Unleash Your Non-Profit’s Online Fundraising Potential (Tips & Tricks)

Most non-profits are frustrated with their online fundraising results.

The promise of the Internet is huge: a cheap, easy and effective way to reach millions of people who might want to support your organization. The reality is much smaller, at least for most charities. Most organizations struggle to raise money online, and that difference between the promise and the reality is very, very frustrating.

Today, I want to present some simple tips and tricks to unleash your organization’s online fundraising potential… but before I do, it’s important that you understand three simple facts about raising money online.

Online Fundraising Fact #1: There’s A Lot of Noise Out There

The Internet is a wide and wild place. If you’re trying to get a donor’s attention, you’ve got a lot of competition. You’re competing not only against other non-profits (some of whom are succeeding with wildly popular viral fundraising campaigns) but also against multibillion dollar companies making multimillion dollar online ad buys.

Add to this the fact that your donors are also getting information from TV, the radio, display advertising, the newspaper (if they still read one offline), their friends and social network, etc… and you can see that it will take real work to get your message noticed online. The key to overcoming this is creating a compelling message for your donors and then communicating it to them consistently.

Online Fundraising Fact #2: You Are Not Your Donors’ Top Online Priority

In general, people go online for one of two reasons: either they are doing work, or looking for a diversion (entertainment). Your non-profit does not easily fit into either of those two areas for most donors.

Thus, when communicating with your donors online, you need to remember that you are not their top priority. Maybe they are checking e-mail to see if a work-related message came through… and happen across your e-newsletter. Or perhaps they are online reading the news and surfing social media, when they come across your Facebook post. Either way, you need to grab their attention immediately, since they didn’t go online specifically seeking out information from your organization.

Of course, you can also make sure that your donors and prospects do occasionally come online specifically to communicate with your non-profit if you keep your website updated, send out e-mails regularly, and give donors a reason to want to visit your site.

Online Fundraising Fact #3: You Must Have a Plan and Apply it Consistently

Most non-profits send out e-mail newsletters when they have some news to share and some time to create a new issue, and they post on social media when it is convenient.

Because there is so much noise out there, and because your donors are online to do a million things other than read about your organization, the only way to gain attention and mind-share online is to have an online communications plan and apply it consistently. Your donors need to hear from you often – through many different online channels – if you want your message to sink in.

Ok, now that we’ve looked at those online fundraising facts, here are three tips and tricks you can use to raise more money online for your non-profit, starting today:

Tip #1: Put Together an Online Fundraising Committee

People are far more likely to open up an e-mail from a friend then from your organization – even if they are a key donor and supporter of your cause. Likewise, they are more likely to read a social media post from their neighbor than one from your development team. The solution? Get your supporters to share your e-mails and social media posts with their friends and co-workers, so that they are more likely to be read and re-shared.

This is easier said than done. The only way to get people to share your non-profit’s posts and messages is to ask them to do so. Try putting together an online fundraising committee (or an “Online Ambassadors Team”) whose job it is to share everything your non-profit does online with as many people as possible. This committee can re-share, re-tweet, forward e-mails, and generally help magnify your non-profit’s online reach 5-10 fold.

Tip #2: Cultivate, Cultivate, Cultivate, Ask. Rinse and Repeat.

If all you are doing online is making asks, you’re doomed to failure. The rule online is the same as the rule offline – cultivate first (and often) then make your ask.

This means sending out 2 or 3 e-mail newsletters in between your e-mail solicitations. It means that 3/4 of your website should be stories, pictures and videos of your work, and the rest can be fundraising. It means that you should be sending out 4, 5 or more fun and informative social media posts for every link back to a fundraising page. Cultivate… then ask. (And then repeat the process).

Tip #3: Focus on E-Mail

Your website is important, and people like social media… but e-mail is the killer app for online fundraising. No other online tool lets your non-profit actively reach out to donors and control the conversation like e-mail.

This means your organization absolutely must be collecting e-mail addresses from everyone you can, sending out a regular e-mail newsletter, and making regular e-mail asks of your donors.

Photo Credit: Serge Kij