Category Archives: Online Fundraising

What Part of “Inspire, Don’t Guilt” Don’t They Understand?

Today I received a fundraising email with the subject line “Bad Start to December Fundraiser.” I didn’t open it. (Would you?) It’s from an organization that I won’t name, but which I’ve come to think of as the perpetual purveyors of doom and gloom in my inbox.

With all the access to fundraising wisdom out there, explaining the need to make donors want to join your winning cause, rather than getting them worried about throwing good money after bad, shouldn’t they know better? Only a couple of weeks ago, Nancy Schwartz wrote a fine blog about how to write good email subject lines — and among her tips was “Inspire, don’t guilt” people. (I talked about her post in my November 2 blog entry.)

But maybe this strategy is actually working for this group . . . . nah, probably not. I get too many emails from them telling me how badly their fundraisers are going. Time for a change in strategy.


Online Fundraising, Then and Now

If you had a funny feeling that online fundraising had come into its own while no one noticed the changeover, below is visual confirmation from Network for Good. It’s called “10-Year Evolution of the Online Donor.”










One of the most interesting bits is that asterisk next to the gift level, which is one of the few figures that declined — from $226 to $73. But as the small print points out, online giving has “gone mainstream” — in other words, it’s not just a few tech-savvy people making carefully considered gifts anymore, but it’s people who hear about a cause they like and want to show quick support, friends soliciting friends through networks like Facebook, and so on.

In line with this new reality, reviewing your nonprofit’s website to make sure it’s ready for potential donors might be good to add to that New Year’s resolution list. You’ll find tips in the free article, “Your Nonprofit’s Website as a Fundraising Tool.”

Is Your Social Network Fundraising Message Too Pushy?

It’s hard for nonprofit fundraisers to get used to the back-and-forth dialogue, not to mention the slow results, that are part and parcel of  building links with supporters via social networks. And apparently many nonprofits haven’t yet hit the right note — in fact, as Gary Vaynerchuk amusingly tells it in his video, “Don’t Pitch Me, Bro,” they’re acting like a “19-year-old dude,” who are “trying to close on the first engagement.”

Asking for money before you’ve built a relationship doesn’t work with potential social network donors any better than it does with the major donor philanthropist or CEO you’re having lunch with next week. That doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. You can do a lot of relationship building for very low cost, and using only a few minutes of time each day, within these networks. But the emphasis should be mostly on building the relationship, not on opening the virtual wallets.

How do you do that? Think of your readers as friends, and tell them what’s really on your mind as you do the day-to-day work at your nonprofit. (Okay, I can hear the chuckles. Leave out the internal politics and frustration over the leaking tap.)  But there’s lots of possible material that’s interesting or timely enough for a short update (like, “Got our fingers crossed about a big grant,” or “Three new volunteers started today!”) that wouldn’t be worth a newsletter update, website article, or annual report mention.

For more information on what works in this new and evolving realm, see “Social Networks as Fundraisers (or Friendraisers) for Your Nonprofit.”

Nonprofit Auction Item: A Vasectomy for You and Your Cat!?

The humble school bake sale is dead, according to NPR’s recent story, “Forget Bake Sales: Schools Turn to Luxe Auctions,” by Lauren Silverman. The story describes how (as every parent knows), trying to fill the gaps left by reduced government funding is forcing parents to put in as much effort at special events such as auctions (live or online) as they did for their own weddings.

Even if to you, this is old news, the story is worth a listen for:

  • its ideas on the latest items to attract bids (though not every school has access to an unwashed Lance Armstrong T-shirt, I assume) and
  • the professional auctioneer demonstrating how she slows down her normally rapid-fire patter when dealing with a benefit auction audience (who isn’t used to live auctions).

Unfortunately, you won’t find anything in the story about what type of doctor is able to offer a vasectomy to both the top bidder and his cat!

Whichever of your volunteers can line this one up probably deserves a prize.

Social Networking for Nonprofits: Don’t Forget Niche Networks

Here’s another useful tip I picked up at a recent seminar by Ted Hart, ACFRE: As your nonprofit starts connecting and creating dialogue with people though sites like Facebook and Twitter, think also about whether a more narrowly defined social networking site would be a good place to establish a presence.

Some sites’ themes offer promising matches with cause-related interests.

There are sites for people with disabilities, new moms, artists, a variety of ethnic groups, and so on.

I’m assuming you can skip the site called VampireFreaks (for “Goths and industrial subculture”), as well as those for knitters and Danish teens, but who knows?

For a detailed list of sites, including information on which have open membership policies, see the list provided on Wikipedia.