor retention. Having a platform that is optimised for phone and tablet as well as desktop is also important.

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3. Choosing a platform

As mentioned above, third-party platforms can be a useful for simple tasks such as embedding a donate button. However, more sophisticated campaigning such as crowdfunding requires higher functionality.

This is provided by platforms such as JustGiving, GoFundMe, Kickstarter and the museum-specific Art Happens, run by the Art Fund, which offer greater visibility and accessibility, and even tailored expert advice.

4. Harnessing social media

All aspects of social media can function as powerful tools for reaching new audiences and promoting giving.

In terms of posting content, Howard Lake, the director of Fundraising UK, says: “Organic growth is great, but if it’s income you are looking for, paid advertising is absolutely the best way, because it’s quick and cost-effective.”

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Not every message needs to be donation-focused, because raising awareness brings you one step closer to getting people to give – digitally or otherwise.

New forms of fundraising functionality are also increasing across Facebook, which features a donation button for charity pages, as well as the birthday fundraising function, which allows individuals to raise money for a cause of their choosing.

Similarly, Instagram now has a donation button on Stories, while Twitter allows users to tweet donations through JustGiving, using the hashtag #giv2.

Rick Gibson, chief executive officer of the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield, says museums should make sure messaging is consistent across all media.

“We have been offering a lot of free digital content, such as live streams, but they all include a banner with our campaign messaging and a permalink, much like a traditional Comic Relief campaign,” he explains.

5. Sustaining engagement

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Just like any form of fundraising, sustained messaging and communication is vital.

“You wouldn’t put a poster in your window and expect to get a £1m donation from it, so why would online fundraising be any different?” says Gee.

She adds that celebrity endorsement such as a retweet is never going to have a massive impact. The key is sustained messaging, thanking people for donations and remembering to follow up during campaigns, and after.

Merrin Kalinowski, the museum marketing relationship manager at the Art Fund, says: “Updates are so important for making you donor audience continue to feel engaged. You’ve done all of that work to get someone to fall in love with your project to such a degree that they will give you money, so you have to keep that interest going until your project is complete.

“Then the next time you run a campaign, they are highly likely to give again.”

The importance of inclusive, accessible language is also key.

Patton Hindle, the head of arts at crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, recommends using phrases such as "Join us" or "Help us make this happen" to humanise an institution and promote a sense of community.

Holly Black is a freelance journalist

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