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There is no doubt that the Internet has made fundraising in the modern age easier than ever, but it's also made it even more competitive (as if it wasn't already competitive enough!).
While the mechanical and technical aspects of raising money are now easier, it's exponentially more difficult to cut through the noise and be noticed over all the other campaigns vying for people's money.
How do you stand out?
It's not just about crowdfunding! These days, there are many important lessons on how to master online fundraising without leaving the comfort of your home or office.
The Internet's a big place, so you have to be loud if you want people to notice your online fundraising over everyone else's.
If you're a big charity or a big corporate raising funds for a charity, leverage your human resources.
All of your volunteers or staff have social media accounts. Encourage them to coordinate posts about your fundraising.
Make sure everyone posts about it on launch day and that everyone shares your announcements and marketing materials.
That said, avoid being too loud. It's a bit of a balancing act, particularly online.
If you post too many times asking for funds or post the same promotion over and over, your audience will get eye glaze. Mix it up.
When raising funds online, it's important people know your cause is legitimate.
Ensure you give your organisation or cause the professional edge it needs to ensure you don't appear like a random person begging for money for a trip or a pet project.
Whether it's for a school, a church or a charity, make certain all of your materials and communications underscore your purpose.
The use of official logos helps here - whether it's a school crest or an associated major charity, having recognisable logos on your web page, social media pages and email alerts tells everyone immediately that this is a good cause.
The wonderful thing about raising funds online is how affordable systems and processes now are, particularly with donations and event payments.
Don't fall victim to reinventing the wheel. Use online platforms that already exist.
If they don't do exactly what you want them to do, park that idea for another time, find a plug in or customise the development.
Avoid building something new from scratch. It's very rarely worth the time, investment and heartache.
Like you would with any fundraising activity, be scrappier and more aggressive when online.
The best idea you might have today for your fundraising is in money you choose not to spend.
What’s the difference between what you do and what everyone else does? Are you willing to stand out from the crowd?
Are you on the same schedule and calendar as other charities, schools and church groups?
Are you all out there at the same time, doing the same things? That might explain flat fundraising.
Change it up. Find that time of year when everyone else is quiet and make that your fundraising time.
Reject any idea that the other guys are doing and come up with something smart and fresh that will set you apart.
Chances are all the causes are worthy, so you need another way to differentiate yourself.
That's why Canvas Factory launched Big Hearted Canvas. Every canvas print you sell through your networks will earn your cause 20% of the proceeds.
Mission to stand out from the crowd accomplished.
Like any other offline donor campaign, online donations can fall off because your donors feel unappreciated.
Constantly hectoring your donors via email, social media and text for donations, ticket purchases or volunteering can leave your supporters feeling used.
They support your cause, but they also feel like they’ve done a lot already and haven’t been appreciated.
This can be a cheap fix.
Sending out personalised emails or thank you notes via Facebook or LinkedIn can go a long way. Public shout outs on Twitter are also wonderful.
Even simply listing everyone’s name on a page on your website can assuage bruised egos and keep everyone enthusiastic for your cause.
Don’t take your donors for granted even in digital land.
Even the simplest online fundraising ideas can go off the rails spectacularly. Be sure to keep everything in check.
A few of the common ways simple online fundraising plans go wry include:
- Everyone assumes it’s so easy no one has to actually do anything.
- Initial success in the heat of an announcement and the rush of enthusiasm means no one follows up, and everything comes to a screeching halt.
- Because the idea is so simple, no training is offered and volunteers have no idea how to apply the plan.
The good news? You can avoid almost all of these problems with a process.
No matter how simple your online fundraising ideas are, a lack of central planning can ruin everything. Get a process together sooner rather than later.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if your plan is simple enough, you can just ‘wing it’ - it will never work. An online fundraising plan should include the following components:
- A written overview, a document that can be handed out to everyone detailing the plan's how, why, where and who.
- A budget, so you know ahead of time how much money you’re starting with, how much you’ll have to spend to stage your fundraising, and how much you expect to raise.
- Central authority, someone who makes the hard decisions and resolves conflicts. Everyone must know who that someone is.
The more planning you do, the more successful your fundraising will be.
Free riding is the phenomenon where people feel less compelled to pay attention to calls for donations when they are part of larger groups because they assume that everyone else in the group is doing so.
Free riding is definitely an issue to watch out for online as the result is complacency.
People read about requests for donations or assistance and assume everyone else in their very large group is going to jump in and help out. As a result, no one does anything.
On the flip side, when people are aware that their social circle is relatively small, they are much more concerned and motivated, and thus take a greater interest and commit more resources to the project.
They're then more likely to help by donating funds and/or spreading information. Create close knit groups online and you'll have fundraising friends for life.
Research shows that the more difficult or involved a fundraising activity is, the better it is performed.
The good news is that the online fundraising processes can still be simple. It's simply the concept or the challenge that needs to be a bit tricky.
The more impressed people are with your fundraising activity, the more they are inclined to donate to the cause.
It's the difference between a triathlon versus a 5km walk or a 1km pool swim versus a 10km ocean swim.
That said, if everyone knows you're not the type to have ever even done a 5km walk before, that will still count as difficult.
It's important to know that when you’re designing any sort of event to raise money, the popularity problem may rear its ugly head and reduce the effect of your efforts.
Raising money or spreading the word about events and other important things may seem like the natural purpose of social media platforms, but it’s not magic.
Understanding some of the underlying psychology that governs donating and other social interactions can give you an edge no matter what your intentions are.
The Internet is such a powerful tool it may feel like it's possible to do all of your fundraising here, but it's vital you do not abandon the boots-on-the-ground approach.
Online fundraising should be viewed as augmenting your efforts, not replacing old-school methods.
Certainly, it's good to leverage the Internet, but combining online fundraising with classic techniques is the best strategy.
It's the easiest way to differentiate yourself from other campaigns for the simple reason that your donors will have met you and interacted with your organisation.
The modern age is an age of individual power and amazing possibility, but it comes with the price of being slightly less distinctive as the world gets crowded with fundraisers.
Maintain your impact by not over-relying on the Internet and knowing when to get offline.
It’s time to stop thinking about the tiny supercomputers in our pockets as nothing more than entertainment devices or digital maps but instead - dream fundraising machines!
These days people have incredibly powerful computers in their pockets and handbags.
But even when they’re engaged in the important work of raising money for a good cause, they use them for little more than searching for contacts or asking directions.
When you’re out trying to raise money, don't waste this powerful resource that can be used to not only process donations, but exchange knowledge.
Smartphones are just as powerful a resource as the dedicated people who are working for a good cause: They represent knowledge.
Knowledge that can be used to convince, persuade and ensure that the human assets of a fundraising campaign aren’t wasted.