Ask the expert: Digital fundraising

Ioan Marc Jones, content editor at Charity Digital, explains how digital fundraising can help increase donations

Not so long ago, a flyer, a poster and a school notice-board were all that was available to promote a PTA fundraiser. But these days, when smartphones reign supreme, digital technology offers multiple new ways to connect with supporters.

Why has digital fundraising become so important in the past few years?

For a long time, digital technologys potential was widely ignored by small charities. However, the pandemic changed all that. Suddenly communicating digitally was not simply desirable, but necessary.

Tech has many benefits. It allows charities to increase fundraising efforts, enhance marketing and communications and support the day-to-day operations of their teams. Digital also serves to remove admin and tedious tasks, freeing you to focus on the most important work – providing your service.

Cashless giving, donate buttons, QR codes, text to donate and contactless donations are all popular right now. I would recommend that PTAs try out several options because different things will work for different donors.

How can my PTA collect donations online?

Setting up an online fundraising platform will allow you to collect donations directly from supporters anywhere in the world without involving the children or school staff. Each platform offers different functionality and some can also claim Gift Aid on your behalf. JustGiving and Crowdfunder are popular options.

What are QR codes and how can a PTA use them?

Although scannable QR codes seem techy, they are surprisingly simple to create. Containing vast amounts of information, these black and white squares send instructions to access websites or display images.

Used on a poster, they could direct people to information about an event or fundraiser, removing the need for paper flyers. As well as reducing costs, this method is also better for the environment.

PTAs can also use QR codes to send people straight to a donation page on mobile or desktop, enabling a quick and easy digital transaction. This makes it extremely easy for people to donate, regardless of whether they are carrying cash.

How would a PTA set up text to donate?

Like QR codes, text donations sound more complex than they are. A quick google will reveal a variety of services that allow people to donate to your fundraiser from their smartphone. Some good options include Donr and DONATE. Each of these services has its own benefits, and takes around a 5% cut of every donation.

How can PTAs use contactless payments to boost their profits?

Sometimes visitors run out of cash at events but are still willing to spend money. A contactless card reader removes this barrier and will enable you to generate larger profits. Use it on profitable stalls such as the bar at the summer fair. Its also useful for bake sales, uniform sales and event ticket sales. A new card reader costs around £20-£30, but should pay for itself quickly.

How can a PTA encourage donations on social media?

Social media has huge potential for promoting events and sharing your successes with parents and the local community. Its also a great way to direct people to your groups online fundraising platform.

However, winning a donation typically requires people to feel an emotional connection with a cause, and a PTA can use storytelling techniques to encourage this. The key is to keep stories short and engaging. Focus on the problem – for example, the pressing need to renovate an old playground – and describe the solution you need people to help with.

Make sure your story seamlessly flows into fundraising. Having built compassion in your audience you want to make it as easy as possible for them to act on it, so give them several routes to donate.

When promoting an event by email, where is the line between getting the message out and bombarding people with information?

Email marketing, the act of sending emails to users with a specific purpose, is perhaps the most popular and successful form of marketing. However, it is tricky to achieve the right balance. To begin, set a standard frequency with which to send your emails.

Using the schools email removes the need to seek consent before emailing parents, but means you cant track user behaviour. Mailing software, such as MailChimp, will help you to monitor and report on your efforts. Adapt your frequency depending on the responses you receive from your audience. For example, if you are seeing a poor click-through-rate, or loads of people unsubscribing, perhaps youre contacting people too often. If you are seeing a positive response, try a few additional emails.

How can a PTA make digital communications more accessible to different audiences?

Use plain and simple language. Its important not to confuse your audience with jargon because unfamiliar words can, unintentionally, form barriers that exclude sections of your audience.

If you use photographs, videos and GIFs in your social media posts, there are small changes you can make to boost accessibility. Use simple fonts and alt texts for images wherever possible and explain GIFs and videos in the text.

For hashtags, always use Camel Case (capitalising each new word), particularly on social media.

What are the best ways for a PTA to thank volunteers digitally?

Whether you send out simple thank you emails or throw an elaborate digital event to celebrate volunteers, it is essential to show them you appreciate and acknowledge their hard work. You could make a video to show supporters what youve achieved over the year and demonstrate the impact your volunteers have had on the end result.

Keep it personal. Given the small size of PTAs and school communities, this is especially important. Use your website and social channels to thank individuals by mentioning them in the text of your post rather than tagging them.

If youre using email, dont write the same thing to everyone. No one likes to feel as if they are being thanked via copy and paste!

Whats trending in the world of digital fundraising?

One thing that Ive noticed, perhaps anecdotally, is a drive for more creative and quirky fundraisers. People are throwing all kinds of interesting events that are raising loads of money for charities.

Our recent 50 Incredible Fundraising Ideas article contains videos, podcasts and hyperlinks that show what a wide world of fundraising there is out there – sure to provide inspiration for your next events. Read the full article.

Charity Digitals mission is to help good causes achieve more with digital technology. It also runs the Charity Digital Exchange platform, partnering with leading technology companies to offer charities substantial discounts on hardware and software.