by Dan Schipp
Earlier this month in an effort to expand my knowledge of online fundraising and social media, I attended a course on that subject offered by The Fund Raising School at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. The instructor did a great job of providing an overview of the tools available for online fundraising and communicating with the virtual community. As one might expect, I learned about applications for blogging, Facebook and Twitter. I also added several new words to my technology vocabulary: Squidoo (an online community and publishing platform), Woopra (a tool for measuring the effectiveness of a website), and Ning (a social media platform).
At the outset of the day-long course, the instructor reminded us, “It’s not about having all the tools; it’s knowing what to do with them.” Given the great growth in the use of the web, not-for-profit organizations do need to be positioning themselves to take full advantage of this medium. Just one example of the phenomenal growth in the social media is telling. Last June there were 200 million active Facebook users; today there are 400 million. Online fundraising may not be the mother lode, but it certainly warrants being a component of every not-for-profit’s development program.
Here are a few “nuggets” I picked up from The Fund Raising School workshop:
- The web medium is made for testing. Use it for such. Test different messages. Test different placement of messages.
- Take advantage of every opportunity possible to collect email addresses from your constituents.
- Place the “Donate Now” button in the “sweet spot” of your organization’s website – the upper right-hand corner – and put it on every page.
- Consider combining a direct mail appeal with an email follow-up appeal; several organizations have reported that doing so has resulted in increased response rates to both appeals.
- A group page on Facebook can be an effective way to communicate with volunteers.
- Encourage alumni or supporters to add a “Chip In” widget to their Facebook profile to raise money for a particular program or project at your organization.
- Twitter can be a great way to listen to what people are saying about your organization and to notify followers of critical updates.
- Keep email appeals simple and only email to people who have given you permission. Commit to replying to emails that you receive in response to your appeals.
Let us know how your organization is going about online fundraising and share what you've learned from your experiences.