Revised with new information as of March 5, 2008

Part IV: What About Fund Raising Via the Internet?

One of the most asked questions at any "Nonprofits & the Internet"-type seminar or on an online community for nonprofits is, "How can I use the Internet to fund raise?"

Researching funding sources via the Internet is a reality.

Getting grants and donations via e-mail and your Web site.... about the same as the number of grants and donations you are getting via your fax machine.

Don't buy the hype about instant riches online. In the vast majority of cases, it just is NOT happening. Instead, approach online fund raising with a reality check:

Anna Couey, in her article on "Fundraising Over The Internet" wrote:

"Fundraising over the Internet is neither a quick nor reliable way to make money, but if you're using the Internet to meet other needs and can weave fund raising into it, you just might build yourself a trickle of revenue you wouldn't otherwise have."

It's worth repeating again: Putnam Barber of the Evergreen Society and maintainer of the FAQs noted in a post to the Cyber-Accountability Internet discussion group a common misconception that nonprofit organizations can have regarding going online:

Many colleagues seem to have given themselves very limited opportunities to benefit from using the net and to have absorbed a distorted impression from brainless hype and shameless fear-mongering in the more breathless departments of press and tv "journalism." A frequent version of this problem is e-mail from someone who says something like "Our organization just received word that a large grant will not be renewed. Where can I find information online about emergency sources of funding. I have been holding back from wasting time with this internet thing, but now I need to learn about it in a hurry." (!)

Definitely have information about how to donate to your organization on your Web site. Include donation information in electronic updates you send to supporters. Use your web site to demonstrate your credibility and transparency. But emailed solicitations for money, posted to online groups or emailed directly to folks, are looked at the same as advertisements posted to newsgroups or emailed are looked at: with anger.

Tim Mills-Groninger, chair of the Technology Resource Consortium and associate executive director at the Chicago-based Information Technology Resource Center posted the following to per questions re: donation solicitations via Web sites:

"The tone of online fund raising expectations seems to be that there's new casual money out there and nonprofits need to start capturing some it on the web. There have been some good examples of orgs making $25k as part of the web component of an on-air pledge drive. But everyone involved agreed that almost none of that money was new. Existing donors renewed through a novelty vehicle. Some people are making a little money, but not much. As I talk to people around the country, most are happy if they're getting a gift a month (via the Internet).

Another excellent comment is from an article that used to be on Charity Village, called "Relationship-Building in the Networked Age: Some implications of the Internet for Non-profit Organizations," where Doug Jamieson said,
"Fund raising has always been about relationship-building, whether it's with single donors, volunteers, the media or funding agencies. Successful organizations are built on healthy relationships with people at all levels. The Internet is emerging as an essential tool for building these relationships, and charitable and nonprofit organizations must learn to take advantage of the tools or risk losing out to those groups who do forge communities and service their donors more effectively in the networked age.
Your first step in using the Internet to fund-raise is to use your web site to demonstrate your credibility and transparency. You must also exude quality in all you do online: your timely and complete responses to the press, the public and your supporters via email, your informative and up-to-date blogging, your use of online social networks, etc. How you respond to online criticism may also contribute to your bottom line when it comes to fundraising.

In short: the Internet is part of your overall fund raising strategy. It supplements your other traditional fund raising activities. Most people who are unfamiliar with your organization are going to stumble onto your web site and find you so compelling that they want to donate right away; rather, they are going to hear about you via various means (a community meeting, the radio, a discussion on an online bulletin board, an article in a newspaper or an interview on TV, etc.) and, if they are impressed about your work, they will go to your web site for further information, even type your organization's name into Google to see what others are saying about you.

And remember: Don't Just Ask for Money on your web site!

For the specific tech tools that can be used to accept online donations, see TechSoup, which provides a detailed, comprehensive set of online resources relating to technology use for nonprofit organizations.

Return to previous document, which includes this information:

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