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Non-Profit Fundraising

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

By Lance Trebesch February 16, 2010

If you’ve already read “The Smart Money: Online Fundraising for Schools Part One,” you know why the Internet is your best bet for expanding your donor list and your profits. You’ve read a few tips to get started, and you’re ready to learn the rest: ten more ways to boost your online fundraising dollars, make the most of donor communication, and promote your school’s online fundraiser, along with some basic guidelines for conducting online or offline fundraisers.

Communication and Promotion

 Use the Internet to keep your potential donors aware of your school and its needs. You’ll want ongoing communication to ensure everyone’s up to date on upcoming fundraising events and school needs, particularly those of student clubs, organizations, and teams. The more involved they are, the more they’ll give. Here’s how to keep everyone in the loop.

4. Start an email Campaign
Starting an e-mail or e-newsletter campaign is the most important step you can take to ensure the success of your online fundraiser. If people aren’t informed, they won’t help. Make your campaign a success with the following tops:

  • Tailor Emails to Recipients’ Interests: Build detailed profiles for each potential donor. You can send an initial email asking about the recipient’s needs and demographic, or you can send more surveys and polls over a longer period of time. The second option is often best, as it allows for better relationship building as you gather information and develop continually more personalized emails.
  • Do Not Solicit in Initial Mailings: Even the most generous among us usually don’t care to give money to organizations or individuals before we have established some relationship. The importance of not soliciting recipients with their first email cannot be emphasized enough. Initial emails should be used to gather information on the recipient’s needs and interests in order to provide more valuable content. There is a direct correlation between the relationships built with potential donors and the amount they will give.
  • Purchase email Marketing Software: Email marketing software will save you time and money. This software allows you to automatically upload your donor database into an email marketing application and helps you tailor your emails to a recipient’s interests. Emaillabs.com offers great basic email marketing software. WildApricot, Convio, GetActive, and LocalVoice are designed specifically for online fundraising and offer a handful of specialized tools not offered by general email applications.
  • Establish a Schedule for Writing and Distributing: The whole point of an email marketing program is to hold the recipients’ attention by keeping them continually informed. People should look forward to receiving your email. Establish a set frequency based on time constraints and your school’s ability to produce relevant news or content.

For more information on email marketing read "Stay Between the Lines! Your School Email Marketing Campaign".

5. Start School Blogs and Forums
Forums are especially great for school websites. They provide parents, students, community members, and faculty a place to share ideas and become involved. An active forum helps you understand the community’s concerns and communicate instantly. A blog is a great way to provide information on current school happenings.

6. Incorporate a Web Calendar
Integrating a web calendar into the school website is essential because it allows visitors to view upcoming fundraising events at a glance. There are many web calendar applications out there. Trumba event calendars (www.trumba.com) are easy to use and boast a number of features. Google and Yahoo both offer free event calendars.

7. Integrate an RSS Feed
RSS feeds automatically update subscribers on new website content or events; there’s no need for users to continually check your website. New blogs, email newsletter shipments, wiki page updates, and upcoming fundraising events should be placed on an RSS page. This will greatly increase fundraiser participation.  For more info on creating RSS feeds visit /www.wilsonweb.com.

8. Create Wiki Pages
A wiki page is a webpage that can be edited by website visitors. Wikipedia is the most commonly known wiki site: a visitor edited, free encyclopedia. Submit your school’s details and history to this site, as it often comes up first in search results. Wiki pages for every sports team and student organization can be of great benefit. Parents, students, and staff can contribute unique pictures and stories about each group, establishing a sense of community while keeping the entire community informed about student activities. Write about notable alumni, too. Giving staff the ability to quickly edit these pages will make them more valuable and interesting. Search engines consider frequently updated content more valuable, so wiki pages increase your website’s natural search results. JotSpot provides a fully integrated wiki application that makes creating wiki pages a breeze. While most wiki pages are text based, JotSpot allows you to create rich web-based spreadsheets, calendars, documents and photo galleries with ease. For additional information on general wiki page creation, visit www.intersci.ss.uci.edu.

9. Create and Distribute Charity Badges
A charity badge is a small widget, often including a picture, brief description of the organization, and link to where you can make a donation. Using charity badges is good practice for any fundraising campaign. Although they may or may not produce large donations, they are an effective way to promote a fundraiser. Placing yours in targeted locations can help you reach new demographic groups. These badges also allow users to share with one another by simply clicking on “get this badge” and copying the html code onto their website or blog, which helps you target individuals who may donate. They are inexpensive and easy to create. Simply follow step-by-step instructions though providers such as CareBadges or ChipIn.
To get your school’s charity badge started, choose a provider and create a badge.  Then, email those who would be most likely to make a contribution or share the badge with others. After this, donate to your charity badge yourself, and have co-workers and friends do the same. People are much more likely to donate if they feel they are part of something big. Finally, promote your badge though your school blog, social networking sites, email newsletter, or forums.


The Basics

Here are some basic tips to increase the effectiveness of any fundraiser.

10. Base Appeal on Benefits, Not Needs
Communicate how your school will be a better place for children, or the community will be better off as a whole, after receiving fundraising dollars.

11. Create a Sense of Urgency
Communicate the need for urgent action with clear deadlines and purposes. Catch people in the moment, with a sense of immediacy, and they are more likely to make a donation. 

12. Provide Convenience for Donors
Give donors the convenience of paying online, over the phone, or via mail.  Establishing several media for submitting donations or purchasing Raffle Tickets increases the likelihood of participation.

13. Following up with a Thank You
Don’t forget to send thank you notes to any direct donors, big Raffle Ticket customers, and purchasers of auction items.

14. Use Online Fundraising as a Supplement
Encourage online participation, but don’t let this be the only alternative. A lot of people do not want to become engaged with the online process. Make sure traditional fundraising activities are still in place. Online fundraisers are long arms, while traditional fundraising is the backbone of your fundraising efforts. Think integration. Allow your offline and online fundraising efforts to complement each other.