Planning for Online Fundraising, Part 1
The Web offers ever-increasing ways for nonprofit organizations to educate, engage and raise funds from prospects and constituents. But just because it might seem easier to connect with people online than, say, via direct mail or the telephone, that doesn't mean that it's easy or that you can approach it haphazardly.
A Network for Good audio session on Feb. 3 titled "More Than a Donate Button: Composing Your Online Fundraising Plan in '09," presented by nonprofit technology strategist John Kenyon, showed the step-by-step process for developing an online fundraising plan.
This week, in part 1 of a two-part series covering the session, we'll look at Kenyon's analysis of the elements that should be included in your online fundraising plan, with a detailed look at his recommendations for online projects that should be a part of the plan. Next week, we'll wrap up our coverage with a shorter piece on strategies Kenyon recommended nonprofits consider when responding to a reduction in resources.
According to Kenyon, to be successful with online engagement and fundraising, an organization must have a thoughtful plan and clear goals. Before creating the plan, identify the project members who will be a part of the plan and the activities that will be included in it.
Once you've done that, you're ready to get started on building the plan. The six elements that you should include are:
1. Organizational profile and current direction.
2. Offline and online communication vision and goals. Kenyon suggested getting the answers to three questions:
- Who are your three primary audiences?
- What are the three things that you want those audiences to know?
- What are the three things they can do to support your work?
"It's great to give them good information," he said, "but you also want to give them something that they can actually do, whether it be volunteer or donate or contribute in other, non-financial ways."
3. Strategic and operational online engagement goals. Include benchmarks based on data collected about your e-mail and Web site activities.
4. Descriptions of each project, including the benefits, tasks and costs associated with it. Speak to the ways each project will help you engage more audiences, get more people signed up for your e-mail or get more people donating online.
5. Budget. Be sure to include not only hard costs like purchasing software or tools, but also the cost of time. Kenyon noted the 30/70 rule, which says that 30 percent of the cost of technology is the initial purchase, and 70 percent of that cost is the maintenance of the technology. And allocate money when budgeting for a new or existing tool, training, desired system improvements, staffing, consultation and educational opportunities.
6. Timeline/critical path. Sit down and think about how you're going to get from point A to point B in terms of your plan. Create a calendar for the year that maps out Web site content themes, e-news topics and expected e-mail campaigns.
Below are examples of online projects most organizations should consider:
- An effective Web site. Content, navigation and design are the primary elements that determine a Web site's effectiveness. Make sure your navigation logically groups content areas, and that the look and feel of your site match your brand identity and are accessible;
- Driving traffic to your Web site. E-mail is one of the most effective ways of doing this, so make sure it's a part of your plan;
- Regular content creation. "Stories of how your programs affect people and how your stakeholders help your organization are your best pieces of content," Kenyon stressed. Make it standard practice to collect pictures and stories of events, programs and your supporters. The Web site helps programs, development, even administration, so everyone should be included in contributing content. Most Web visitors scan online content, so keep it short, highlight keywords, use bullet lists, etc.;
- Regular e-communications that are informational or focused on a fundraising, education or advocacy campaign. "Consider mixing up those types of e-mails so that you're not always asking for something every time you contact stakeholders," Kenyon said. E-newsletter stories should be designed to get the reader to click through and read the rest of the story on your Web site, thus driving traffic to your site. And be sure to encourage pass-along of e-mails;
- Online campaigns, integrated with direct mail. As noted before, you should create a calendar for the year that maps out Web site content, direct-mail campaigns and expected e-mail campaigns, and look for ways to coordinate them;
- Creating a positive online donation experience. Include your “donate” button on every Web page and make it part of the navigation, as well. Include a sentence or two on the donation page about the work your organization is doing and where donated funds will go. Make it easy for donors to find your organization's financial information and privacy policies. Also, be sure to send all donors a personal thank you from the development director or executive director;
- Tracking metrics and adjusting benchmarks. Track unique visitors, page views, length of time spent on your site, top "static" pages, like "about us" or "programs" visited, top content and stories, etc. Kenyon stressed the importance of this metric, as the more you know about what visitors are actually clicking on and interested in, the more you can continue to offer that content. For e-mails, track the number of subscribers to your e-updates, the number of unsubscribers, open rates and clickthroughs. Kenyon advised doing a quarterly review of the trends in your Web and e-mail activity and using that data to create and update benchmarks. Tracking and benchmarking metrics is a component of listening, as they help you see what content people are interested in and what messages get the most response from constituents; and
- Understanding and developing Web 2.0/social-media strategies. Social-networking sites and social-media tools are becoming more and more mainstream. "These tools are ushering in a new era of communication for nonprofits, one that is a dialogue, not a monologue," Kenyon said. These tools offer an opportunity to not only share your organization's stories and solutions, but also a chance for you to listen to supporters. Kenyon advised taking some time to learn about these tools and how they can support your online strategy, as they have the power to engage an audience you might not be reaching otherwise.
A recording of the full session can be accessed here.