How Leading Charities Leverage Always-On Fundraising

Digital Marketing


A friend from a small INGO recently told me their tax appeal raised more than ever. This was due to significant growth in digital acquisition, which he attributed to always-on media. Having initially forgot to pause media after a previous campaign, leaving it running when donations increase each month.

While the idea of always-on digital fundraising isn't new, it seems like an increasing number of nonprofits are exploring always-on as a part of this marketing and fundraising strategy. In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know, including:

  1. What is always-on fundraising?
  2. What are the benefits?
  3. Who is doing it well?
  4. Where do I start?


What is always-on fundraising?

Always-on fundraising refers to charities having fundraising activity in market without an end date. This activity runs in parallel to fundraising campaigns which have a start and an end date.

Always-on fundraising generally refers to digital marketing and acquisition. It is most frequently used to attract and convert individual givers with more mature organisations also using always-on to support philanthropy, peer-to-peer, corporate partnerships and planned giving.

With regards to always-on tactics, most charities start with search and social media advertising. They will also review and optimise their social media content plan. As they start to see return on investment and invest more into always-on, they’re likely to use more advanced digital marketing tactics. This includes connected and addressable television ads, which – in my humble experience - have consistently shown to increase online. acquisition.

What are the benefits of always-on fundraising?

Always-on fundraising will result in your organisation raising more money, enabling it to have even greater impact. Rather than relying entirely on campaign results, always-on will deliver a predictable and repeatable stream of donations.

An unexpected benefit is always-on fundraising will amplify campaign results, as it did for my friend. There are several reasons for this.

Advertising algorithms are very good at optimising towards a given goal. This means we see ads becoming more effective the longer they’re in market.  Most fundraising campaigns are only in market for a month or two, which doesn’t really give them enough time to optimise.

There has also been significant research into marketing effectiveness that’s shown how share of voice correlates to share of market. Always-on fundraising can greatly increase your organisation’s share of voice, which will mean more people will be familiar with your organisation and more predisposed to give.

We see overall return on advertising spend to be between 4:1 and 8:1 in the first 12 months. Best practice is to measure media effectiveness based on its role in the supporter journey. Media that aims to build awareness at the top of the funnel shouldn’t be judged using last touch sales attribution. This can be counterintuitive for traditional fundraising leaders who are more comfortable measuring every channel in isolation.


Who is doing always-on fundraising well?

The bigger the charity the more likely it is they’re using always-on fundraising well.

World Vision Australia, for example, has been running always-on digital almost a decade. It’s used to support brand, Child Sponsorship acquisition, general donations, as well as tactical campaigns. World Vision’s other large fundraising offices in countries like Canada, Germany, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and United States all do likewise. As a result, fundraising revenue has grown consistently.    

It’s not just the big charities. We’ve recently started supporting organisations such as Cancer Council WA with their always-on media budget already seeing positive results.

As organisations of all sizes see further decline in traditional channels, I expect more to be looking to always-on to meet their fundraising targets. While you won’t see a spike in fundraising like you would with a tradition campaign, you will see incremental growth over time. It is therefore best to start as sooner rather than later.


Where do I start always-on fundraising?

We were recently engaged by World Vision International to support their digital transformation strategy. Part of our work included defining best-practice building blocks of always-on digital marketing. The intention being to highlight the most important things every fundraising office should do to drive growth, irrespective of their capability or size.

The project highlighted that while advanced fundraising teams should be using the very latest tactics and technologies, any team can easily start.

A good place to start developing an always-on strategy. This should be based on data from analytics, keyword and competitor research. Ideally, you’ll already provide a good online donation experience (address this asap before you start advertising!).

Most charities will want to start with search engine and social media advertising. An important piece of advice is to be patient and optimise based on data. Depending on your organisation, it can take a little time to find your audience and build momentum.   

Your team can then continue to build on performance, investing in quality content and developing internal capability as you go.

Clue was also recently engaged to consult for World Vision Germany to provide advice on how they should structure their digital team. This included answering the question of what to outsource. A key recommendation was to work towards having strategic capability inhouse and outsource the doing to agencies.

If just getting started, the cost to outsource is probably cheaper than brining talent inhouse.  For more on this, check out our guide to outsourcing digital marketing.


What’s right for your organisation?

Get in touch if you would like to talk more about how your organisation can leverage always-on fundraising. Or say hello at the WA Fundraising Forum where I’ll be presenting and the Clue team will be on hand to chat.

Category: Digital Marketing