Online Fundraising The Good, the Bad and the Basics

Haiti after the earthquake. Photo by News Hawker.

The recent disaster in Haiti caused an out-pouring of philanthropy.  According to Philanthropy.com, American groups have raised more than $644-million—marking the first big fund-raising test for collecting charitable gifts via text messaging. More than $37 million so far has been contributed, usually in increments of $5 or $10, using a cellphone.

Does this mark the beginning of fundraising via technology?  We heard from the experts… (Click here to read more)
According to a discussion with Scott Henderson (RallytheCause.com) and hosted by philanthropy.com, social media is a good source of fundraising for a timely project.  It allows donors to see that the organization is providing good stewardship of their contributions and that the donors themselves are appreciated.  Henderson cautions though that social media is a long-term strategy amidst the tried and true personal contact with donors.

There are many instances of fundraising successes in the digital world such as Obama’s campaign, Lance Armstrong, the Humane Society and “Twestival” a campaign to raise money to drill water wells in Africa.  But the actual results of lining the coffers with online donations is yet to show overall success and commonly results in 2 to 3% of the annual giving.  Still, online fundraising has yet to hit its maturity.

How can your organization use online donation and social media?

1)  First, make certain that your website can take donations on a one-time or planned giving basis.  If you don’t accept credit cards, consider other service providers who will likely accept the donations for you at a rate of 5 to 7% and send a check to you when your collected funds meet $25.
2)  Use many photos on your site and Facebook to show that people are benefitting by the donations being made.  Use this venue to thank the donors as well.
3)  Make certain the message for your appeal is timely and has a strategy that combines your website, donor pages, Facebook and Twitter messages.
4)  It’s important to get as many people involved in the campaign as possible:  management, employees, volunteers, board members and special donors.  Ask them to create challenge donations with their “friends.”  Involve your vendors as well.
5)  Remember you cannot control the message.  Word is being spread by your supporters.  While this is unsettling to some organizations, the only way to grow is to let go.  Allowing the message to come from the community’s voice of supporters is by far stronger and ultimately more effective.
6) Use video when you are able.  Or direct people to someone else’s video that is your story, too.  Consider how this video could help raise funds for your art therapy program (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW-a3SLnj_w)
Small not-for-profits may want to check out the services of Grassroots.org.  This organization donates free technology related to web development to other not-for-profits.  The services are donated by 2,000 volunteers and 10 companies.

Currently, Grassroots has 1,900 not-for-profit clients who are using programs from their menu of 13 services that are valued at the for-profit price of $26,000.

Like all digital communications, the techniques for success fundraising are evolving.  Now is the time to consider if your organization can benefit by exploring the options.