Fundraising is crucial to the growth of your university. While asking for money isn’t always an easy task, it is something institutions must prioritize. Every part of your university relies on external funding – from your incoming student body to your facility maintenance.

To engage with your audiences, it is important to find the most effective channel(s). Traditionally, cold calling and direct mail were used to reach out to higher education audiences. However, these methods are losing efficacy in today’s digital world. A personalized and interactive online campaign will interest your audiences more than a scripted phone call.

While coming up with new fundraising ideas can be difficult, it is important to freshen up your efforts to keep your university in the spotlight. To help you stay inspired, we’ve come up with some methods to create a refined fundraising strategy to boost your online donations.

Create Incentives to Donate

Everyone loves a little competition now and then. Start an online challenge that your audience can easily join. Think back to the days of jelly bean contests – you’d make your best guess as to how many jelly beans were in the jar, with one prize winner.

To execute this at your university, hold a contest on social media that asks everyone to guess how many books there are in the library, or how many people showed up to the last football game. Every dollar submitted to vote will give one individual the chance to win a personalized university sweatshirt, or tickets to the next hockey game.

A competition between departments could also spark interest. For instance, the department that raises the most money will gain a portion of the funds raised. A higher donation constitutes a better vote rank. This competition will prove student pride, establish word-of-mouth marketing in and around your community, while simultaneously boosting your online donations.

Simplify Your Donation Page

Your website should be in top-top shape to attract more donors. It houses your donation page, which is the ultimate tool to drive donations. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on the design, navigation, and text to highlight your mission and encourage donors to want to learn (and give) more during their visit.

Design your donation page with simplicity. The less complicated your page is, the better. You want to keep visitors focused on one goal: donating. Therefore, your page should be clean and tidy. Don’t try to be overly clever with the layout of your page or add too much text.

For instance, limit your page to one headline and one to two sentences. Your body copy should be just long enough to reiterate your goal, urgency of donation and how their money will impact the future of your university. Use compelling and engaging language – ultimately defining why your university needs more donations.

You should similarly include a minimal amount of imagery. One captivating and quality image will outperform multiple images. Your donors will become distracted if there are too many images to look at. A university logo, security seal, and one compelling image are sufficient. With a powerful image, you have the chance to evoke emotion in your visitors, potentially increasing their donation.

Keep Fields and Clicks to a Minimum

You should pay close attention to the number of form fields visitors are required to fill out in order to donate. Limit the number of fields you include in your form. Only require the ones you need in order to finalize the donation.  The fewer the fields, the higher your conversion rate and, thereby, donation rate will be. Don’t waste their time and energy – donors don’t want to fill out a lot of information or spend time with a lengthy form.

In addition to limiting field number, you should aim to keep the amount of clicks low. Donors shouldn’t have to search for the next step to finish a donation. The calls-to-action should be clear, bold and easy to find.

Your visitors are there to donate, and to feel valuable with the gift they are giving. By keeping your form fields and clicks to a minimum, you will increase the chances of gaining a satisfied donor and potentially, a returning donor. 

Offer Various Gift Options

Be sure to offer different gift levels. People want to appear to be generous, so include higher gift options to entice them to donate more. Individuals most likely have a pre-determined amount to donate before visiting your page, but with additional options, it might make them rethink their selection. It is also important to keep a blank field for them to put their own payment option. This will ensure that the donor knows they are still in control of their donation.

If you want to entice donors further, consider writing a description next to each that shows how each amount could help the university. For example, a donation of $1000 could help the library purchase a new laptop to maximize resources for students. Your donors will feel pleased with their donation if you offer multiple gift levels with their respective purposes.

Publicize the Donation Process

Social media can be a significant outlet to boost your fundraising efforts. 69% of U.S. adults use at least one social media site. Therefore, you can use social media to reach and excite your audiences about donations. For instance, if your university reaches a campaign goal, post it to social media. Your audiences will see the post and might even visit your website to learn more.

In addition to showcasing donation goals, you could spotlight key donors on social media. This will give your audiences a look into who is contributing, humanize the donor experience, and make the donors feel valuable with their contribution. It’s a great way to show appreciation for each donor, while creating a sense of community over social media. Focus your social media on highlighting your donors and how they positively impact the value of your university.


Boosting your online donations can be difficult in higher education. Once someone leaves a school they may not see the point in funding the school further. On the other hand, current students and families might not think their donation will have immediate value to the institution. However, it is important to freshen up your efforts to empower your audience to see the worth of their donations.

Try a more engaging online approach with contests, website enhancements, and social media initiatives to refine the process. Your student body, faculty, alumni, and donors will all react (and donate) to something they want to be a part of.

How do you drive online donations for your university? Tell us about it on Twitter or LinkedIn!

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