Using E-Commerce to Raise Money and Build Stronger Relationshi
E-Commerce: Raise Money, Build Constituent Relationships
August 30, 2005
By Vinay Bhagat
Through e-commerce, nonprofit organizations can raise new funds as well as attract new constituents, encourage them to get more involved, collect information about their interests and motivations, use that information to send more relevant communications and build relationships to encourage loyalty and ongoing support. Several nonprofit groups already run online stores using stand-alone e-commerce tools and services. For example, public radio stations sell premium items, such as videos and T-shirts, outside of pledge drives.
However, many nonprofit professionals have not seriously considered e-commerce as a way to drive fundraising, erroneously believing it is exclusive to for-profit retailers. In fact, e-commerce provides new ways for organizations to raise funds and build strong online relationships with constituents.
Defenders of Wildlife and the Jewish National Fund are among today's foresighted nonprofits that are achieving tremendous success by selling virtual fundraising "products."
Defenders of Wildlife lets constituents "adopt" wild animals, such as wolves. JNF gives people the opportunity to buy trees for planting in Israel. Originally, people buying trees or the recipients of gift donations received physical certificates. Now, JNF offers virtual certificate fulfillment in the form of a PDF -- a great offering for last-minute gift givers/purchasers.
Last year, I went online to buy Valentine's Day roses for my wife. During the purchase process, the site promoted the option to "upgrade" and buy two dozen roses for a little more money. I selected that option. As I proceeded, I was presented the option to add an attractive vase and chocolates for a little more. Again, I selected the option.
A nonprofit organization can apply the same marketing principles. If a shopper is purchasing an item from an organization's online store, the store can offer him or her the option to purchase related items, as well as the option to make an additional contribution to the organization.