More and more nonprofit organizations are turning to online fundraising as a way to supplement -- or even replace -- traditional direct mail and telephone drives.
Given that most donors are more accessible electronically than they are in print, that email messages can be timelier than letters and reports, and that online fundraising campaigns can be set up quickly and affordably, it's easy to see why this trend is likely to continue.
So, how do you make fundraising work? Here are five important ingredients you need to have:
1. The right match between your list and message.Instead of thinking about what it is that you want, think about what your donors need to know, and the kinds of messages they respond to. In other words, put a lot of thought into why your supporters give (and separate your lists into different groups or categories, if necessary) so you can send an appeal that is as personalized as possible.
2. A strong donation page. Not everyone who follows a link to your online donation page will have already decided to give money. Make sure the page you set up to raise money is persuasive, with images, online security guarantees, a reminder about your tax-free status (if you have one), and a heartfelt thanks for their gift. Check out some best practices for non-profit fundraising sites here.
3. Unique and timely appeals. The more active your donors are, the more email requests they are going to receive from other charitable groups. That means you have to make your online fundraising messages stand out. Experiment with headlines, statistics, and personal stories or images that can help you make a powerful point. And, make sure you express the urgency of your appeal if time is an issue.
4. Consider designating a donation day and plan events to promote it. Online and in-person events work well together because they appeal to different sensibilities. Recently, my church updated our approach to the annual pledge drive. Typically, the fundraiser is drawn out over several months and is a tedious process. This year, the pledge committee designated a specific day as “Pledge Day” and promoted it similar to an election day. This shortened the overall drive and increased the pledges because the date conveyed urgency. Creating an event around your call for donations may increase awareness of your cause and overall contributions too because your event may reach people that aren’t on your list. Make your event fun and allow your supporters to donate online or in-person.
5. Track everything. One serious advantage to online fundraising is the ability to track a campaign’s effectiveness. Remember, data is your friend. If you’re running an email marketing campaign, track important metrics like open rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribe rates. Tools like Google’s URL Builder allow you to create custom parameters that track which campaigns brought more donations. Use Conversion Goals and Campaign Tracking in Google Analytics to measure attribution and campaign details.
Online fundraising can be just as effective as traditional direct mail, if not more so, but it isn't as easy as just taking your printed pieces and putting them online. Make sure you have these five keys in place, and you'll be well on the way to raising big money through your nonprofit website.