Strategies for Online Giving

The tsunamis that just hit Asia and Africa are collectively one of the worst disasters our planet has seen in centuries. The death and destruction are just starting to be imagined, and the devastation will continue for a lifetime. We are just now realizing the millions of people that are injured, sick, and homeless. We are seeing the world respond to this event through hundreds of millions of dollars of donations – and we are witnessing the power of online giving. In a 48-hour period raised over 2 million dollars for the relief efforts, and AOL raised even more. The Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado raised $28,000 from over 200 donors in just a few days through its online donation system.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently researched online giving and found that online donations are surging to over $100 million annually.

Many of the donors – especially people under 45 who feel very comfortable using the Internet – are beginning to feel comfortable making financial gifts via online channels. In the last election, presidential candidate John Dean from Vermont was exceedingly effective in raising small donations of $25 and $50 dollars, which eventually added up to thousands of donations that totaled millions of dollars.

Clearly online giving must be a part of nonprofits’ future annual campaign strategies. Here are some ways to make the most of your online giving program:

1. Always collect email lists. This is central to the whole online giving strategy. At every opportunity you should be collecting email lists from friends, board members, and volunteers. When you speak at a church be sure to provide a sign up sheet and ask people to sign up.

2. Integrate online fundraising with offline direct appeals. You send a direct mail appeal during the holidays, and perhaps two or three other times per year. Try to use online e-blasts to let people know that they will be receiving a direct mail appeal during the next few weeks. Weave both of these strategies together.

3. Mail in sequence of 3’s. When doing an online campaign, create a sequence of three slightly different messages that will come out within a week of each other so people will receive multiple requests for support that are concentrated in a relatively short time period.

When the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado did their online campaign for the tsunami disaster, they spaced the emails about three or four days apart.

4. Tribute gifts are a possibility. When asking people for money online don’t forget to ask people to give you money in honor of a friend, a loved one, or a relative who has passed away. These memorial gifts are effective strategies.

5. Online giving is the cheapest form of raising money. The cost of conducting an e-campaign is a fraction of the costs of a direct mail campaign.

6. Secure donation platform. If you will be actually handling online contributions, make sure you have a secure platform so people feel confident about making donations. It is worth paying a little more to assure confidentiality and security.

7. Integrate special events and other marketing online. When having a special event or annual meeting be sure to market the progress both online and offline and thank people after the event with an online survey and thank-you card. Send an email to those individuals who did not make a contribution at the event asking them to consider donating.

8. Always try to drive traffic to your web site. The more you drive traffic to the web site, the more response you will have when you use online donations. Make sure all of your marketing materials, business cards, and letterhead include your web site address.

9. Exchange links. Spend some time searching for “link partners.”

Many of the top search engines and directories rank web sites according to how many links there are that point to that site. Trade links with sites that correspond to yours. For example, if you are a food bank, you’ll trade links with other non-competing hunger- and food-related sites. The process is simple: just do a search on, go to some of the web sites that show up, decide if there is a good link-trade potential, then email the webmaster or other contact person of that site to see if they’d like to exchange links.

10. Banner advertisements. These are the ads you see on most commercial web sites. If you are a homeless shelter, perhaps you could ask your local newspaper to run banner advertisements on its site linking to your web site in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.

Its very apparent that the world of online giving is growing rapidly.

The instant response capabilities of the Internet, and the fact that people are growing more comfortable with the Internet will help drive online giving in the years to come.


These tips came from:

RichTips Non-Profit Management Newsletter