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Stop taking online fundraising for granted

02/07/2010

Like many people I was saddened at the news this week that Bmycharity is withdrawing from the online giving market. Any loss of options for raising money cost effectively and providing greater ‘consumer’ choice gives us as a sector pause for thought.

  • More choice of providers in a free market is generally a good thing for any service. Individual donors and supporters can exercise their own preferences and, because of the very low costs involved, charities can afford to have a presence on as many of the online giving platforms as they want (within reason).
  • This in turn gives more options for charities to reach as wide an audience as possible, supporting communications and campaigning objectives as well as fundraising. One easy example is of the charities which link their various online giving sites to blogs, social media profiles and specific web pages to ensure more traffic can be shared across platforms and that their key messages are getting across. The greater the presence, the greater the opportunity to grow support.
  • Consequently, charities are more likely to attract the attentions and support of self-motivated fundraisers, particularly from younger audiences than they may have worked with previously. This activity should be seen as part of the process of making it easy for people to work for charities, including volunteering. It’s not ‘just something else that has to be done’.
  • Several providers meant more opportunities to align fundraising activities with specific events as various organisers have relationships with the online giving platforms. Less organising for the charity must be a good thing?
  • More providers have driven greater flexibility in terms of the associated costs as each had to work out it’s own offering and align it charity clients’ needs. There were (and still are but to a lesser extent) pricing packages for specific events, for low volume users, for high volume users etc. As well as a number of options for extra services to enable the online giving platforms to do more than just collect donations.

But here’s the thing that makes the demise of Bmycharity most annoying for me. All of the above benefits require effort from the charities to be fully realised. I have been surprised at how many charities simply do not take online giving seriously as a proactive element of their fundraising and communications strategies.

Many simply sign up for a page and then leave it drifting along, hoping that donors will find it themselves and be sufficiently self-motivated to use it on their behalf. Great if all you want to do is generate incidental donations. Terrible if you have stretching fundraising targets to meet! I suggest that it’s no coincidence that charities which integrate their online giving activities with other plans see better results.

Simple tactics like Kidscape’s home page links to a JustGiving page or Arthritis Care’s integration of alternative ways to finding donations online via are very simple things to do. Time and again we see advice and case studies evidencing the benefits of integrating social media and other online activities with all activities. So why aren’t we all doing it? Do we have such huge budgets that we can afford to let our online giving activities just drift along in the background without using every other tool we have to raise the profile and encourage people to give this way? Of course not.

I have been lucky enough to work with the team at Bmycharity and one of the issues we discussed time and again was missed opportunities for charities to really build a strong supporter base by using all of the tools and services that providers like Bmycharity offered.  So, let’s use this insider knowledge and promise ourselves to make the most of what’s available (and for many what you’ve already paid for!) and lift our integrated fundraising communications efforts to much higher levels.

Over the next few weeks I will share a list of activities we can all do to take advantage of these services.  If you have any ideas you’d like me to share, drop me a line at kevin@bottomlineideas.com or post them here and I’ll include as many as possible. In the meantime, whatever online giving service you use, USE IT! It’s a powerful tool but like all good tools you actually have to wield and direct it to get the best results.

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