the playbook on digital fundraising in Europe: four tips to up your game in 2022 - european campaign playbook

the european campaign playbook

the playbook on digital fundraising in Europe: four tips to up your game in 2022

by Sam Lockwood

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Asking for money is not easy. 

There are so many organisations competing for people’s attention. 

It’s never been so important to find innovative ways to engage your audience and encourage them to donate to your cause.

This section of the playbook explains why Europeans are unique when it comes to giving money and provides four tips that you can start applying today to take your organisation’s fundraising to the next level.

Europeans are complicated

Let’s start debunking a myth that Europeans don’t donate to political causes. We do! Europeans give money to political causes, charities and similar organisations, but we do so in our own way and depending on where we live. 

It is true that the amount of money raised in Europe (approx. €88 billion a year) is just a tiny fraction of the amount raised in the United States ($471.44 billion). 

And although Americans have the strongest culture of individual giving in the world, Europeans also have a distinct giving culture and landscape. 

The following is a non-comprehensive list of the most important features of giving in Europe. 

  • Anglo-saxon model, where individuals give money to civil society organisations and NGOs, as they serve as a counter-weight to government
  • Rhine-Model model, where civil society organisations are contracted by the State to carry out certain activities on its behalf.
  • Mediterranean model, where religious institutions often play an important role in running charity services
  • Scandinavian model, where a strong welfare state exists and there is an important culture of volunteering.

In conclusion, Europeans are as generous as Americans, but maybe in the US giving money to an organisation is easier.

Tip 1: Membership models are on the rise

Despite Covid-19, we have seen an upward trend in membership as a form of giving. More specifically:

  • membership revenue has increased by 17% in 2020
  • membership accounted for 66% of total online revenue in 2020, compared to 54% in 2019

The reasons why more organisations choose a membership model are twofold. 

Firstly, a campaign offering individuals to become a member gets a better response online than a one-off fundraising campaign. The table below shows the difference in message rates between membership and fundraising, with the former outperforming the latter in every indicator.

Sources: M&R Benchmarks Study 2021

Secondly, membership models allow your organisation to transition:

  • from low to high conversion rates in reach out campaigns
  • from high to low fees and admin costs
  • from high to low monthly “churn rates”, which effectively means that you keep more existing members giving for longer. You can find more information on the churn rates in the “recommended reading” section at the end of this article.

Tip 2: help your donors see the difference they make

The best way to help your donors realise the importance of their contribution is to tell a story, using simple words and powerful images, and building a community around your cause. Easier said than done, but here are a few ideas to improve your next fundraising campaign:

  • Show tangible impact and direct proof that members and donors are helping in a way that is aligned with your shared values
  • Offer real benefits: try to address the following questions donors and members subconsciously think: What’s in it for me? How will a membership or donation enhance my career? Will I increase my social status? Will I learn new skills?
  • Build something bigger: creating a giving community and taking action together (online and offline) is vital to long-term relationships. Taking time to learn the principles of community organising, can move to fundraising away from just another one-way communications channel, towards an enduring network that can truly shape change.
  • Make it personal: don’t just spam your members with the same message, but segment information based on their interests. You also need to reach out at other critical moments, such as the holidays, birthdays and key dates.

Let’s look at different best practice examples in the US and the UK.

US-based “charity: water” is a non-profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries. 

If you visit their website, the first thing you will come across is the story of the people directly benefiting from your donations. They even get specific and claim that for every $40 a month you give, 12 people can drink clean water every year. 


Needless to say, the story you decide to tell has to be real. To show real proof, this organisation, for example, allows anyone to search online how many people have been benefited by its work, broken down by country.

In Europe we also have plenty of best practices to share. We selected the example of Led By Donkeys. This campaign group aims at exposing the incompetency and hypocrisy of pro-Brexit politicians by occupying public space with strong political messages. 


They often choose relatively cheap advertising channels, such as billboards, or use “guerrilla” tactics such as projecting videos on the street and illuminating buildings (e.g. the House of Commons). 


On their website and on social media, the call to action could not be clearer. If you want to see more of “this”, then give us money.

Tip 3: make giving easy

In order to improve acquisition of donors and members, you have to offer an ‘Amazon-like’ payment experience. More specifically:

  • Improve checkout design by reducing “friction”: in other words, use less text, fewer data fields and fewer steps. 
  • Go local with payment options: offer local European payment methods, such as Bancontact in Belgium, iDEAL in the Netherlands etc.
  • Mobile and one-touch payments: offer mobile wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay)
  • Encourage recurring giving by suggesting regular giving above the one-time option. 
  • Offer Direct Debit as the first choice whenever possible!

Tip 4: automate your digital fundraising efforts 

The main benefits from doing so are improving retention and growth and reducing administrative costs and time wasted by your staff. 

A few examples you can start with today:

  • Automate failed payment recovery: when payments fail because of, for example, an expired credit card, your system should be ready to automatically respond. 
  • Convert one-time gifts into recurring ones: ask one-time givers to switch to regular giving.
  • Automate upgrade asks: suggest small increases in donations of the right amount at the right time. This alone can create a massive uplift revenue.
  • Leverage Machine Learning with payments by implementing Success+ by GoCardless (link here)

Wrapping up

European fundraisers, especially those operating in mainland Europe, have a huge opportunity before them to make sure their organisations stand up in the upcoming giving season. 

It all starts with knowing your audience better, innovating with new membership programs and streamlining your donation processes. 

In the end, who doesn’t want to raise more money with the same effort?

Sam Lockwood is the founder and Director of Brand Response, a leading practice that delivers a unique blend of technology, creative design and data to grow movements and win public campaigns. He's consulted for campaigns across the United States and Europe; clients have included the European Parliament, Greens–European Free Alliance, Renew Europe, Amnesty International and more than 50progressive organisations in over 28 countries.

SmartRaise by Brand Response automates and grows sustainable income so you can focus on making a difference. A powerful toolkit to acquire, retain, and scale up your supporter base. Our open data approach means European campaigns get 100% data ownership and the power to protect their donor's privacy inside the EU.

Credit to Team Can Do for some of the figures used in the article above.

Got more time? Here’s our suggested reading

“Social movements, digital fundraising & issue awareness: the role of targeted ads”, by ThinkYoung 


What is Churn Rate and Why Care? by SmartRaise


Examples of successful fundraising campaigns, by goodbox 


The best social media fundraising campaigns, by goodbox 


Digital Fundraising Summit 2021 


A digital future: the Status of UK Fundraising, 2021 report by blackbaud

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