Top 3 Misconceptions about Online Fundraising

myths-of-online-fundraisingSo much of our daily lives revolves around the internet now. It’s the medium we use to communicate with people, shop, watch television and movies, read books and numerous other functions. Many foundations have been taking advantage of nonprofit technology and hosting platforms that donors can use to give money to the charity of their choice, a trend that continues to grow.

Online fundraising has been around for a number of years, but its popularity has recently increased across the globe and the United States. Many statewide organizations are now adopting online fundraising efforts in order to increase their donations and donor support. There have been numerous initiatives by individual state administrators to give to local charities, and many of these people have found that the internet is the best medium for these aims.

As foundations tap into emerging digital channels to raise funds online, they can benefit from nonprofit fundraising software that tracks incoming donations and quantitatively measures the success of their efforts. In order to get the most out of your fundraising software – however – nonprofits need to clear up a few misconceptions about online fundraising.

Misconception #1: Online fundraising is not as effective as traditional fundraising.
In the 2007 Philanthropic Giving Index report published by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, only 34 percent of nonprofits surveyed reported success with online fundraising, and participants ranked online giving as the least successful fundraising technique in the survey.

The reason for these lackluster results is that organizations have not applied the same focus to their online efforts as they have in other areas. Most donors expect professionally printed mailings that include good stories and related giving options. But too often when they go online, they find gray, generic giving forms with no associated content. It’s not surprising, then, that donors give so little online, and fundraisers conclude that online giving doesn’t work. Organizations end up setting lower expectations and focus even less on their online efforts—which leads to more bad results, and the cycle repeats.

The truth is, online fundraising can and should be far more effective than other “offline” fundraising techniques, in terms of response rates, dollars raised, cost per dollar raised, and, importantly, connections with new and younger donors.

Set high expectations and focus on achieving better results. Start by evaluating whether you are committing a comparable amount of resources—people, time, and planning—to your online initiatives. Keep in mind that since online fundraising is almost always more cost effective, your financial investment won’t need to be as high as other efforts.

Misconception #2: Online fundraising means raising money through my organization’s website.
The standard model of online fundraising is to divert people from wherever they are on the Internet to a central donation form on an organization’s website. But the massive, untapped potential for your organization to raise more money isn’t on your website—it is on all the other websites that your donors and supporters frequently visit.

If we look at the places individuals visit online every day, their favorite charity is probably not among them. However, they do visit their employers’ websites and they might take action for a nonprofit their company supports. They likely edit their personal pages or blogs every day, and they’ll even publish about a cause that inspires them. They also visit their friends’ blogs and personal pages, and may post, email, chat, or tweet about their favorite charity.

The individuals engaged in these conversations include some of your strongest, most vocal advocates, and each of them is willing to evangelize your organization’s mission. They have established bonds of trust with their personal networks. Why, then, would you ask them to leave a site they trust and go donate on yours? If they are willing to evangelize for you, they also might be willing to host a donation form for you. So, why not take the donation form to where the conversation is already happening?

Airline ticket sales provide a helpful reference for this point. It is possible to buy tickets on an airline’s website, but it is more common to buy them from one of many “portals,” such as Expedia.com. Millions of people buy their tickets on travel sites because they have an existing affinity for those specific sites. Airlines don’t care where people buy their tickets, so long as they’re being sold.

Similarly, you can reach out to your network of supporting organizations, partners, or even the personal sites of individual advocates and turn them into donation engines for your organization. This is an opportune time to look beyond your website and consider how you can more effectively leverage the broader web to build new relationships and increase online giving.

Misconception #3: Technology is not the problem.
Most online fundraising tools have a few things in common: they’re expensive, they’re difficult to deploy, it’s hard to change anything once deployed, and they only work on a single website. Because of this, many nonprofits have extremely limited online efforts. As discussed earlier, organizations then mistakenly “blame” poor results on their marketing programs, or even on the donors themselves.

The truth is that online giving is often limited by online fundraising technology. Cost and complexity have led many nonprofits to focus on only a few, or even just one, online fundraising program.

The good news is that a new generation of online fundraising software solutions are available today that don’t have the limitations of prevalent software of the past. Such next-generation tools are significantly less expensive and much easier to deploy and modify. One major benefit is that the flexibility of these tools allows experimentation with different strategies and tactics for online fundraising. This means it will be easier for you to create an online program for every marketing effort, and give donors more opportunities to support your organization.