Online Giving vs. Online Fundraising
This month’s topic — understanding the difference between online giving and online fundraising — is one of my favorite subjects! If I ever meet you at dinner party, don’t get me started …
In the beginning: Online giving
For many fundraising organizations, the first step to becoming digital is to create a Web site. Think of this Web site as the public lobby to your digital organization. A few questions: Is it tidy? Is it inviting? Is there a friendly receptionist?
After you complete your Web site, you’ll soon feel the pressure to change it. Most of my clients have told me that they plan to redo their Web sites in 2009. They only advice I provide here is to create your Web site using technology that is easy to change. It’s not going to be very dynamic if you have to call a computer programmer each time you want to modify it. Simple, inexpensive tools like WordPress.org are surprisingly powerful.
What fundraising organization’s lobby would be complete without a place to make a donation? Similarly, your Web site should have a quick and easy way to make a donation to your cause. Start with simple, inexpensive portal solutions like Network For Good in the U.S. and CanadaHelps.org in Canada, and upgrade from there once your needs become more complex.
It surprises me how hard some Web sites make it to leave a gift. In your lobby would you hide the stack of donation forms behind the plant? Of course not, you’d place them prominently on the front desk. Perform this test: Find someone who has never been to your Web site. Ask him to make a $10 donation online. Then observe, use a stopwatch and count how many clicks it takes. I’m willing to bet you’ll be surprised by the result.
Coming full circle: Online fundraising
Before the Internet, what did charities do? Did they sit back and wait for people to walk into their lobbies so they could find that donation form on the front desk? Successful fundraisers certainly did not. So why would you sit back and wait for people to 1) find your Web site and then 2) successfully navigate to and through your donation page?
Once the basic plumbing is in place — Web site and donation page — fundraisers need to get busy. This is the moment the online donation discussion can become an online fundraising conversation.
Recall the fundraising days pre-Internet. How did you get your donation forms out into the community? Some of you asked volunteers to knock on the doors. Others organized potlucks or gala dinners. Some stood near busy street corners handing out literature. These community-organizing tactics can and should be applied to your online fundraising.
There will be important differences you’ll note as you expand your online fundraising. Campaigns can be measured in real-time, providing “dream data” to fundraisers who have the capacity to make adjustments based on the information. This cuts both ways, however, as some find the information “fire hose” overwhelming. Distill your reports to key metrics that drive the bottom line: number of online fundraisers, number of donors per fundraiser, and average gift per donor.
Even though there are important differences between offline and online fundraising, I believe the similarities are more significant. Keep in mind all of the lessons learned before the Internet: People like to give to people. People need to be asked to give. Fundraisers need to be coaxed. Fundraisers will perform better if part of a fundraising team. Fundraisers need to be recognized and feel valued.
If you are enjoying this content, I invite you to search for my Digital Fundraising Podcast on iTunes and listen to interviews with top thinkers in the world of digital fundraising. If you have any ideas or comments, I’d love to hear them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip King is president and CEO of Artez Interactive.