Makin’ It on MySpace
In 2001, I launched a small, Web-based nonprofit organization called eActivist.org. Like most other small nonprofits, we were strapped for cash. At the time, “Donate Now” buttons were the latest and greatest in nonprofit fundraising, and I had the highest of hopes and expectations for this new and cutting-edge technology.
But, like many others, I was quite disappointed when I finally got the button on my Web site and … nothing … happened. No donations. No mass outpouring of giving. No silver bullet.
Back then, there were two important lessons that we had to learn about successful “Donate Now” fundraising. First, simply embedding the button on your Web site did not magically result in online donations. We had to learn how to ask our donors to give via those buttons. Thus, the nonprofit community embraced e-mail marketing.
Second, we had to educate our donors about how online donations were processed, and not only assure them that their privacy was protected, but also explain how it was being protected.
Today, when questioned about social networking and its online fundraising potential, I immediately think of “Donate Now” buttons. The fact still remains: Simply putting a fundraising widget on your MySpace profile or Facebook page is not going to result in large amounts of online donations. We need to learn new ways of asking donors to give on MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Change.org, etc. The ask is done via blog posts, comments, bulletins and updates.
Also, for this new technology to produce results in terms of online giving, it’s crucial that we educate our donors that giving on social networks through widgets and apps is safe — and, of course, we have to ensure that it is.
It’s important to recognize as well that it has taken almost 10 years for online giving to account for even a very small percentage of all donations made by Americans annually. Successful fundraising using social-networking Web sites isn’t going to happen quickly. It’s going to take time, but I don’t believe it’s going to take as long as it has taken for Web 1.0 online fundraising to evolve.
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