At Friday’s Fundraising Day in NYC, I had the pleasure of learning online strategy from the nonprofit that has probably done it best in recent years. In only five years of existence, Charity:Water has used a combination of compelling content and innovative outreach strategies to build a dedicated constituent base. Digital Director Paull Young described their approach:
ask supporters to ‘give up their birthdays,’ offering a great ‘experience’ in return
focus on ‘sharing great content,’ not on asking for money
‘uncomfortable transparency’ about exactly how donations are used
we ‘make the campaigner the hero,’ not the organization
goal is to have a ten year relationship with constituents
100% reliance on social media / online – no direct mail
After his session, I congratulated Paull on his success and asked whether some of Charity:Water’s techniques could work in a larger, less nimble nonprofit. He pointed out that he had worked primarily with larger organizations before joining Charity:Water, then added that any nonprofit could do well by paying close attention to its culture and by ‘getting people with the right skills on staff.’ In our country where the availability of clean drinking water is usually taken for granted, it’s also impressive how this organization has developed such a huge following in such a short time.
As I also heard from several speakers during the event, you get the best results by developing the relationship with constituents first before making any ask. And as Charity:Water has demonstrated, it’s critical to stay in touch to show supporters specifically how their contributions have helped the cause.
If you weren’t able to attend the event, several session handouts are available here.
If you’re using integrated software like Convio, what stops you from using the tool most effectively? Recent options like @ConvioHelp and live chat can be helpful, but my experience shows that issues with product usability often get in the way also. My suggestion – make sure you take the time to train your staff on an ongoing basis.
Steve MacLaughlin,Blackbaud‘s Director of Internet Solutions suggested that we ‘experiment first, plan later’ to make sure our organizations are represented in these new web environments. He suggested a POST approach:
People -who are you targeting?
Objectives- what do you want to achieve?
Strategy- what will it look like when you’re done?
Technology-what tools will you use?
Philip King ofArtez Interactivesuggested the value of recruiting fundraisers instead of donors, and suggested that the ‘from’ line in an email will often be more important than the ‘subject’ line; i.e. people give because of their relationship with people, not necessarily because they support the cause. He also discussed the ‘game changing idea’ of Kiva, where people can donate without going through a nonprofit organization; Oxfam Directhas also used this technique successfully.
To keep up with latest trends, many speakers mentioned the value of following sites such asBeth Kanter’s blog.
Do you participate in groups, both online and off, to share success (and failure) stories? People inNtenare always willing to help. Don’t forget about for profit groups – I recently discovered theInternet Strategy Forum, which discusses many of the online strategy challenges that we also deal with in nonprofit.
Are you too busy to leave the office occasionally for a conference, such as this week’sFundraising Dayand Social Networking Symposium in New York? If so, you’re missing the opportunity to learn from our colleagues.
Many nonprofits are clearly still struggling to coordinate offline and online strategies. Per Sheeraz Haji, President ofConvio, only a handful of their clients are doing this well. Steve Birnbaum ofJacobson Consultingsuggested that the challenges are often not technical but organizational, e.g. getting people to talk to each other.
Online fundraising continues to increase dramatically, but overall it’s still less than 1% of total fundraising revenues. (Some large nonprofit organizations are doing much better than this, however.)
Harry Lynch and Paul Habig ofSankyNetoffered a variety of techniques to accelerate online revenues – their presentation is availableonline.
A panel with representatives ofConvio,Beaconfire Consulting&Carnegie Hallreiterated the need for synchronization of offline / online efforts, as well as how to make a site visitor ‘known’ by offering multiple reasons to submit an email address. ASPCAis particularly good at doing this.
Using peer to peer fundraising was also suggested since supporters will often prefer to use their own web pages for fundraising rather than an organization’s page created solely for an event or other fundraising initiative.