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Online Fundraising: A Startup Guide

10 Online Fundraising Basics You Need to Know

By , Guide

Online fundraising is the wave of the future. Already, it is making a dent in direct mail fundraising, and, as the “wired” generation matures, online may become the dominant form of fundraising.

The lesson is that if you have not started building your capacity to raise funds online, start now.

Here are some things you will want to think about.

1. Get legal with your online fundraising.1

Just as with other types of fundraising, online solicitations must be registered with the appropriate officials. Check with your state attorney’s office or secretary of state office to find out the requirements in your state.

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2. Market your online fundraising program. 4

It is not enough to just put a “donate now” button on your website and wait for the money to roll in. Promote your online capacity in your newsletters and include your website address on all of your collateral materials.Include information about the online giving option in all of your direct mail campaign literature. Put together a special promotion for online giving using your email list and your mailing list.

3. Explore all your options for online fundraising.

Expand your thinking about online fundraising to include social networking sites, so popular with the Millennial generation8.For your own site, do you want to set up your own system and be able to process credit card transactions? Or do you want to engage a company that provides that service for you? Would you like to be able to offer recurring (preauthorized) donations to your supporters? Do you want to use another site to collect your online donations?

4. Make sure your website invites online donations.

You don’t need a flashy website, but you do need an attractive one that is easy-to-understand and navigate. Consider too the various generations that will be using your site. Design it in a way that will please all ages.

5. Observe proper online etiquette in your online fundraising.

Don’t spam, and don’t look like a spammer. Don’t overwhelm your donors with too much email, and don’t use email to the exclusion of other methods of fundraising. Online fundraising should be only part of a well-balanced portfolio of strategies.

6. Provide lots of ways for people to donate – not just online.

Everyone has a preference…by mail, phone, online, even instant messaging or from their cell phones24. Make sure you accommodate as many of them as possible. See this great example from the Red Cross25.Include information about planned giving26 options too. The World Wildlife Fund has a good page about planned giving27 that can be reached through its donate button.

7. Make sure that your website donation button is big and above the fold.

Your visitors should be able to locate it immediately. And, it does not have to say “Donate Now.” The Hunger Project has a button that says “Invest Now.”28 That button leads to another page that offers options to the donor. Nothing but Nets has a Net-O-Meter that is counting the number of nets bought by donors and the call to action button says “Buy a Net.”29

8. Provide the opportunity for non-monetary contributions such as volunteer time.

Getting people to volunteer is one of the best methods of donor cultivation. Indeed, a study from the Association of Fundraising Professionals30 found that people who are asked to give of their time before being asked to donate will ultimately give more money to that organization.

9. Show real donors and specify how donations will help.

Include testimonials and photos of donors. Provide photos of people receiving help. Be liberal with success stories, stories about real people, and use plenty of inspirational photographs. St. Louis University’s giving page33 is laced with profiles of donors and testimonials of students.Provide information about how a specific level of donation will work. Soles4Souls has a good donor page34 that tells exactly what each donation level will buy.

10. Try segmentation of your online fundraising audience.

As your expertise and experience with online fundraising advances, think about segmenting your audience. This will require good record keeping and growing a large enough list that there is something to segment. Segment based on age, gender, income, interests, previous giving history, geography, or role, such as donor or volunteer.Develop versions of your email campaigns to fit targeted groups and then test. Testing involves breaking down a particular group into smaller groups and testing different versions of your copy. Track the results and you will soon get a feel for what kinds of appeals work for whom.

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