Many organizations have the misguided notion that if they just make that “donate now!” button bigger, or if they just hit on the secret formula that no one will tell them, they can raise millions of dollars on the Internet and stop worrying about grants, events, and other traditional fundraising methods. Bzzzzt! Wrong answer… Fundraising on the Internet should be a part of your fundraising mix, but for most non-profits, the web will never become your dominant form of fundraising. So… what are the best ways to use the Internet in your development efforts?
Complementing Your Activities
For most organizations, the primary development function of your website will be complement your other fundraising activities. Your website provides a great opportunity to offer lots of information to your donors, including reports, white papers, stats, and news. Likewise, every school, church, and charity should be using e-mail newsletters and blasts to keep their donors in the loop.
Your website also provides a landing pad where you can send people to make donations when they can’t make donations on the spot. For example, when you are giving a speech or working the room at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, and someone says they want to help or make a donation, pull out your card and tell them they can go to your website to donate. Announce your web address from the podium during seminars, and invite people to go there to learn more or to donate.
The web can also compliment your non-Internet fundraising activities in more direct ways. For example, if you are holding an event, you can set up an event page to give information about the event, invite people to buy tickets online, do an early preview for your silent auction, and more. Many groups that hold walk-a-thons and other participatory fundraising events have had great success with setting up a separate page for each person who is raising money as part of the event that shows progress, with a special message from the participant, and which the participant can e-mail out to their friends as part of their fundraising pitch.
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Building a List
One of the best ways to use the Internet to build your fundraising base and complement your development efforts is by building an e-mail update list. Successful online businesses have been doing this for a long time, but most non-profits have not latched on to this great strategy.
The basic concept is to set up a sign-up form on your website for your e-mail newsletter (much like the sign-up boxes you see here on The Fundraising Authority). Encourage people who come to your website to sign up for your newsletter to stay in the loop. Then, stay in touch with these folks by providing relevant and interesting news and tidbits on your work, mission, and vision.
As you build your e-mail list of supporters, you will be able to incorporate fundraising into your e-mail blasts. You can invite people to events and sell tickets, ask for donations, find event sponsors, and more.
Raising Money Directly Over the Internet
Of course, while you are likely to find that the best uses of the Internet in your fundraising operation are for complementing your other activities and building a list, you don’t want to neglect direct fundraising through your website. Every school, church, and charity should have a “Donate Now!’ button on their website, and be set up to accept one-time and recurring donations over the web.
Many non-profits have also found great success in running web-only campaigns, once their websites started to reach a significant number of visitors per day. Often, the best type of campaign to run via the Internet is one that asks for relatively small donations ($10-$100) and is for a specific purpose, like asking visitors to contribute $10 to buy meals for a family for one day, or $25 to send a child to school for a week, etc.
Market Your Site
Once you’ve set up your organization’s website, don’t forget to market it aggressively. Include your web address (URL) on all of your marketing materials, submit your site to the main search engines, optimize your site to be found by the search engines, and ask for links from complementary sites.
Internet Fundraising Best Practices
- Build Your List – have sign-up forms on your website and encourage your visitors to sign up for your newsletter.
- Use the Web as a Complement to Your Other Activities – Try to include your website as a complementary tactic for your other fundraising activities.
- Have a “Donate Now!” Button – Accept credit card donations directly from your website.
- Market Your Website – Spread the word. Without visitors to your site, you won’t receive any donations through the web.