Making the Most of Your Online Event Fundraising Efforts
Given the current state of the economy, there has been concern among nonprofits about the affect it will have on their fundraising and donations. It is during these times that charities should double their efforts to engage donors and get creative in the ways they seek new donors. Online event fundraising continues to be an effective method to accomplish both of these goals. Since 2000, event fundraising technologies have proven to be an area of growth for many organizations, and multiple surveys suggest that online tools provide more satisfying overall donor experiences.
And now, with the fall events season complete, this is the best time for organizations to review their spring event fundraising strategies. There are a number of tactics fundraisers can employ to help increase the success of online event fundraising efforts. Here are a few worth considering:
1. Launch the event online at least six months in advance.
On average, organizations set up online events about five and a half months before the events. While about 55 percent of donations collected online will come the last 20 days before the event, participants need a head start to ensure online adoption and effective use of the tools. Starting too late means participants will raise an average of 27 percent less online than if they were given six months or more to fundraise.
2. Extend the online duration of the event.
Let the event run online past the event date. Keeping the event pages up for approximately 40 days after the conclusion of the event has been a good rule for many organizations. Statistics show that only 5 percent of total donations come in after the event; however, since the event is over, there is little to no expense associated with these donations. Don’t forget to shut down registration, and be sure to update the site with appropriate awareness messaging around the event.
3. Encourage online registration.
Participants using online tools tend to raise six times more than those who don’t and tend to be more engaged with the event. Encourage online registration by making the event’s Web address prominent in all event materials and communications. Most events average only 21 percent active online usage by participants. By successfully marketing online registration and providing extensive team captain training and incentives, some organizations have succeeded in getting up to 60 percent of participants actively using online tools for events.
4. Make it easy for participants to send more e-mails.
Do some of the leg work for participants. Providing e-mail templates makes solicitation easier for participants and helps save time — two common concerns of new or volunteer fundraisers. The average event should have at least four e-mail templates: one for the team leader, one for general participants, one for team members and a donor thank-you message. Also, use e-mail communications to continually motivate participants. Include the participant’s user name and other personalized data, such as name and fundraising goal, to motivate him to log into the event Web site. On average, about 15 percent of event participants use e-mail. Events with higher online adoption outperform those with less adoption by 58 percent.
5. Focus on customer service.
Giving participants a phone number to call if they need help setting up their personal pages can have a significant impact on event success and overall participant satisfaction. Participants are less likely to give up when they can call and get answers to their questions. This also helps create a positive experience with the organization that can contribute to an increase in return participants and build organizational affinity. Some organizations actually offer 24-hour customer service in the last 20 days before an event to make sure they can maximize online fundraising.
6. Follow up.
Just because the event is over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep in touch. Immediately following an event is one of the best times to engage participants and work toward building donor retention. Soliciting feedback is one of the simplest ways to engage event participants after the event, but there are additional methods available. Some organizations launch post-event Web sites with message boards and community-building tools that encourage participants to interact with one another. But, don’t forget the all important “thank you.”
Mark Davis is vice president of technical sales and support at Blackbaud, Kintera Division.