International Fundraising eConference Roundup: Five Tips to Boost Fundraising Online During the Recession
Fundraising today is a mixed bag where results for some organizations are down, others are holding steady, and still others are at record highs. And falling acquisition rates seem to be the norm almost across the board.
Still, most major organizations are resisting cuts in fundraising, and many top nonprofits are stepping up efforts online — all sound reactions to these shaky economic times, said Mal Warwick, founder and chairman of direct-response fundraising firm Mal Warwick Associates, in his session "Fighting the Recession With Online Tools" last week at the first International Fundraising eConference May 12 to 14, which was held completely online.
Warwick said he knows a lot of consultants suggest organizations get more creative with their fundraising efforts to increase support, but he believes the emphasis on creativity in fundraising is overblown. Creativity equals risk, and risk is something you don't want to have in your portfolio right now. Warwick suggested the following five ways to boost fundraising without using whiz-bang techniques:
1. Stick with what works
Don't make things more complicated than they already are. Keep it simple. Warwick said even though there are many rumors afoot now that e-mail is dying, the truth is that e-mail remains the killer application — a profitable way to connect with supporters and generate funds. E-newsletters in particular are a good way Warwick recommended for most organizations to communicate with constituents on a regular basis.
Ways to make involvement work:
- devices such as surveys, polls, questionnaires;
- emphasize monthly giving;
- segment and personalize;
- widgets or charity badges; and
- constituent testimonials — donors, beneficiaries, board members and volunteers speaking in their own words from their own perspective about how the organization has helped them.
"Give people the kind of reward they crave," Warwick said. Donors don't want to be regarded as checkbooks. They want to be part of your long-term picture.
Other techniques that often work include:
- Short-term campaigns with limited goals can raise significant amounts of money — for example, a goal of $40,000 to be raised in a week, rather than a goal in the millions to be raised over the course of years.
- Chaperoned e-mails. Ask media sites empathetic to your cause to send out an appeal on your behalf to their subscribers/customers.
- Search engine optimization
- Google Grants (in USA). This gives participating organizations free access to people who search for terms related to their work.
- Customized landing pages. This is a way to bring home to the viewer the kind of reinforcing language that appeared in the e-mail solicitation, so the ask in the appeal is matched word for word on the landing page.
2. Use more video
Video is the No. 1 way individuals obtain information and entertainment on the Web now. Not all video is likely to be a big advantage to your organization, Warwick said, but you have to have a video that will connect with your donor.
3. Strengthen your case for giving
Focus more on your vision, mission and values. Re-examine the direction of your organization.
"NGOs have a tendency to get a little bit off mission," Warwick said. "Particularly in a time like this when donors are cutting back due to their own finances, it's very important that every program/activity is clearly focused on the vision, mission and values of your organization."
He said that while some nonprofit thinkers are suggesting organizations tell donors how hard the economy is making things for them, he thinks that's the wrong way to go. His suggestion: Toot your horn.
"Brag about what you're doing to focus ever more efficiently and effectively on the vision and values of your organization," he said.
If anything, Warwick said talk about how the people you're serving are affected even more in these difficult times, and how that is causing increased urgency for your donors to help them.
Donors don't want trinkets and little things like address labels and bookmarks, he said. They want incredible information; they want to know how their money will directly impact the lives of the people you're serving. Embed this clearly in your case for giving.
4. Integrate online with mail and phone
Break down silos. Get direct mail, telemarketing, street fundraising, everything you're doing to raise money integrated, Warwick suggested. If you're still regarding your e-mail and Web operations as separate from your direct mail and telemarketing, you’re missing some of the greatest potential that they hold for your organization.
Warwick's suggestions for what makes a perfect campaign?
- a dynamic marketing concept;
- multiple communications channels;
- a brilliant segmentation plan that optimizes the performance of donors by directing to them the proper communications at the right time;
- a sensible schedule; and
- thorough, on-going evaluation where you analyze all the metrics to make sure that the next time around will be better.
5. Social networking: It's not for money
Warwick didn't suggest not to use social networks, but he said if you're not doing it now or are doing it and aren't making money from it, this is not the time to experiment with it. Don't expect your activities on them to raise money for you, as the returns generally are meager.
While he believes social networks are potentially the future of fundraising, no one has figured out yet how to raise a substantial amount of money on them.
If your organization wants to create a presence on these sites, have interns and volunteers help you — just don't have high expectations for raising money.
In closing, Warwick directed attendees interested in more tips to the whitepaper, "Fighting the Recession: 10 Great Ideas on Direct Mail and Online Fundraising."