All of us have memories of raising funds for one item or another. Perhaps it was cookies for Girl Scouts, or wrapping paper around the holidays to help fund the school’s arts program. Whatever those memories might be, the programs that we once participated in are fast becoming mere memories themselves. This is because fundraisers have quickly begun to realize the power of the internet to help them reach and exceed their fundraising goals – with much less time or effort in many cases as well. (Tip: Raising funds online may present new legal considerations for your group. It may be best to consult your legal adviser before raising funds online.)
Getting started with online fundraising
If your group is large, you should have a well designed, informative and easy to navigate website with a blog that’s periodically being updated. Your site can serve as the main ‘point of contact’ for all of those that you are trying to reach. It also acts as the ‘face’ of your organization on the web, so it should put your best face forward: You want it to portray you as the professional (or at least professionally volunteering) organization that you are, with the valid and legitimate cause that you are trying to promote. Use your site to give potential donors in-depth information about your cause as well as to provide those ‘tugs at the heart’ via pictures or stories that can help to sway a visitor into becoming a donor – and perhaps even increase the donations of those who already intended to support your cause.
If your group is small, a free blog will probably be sufficient, or you could simply sign up with one of the Popular Online Fundraising Services right away. These online fundraising services are useful for just about any size fundraiser and might be just what you’re looking for if you need help with managing finances, emails, donor information and more.
Ways to promote your online fundraiser
One of the best things about the internet is that it allows you to reach a much wider audience than you ever could without it. So your job is to try to reach as many supporters as possible. There are the obvious methods, such as announcing your website to all of your members and encouraging them to go online to visit it. You can ask them to spread the word online (Facebook, Twitter, – Update: also use Pinterest -, emails) and “off line” via newsletter, or word of mouth as well.
The internet is a virtual community, and you can gain access to a number of the niches in those communities simply by looking for them. Look for chat groups, forums and blogs that have members either in your physical community or who are likely to be sympathetic to your organization’s mission, sign up, and then put your website address out there through your account tools. Don’t spam! Take care to find groups and blogs that might genuinely be interested in the information you put out there. Brainstorm all of the possible businesses, organizations, associations, clubs or other membership organizations that might have websites or email newsletters and who would be willing to help you. Ask for a brief article to be included in newsletters, announcements, flyers, group emails or any other communications that these groups might be issuing. Many will be willing to include a link to your site as well. More on connecting online and off-line marketing for your fundraiser.