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Find a Digital Fundraising Platform

Jul 2023 - READ IN 4 MINUTES

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Advancement team member evaluating a digital fundraising platform.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 14, 2020. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The aughts have ushered in an era of unprecedented change for nonprofits everywhere—including educational fundraisers. Global pandemic forced school Advancement and Annual Giving teams to find meaningful new ways to authentically support their communities, such as pivoting quickly to launch student emergency appeals and transitioning from in-person events to virtual and now hybrid alternatives. As the philanthropic landscape continues to evolve, advancements in digital fundraising technology are making it easier for schools to better reach and engage their constituents at scale.

Because educational fundraisers need greater support and more powerful tools than ever, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand the benefits of digital fundraising—and leverage them to drive better outcomes. Digital fundraising refers to the practice of using online platforms and technology to generate awareness and support for a nonprofit or specific cause—and the field of digital fundraising is advancing rapidly.

Today, digital fundraising technology encompasses an ever-expanding suite of solutions that include social fundraising and crowdfunding platforms, volunteer management dashboards, event registration and ticketing tools, and more. The best of these solutions empower users to engage prospective donors, advocates, and volunteers via popular channels like texting, email, and video—and to not only do so at scale but to do so in increasingly meaningful and personalized ways.

Digital fundraising platforms are essential to help your school reach a broader audience and collect donations efficiently in the digital age. Are we biased towards our own GiveCampus solutions and Partner Success program? Of course. But along the way, we’ve also learned a lot about digital fundraising and what Advancement and Annual Giving teams can achieve with the right fit. Whatever your process looks like for choosing new products or working with a new partner for digital fundraising, we recommend asking the following questions to make sure you’re getting a scalable and reliable solution tailored to your institution’s needs. 

1. Will this digital fundraising help me engage young alumni?

You don’t need us to tell you that engaging young alumni ignites a long-term habit of giving—or that finding authentic ways to connect with this group can pose a significant challenge. When you’re evaluating a digital fundraising platform, ask the provider how they’ve taken young alumni into account. For example, can donors make a gift directly from their smartphone? Does the platform offer flexible ways to spread the word, for younger alumni who have strong communications preferences? Be sure to keep your goals in mind when choosing a platform, and determine if that platform will help you reach those goals in the most efficient way possible.

2. Is this digital fundraising technology built specifically for schools? What other schools like mine does this company work with?

Crowdfunding has become more and more popular—and for good reason. Bringing a community together to rally around a big goal works. Ask if the technology you’re evaluating takes into consideration your specific needs as someone working in education—does it account for offline matches? Can it track class years and affiliations? Does it have sophisticated recurring giving options?

Ask for examples of campaigns similar to the one you’re planning—or even just ask about other schools like yours that have had success with these digital fundraising tools. Whether you’re a large public university, a small boarding school, a community college, or any other type of nonprofit educational institution, ask for examples that you can most easily relate to.

3. Will this digital fundraising tool be easy not only for me to use, but also for my colleagues?

Good fundraising takes collaboration. Annual Fund teams work closely with their colleagues in Advancement services on reporting and reconciliation. Ask whether reporting is configurable on the platform, so that you don’t have to train your colleagues on a new reporting format.

Other pieces to consider that affect other teams include security information, access to marketing insights, and details about payment processing.

Even if you’re a one person shop, you need to think about functionality more broadly—it might be all the more important to make sure that the digital fundraising tools are easy to use.

(You might want to also ask what kind of strategic support comes with the technology so that you don’t have to take this on alone!)

4. Is the digital fundraising platform created by a growing company with a mission that aligns with ours?

Ideally, your digital fundraising technology comes from a company with values that match yours. Ask for their mission statement. Learn more about who you’ll be working with most closely at the company, and whether their professional background is relevant to educational fundraising.

It’s also fair to ask how the company stands by their mission. The last few years have shown us how important it is for companies across all sectors to take a stand and commit to their values, whether stepping up in the face of COVID-19 or offering specific responses to systemic racism.

You might also be interested in whether the company is growing, with plans to keep investing in its existing products and develop new ones. One of the benefits of partnering with the company should be their ability to innovate. You can focus on the strategic fundraising plans that make sense for your school and community, and trust that they will be looking ahead and building products for tomorrow.

Lobby of GiveCampus headquarters prominently displays our mission statement.

5. Does this digital fundraising technology allow us to provide the best possible experience for our donors, volunteers, and advocates?

Finally, always keep your constituents top of mind—something that comes naturally to every fundraiser we’ve met. Do you have volunteers who need an easy way to track their assignments? Do you have enthusiastic alumni who would be happy to spread the word about their gift—but don’t have any easy way to do it? Do you have donors who are ready to give, but have a million things on their plate and need to be able to do it with just a few taps on their phone? Ask the questions you need to ask to feel confident you can meet your constituents where they are.

Overall, we encourage you to think about the challenges you’re trying to solve, the pain points you’re facing, and the goals you’re trying to reach. You deserve digital fundraising solutions that fit your needs, expand your reach, and improve outcomes for your institution.

Curious to learn more about how GiveCampus can support your digital fundraising goals? Schedule a call with one of our fundraising experts.

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