Conference Roundup: Online Communications — Pipeline to More Revenue
Nonprofit organizations that want to maximize donations had better be brushing up on and putting into action the latest online fundraising communications that are set to explode this year, says Tim Oleary, vice president of the Malvern, Pa.-based McPherson Associates, a direct-marketing and communications agency that specializes in nonprofit fundraising programs.
Charities that want to see an increase in donations or boost their donor bases should embrace these online communications, Oleary said during the session “Online Communications — Pipeline to More Revenue” at the Blackbaud Interactive Internet Symposium held on May 22 in New York.
He explained that online average gifts are higher than direct mail or telemarketing, and the lifetime value of online donors is higher, as well. Online communications also keep donors and potential donors more informed and make giving more convenient.
But the biggest reason to seize online opportunities, he said: “More people are online than ever before.”
A major player in fundraising this year will be microsites for campaigns (with or without the charity brand), Oleary said. A microsites, or minisite, is a separate page of a Web site that has a distinct URL; it typically aims to promote a specific event or project related to the organization’s mission.
A good example, Oleary pointed out, is the United Nations Foundation’s microsite NothingButNets.net, which asks people to buy a net to save children in Africa from dying of malaria. It allows visitors to provide funding for a net, join a fundraising team and share a story.
“This is becoming very popular,” Oleary said. “People like to see money used in a specific way or for a project. The boomer generation is driving this.”
Other important trends include extensive e-mail testing — which can result in immediate feedback and allow an organization to tweak its design and messaging quickly according to audience response — and online video/gaming as a fundraising tool. The use of online video was up 45 percent in the past year, and 14 percent of Americans say they have posted their own videos online, Oleary said.
“Online video is surging,” he explained. “It’s what people are doing.”
As for online gaming as an engagement tool, he pointed to FreeRice — a sister site of Poverty.com — that combines education and philanthropy with online entertainment. The game requires users to answer vocabulary-related questions and donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program for each correct answer.
Four months after the site was launched, Oleary said, players had donated more than 15 billion grains of rice.
“That’s a lot of traffic (to a site),” he said.
But what’s happening right now in terms of philanthropy and fundraising? Online shopping.
“Buying stuff to help a good cause may not be philanthropy, but it’s a fast-growing source of money,” Oleary said. “[People] can say they want 5 percent of my purchase to go to that organization. It’s shopping for change.”