Online Fundraising the Easy Way - Provided by the ICT HUB
Wouldn’t it be great to raise money online, to have funding come into your organisation with a minimal amount of effort, 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
What opportunities are there to integrate ICT with fundraising efforts?
Let’s clear up some misconceptions about raising funds online.
Firstly, you’re highly unlikely to raise huge amounts of money solely from a website. You need brand awareness and some means of advertising your campaign and you need to use the same attitudes to relationship building you already use.
Secondly, this isn’t an either/or decision. You can start small, invest a little time and money and build up to something bigger.
Thirdly, don’t think of it as simple financial transactions. There are plenty of opportunities to raise income via the web (see New Media Case Studies) and your website can stimulate other interest or raise awareness for potential donors to fund you later.
A typical reaction to online fundraising is that it’s too hard, too expensive, takes too much work and generates too little return. It’s actually a bit like starting a business – you need to invest resources, develop your market and gradually build up income. The major charities now raising significant amounts of money online (if not huge percentages of their overall income) have taken a step by step approach to making it work and used a variety of ideas.
People don’t decide who to give to on the basis of facts and ratios. They decide who to give to based on the causes they care about or the charity brands that they have heard of and trust.– Joe Saxton
Getting people there
You need to attract people to your website or fundraising page if you’re going to raise funds online. Marketing requires commitment and effort (more in the resources section below) and you need to at least do the following
- Make sure your website is visible to a wide audience – you could have links from other sites, publish your web address on a wide variety of stationery and documents and get the local (or even better national) media to highlight your cause.
- Link to other communications media – email newsletters, RSS, social networking groups. If there’s an opportunity, make it work for you.
- Integrate with everything your organisation does – don’t assume a big button saying ‘give now’ will save you lots of work. Get out and talk to people and encourage them to talk to others.
- Make sure there’s a reason to visit your site – explain what you do and the impact you make, tell stories and keep visitors engaged.
So how can you raise income?
- You need to offer something. Gone are the days when people simply dipped their hand in their pockets for a ‘good cause’. A website isn’t a virtual bucket for people throw cash into. There are so many opportunities to donate and support worthwhile causes we couldn’t possible support them all. So why should someone support your cause?
- Make it easy. The simplest way to do this is a prominent ‘Donate Now’ button with a simple mechanism to pay once they’ve clicked. In these time poor days, few people want to write cheques, address envelopes and stick it in the post box. JustGiving.com makes it simple to collect donations online and even sorts out Gift Aid for you.
- It doesn’t have to look like a donation. A number of medium to larger charities are now selling goods online. It means potential supporters get something tangible for their money and can contribute indirectly without any extra effort.
- It’s about relationships – not simple transactions. What are you offering the ‘intelligent giver’ in return? Why would they come back to you? And most importantly, why would they tell their friends and how can you support them doing that?
A few ideas
The scale of online fundraising depends on the size and resources of your project. It’s a good idea to start small and build up.
As a minimum, you need to offer:
- An opportunity to donate quickly and easily – simple click of a button
- A means to keep in touch – a quick way to collect an email address (you can always get more details later)
- A benefit for the donor – it starts with a reason to give, includes a thank you page for donations, a way to keep in touch and ideally provides further information on what you did with their money. You would like them to come back and contribute again wouldn’t you?
The community group – small organisations raising money online
A local community group in South London needed to raise £2000 to contribute to a renovation. They lacked a mailing list of supporters despite being well known and respected in their local area.
They set up a Justgiving account (http://www.justgiving.com/) and brought in a group of willing volunteers to brainstorm a few more ideas.
Set up a simple fundraising page with JustGiving (estimated effort – 20 minutes)
- Ask the volunteers to email a group of friends to ask for £10 and raise awareness of the project and ask those friends to email a few more people. The friends were given a template of what to say, how to email a group without exposing everyone’s addresses and the web address for the fundraising page (estimate effort 10 minutes for each friend)
Follow up with the friends after three months and thank them for their contributions.
- Put up posters in the local community raising awareness of the project and highlighting the fundraising campaign and the website. (About two hours each but the weather was lovely and they made some new friends…)
- Publish details of the progress of the campaign on their blog (the Justgiving widget keeps the funding total up to date and three volunteers add brief updates as the project progresses)
- In three months, they had raised all the money they needed and got the renovation under way. The supporters felt included and the project impacted both the individuals involved and the wider community.
Online fundraising in context
The factors influencing why people give to charity are multiple, complex and often debated. Digital fundraising (whether via websites, mobile phones or social networks) won’t necessarily increase the amount of money raised overall. It’s likely to change the distribution of funding, put more power in the hands of individuals rather than organisations and allow quicker responses to appeals. Fundraising remains all about relationships and it’s important to use communications tools to maintain and develop these.
The internet has the potential to level the playing field for smaller organisations, provided that they can communicate convincingly about the work that they do and why it needs support, by creating new online markets.
It needn’t be complicated
A lot of good examples in online fundraising are either US based or apply to bigger charities but it needn’t be the case. Social networks offer opportunities to connect with a wider group of people (local or distant) with different needs and expectations to typical donors and supporters.
Beth Kanter illustrates some key lessons learned raising funds for a Cambodian group at widgetfundraising. It’s not about raising thousands from five individuals, it’s about raising fivers from thousands of individuals. The London Marathon has plenty of experience of individual fundraisers – check out their top ten tips London Marathon
Whatever your size, there are opportunities to raise income and encourage more support through online channels, from simple Justgiving pages marketed via close groups of friends and supporters to more detailed campaigns building trust and long term relationships. So what are you waiting for…?
The ICT Foresight report How digital donors are shaping charitable giving and fundraising details the impact of digital channels and how organisations need to respond to be successful in the future. This and other Foresight Reports can be found in the Publications section at: http://www.icthub.org.uk/
- Creating a fundraising page the easy way - http://www.justgiving.com/
- Developing your fundraising skills, carrying out online research and raising money through the Internet - http://www.icthubknowledgebase.org.uk/fundraisingandtheinternet
- Fundraising 2.0 - http://www.nfp2.co.uk/2007/06/09/fundraising-20/
- Get your website noticed - www.icthubknowledgebase.org.uk/getyourwebsitenoticed
- Group fundraising primer - http://www.nfp2.co.uk/2007/07/18/group-fundraising-primer/
- Charitable giving and fundraising in a digital world (ICT Foresight report) – available from the publications section at: http://www.icthub.org.uk/
- Innovative fundraising - http://www.suefidler.com/other/startdownload.asp?openType=forced&documentID=31
- Lessons learned in personal fundraising - widgetfundraising
- Never say stick it on the website - Media Trust Guides
- New Media frequently asked questions - ICT Hub Forums
- Official London Marathon Top Ten Fundraising Tips - London Marathon Justgiving tips
- Online communications on a shoestring - http://www.suefidler.com/other/startdownload.asp?openType=forced&documentID=73
- Ten best online fundraising resources of 2006 - fundraising resources
- The importance of thank you pages - http://www.bostonwebdesign.com/newsletter/strategy/thank-you-pages_092007.asp