Online Fundraising : Raise Money For Causes
Why Consider Online Fundraising for your Non-profit Organization

Online fundraising is rapidly replacing direct mail as a chosen method of gathering donations for charitable events and non-profit organizations. Most people today prefer using the internet to donate and give support to charities. Here are some of the benefits that you can get out of online fundraising.

By having an online platform about your fundraising, donors are able to learn about the cause and can immediately make contributions while the thought is still fresh in their minds. The organization running the fundraising is also able to receive the funds immediately along with the contact information of the donor.

Another benefit of online fundraising is it allows non-profit organizations to give instant gratification to the donors. They can immediately send acknowledgement to their donors through automatic confirmation emails.

The secret to having a successful fundraising event is being able to know who your donors are and the things that interest them. Collecting donations through the internet gives you the opportunity to observe their behavior in navigating through your site and tracking down what they are reading before they make the donation. This allows you to know the type of call-to-action resonates with them the most. This information can be used to create a contact list, enabling you to optimize your fundraising campaign by creating your message as well as call-to-action to various types of donors.

There are great tips you can follow if you are getting started with your online fundraising campaign. You can consider all marketing venues. Reference your giving options online in newsletters, your website, brochures and TV or radio ads. Making use of social media is also a brilliant idea. Websites like Facebook are very popular and they provide an effective and cheap way to increase your fan base and to advertise your fundraising campaigns.

When creating a website for your online fundraising campaign, make sure you place your mission statement, objectives, goals and the work your organization has achieved. Also, do not forget to mention how you are using the funds you raise and put some photos as well as testimonials from your donors, beneficiaries and fundraisers.

Although there are a lot of ways people can donate, it is a good thing to focus on pushing the online option. Collecting as much donations online as possible can help automate your workload and reduce time and resources needed. Your donate online button should be large and over the fold. Provide them an easy and encouraging way to make their donations instead of giving them a hard time hunting for a way to donate.

Once you already have donors, a great way to thank them would be to offer them an incentive or gift in return for their donation. For instance, you can allow them to subscribe to the monthly newsletter of your organization. 

It is very important that you choose an online fundraising platform or service that will allow your fundraisers to create a personalized fundraising webpage. This is where they can add some photos, their personal stories and blogs about the experiences they had in raising money for your organization. 

Online fundraising is making it much easier for non-profit organizations to not only accept donations online but multiply the amount of supporters and donations you can gain by harnessing the power of social media networks.

Customer Analytics to Project Donor Giving

I think one of the biggest hurdles that nonprofits have to scale is the jump from making one-time donors into consistent supporters. They’ve heard your message, they want to help your cause, but what prevents them from making further contributions?

This is the focus of one study being conducted by the Red Cross in collaboration with Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI) and six teams of researchers from around the country including analytics experts from Baylor University, the University of Pittsburgh and the IBM Watson Research Center.

The catalyst for this study is the dilemma that the Red Cross shares with most charities: during a disaster people are more than ready to give a one-time gift. However, the financial need of most nonprofits extends far beyond high profiled natural disasters or tragic incidents.

Andrew Watt, CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, states that, “Giving rates still have a long way to go before we reach pre-recession levels, and it all begins with reducing the number of lapsed donors… This is one of the biggest challenges charities face — losing nearly 60 percent of donors every year and relying too heavily on new donors. It’s much less expensive to retain and inspire existing donors than it is to find new donors, so charities should focus on stewarding their current donors and reducing losses there.”

Customer analytics is nothing new to the for-profit world: companies track credit card purchases, prescriptions written by doctors and prevalent topics on internet search engines. With this study, the WCAI hopes to track donor giving on a more individual level.

So far they have found that nonprofits use available data to support projects that they are already doing rather than deal with the process of changing their dynamics for a better outcome. Peter Fader, a Wharton marketing professor and co-director of WCAI, comments that, “There are a lot of companies that would call themselves ‘data-driven’ that are using this in a passive way… People are afraid to trust data too much. They often trust their gut more.”

Online fundraising is a great way to track giving, stay in communication with donors and to nurture a relationship with existing supporters. “Customer analytics” just seems like a fancy term for determining who your supporters are and what motivates them to give. That is nothing new to the nonprofit world and neither is the answer: building relationships. Whether it’s through social media or a line in the mail, letting your donors know they are appreciated and needed will keep them coming back.

