My family was at the beginning of an enormous home renovation in rural Malawi when the world shut down in 2020. Costs of labor and materials sky-rocketed, the borders closed in our small southeast African country, and we became 100% dependent on online fundraising. [Please insert your own personal phrase of horror here.]
For decades, an annual ministry letter with fundraising requests and overwhelming numbers of church visits while on home assignment has been the standard of practice for missionaries. And then COVID happened. Churches went online only; borders were closed all over the world, and people could not get back to the USA for their regular fundraising practices.
When COVID hit, the western/developed world closed their doors, but instead of shutting down, they all went online. Enter the savvy missionary family in need of significant funds and an enormous audience bored out of their minds living on social media.
Some of us took to this like a duck to water, others have not been able to access and thrive in this new era of fundraising. So, here are some of my family’s tips and recommendations for becoming successful at singing for your supper online.
Make a posting schedule for yourself. Maybe just once or twice a month. Keep it simple. A photo and a caption with a link to your website, Facebook page, or online donation page. If you have none of those things, check out Commission Creative’s Social Media Campaign product. Then slowly increase your post frequency.
Build Your Base
It might seem superficial, but the more friends on Facebook and followers on Instagram, the more successful your viewer reach will be. If someone likes one of your photos, start to follow them on Instagram or ask to be their friend on Facebook. You know when it suggests friends on your newsfeed? Actually, send the invite. Especially when it’s someone who is a friend of a close friend.
Post Worthy Photos
We are a people of experience and since no one can experience cool things at home anymore, they want to live through the awesome stuff we all still get to do. Maybe it’s you praying with a small group Bible study (a good option since nobody’s faces are showing). Pictures of you doing something will get way better “engagement” (see below) than photos of random people or objects.
Boost Your Post
Facebook has an algorithm for basically running your post as an “ad.” It allows you to choose an audience based on certain locations, genders, interests, etc. Facebook will push your post into those people’s newsfeeds. We will allow our posts to “organically” reach people for about 2 days and often will get to about 600 people. Then we will boost the post for 5 days with a small set amount we want Facebook to use to boost the post and will eventually reach another 2,000-4,000 people. For a more detailed explanation of how boosting a post works, check out this article.
You can link your Facebook and Instagram accounts, allowing you to post to one and automatically post to the other. Time-saving at its finest! Keep in mind that links in the Facebook post might not cross over and function on Instagram (and vice versa), so you still might need to go into each post and edit it to work properly for each platform.
The above is advice for continuous supporter interactions and engagements. I encourage you to do this ALL year. People who are invested in you outside your annual fundraising season are more likely to give during your annual time of need. To get the most out of your time during your fundraising season specifically, stick to the following tips:
Make a Facebook page for your ministry.
Commission Creative’s Facebook Cover product will help make the page look professional and cohesive with the rest of your fundraising material.
Get a website and domain.
You can buy the domain for your website at MissionaryDomains.com. If you already have a website or if you made your own (I suggest SquareSpace.com or WordPress.com), Commission Creative can make a beautiful website banner for you.
Have an online donation page
This is organization-specific, but I think nearly all NGOs have online giving… hopefully. If you can, link directly to your donation page. Don’t make the donor do the extra work of searching it’s required because you’re in a creative access location.
Create a theme
This is something I do every 2-3 years. Here is my quick step-by-step.
- Pick a scripture that encourages, inspires, or speaks truth to your ministry.
- Use it ALL the time. In every email, post, letter, magnet, poster, etc.
- Make the scripture look beautiful. Contact Commission Creative directly for a quote on this.
- Translate all, a portion, or just one word into the native language you serve in. This creates a very good visual effect and another way of having your supporters submerged into your life.
- Use this theme everywhere.
Set a Goal!
I cannot express enough how much more successful you will be when you use an actual dollar amount as a goal. We split our needs between monthly recurring and one-time gifts for the year. This will make the number you are presenting to your supporters more digestible. A huge dollar amount can be overwhelming for both you and your supporters.
Ask for Prayer
Every time we ask for money, we include an alternative way to support us via prayer. We have a link to our “About Our Ministry” webpage that has specific prayer requests. It’s just another way to get your supporters to join you even if they cannot give money. Also, when more than one gathers in His name, the spirit works… even online.
Write thank you via email
I have really fallen out of practice with this over 2021, which is quite embarrassing since I managed for the 5 years before that. I go through the donor summary and add each new donor to my contacts list (helpful for sending out newsletter emails). I then write a 2-3 line “thank you” to each new donor (whether new, recurring, or one time). It includes a heartfelt thank you as well as how we will use the funds in our ministry. Commission Creative offers an email template through MailChimp that essentially acts as a digital letterhead or a hand-written thank you using their notecards is nice touch as well.
Timing is everything
We are very strategic about when we post and send supporter emails. Facebook has an algorithm to evaluate your audience for boosted posts and their peak times of activity. Here is our general pattern.
Days and Times
- Publish posts mid-morning in the USA (which is our donor base) during the week, late enough that west coast folk are awake as well. Lots of people check Facebook sometimes at work in the AM (let’s all just admit it right now).
- Saturdays in the late morning are also a good (see above).
- Sundays during church or just after. Between online church and how many people are on their phones in restaurants, this is a high utilization time.
Specific Times A Year
- November and December — These are our prime and aggressive fundraising months. November because people still have money and have not spent it all on Christmas presents. Set low expectations for Giving Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, look it up). We have never seen an increase in donations, likely because the entire USA is flooded with messages of giving to everyone! We use it as a means of exposure and opening a window to future supporters. Post throughout December but lean more heavily on posting between Christmas and New Year’s. People are trying to get in their end-of-year donations before the tax year.
- Tax time. Late April to end of May— Tax returns are coming in and people have excess income coming in and often nothing to spend it on.
- During a stimulus distribution. This might be our most embarrassing admission, but the stimulus checks resulted in an increased donation for us. Some people were not affected financially by COVID, and their stimulus check was, again, excess income they wanted to spend on something that would make a difference in others’ lives.
These tips changed everything for us with social media and online fundraising. These came from years of trial and error and a pure need to survive in a time of global financial crisis. The key to all fundraising is to commit, stay faithful, and pray without ceasing.