When It Comes to Online Fundraising, Just Think KISS; Keep It Simple, Stupid

Grant Guru is a monthly feature in which we talk answer the outstanding questions in the field of fundraising. It is part of our continuing effort to enhance our coverage.


Dear Grant Guru: We are starting an online Web-based fundraising appeal. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to start? This is our first time.

Grant Guru: Launching an online funding appeal can seem daunting. It’s really not. While organizations’ approaches to online fundraising can vary based on mission, staff resources and constituent base, every online fundraising program should have four basic goals.

They are: make people aware of your organization, get people to care about your organization, encourage people to support your organization and keep people connected to your organization.

Here are 10 quick tips that will help you reach these goals and get the results you want.

  1. Drive traffic. Never pass up an opportunity to gather e-mail addresses at your functions or to encourage people to register at your Web site—even if they don’t donate—so you can continue to cultivate them. In your offline publications, highlight your Web site and the benefits of donating online
  2. Know your audience. Who do you hope will donate to your organization? Keep in mind their age, technological comfort level, and Internet connection when creating an online fundraising presence. A Web site heavy on graphics and presentations, for example, may turn off a potential donor connecting via a slower connection.
  3. Maintain your brand. Your online identity and message should reflect your offline identity and message, since that’s the brand with which your constituents identify. It is important to maintain consistency among all communication channels.
  4. Stay fresh. View your Web site as a high-impact marketing and communications tool. Keep it updated. This demonstrates that your organization continues to have relevance and an impact.
  5. Make it easy. While a Web site should tell about the nonprofit’s mission through vivid graphics and inspiring stories, it also must allow both casual browsers and frequent visitors to donate to the organization.
  6. Be clear, be brief. Articulate your organization’s mission on your home page. Individuals’ attention spans are much shorter on the Internet than they are reading through a brochure or an annual report—especially if it is on a site they have stumbled onto. You have a short window of time to “sell” your organization to these types of visitors and don’t want to lose their attention.
  7. Get personal. If you don’t personalize e-mail, you should. Each online interaction is an opportunity to learn more about his or her interests, which you can use to personalize communications. Also, work on achieving the right tone. You wouldn’t just take a direct-mail letter and slap it into an e-mail message any more than you would put a phone-a-thon script in an envelope and mail it.
  8. Make it interactive. Think of online fundraising as building an online community. Provide people the opportunity to sign up to volunteer on your Web site. Allow donors to post messages and publicly share their reasons for giving.
  9. Keep track. Measure e-mail response to find out what to do more of—and what to stop doing. Here’s one approach: Split your e-mail list into two groups and mail the same content to both groups using different subject lines. Then, see which version is opened more frequently. Another idea: Experiment with story order in your e-newsletter, and track click-throughs to see which story gets more response. Look for software that will allow you to track click-throughs on e-mails and Web pages and test the effectiveness of e-mail messages so you can learn what’s most effective.
  10. Stay flexible & adapt. Some people want to mail a check. Others want to charge their donation by phone. Still others want to give online. Provide an array of easy-to-use options so that your donors can choose the means they like best.

Info: Contact Editor Frank Klimko at Fklimko@cdpublications.com

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education. Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government. Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.
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