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Non-Profit Fundraising

The Smart Money: Online Fundraising for Schools (Part 1 of 2)

By Lance Trebesch February 16, 2010

You need extra-curricular activities, office supplies, and roof repairs. You need to make up for the budget cuts, expanding classes, and an increase in Internet bandwidth. In short, you need money. When the PTA is stretched thin and your kids refuse to sell another chocolate bar, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Don’t worry if your hands are tied! You can earn more money for your school with online fundraising, and you never even need to leave your desk. In this two-part article, we’ll discuss the why and how of filling the coffers without overwhelming your calendar.

7 Reasons to Take Your School Fundraising Campaign to the Net

1. Online giving grows exponentially every year, from just over a half a billion dollars in 2000 to more than $4.5 billion in 2005. (www.groundspring.org)

2. One-click giving helps convert the philanthropic urge into fast action. Your supporters are much more likely to turn their impulse to help into actual donations, Raffle Ticket purchases, or auction bids, when they’re online. The instantaneous nature of the Internet promotes action by catching people in the moment. Being “close to the click” means being close to donors and dollars.

3. Online fundraising eliminates geographic borders. With the right incentive, you can attract a world of potential donors outside your region.

4. People are more generous online. An email campaign launched by North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics resulted in a 20% increase in the average donation. Their overall efforts resulted in a 150% ROI. (www.bronto.com)

5. Online fundraising attracts alternative demographics. cMarket conducted a study concluding that 71% of their online bidders are women. They found that women are turned off by the highly competitive, testosterone induced environment of the traditional auction. Internet bidding turned this demographic into major donors.

6. The Internet is quickly becoming donors’ medium of choice because it’s quick and easy.

7. Online Fundraising is a great option when your potential patrons are pressed for time. The typical auction lasts 1 to 3 hours; fewer people will be able to attend in that small window. Online auctions generally lasts 1 to 3 weeks, expanding the potential for more people to make more bids.

14 Ways to Boost Your School’s Online Fundraising Dollars

Think you know fundraising? Online fundraising is a different beast! If you’re ready to made the move from traditional fundraising to Internet fundraising, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

1. Offer Big Incentives for Big Returns
Online fundraising works on a much larger scale than a PTA pancake brunch. You’re not limited to your usual group of donors; you’ll be tapping into an audience that is larger and more diverse. However, you’ll be competing for their attention, so they can be much harder to engage and coerce into action. You need the right incentives. The Mount Madonna School, located in San Jose, conducted a raffle with a $1.8 million, 2800-square-foot dream home as the prize. They set a benchmark of 26,000 tickets at $150 each before the house could be given away. Even though they fell short, selling only 19,137 tickets sold, they still gave $1 million to the top winner and $141,000 to the remaining 319 winners, and while managing to raise $1 million for themselves. Eliminating geographic limitations and providing the right incentive creates a massive audience, and your rewards grow exponentially.

2. Partner With Online Fundraising Providers
To greatly expand the audience for your auctions, consider selling on eBay Giving Works.  (www.givingworks.ebay.com/). eBay Giving Works is dedicated to nonprofit and charity listings. Start by signing up on MissionFish (www.missionfish.org/), a site that makes it safe and easy for nonprofits to sell on eBay. AuctionPay (www.auctionpay.com) is another resource that can help create bidding activity outside your school’s local geographic range.  St. Mark’s School instituted AuctionPay’s Online Auction Solution and managed to raise $25,000, more than one-fourth of the school’s total revenue of $97,000. A bidding war even erupted between two grandmothers, one in Florida and one in California, over lunch with a teacher, followed by a movie at a local cinema. The experience sold for $2,200 (www.nptimes.com).

3. Measure Everything
One of the great things about fundraising online is there are many useful ways to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Normal metrics you should gather with your email campaign include email open rate, click-through rate, forward rate, opt-out rate, and email list growth rate. You can also track valid website metrics as well, including traffic growth, and the number of visitors who register. It’s also important to keep track of online versus offline funds raised, and the number of participants that are new donors.

Read Part 2 of The Smart Money: Online Fundraising for Schools for 11 more ways to improve your school's online fundraising efforts.