Opportunities for digital fundraising in the heritage sector

This resource provides a practical tool for how to use digital to support your fundraising activities. Looking at best practice in the sector, it explores the different options for digital fundraising and how they can be embedded into your business strategy.

This resource is available in English and Welsh
A small cliff face with a building above and next to it
Image courtesy of Cloud9 Designs ©

Opportunities for digital fundraising in the heritage sector

1. The importance of digital fundraising

Fundraising has changed with a rise of cashless payments and online fundraising events, and a move to more engaging and innovative methods of building audiences and increasing funds. While digital fundraising should never replace ‘traditional’ fundraising, there are numerous opportunities for organisations to complement existing techniques, using digital to engage existing and new audiences and donors.

Our expert, Annie Jarvis, Cause4, provides you with some different ways you can use digital fundraising in your heritage organisation. She gives you some real-life examples of how others have embedded digital in their business plans so you can create an action plan for change.


2. Opportunities for digital fundraising

On-site giving

Contactless payments are now commonplace in charity sector fundraising, making up 21% of UK payments in 2019 alone [1]. Contactless donations are a great way to boost regular giving, and there are lots of options available, with organisations such as Goodbox (PDF file, 1.18MB), PayaCharity, and Good with Devices all offering different devices to help you boost donations.

Alternatively, there are simpler and more affordable ways of asking people to donate digitally, with Text-Giving, QR Codes, and Near Field Communications (NFC) becoming increasingly popular.

[1] Barclays – The future of giving (PDF file, 8.42MB).

Online giving

Improvements to online giving platforms and messaging have the potential to increase funds and build audiences. The key to increasing funding online lies in both using compelling messaging and setting up easy to use donation mechanisms.

Messaging should be simple, engaging and emotive, telling potential donors how their donation will make a difference to your organisation. Where possible, put in concrete yet broad explanations of where the money could (for example, £50 will pay for resources for a creative workshop).

Accepting donations online is a great way to raise regular funds. This could be through an in-built platform on your website, or by signing up to platforms such as CAF Donate, JustGiving, LocalGiving or Virgin Money Giving, all offering different ways for your supporters to donate.


Crowdfunding can be a good way to fund a local community project, by asking a large group of people for a small amount of money each. It can give you the opportunity to reach the wider community in a simple, flexible and personalised way. An alternative to traditional fundraising, local groups can use online platforms to set up their profile and reach out to hundreds of people to raise awareness of their project and funds.

The most common types of crowdfunding are:

  • Donation-based – in which funders donate to a cause they care about, with no expected reward or return.
  • Reward-based – whereby funders receive non-monetary rewards, such as a token of appreciation from a cause. Be aware that care is needed when claiming Gift Aid if rewards are offered.

Online crowdfunding platforms give you the opportunity to raise money online by publicly sharing a campaign (your organisation’s pitch to the world) that tells everyone what you are fundraising for and why.


Micro-donations can be a good way to raise funds and are based on consumers rounding up transactions and donating the surplus to a charity. There are plenty of businesses willing to support charities in this way, from Domino’s to Screwfix, and lots of platforms that offer this type of support. Some of the most popular ones include Pennies, Roundups, GoPoolit and Pledjar. Check that the platform you choose allows charities to claim the funds even if your target has not been reached.


3. How others use digital to diversify their income

Here are some examples of how heritage organisations have successfully used digital to enhance their fundraising:

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

The exterior of a museum painted in light purple
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Bucks

In 2019 the Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre (RDMSC) partnered with immersive technology company, Arcade Ltd, to develop a mobile-device friendly app which would enable users to access an Augmented Reality trail in the village of Great Missenden.

The trail, ‘Marvellous Missenden’ tells the story of Roald Dahl through locations around the village that inspired his work. By taking the visitor experience outside of the physical museum, the organisation created new opportunities to engage with their audiences as well as attract new audiences.

Although the museum receives some financial support from the Roald Dahl Charitable Trust, it is an independent charity primarily reliant on income from visitors. One of the main upsides for introducing the AR trail was that the museum was able to challenge its perception as a wet weather destination. It now had an offering that could be enjoyed on sunny days too. The decision also generated wider press attention for the museum. Taken together, the museum was able to boost its income generation by raising public awareness and sustaining visitor numbers throughout the year.

Braemar Castle

A castle with a Scottish flag against a blue sky
Braemar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Braemar Castle is a thriving visitor attraction based on the edge of Braemar village, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. The castle is leased and operated by Braemar Community Limited – a non-profit organisation led by 256 members, most of whom are residents of Braemar.

Since taking charge of the visitor attraction over 10 years ago, the community has used a variety of digital methods to raise funds for the maintenance of the building, ranging from a crowdfunding campaign to virtual events.

In 2017, the organisation successfully raised £20,645 from 71 supporters in 56 days via a crowdfunding campaign, far surpassing its target of £10,000. This was a match funded crowdfunding campaign, meaning that it also received a donation of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund once it achieved its target amount. The Castle employs only one full-time member of staff, instead relying on seasonal staff and around 50 volunteers, which may explain why its crowdfunding campaign was so successful.

In summer 2021, the Castle held a series of events online, including a choreographed dance. Participants paid £5 to join the event via Zoom to enjoy Scottish heritage together and perform a Military Two Step. The beauty of the event was that dancers could join the event from all over the world.

All the money raised went towards the Castle’s maintenance via its ‘Raising the Standard’ campaign, the charity’s £1.6m conservation and redevelopment project planned for completion in 2023.


4. What’s next?

So with all these options available to you, how do you decide what to use and how to get started?

It’s important to create a short action plan to help you identify which digital fundraising methods to use, and how to get started (remember that you don’t necessarily need to use all of them).

To begin with, consider digital fundraising in relation to your business strategy by answering some of these key questions:

  • What do we want to achieve through digital fundraising? (Goals may include raising money, growing our audience, gaining publicity).
  • How much money do we need to raise?
  • What capacity do we have to activate digital fundraising?
  • What digital skills do we have, and what additional skills might we need?
  • Which digital fundraising method do we think we could successfully implement?
  • Does this fit in with our wider business strategy and organisational vision?

Once you have answered these initial questions, you can then put together your action plan and complete a checklist for implementation.

Download this task checklist to help you put your plan into action (Word document, 202kb).

More help here

A red heart over a stream of digital 0s and 1s.

How can we use digital to improve our fundraising

David Johnson, Director of Strategy and Programmes, Cause4 takes us through a step-by-step guide to developing and actioning a digital fundraising strategy.  From setting objectives to evaluation, and everything in between, this guide includes lots of examples to inform and inspire.


Video: Getting started with digital fundraising

In this webinar recording, Zoe Amar provides an introduction to digital fundraising. She looks at how to get started, how to improve your fundraising practice, tips for success, key pitfalls and how to measure success. This resource will give you the building blocks for digital fundraising.


Browse related resources by smart tags:

Contactless giving Crowdfunding Fundraising Strategy
Published: 2022
Resource type: Articles

Creative Commons Licence Except where noted and excluding company and organisation logos this work is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) Licence

Please attribute as: "Opportunities for digital fundraising in the heritage sector (2022) by Annie Jarvis supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0


More help here

Digital Heritage Hub is managed by Arts Marketing Association (AMA) in partnership with The Heritage Digital Consortium and The University of Leeds. It has received Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and National Lottery funding, distributed by The Heritage Fund as part of their Digital Skills for Heritage initiative. Digital Heritage Hub is free and answers small to medium sized heritage organisations most pressing and frequently asked digital questions.

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