Top 5 Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid

We’ve all done them or seen them done. The big “oops” that makes us cringe or has us scrambling to do damage control. With online fundraising, I’m not sure if these embarrassing incidents happen more or less.

First of all, we tend to communicate with donors more online than with traditional methods increasing our chances to misfire. However, with technological advancements and management being more meticulous and cautious these days, there may be more thought put into doing a project right.

Anyway, here are some mistakes you should definitely avoid:

1)      Direct Mail Campaign No-no’s – Mail merges make life so much easier but one wrong click of the keys and your whole spreadsheet could be off. Make sure that your donor’s names, addresses and giving amounts are correct but also keep in mind that addressing a letter to “Dear Friend” is just as unsuccessful as using the wrong name. Also, do what you can to avoid signature stamps or scanning in a signature. That is just way too impersonal, especially when someone has taken the time to donate to your organization.

2)      Pestering Your Donors – Are you running too many campaigns at once and asking too much from your donors? Are you filling their mailbox and Inbox with countless updates? Are you asking a $10 donor to jump to being a $50 donor? Create a calendar for your organization and spread out your updates, events, campaigns and e-mails so departments aren’t overlapping.

3)      Not Delivering On What You Promised – From buying cookies to investing in a building program, if a supporter commits to handing over their dollars they want to see a return. Follow up on how your campaign is going and if you didn’t raise enough and have to bail on your goal, be honest about it. Your word is your greatest asset to gaining donor trust and their dedication to your organization.

4)      Build Relationships – Sending out a mass of mailers or asking for money in front of a grocery store never brings in very good results (unless you are the Salvation Army and have a red bell and history of 100 years behind you.) People tend to be motivated by their hearts and emotions causing formal letters and door-to-door solicitations to be unfruitful. Use photos, first names, and anything else that brings the human touch and a bridge of relationship into the mix. Invest into donors and they will invest into you.

5)      Keeping Up With the Times – Echoing the last point, the old ways of fundraising involve a lot of time and money without stellar results. Online fundraising through social media can make life so much easier for any development team. Communication, ease of donating and seeing pictures and videos of your mission tie your supporters into your cause. Since the investment is also low, you can experiment with your fundraising strategies and campaigns to reach new goals.

Social Media Strategies Top Priority for Nonprofits in 2012

Social media fundraising is becoming more popular as a valued resource for nonprofits organizations. Whether this shift is because of the success that peers are sharing in the field or because of the attention it is getting for political fundraising pertaining to the upcoming presidential election is anyone’s guess. However, the fact remains unchanged that more charities are turning to online fundraising and the numbers of participants and fundraising dollars are higher than ever before.

Charity Dynamics, an online marketing and consultation firm, conducted the 2012 Digital Marketing Survey which involved 70 of their clients. They found that, “73 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations plan to address social media strategies in 2012. This is up significantly from the previous year when 51 percent felt social media was a top priority. Additionally, 62 percent of those surveyed indicated that converting one-time donors into repeat donors is a key priority for 2012. This also is up significantly from the previous year when only 36 percent indicated repeat donor conversions was a key area of focus.”

Furthermore nearly 98% of the organizations surveyed replied that they are using social media and 90% said that they are actively seeking out resources to use this technology better in order to reach their nonprofit’s goals.

In addition to the expected forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mailing, the survey found that, “the mobile channel is expected to grow sharply in 2012, with 51 percent of non-mobile users indicating that they plan to implement a mobile strategy in the coming year. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed indicated that their organizations used mobile technology in 2011 to support their fundraising and marketing activities–up from 27 percent last year.”

There are many different ways that nonprofits can implement social media into their fundraising strategies. From weekly updates on Facebook to e-newsletters to a link to receive donations on their website, there are countless ways to open the line of communication with donors. The most important goal with using online resources is to build a strong relationship with your supporters.

Using Social Media to Create Supporter Action

From television celebrity news shows to charities to consumer products, I’ve heard companies say a ton of times “Like us on Facebook.” I may be one of the ignorant masses, but I can’t help but wonder what good that could do. Of course it shows advertisers their popularity and social presence to get more money and approval ratings, but if I “like” you once and move on, what’s the point? How do you move supporters who “like” our non-profit organization into partners who are dedicated to participating in your online fundraising efforts?

