There’s More to Online Fundraising than Just Your Website

I work with a lot of non-profits each year, and here’s how many of them could summarize their online fundraising efforts:

Step 1: Set up website.
Step 2: Ask web designer to put a big “donate now” button on the site.
Step 3: Pray that people click the button.

For many (perhaps most) non-profit organizations, their online fundraising begins and ends with their website.  That may have worked back in 1999, when just having a website was a big deal for a charitable organization, but it doesn’t work today.  There’s far more to online fundraising than just your website.

Website as Hub

Don’t get me wrong.  Your website is an important part of your organization’s online solicitation efforts.  In fact, your website should serve as the hub of your online fundraising – the place where you direct people to actually make their gift and enter their credit card details, as well as the place where they can go for more information.

Thus, your website should be well-designed.  It should look professional.  It should include a secure method for accepting donations, as well as a dedicated and customized page for each online fundraising campaign where you can direct supporters to make a donation.

But… if you leave it at that, you’ll have a really great website and good, functional fundraising pages, but that’s it.  You’ll be at the mercy of the Internet, hoping people will stop by and donate.  And for most non-profits – they won’t.   Most  people won’t know you’re running a fundraising campaign or need the money for a particular project.  They won’t stop by, and they won’t give.  That’s why your organization needs to take control and drive traffic to your fundraising pages.

Ways to Take Control

There are several methods that your non-profit can use to take control – ways that you can actively go out and direct traffic to your website while asking for donations.  These methods include:

E-Mail – Sending out e-mail letters to your list and getting people and organizations that support you to send out e-mail to their lists is a powerful way to drive traffic and dollars to your site.  (For more on this topic read Fundraising E-Mail Do’s and Don’ts).

Social Media – Building buzz and sending out links on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and other social networks is a good way to generate financial support – but be sure you are sending people back to your website to make a donation, and not just asking for “likes.”  (For more on this topic read Figuring Out Your Non-Profit’s Social Media Strategy).

Offline Buzz – You can use your in-person events, your offline newsletters, PR and other offline methods to talk about your fundraising campaign and drive people to your website to make a donation.

Each of these three primary ways to take control of your online fundraising efforts are important, and each deserves your organization’s attention.

Finding Evangelists

Another key – and often overlooked – strategy for driving people to your online fundraising hub to make a donation is by finding supporters who are willing to commit to building buzz for the campaign.  These “evangelists” agree to spread the word about your fundraising campaign to their own networks (both online and offline) and make a pitch to their friends, family and colleagues to donate.

How do you find evangelists for your online fundraising efforts?  Start by defining your online fundraising campaign – why are you raising money, what will it pay for, why do you need it now?  Then create a goal for your evangelists – what are you asking each to do? (The goals you set could be monetary, such as raise $100 each, or they could be based on activity, such as send out 10 tweets or ask 5 people at your office to donate).  Provide your evangelists with lots of supporting materials and motivation, and track their progress.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking your online fundraising efforts begin and end with your non-profit’s website.  Online fundraising involves so much more!

Photo Credit: Steve Rhode


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