Raising money online for your non-profit can seem overwhelming. There’s lots of advice out there on how to do it right… and lots of different channels at your disposal, including your website, social media, e-mail, crowdfunding, and more.
Each of these fundraising methods has a place in your online fundraising arsenal, and each can be a fantastic way to reach new prospects and cultivate donors.
But there’s one thing that in my experience is the most important thing you need to understand to dramatically increase your organization’s online fundraising revenue. It’s this: e-mail is the most important tool in your online fundraising arsenal.
Why E-Mail is So Important for Raising Money Online
The vast majority of online fundraising methods available to your non-profit are passive, and require some serendipity in order to be successful…
For example, your website can be beautiful and compelling, but if people don’t visit your website, they won’t see any of that content.
Likewise, 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.
How to Raise Money through E-Mail
There’s a simple, three step process for raising money for your non-profit through e-mail:
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 (like we do on the front page of The Non-Profit Fundraising Digest) and invite people to sign-up for your e-mail newsletter. Use your social media presence to drive people back to your site so that they can sign-up for the newsletter.
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.
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. Remember that e-mail is still the “killer app” for online non-profit fundraising.
Photo Credit: Paul Downey