I must admit that 90 percent of the time when I browse the posts on Facebook it’s rarely to search out a cause or person in need. I like to see what my friends are doing, where they’re at and pictures of their kids. I am connected to several non-profits and I do enjoy their one or two sentences about the projects they are working on and I like to see pictures of their progress. Rarely do I link to their site to donate. I have I feeling that most people are casual Facebook followers like I am.

On the Guarian.co/uk, Tom Latchford writes an article for non-profits to attract Facebook users like me to get actively involved in their charitable organization online. Latchford writes that organizations need to support the donor journey while communicating with the masses. There are definite steps to a charity-donor relationship: 1) Attracting people so they sign up for your e-mails and posts, 2) Prompting them to become supporters, and 3) Getting people to partner with you as advocates.

So how to you initiate attracting people for step 1? Latchford suggests that, “There are people talking about topics related to your charity all over the web, all the time. These are warm prospective supporters, already actively engaged in the topics your charity cares about. Topics on Twitter are found using the hashtag (#), so your charity should be finding the hashtags for the relevant topics and engaging with the people contributing to these conversations. You need to tap into these conversations and cultivate their interest in your cause. The true power of Twitter is tapping into pre-existing communities in this way.”

The next step is to invite your potential donors to check out your website which should be interactive, engaging and meaningful. “The website should be the transactional hub, managing the relationships with people as they contribute in various ways. Whether it is through appeals, an online shop, raffle tickets, volunteering or attending events, the site is a vehicle for accelerating towards or accomplishing your charity’s vision, with your community of committed contributors acting as a driving force,” explains Latchford.

Finally, non-profits need to cultivate donors into partners by having them actively connect to their online relations to promote your cause. Latchford proposes that, “The key is to understand that most people have more impact through their influence than a direct donation alone. These social media approaches challenge the institutional fundraising models. My theory is that we should seek out the right people, trust them and aim to move those supporters to a level where they are as effective as a paid member of staff. When you do this, you get results.”

That may all sound wonderful, but you may be wondering how to even establish an online presence for your charity. To establish this online social presence, using a social fundraising platform such as Fundly is key. Social fundraising tools can keep your donors engaged to create a community of doers who will also bring along their friends and contacts with a similar passion for your cause.

Why Nonprofits Should Harness the Facebook Obsession

Last night my husband was watching television after dinner and the program captured my attention. While I was earnestly trying to work on my laptop, I kept hearing the words “Facebook,” “Mark Zuckerberg” and staggering numbers and statistics. I finally gave up what I was doing and plopped down on the couch next to him; as a member of the social media fundraising world, The Facebook Obsession on CNBC was like History of the World 101.

Everyone knows the product that is Facebook. Everyone knows that the Facebook god is Mark Zuckerberg. What astounded me was the snowball effect that Facebook has had growing from a small group of Harvard guys armed with laptops at a kitchen table to the mega machine that it is today. I was also blown away by the value of the company and Zuckerburg’s commitment to stay at the helm. Now with the company going public, many others have a chance to profit from this technological marvel.

What is it about this website that has millions addicted? (Even as I am writing this I decided to look up some facts on Facebook and was sidetracked for 15 minutes reading friends’ posts!) Is it that life is so busy that this is the only way to keep up with friends? Are we all so nosy that we want to know when people go to Starbucks or are up all night sick? Are my friends and contacts the only ones who write crazy or pointless posts? (I won’t even bring up how one dad posted a picture of his kid at the hospital with a big gash in his head….)

Anyway… all this got me thinking about how nonprofits can harness this power for good. If so many people have this crazy addiction, just think of the masses that can be reached using this online tool. At Fundly we’ve heard tons of stories about people using social media to raise money to help friends recover from an apartment fire, strangers donating funds to make a cancer patient’s final wishes come true and people uniting to bring attention to a plethora of passions and causes.

It seems like Facebook isn’t going anywhere and nonprofit organizations would be remiss not to jump on board. It is certainly worth the time and effort to post weekly updates and the needs of your charity. Just think what could happen!! Start up our Facebook fundraising campaign today and raise money online quick and easy for your non-profit fundraisers.

5 Tips for Being a Successful Non-Profit Leader

I’ve worked for three non-profit organizations over the past 11 years and have learned quite a bit from each one. From fundraising strategies to employee relations to event planning, I’ve gained an arsenal of ideas concerning the non-profit world and human relationships that drive these relationships. While each charity has its distinct personality, here are some things I’ve learned along the way:

1)     Don’t expect your workers to work as much as you; don’t expect your workers to work less than you. – I’ve had two bosses that were at opposite ends of the spectrum: one worked 10 – 12 hour days and expected everyone in the office the share the same commitment and passion as her. The second worked five hours and day and expected her employees to pick up the slack. Lessoned learned: there needs to be some balance. Of course there are times in a non-profit where major events and outreaches require everyone to pitch in a little extra time, but not every event is major and not every dilemma is a crisis. On the flip side, lead by example.

