Every non-profit – no matter how small – can successfully raise money online. Yet, in my experience, the vast majority of non-profits are frustrated with online fundraising, feeling like they should be raising more online than they are.
The reality is that the way these organizations are raising money online is flawed. In order to build an effective online fundraising system for your non-profit, you need to think of your online efforts as a funnel. Any believe it or not, that funnel doesn’t start with social media or your website… it starts with e-mail.
When it Comes to Online Fundraising, Focus on E-Mail
When it comes to raising money online, all of your efforts should be focused on collecting e-mail addresses from your supporters.
The vast majority of online fundraising methods available to your non-profit are passive, and require some serendipity in order to be successful.
Your website can be beautiful and compelling, but if people don’t visit it, they’ll never know. You can deliver powerful messages through social media, but the vast majority of your followers will never see those messages… they either won’t be on the site at the time you send them out, or won’t be shown those messages by the social media platform. (Did you know Facebook will only show your posts to about 5-10% of your followers, unless you pay for advertising?)
E-mail, on the other hand, is a truly active online medium. Once someone has given you their e-mail address and permission to contact them, you can e-mail them any time you want. The e-mail you send is highly likely to make it into the person’s e-mail inbox (unless it is marked as spam) and most people look at the e-mails in their inbox at least once per day.
This means that you can reach your non-profit’s e-mail list as often as you want, and if you write a compelling subject line and aren’t bombarding people with e-mail too often, there’s a good chance that your donors and prospects are going to at least open and scan the e-mails you are sending them.
For fundraising purposes, everything your non-profit does online should be geared towards collecting e-mail addresses from your supporters, along with permission to contact them via e-mail.
3 Steps to Build an Online Fundraising Funnel for Your Non-Profit
So… how do you build a scalable online fundraising funnel for your organization?
1. Collect email addresses.
First, you need to collect your supporters’ and prospects’ e-mail addresses and get permission to contact them. The best way to do this is to include an e-mail sign-up form on your website and invite people to sign-up for your e-mail newsletter. Use your social media presence to constantly drive people back to your site so that they can sign-up for the newsletter.
2. Send regular communications.
Second, you need to contact people on your newsletter list on a regular basis (at least once per month) with news, updates, and other articles that help them feel connected to your organization. The vast majority of these communications / newsletters should be cultivation only: no fundraising asks, donate now buttons, etc. You want to build a connection with people before you ask them for money.
3. Send a fundraising appeal
Finally, on a regular basis (once per quarter is right for many organizations), send out an e-mail fundraising appeal to your entire newsletter list. This should be a true, stand-alone fundraising e-mail that asks people to make a donation and includes a donate button supporters can use to make an immediate gift to your non-profit. These e-appeals should be shorter than snail mail newsletters, but use the same type of ask language as your offline fundraising appeals.
Chances are that online fundraising will continue to grow as a percentage of your non-profit’s overall fundraising revenue. You can supercharge this fundraising channel by focusing on collecting your prospects’ e-mail addresses, keeping them up to date on your work, and directly asking them for support through e-mail fundraising appeals.
Always remember that e-mail is still the “killer app” for online non-profit fundraising.