How to Add an Online Component to Your Offline Fundraising Activities

Most non-profits know the power of online fundraising. They ask for donations on their website, send out occasional fundraising e-mails, and maybe even dip a toe into the crowdfunding waters. But did you know that your online activities can be a significant boost to your offline fundraising activities?

It’s true! Adding an online component is a phenomenal way to add more reach to your non-profit’s fundraising campaigns (annual, monthly giving, planned giving, capital, etc.) and offline events. By utilizing online strategies, your organization will be able to include new audiences and networks in a fundraising campaign, and amplify your message to donors who are more susceptible to online appeals than offline efforts.

Online components can also help you generate additional revenue by allowing your campaign, event or appeal to “be everywhere” for your donors – they will hear about it through direct mail, events they are invited to, a phone call from the development staff, and through e-mail, your website, and more.

Three Keys for Successfully Adding an Online Component

I have found that there are three keys for successfully adding an online component to your offline fundraising campaigns:

Don’t Make Online an Afterthought

So many organizations say they are going to add an online component to their next fundraising campaign, and then simply copy and paste the text from their snail mail letters into an e-mail program and send it out to their donor list… meaning many of the recipients will receive the same letter twice, once online and once offline. This is not a good method for generating online revenue though your campaign.

Don’t make your online component an afterthought – it is easy for your donors to see when you do, and it turns a valid opportunity for you to communicate more with your prospects into a pathetic attempt to harass them with the same message over and over again.

Instead, as you develop your fundraising plan for a particular campaign, appeal, or event, put the online component on equal footing with the offline tactics. Take the time and energy to write the online portion into your plan, and implement it with the same care you use for offline activities.

(Here’s a hint: if your organization requires three levels of approvals before you send an event invitation to the printer, but your intern sends out an e-mail invitation to the same event without anyone else looking at it, you are not giving equal weight to your online activities).

Use Online’s Unique Ability for Conversation and Community

There are lots of things that your organization can do better offline than online. Because you can meet, shake hands with, and dine with your donors offline, you can build a stronger personal bond with them offline than on, at least for most donors and prospects.

That being said, there are also lots of things your organization can do better online than offline. Primary among them are holding real, ongoing two-way conversations with a large group of people who are interested in your work, and building a strong community around your non-profit without spending lots of money to do so.

Use online communication’s unique abilities for conversation and community when designing your online fundraising efforts. Don’t just ask for money – hold a conversation with your donors and prospects, build relationship and community over time, then move to the ask. When you do, your return will be much greater than when your online efforts are one-sided.

Encourage Your Supporters to Spread Your Online Efforts

One of the biggest benefits of online fundraising is the ease with which those who support you can spread the word about your campaign or event to their own network of friends and colleagues. But, it won’t happen unless you ask. Be sure that for each online component that you add, you have a plan for getting people to e-mail / tweet / post / talk about your efforts with their own networks.

The Four Key Areas Where You Can Add an Online Component

There are four main areas where your non-profit can add an online component to an offline fundraising event or campaign:

#1 – Your website can easily be turned into an online hub for your offline fundraising campaigns, allowing you to post additional information, seek comment, and keep your donors updated on the campaign’s progress. Likewise, your site’s homepage is prime real estate, and including a feature about the campaign on the homepage will help you generate new prospects for the effort.

#2 – Your e-mail list can be used to drive people back to the campaign’s page on your website, to remind people about an upcoming event, or as the online equivalent of offline direct mail.

#3 – Social networking sites can build buzz about your offline fundraising efforts, make it easy for your supporters to spread the word, and help you find new prospects and donors

#4 – Crowd-funding sites can help you raise a portion of your overall offline fundraising goal by engaging donors in a fun and relatively new way to raise money online.

In short, online fundraising can and should be an excellent complement to your offline fundraising campaigns. The next time you are getting ready to host an offline event or launch a capital, annual or other type of fundraising campaign, gather your team together and ask, “How can we most effectively add an online component to this effort?” You’ll be glad you did.


Photo Credits: photosteve101, Don Hankins