Focus On: E-philanthropy: E-volving with the Times
In the formative years of online fundraising, nonprofit organizations assumed that if they built a Web site with bells and whistles, rich content and a device to accept donations, donors would come. But to the chagrin of many fundraising pros who defined effective online fundraising as the ability to take credit card transactions through a Web interface, donors came in fits and starts. Charities soon learned that they needed to be just as creative, diligent and engaging in their approach to the Internet as to any offline fundraising medium.
Since then, the process of adopting online fundraising plans has been a slow, but steady, one. In August 2001, 41 percent of the 900 nonprofit organizations surveyed by the Gilbert Center, a Seattle, WA-based nonprofit research institute and consultancy, said they did not have an e-mail strategy. Only 4 percent reported having a successful program. In the same study, 36 percent said they collected e-mail addresses on their Web site, and only 23 percent said they published electronic newsletters.
Michael Gilbert, founder and principle of the Gilbert Center, which publishes the Nonprofit Online News, says that a Web site built around an e-mail strategy is more valuable than a Web site built around itself.
“Stop obsessing about how many hits your Web site gets and start counting how much e-mail interaction you have with your stakeholders,” Gilbert says. “Stop waiting for people to discover your Web site, and start discovering their inboxes.”
Albeit unglamorous, e-mail is person-to-person communication — the fundamental baseline of direct marketing — and the one thing that breaks down barriers faster than anything else on the Web, Gilbert says.
“An e-mail-savvy organization is one that collects e-mail addresses on its Web site in some useful fashion, that has a newsletter, that is able to ask people for things online, move people to action and is able to listen,” he says.