2)     Build relationships with your employees – Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean going out for drinks after work and sharing intimate details of your personal life, but showing that you care brings commitment. We’ve stressed relationship building and communication to strengthen donor relations; the same goes for employees. Let’s face it: working at a non-profit usually means a compromise in pay. They are working at a cause for the love of it and just want a little appreciation and respect.

3)     Be genuine – I once heard that integrity is who you are when no one is around. My dad is an incredible leader in the business and non-profit worlds and at home. He is the same humble, caring man when he plays with his grandchildren as when he is doing million dollar deals at the office. With his amazing character he has amassed an impressive group of dedicated employees, friends and clients. Niccolo Machiavelli’s book The Prince asks the question of a leader: “Is it better to be loved or feared?” Loved, definitely loved.

4)     Surround yourself with people you trust – I saw one leader self-destruct because he wasn’t willing to accept constructive criticism nor was he willing to admit his need for help. No one is an expert at everything and no one is perfect. Surround yourself with a board that has you and your cause’s best interests at heart and be willing to adjust when things aren’t working.

5)     You set the tone – The organization is based on the CEO’s personality. Be positive, respectful, dedicated and caring. Your employees with works as you do, treat each other as you do and will take on the perspective you have.

With a strong leader at the helm, there’s no telling what your non-profit can accomplish. When your office is running smoothly your work with have greater impact and your donors will see the amazing organization that you are running. The basis of a strong social media presence starts at your office; happy workers will reflect their enthusiasm online and the word will spread.

What Is Your Non-Profit’s Personality?

“What is your non-profit’s personality?” What kind of crazy question is that? Do organizations and charities have personalities? Why is it important for your donors to associate your cause with certain traits and characteristics? Who thinks of this stuff?

I came upon an article by Kivi Leroux Miller on Network for Good and she has some applicable points for non-profits to benefit from. She got me thinking that every major brand has a clearly defined personality to relate to its specific target group. The soda and fast food conglomerates have bright colors and flashy slogans to gain the attention of the younger generation. Pharmaceutical brands create commercials to appeal to their consumer base. Fashion lines direct their advertising with graphics and music to grab the attention of their market. Non-profits could truly benefit from the marketing savvy of the business world (which is happening more and more.)

So, let’s get back to the topic at hand: What is the personality of your non-profit? From my experience and observations, I must say that who your company is is defined by who is in charge. If your CEO is laid back and casual, that is the attitude of your office. If your president is organized, structured and no nonsense, that is the feeling that your donors will get at events, in e-mails and in your direct mail campaigns. The person in charge is the compass that directs the personality of your organization.

How do donors get a feel for your personality? Miller suggests to always write in the first person and to let the donors know who is doing the talking. Business meetings can have formal notes, but let your communication with supporters be more personal. Next, share your honest opinions. “Don’t be afraid to take a stand. Point out what and who is right, and what and who is wrong (or at least heading in the right or wrong direction, if you need to be more diplomatic about it). People look to nonprofits as trustworthy leaders, so show some leadership by pointing the way,” explains Miller.

Your supporters also want to know a piece of the reality that goes into your outreach programs. What are your up and downs? What are you struggling with? What specific stories tell the tale of how you are making a difference? Engage your readers with humor and honest mistakes. They want to know that there is a living, breathing human behind the keyboard.

Relatability and honestly are two strong characteristics that donors seek when looking for a cause and charity to support. Accessibility is another. Through social media, you can easily show your personality to a larger group of donors through e-mails, Facebook posts and blogging. Let Fundly partner with you to help your personality shine through as a way to further your fundraising goals.

Is a Mobile App Right for Your Non-Profit?

As mobile phones are getting more popular and user friendly, it seems like more apps are being created to include everything from music streaming to e-mail access to complex game playing. Cell phones are no longer just used as a form of verbal communication or a handy little answering machine, but now these miniature computers are continually making the world a smaller place. As technology advances, many non-profits are refusing to be left behind and are creating mobile apps to their organization’s advantage.

