October 19, 2009

8 tips for raising funds online

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NPO panel

At BlogWorld Expo, tools and strategies for nonprofits

JD LasicaThe first Causes/Activism track at the just-ended Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas drew some 1,500 participants — a promising showing by the nonprofit community. I moderated the Tools for Nonprofit Organizations panel, with panelists Judy Chang of Paypal, Justin Perkins of Care2, David Levy of SocialVibe, James Sutandyo of Causecast and consultant Scott Henderson.

Here’s my Flickr photo set of BlogWorld Expo, about 60 photos in all. I also put together this Delicious tag — delicious.com/bwe09 — to aggregate many of the the services, tools and platforms that nonprofits and social change organizations can use to raise funds to advance their missions online.

About 100 people, chiefly from nonprofits small and large, attended our panel and you can follow what they tweeted about the session at #tools4npo

The panelists collectively came up with these recommendations:

8 tips for raising funds online

1. Make it a specific project, not for the overarching nonprofit or a general fund

2. Tell a compelling story with a strong human-interest angle

3. Create a feedback loop from the recipients to the donors to form an emotional bond

4. Have a hard stop — set a date to donate by

5. Pool your efforts by collaborating with reputable like-minded partners (including trading space in partners’ email newsletters)

6. Don’t pussyfoot around — have a clear and specific “ask” or call to action

7. Consider using contests or drawings to draw in more people

8. Your destination website doesn’t matter as much as it once did, so spread your efforts across several social networks

Successful social media efforts

Nature ConservancyPanelists pointed to several initiatives that nonprofits could learn from:

charity: water’s September birthday campaign. “They make it about you,” said Henderson.

LiveStrong, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, has a strong community outreach program.

America’s Giving Challenge, allowing users to vote for daily and overall causes they want to support.

• The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre of Rainforest program — for every 10 gifts you send, you’ll save 1 square foot of Rainforest.

• Invisible Children’s Visible Children Scholarship Program.

Kudos to eBay for underwriting the Causes/Activism track, and to Cause Media Group for organizing the sessions — not an easy undertaking. JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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  • Thanks for this great recap, moderation of the panel, and citing the Giving Challenge as an example. It was great to see this at BlogWorld and I think represents a broader example of how causes and nonprofit issues are integrated into the larger online discussion! Here are my thoughts from BlogWorld, and thanks for letting me use one of your photos: http://www.casefoundation.org/blog/blogworld-2009

  • Question: We use our social networking outreach with the purpose of driving people to our central platform website. Do you believe that this strategy is becoming obsolete, (i.e. "Your destination website doesn't matter as much as it once did")? We just don't want to get our donation platform caught in the "next" aged social network (e.g. MySpace). Ideas?

  • Regading point 2 – Tell a compelling story with a strong human-interest angle – I've been reading Half the Sky (Kristoff/WuDunn) and at one point they briefly talk about studies comparing giving results from pitches that use a personal story vs. discussing the problem more generally. Former is superior for donation results. What was especially interesting was that overlaying general statistics about the overall problem on top of a personal story decreased the performance. In the footnote they say "Remarkably, the human interest in helping victims seems to taper as soon as the number of victims rises above one."

  • Sounds like great material. Have heard similar study from Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp podcast (http://craigslistfoundation.org/bootcamp). They cite that donations went down when the story even featured two children rather than just one. Will look into Half the Sky.

  • Also check out Sage Fundraising Online…sorry for the shameless plug, but it is a great and really affordable tool.

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  • Jennie

    Excellent tips, all of which I’ve tried to implement in my fundraiser (http://gogetfunding.com/project/raising-money-for-ivf-treatment). I’m happy to provide any help / guidance to others that may be trying to raise money for a similar cause xx