Online Fundraising is Hard

Over the month of March I ran an online fundraising campaign to benefit and organization I do some volunteer work with and really believe in (Wellspring Foundation). I was a little surprised at how hard it was to get people to give online.

I thought that because I was asking my friends to do something little it would be easy. But this was not the case. It takes a lot of work to teach your traditional networks to give and communicate online. The internet has created a lot of opportunities for nonprofits to reach a new audience but we are still learning how to maximize online fundraising.

As a blogger I’ve found that for every one hundred people that reads a post you get about a comment (sometimes more sometimes less). The rule is much the same with a new online direct mail campaign. You can train your donors and get better about segmenting your lists but your first campaign is not going to raise a lot of money.

When starting to promote your organization online be patient and persistent. Try and make your messages short and to the point, have a picture and personalize your communications. You can email more frequently if you are very concise and to the point.

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10 Responses to Online Fundraising is Hard

  1. mikeyames says:

    I guess I am your 1 in 100 here on this post.
    What was your overall strategy?
    What online communication tools did you use?

  2. […] A Small Change… Online Fundraising is Hard “As a blogger I’ve found that for every one hundred people that reads a post you get about […]

  3. Jason Dick says:

    Mike, thanks for your comment. My overall strategy was going to be to have a team of people that together we would to go our friends that had a connection to the nonprofit and ask them to help and support us. I ended up started early because we wanted to enter a contest on Razoo.com before I had a team in place.

    Basically my overall strategy was to email and Facebook my friends and ask them to give a gift equivalent to helping 1 student ($15). Tools I used were Facebook, email, a little bit of Twitter & LinkedIn, and Razoo.com.

  4. mikeyames says:

    Jason,

    I did something similar, but had a lot of success.
    At the time I had 340+ facebook friends, and wanted to use facebook exclusively to run this campaign.
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=41851705020
    I had $1850 come in in under two weeks.
    It came from a total of 68 donors.
    The initial video I sent I uploaded 6 different times and tagged my entire list in one of the uploads. (facebook lets you tag as many as 50 friends in any one video asset)
    I sent public video updates and tagged my donors in the thank you videos.
    My thank yous worked as follow up asks, because I was keeping everyone updated on the progress.
    If you want to friend me and look through the way my kids and I said thank you, you are welcome to.
    As I analyze it. It was easy, not hard.
    A couple of things that made it easy.
    ACQUISITION -I know my audience, my facebook network are people I know.
    CULTIVATION – I have been active in my facebook network, people were already responsive to me as a friend, becuase thats what we are.
    SOLICITATION – I asked for a specific, small gift and gave them an easy link to follow and give online. I did not use the cause app. I utterly despise the cause app.
    STEWARDSHIP – I actively looked who was responding, making gifts, saying thank you. It was 10 days of making a webcam video each night, but that was very natural in my work flow.
    Sound fundraising principles, technology only made sense because that’s where my segment was.

  5. Jen says:

    Hello –

    I am trying to find creative ways of incentive for donating. My 5 month old son was recently diagnosed with vision loss. The day after his diagnosis, I created a blog to keep out of state family/friends updated. That following day I found a fundraiser for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. I threw myself into this. In a week I raised close to $800 (word of mouth). I then came up with an idea to “thank” those that donated. I advertised on my blog to those that would donate would get a dozen of homemade molasses cookies (courtesy of my grandma). Within two days, the amount donated doubled. We ended up baking close to 130 dozen cookies. We raised close to $6,000 total. It helps that she has an AMAZING cookie recipe!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hey Jason,

    I’m sorry to hear that you had a hard time raising funds online for [your campaign]. Mike’s “Acquisition, Cultivation, Solicitation and Stewardship” model seems like an excellent way to ensure a successful online fundraising campaign. In addition to using the channels you said you used for the campaign (Facebook, email, Twitter, LinkedIn and Razoo) I would suggest that you use a website like Firstgiving.com to orchestrate it. My experience with online fundraising campaigns has been that using a site which allows you to use a fundraising thermometer and upload media for your donors to look at dramatically increases donation results. I found an article on which might help you when you run your next online fundraising campaign.

    Good luck with your next campaign,
    Stephanie

  7. Nikki says:

    I also find online fundraising incredibly challenging! One thing I have discovered though, is that it really helps, to come up with creative solutions that are out of the ordinary. I find it’s a great way to get people interested, when it comes to online fundraising if you use new and interesting approaches. One example I found is having an online calendar builder where your donors can personalize their own calendars – one of the neat ways to raise money and get the word out about your cause. In case anyone’s interested, I found the calendar builder at http://micalendar.ca/online-fundraising-calendar-program.html

  8. mikeyames says:

    Jason,

    You have inspired me to write a comprehensive post to line out the tips from the online fund raising effort I went through on facebook. It takes my above answer and expands it in all kinds of gory detail.
    http://techhermit.blogspot.com/2009/04/comprehensive-facebook-fundraising-tips.html

  9. Ariana says:

    Hi there,

    I understand how hard it is to do online fundraising because I help people do it everyday. I work for GiveForward.org an online fundraising website. I have to say that the challenge motivates me. We are trying to get people to change the way everyone looks at philanthropy. I realize I’m preaching to the choir in this group, but if we could get people to forgo the cup of designer coffee for $5 to any of a number of extremely deserving causes, we’d really have something.

    I think it will take enough people reminding others to give to get a movement started. Obviously, many of you won’t need this information, but we do have a tips and tricks section on our blog:

    http://www.giveforward.org/blog/

    Hopefully it will provide some of you with some new information or at least helpful reminders.

    Good luck to everyone!

    Ariana

  10. Janice Chan says:

    Mike – thanks for sharing that idea. Uploading a video update and then tagging donors who made that possible sounds like a great way to thank someone! Also, this allows their networks to see the good things their friends are doing and to find out about your cause/organization.

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