Jacob Payne and James Brown have explained some great tips for creating apps for charities in The Guardian.  In the UK, these two entrepreneurs help charities create apps for their donors to use based on the fact that, “Smartphones now make up 30% of the three billion mobile devices worldwide, and users spend over half the time on their phone apps.” With such a large audience attached to their phones, it would be a shame to neglect this tool that is rapidly gaining popularity.

Here are the five mistakes that non-profits make according to Payne and Brown when creating apps for their organization:

1)     Forgetting your website – Non-profits need to optimize their website for mobile users. “Information-provision and awareness are often top charity goals, and unless you hit PR gold with a truly exceptional app, then your main website is still the best place to reach supporters,” comments Payne and Brown.

2)     Missing out on exclusive features – “Is your app location-aware? Are you considering the touch interface? What can it do offline, or in the background while it’s sitting quietly in a pocket? Can you make use of the device’s orientation?”

3)     Ignoring your users – Talk to people who are using your app to see if it works well and suits what information they are looking for. “Your users can help you sense-check ideas, decide on the little details, test at every stage, and share the message after launch. If you involve them closely, and listen carefully, then they can become your biggest advocates.”

4)     Hiring the wrong people – You’ll need an iPhone developer and a web master to collaborate to make sure everything syncs together.

5)     Taking a short-term view – “Just over a quarter of all apps are only used once, so it’s important to think about ways your app can encourage repeat use. Just as with your other services and marketing campaigns, this ought to be a long-term exercise that fits in with your broader strategic goals. Regularly examine your analytics, app store reviews and user feedback.”

Now, I’m not saying that every non-profit needs to jump on the app bandwagon, I just wanted to share with you yet another piece of technology that is becoming available to non-profits in the realm of fundraising. Of course what method you use depends on the demographics of the majority of your donor base, but with technology the possibilities for donor connection seems endless. The staff at Fundly would love to partner with you to see how technology can help you reach your fundraising potential.

New Year’s Resolutions from Philanthropic Leaders

I came across a thought-provoking segment in The Chronicle of Philanthropy which shared some New Year’s resolutions of the top leaders and thinkers in the philanthropy world. From Darian Rodriguez Heyman, author of Nonprofit Management 101 to Jeff Raikes, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, here are some goals and strategies that these men and women have brainstormed for the non-profit think tanks in 2012.

To collaborate or not to collaborate, that seems to be the question in the upcoming year. As one of the major themes of 2011, many leaders are agreeing that joining together for a common mission saves time, money and energy. “Donors are not going to continue supporting the massive amount of duplication and waste that our sector has generated over the past few decades. The nonprofit world should resolve to establish formal collaborations between complementary organizations that can increase both the efficiency and impact of each partner agency,” states Jeremy Gregg, executive director, the PLAN Fund, a Dallas microfinance group.

Jeff Raikes, president, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation agrees with Gregg and adds “Not only do we need to share more about our strategies and what we’re learning, but we need to listen more. We should agree to work together as a sector to accelerate progress on measuring the impact of our work and using the results to make our work better. Together we can learn to use measurement, information, and data to continually improve our efforts to accelerate the change in the world we all seek.”

The second theme seems to be to change the way we think and base upcoming decisions on new data. Susan Raymond, executive vice president of the consulting company Changing Our World comments, “The nonprofit and enterprise worlds are blending. Therefore, turn your thinking upside down and begin to think as though you operate in the competitive market because, increasingly, you do. Think first about what people want and what they expect, and only second about what you want to provide them.” Amy Sample Ward, membership director, Nonprofit Technology Network somewhat expands on this idea combined with supporting collaboration by stating, “Not only do I see more organizations looking for ways to be data-driven in decision making, communications, campaigning, and marketing, but also a growing interest and understanding of the value in sharing data. Just as we want to be data-driven inside our organizations, the more we share our data with each other, the more data-driven we can be in our work collectively.”

A third idea that resonates is to use technology to its potential. “2012 must mark the year we get in front of technology, instead of behind it. Let’s resolve to unleash the full potential of social media and Internet marketing for fundraising, community organizing, and advocacy,” suggests Darian Rodriguez Heyman, author of Nonprofit Management 101. An easy way to start on this path is to let Fundly come beside your organization to create a easy and accessible link between social media and your non-profit.

The times are changing and New Years seems to be the best day on the calendar to implement new strategies and thought patterns. Make this be the best year your charity has ever seen!