This week’s post is by guest author Joe Garecht, president of Garecht Fundraising Associates and editor of The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest.
Many nonprofit organizations feel “burned” by online fundraising. Consultants, authors, and software vendors have been talking about the fundraising power of the Internet for the past 20 years, but far too many organizations have been disappointed by the results.
I have worked with hundreds of small and mid-sized nonprofits over the past decade, and most of them have told me they just can’t figure out how to raise money online the way they should be. Investigating further, I have found the reason many of these organizations aren’t finding online fundraising success is because they don’t understand the right way to raise money online.
Read on for a simple, straightforward formula that will allow you to double or even triple online fundraising for your nonprofit.
The Most Important Asset for Online Fundraising
The first thing every nonprofit needs to understand about online fundraising is that the money is in your email list. Social media followers are important. Visitors to your website are important. But nothing is as important to your success online as your email list.
Remember that you don’t really control your social media list. When you post something to your Facebook page, the network will show your post to less than 10% of the people who are following your nonprofit.
On Twitter, you’re competing with hundreds of Tweets per hour that are scrolling through a user’s feed during the few minutes per day that they are on the site. The same is true for other social networks. In other words, it’s impossible to truly know who is seeing your social media posts.
You face a similar problem with your website. Unless a visitor to your website takes an action (such as signing up for your newsletter, making a donation, or filling out a survey), you will never know they visited. They will come, browse, and leave, without your team being able to contact them at a later date.
Email is the killer application for online fundraising. If you want to raise more money online, your nonprofit must focus on building an email list. Smart nonprofits use this list to send out regular e-newsletters as well as for fundraising solicitation.
Online Fundraising as a Hub and Spoke System
Of course, just because your email list is your most important online fundraising asset, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your website or social media presence.
Instead, you should think of your online fundraising program as a hub and spoke system. Your website is the hub, and your social media outposts are the spokes. You should do everything you can on social media to drive people back to your website. This means posting lots of links to information on your site, and encouraging people to follow those links.
Why do you want to use social media to drive people back to your website? Because the primary goal of your website should be to get people to sign-up for your email newsletter. Everything you do on your website should be geared to collecting email addresses. This includes placing a sign-up box on the sidebar of your website and sign-up links in your navigation bar. Some organizations have found success with pop-ups or pop-unders. Others use incentives to get people to sign-up for their e-newsletter, such as sending free bumper stickers or event invitations to those who sign-up.
Thus, your goal is to get as many visitors to your site to sign-up for your email newsletter as possible. Sure, you should still have a nice big “Donate Now” button on your site. You can also have volunteer sign-up forms and any other calls to action that are appropriate. But the main fundraising priority of your site needs to be collecting e-mail addresses.
Building a System for Your Digital Fundraising Efforts (including a fundraising calendar with regular e-mail solicitations)
The reason you are collecting email addresses on your site is to use them as part of your online fundraising system. This is a system of regular digital communications with your email list that includes both cultivation emails (such as your email newsletter), and email fundraising appeals.
Your best strategy is to send out email newsletters on at least a monthly basis so that your non-profit stays top of mind for your donors and other subscribers. You should also send out at least two (and preferably three or four) email fundraising appeals per year.
Our testing shows you’ll get the highest return by sending out a flight of emails for each appeal. . . meaning you send out two or three emails over the course of one week as part of each appeal. This will significantly increase your return for each appeal.
As part of your donor stewardship strategy, you should also be regularly reviewing the donations that come in through your email appeals to look for those donors who might be ready to make larger offline gifts, attend fundraising events, etc.
By putting a system like this in place for your online fundraising program, you will be able to successfully move social media followers and website visitors on to your email list. Then, you will be able to solicit that list and move a portion of those donors over to your standard (offline) giving programs. Get started today, and within the next 12 months you could easily double the online giving revenue for your nonprofit!
About the Author: Joe Garecht is the President of Garecht Fundraising Associates, and the Editor of The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest. He has almost twenty years’ experience in nonprofit fundraising, and focuses his consulting work on helping small and mid-sized organizations build sustainable fundraising systems.