How to Fundraise Australian: Online Fundraising Lessons Learned From Down Under
I just returned from a trip to Australia, and it’s interesting to me how different countries bring their own unique cultural context to online fundraising. There are also some important lessons to learn that we can import back into our North American fundraising mix.
Overall, Australians are quite similar to North Americans in their use of the Internet, though they face more connectivity challenges than we’re accustomed to. Finding good high-speed at Wi-Fi cafes is more limited, but most workplaces are sufficiently wired. It’s interesting to note that we see most online donations and online fundraising occur during the typical 9-5, Monday to Friday workweek, leading us to believe that many charitable people are contributing from their work computers, which I suppose is more productive than playing Solitaire!
An interesting difference I noticed in Australia is the emphasis on third-party or community fundraising techniques when going online. The typical model I find in North America is one using online fundraising tools to support a walk-a-thon or similar pledged-based special event. While these certainly occur Down Under, there is a higher tendency to consider using online fundraising tools for grassroots, or "bottom-up," fundraising as opposed to the more "top-down" mass-participation events.
One organization that stands out is Cancer Council New South Wales. On its website, you’ll find a link to “How You Can Help.” Inside that section you’ll notice an option named “Do Your Thing.” It is a place where anyone can do almost anything to help Cancer Council NSW by setting up her own, branded personal fundraising page.
The charity helps get the creative juices flowing by suggesting general topics for online fundraising. For example, someone can do a “Gifts Thing” and accept donations in lieu of flowers and presents at her wedding. Selecting a “Pink Thing” brings up a list of ideas for women, including the story of how a recent pageant asked each contestant to raise $500 via her personal fundraising page. “Hair Thing,” “Work Thing” and “School Thing” round out the list. This program was so successful that it won a recent award from the Fundraising Institute of Australia, the Aussie version of Association of Fundraising Professionals.
More teams in North America could benefit by making it easier for supporters to raise funds online via their websites. While many organization have added a “Donate Now” button to their homepages, relatively few make it easy to let people "do their thing." Often a person who wishes to raise funds is required to call the charity or download and print an application form.
Online tools make it easy for someone who has a desire to support a cause to sign up and register to fundraise automatically. The tools also make it easy for people to fundraise using their e-mail and Facebook friends, giving them secure and personalized donation forms.
A good example of this type of grassroots fundraising in North America originates from UNICEF Canada. From the “Get Involved” menu on its homepage, it is easy to find the link to “Start a Fundraiser.” Similar to the team in Australia, these Canadians provide suggestions to the would-be online fundraiser: “Are you having a birthday or a wedding? A Halloween party at work? Perhaps you’re willing to shave your head if you raise enough money?”
An examination of the fundraising pages that have already been set up on the UNICEF website reveals an interesting trend. Many of the pages were built soon after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Unintentionally this community-events online fundraising system had morphed into a disaster-response online fundraising system. Because the UNICEF Canada team had the foresight to have a “fundraise now” option on its website, these individuals who wished to do more than simply donate online had the basic tools they needed to fundraise.
One featured page, that of 13-year-old student Bilaal Rajan, includes his personal note: “I am launching a fundraising challenge to schools all throughout Canada to raise funds for the Haitian relief efforts. I am asking each student to raise a minimum of $100. And to have a little fun, I will shave my head in honour of the school or individual student that raises the greatest amount of funds. That’s right. I’m going to shave my head, faux hawk and all!” He ended up raising more than $2,600 via his page.
What I saw in Australia, and what is increasingly a trend in North America, is the shift toward more donor-centered fundraising. The charity-organized, pledged-based special events will continue to be a mainstay for online fundraising tools. But these tools can effectively be turned on their heads and empower people from all corners of our communities to doing their own thing in support of our great causes. We’ve always said that charities should “turn their online donors into online fundraisers,” and now we’re seeing it happen in creative and inspiring ways.
Good luck growing your online fundraising in the last half of this year!
Philip King is president and CEO of Artez Interactive.