D.C. Nonprofit Conference Roundup: How to Effectively Engage Donors Online
Chances are, your donors and prospects are spending a lot of their time online. According to a Nielsen report released last month, global consumers spent more than five and half hours on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter alone in December 2009 — an 82 percent increase from the same time last year when users spent just more than three hours on social-networking sites.
For nonprofits, engaging an audience online can be an effective and relatively inexpensive way to strengthen relationships with both donors and prospects. At last month's DMA 2010 Washington Nonprofit Conference, fundraising experts presented strategies to actively engage constituents online at a session titled, “Engaging Your Donors Online: Cultivation, Engagement, Advocacy and Cross-Marketing.”
Jennifer Donahue, membership director, NARAL Pro-Choice America, described how her organization used the Internet to respond to the murder of Dr. George Tiller, medical director of a Wichita, Kan., abortion clinic who was shot and killed by an anti-abortion activist last May. In the wake of Tiller's death, Donahue said, donors and advocates looked to NARAL to take the lead in responding to the tragedy.
NARAL quickly created the “Trust Women” campaign — Tiller always wore a pin that said “Trust Women” — which included several online components. The organization also produced wristbands that said “Trust Women,” which donors were sent in exchange for donations; the higher the gift, the higher quantity of wristbands they received. Anticipating distributing about 6,000 wristbands, NARAL actually has distributed more than 36,000.
NARAL provided donors and advocates with many options for participating in the campaign online. For example, to show support for the campaign and represent their geographic location, they could register to appear on a virtual map of the United States on NARAL's Web site, which also provided the nonprofit with a way to collect names. On Flickr.com, supporters were encouraged to take a photo of themselves wearing the “Trust Women” wristband or holding up a “Trust Women” sign and post it to the photo-sharing site. And, 19,170 supporters signed an online vigil NARAL created for Tiller.
Donahue said that Tiller's murder is a story arc that NARAL continued throughout the year, “which is important because people who come in during a tragedy often don't stay.” She also noted that in this situation, it was important to get back to donors as quickly as possible for second gifts using the same language they initially responded to.
Vinnie Wishrad, vice president, community and membership, The Jane Goodall Insitute, presented a case study on his organization's online activities, noting that the institute has a limited online budget. The organization has found success honoring milestones and events that are of importance to its constituency.
For example, when Gregoire, the oldest-known chimpanzee living in Africa, died in December 2008, JGI responded with an online condolence card, which produced about 11,000 signatures and 7,000 new e-mail subscribers for the organization. Additionally, those who signed the card then were delivered to a donation page with a soft ask, which generated approximately $70,000 for a fund JGI created to honor Gregoire.
Similarly, an online birthday card to honor Jane Goodall's 75th birthday generated about 15,000 signatures, 11,000 new e-mail subscribers and $65,000 in revenue over a six-week period.
JGI also has found success on Twitter (@JaneGoodallInst) after a staff member interested in engaging on the site volunteered to post daily on the organization's behalf.
“Get one person motivated to do it,” Wishrad said, noting that JGI devotes about a half hour each day to the site. Its Twitter site currently has more than 5,000 followers and capitalizes on its strong catalog of images with a “Chimp Photo of the Week” posting each Monday, which has proven popular, he said.