Tricks and treats for online fundraisers

Online fundraising is a lot like Halloween: Part fun, part scary. It has plenty of tricks and plenty of treats to keep you on your toes.

Online fundraising “tricks”

  • It’s a “cold” medium. The way people read email is different from traditional media. It’s fast, action-oriented, impatient. Not good for emotion and compassion — the basic ingredients of charitable giving. That explains the response/conversion rates — numbers that would sink the entire endeavor if it weren’t for the low cost.
  • The donors who really want you can (maybe) find you. The fanatics who really should be on your list can now Google you. They still might not find you, but you can improve your chances with good SEO.
  • The donors are younger. (This is also treat; see below.) Younger donors have low retention rates. That shows up in the comparatively poor retention of online donors.
  • It’s crowded. If you thought the mailbox was bad, with its dozens of competitors every day — think about the inbox: Someone who’s a habitual online donor probably gets a hundred or more emails per day from nonprofits that have something to say.
  • It’s cheap — so cheap, you can afford to be stupid. And being stupid is expensive, no matter how little it costs in the first place.

Online fundraising “treats”

  • The donors are younger. Younger donors give higher average gifts, and if you can keep them, they’ll stay around longer. The trick: define your target younger audience as those between 45 and 65.
  • Average gifts are high.
  • It’s two-way. Donors can actually interact with you. That’s a foundation for a meaningful relationship.
  • It’s multimedia. Do you have a cause that’s hard to capture with words? Online, you can show pictures, videos, live cams — whatever it is that makes the case.
  • It’s cheap. No spiraling postage, paper, printing costs. That makes a lot of things possible. It also lowers the risk of innovation.

(This post first appeared on October 31, 2013.)


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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