Fundraising Big Online: How Little Charities Are Punching Above Their Weight
I have found that when talking about great online fundraising campaigns, we often cite the work of very large, very well-known organizations. But most of you — by definition — are small and have less than a handful of staff. When you hear about the digital success of huge fundraisers it can be hard to connect all the dots in order to apply their lessons to your particular situation.
I have good news for those of you who are feeling under-sized in this global competition: Some of the best online fundraising campaigns I’ve seen have been executed by small, nimble groups! Athletes for Africa is a perfect example because it has been around for only a few years, and only has a few full-time staff, and yet it's raised literally millions of dollars online.
Why has it been so successful, and what lessons can other small charities learn from its example? For starters, Athletes for Africa was born online. It did not exist before the Internet, so all of its attitudes and processes are digital. It makes the assumption that people will find out about it through its Web site, not through direct mail. In fact, Athletes for Africa doesn’t have a direct-mail program, or a telemarketing program, and not a major gifts officer in sight. Its advantage in the online fundraising space is this lack of historical “baggage.” Athletes for Africa doesn’t have departments to argue about what should go on its Web site’s homepage. Out of necessity, it is extremely agile and willing to make big changes online very quickly.
One of the unique features of Internet campaigning is that it provides an opportunity for real-time feedback, but many larger organizations don’t use this feedback to change course quickly. Athletes for Africa does, and its online fundraising results are evidence of this winning formula.
Philip King is founder of The Donation Funnel Project, an experiment in online and mobile fundraising. He is a regular contributor to NonProfit PRO.