Anyone who knows me will probably laugh at the idea of me writing an article about using the “web” to raise money. I am one of the least technical people around, and have cruised around the web only a handful of times. Finding it about as interesting as watching grass grow, I am probably missing something but haven’t had the time to find out what that is.
Nevertheless, I realize that while I am not alone, there are millions of people whose feelings about the web are the total opposite of mine. Seventy percent of the adults in the “Love that World Wide Web” crowd give away money, and that’s a lot of donors. So, I have followed with great interest the phenomenon of raising money on the web, and the purpose of this article is to give you a brief introduction to this kind of fundraising. I also offer a handful of addresses of web sites for you to visit, which is the best way to get ideas about this type of fundraising strategy.
Raising money on the web requires a web site, which not all organizations need (at least right now). Any income from your web site will at most supplement the income you raise from more traditional sources, so raising money should be low on the list of reasons for putting together a web site for your organization. Communicating inexpensively with large numbers of people, getting out information that changes often, asking people to take some action (such as contacting members of Congress) are all things a web site can help your organization do, and you should consider whether these activities justify the cost and work of a web site.
In order to attract attention, generate responses, and potentially raise funds, your site needs to hold visitors’ attention. Getting people to return to the site is very important for fundraising, so the site’s information must change fairly frequently (at least every two weeks). Many nonprofit sites are very out of date, giving the impression that the group doesn’t keep up-to-date with issues. Sites also should be well-advertised and linked to other sites, so that people who are browsing elsewhere will discover your site.
There are two ways to raise money on your site. The simplest is to ask people to send a donation and explain the benefits. (You might offer to send a newsletter or a give-away item to donors who send more money.) A more complex setup is to create a “secure area” where people can go and contribute via credit card. To justify the cost of a secure area, you would probably need to sell items as well as solicit gifts. If you have publications, CDs, or videos, you can advertise them on your web site, and then let people buy them through online order forms.
To give you an idea of the kind of money that is possible, check out these numbers: In its first three months of operation, the ACLU’s site brought in $25,000 in credit card donations, plus additional pledge money. Rainforest Action Network covered the cost of their initial investment of machines and staffing in the first eight months of operation. Of course, these are large and well-known organizations, and I don’t have similar stories from housing groups, but perhaps that will change as Shelterforce readers decide to enter the world of cyber-fundraising.
For more information about recruiting and renewing donors online, see Nick Allen and Mal Warwick’s excellent book, Fundraising on the Internet. It is available for $25 from Strathmoor Press, 2550 Ninth St., Ste. 1040, Berkeley, CA 94710, or call 1-800-217-7377.
Check out these links for more ideas: