IT intelligence: Online fundraising

Sue Fidler begins a series on online fundraising by asking: does it pay off?

A decade ago, when we all started getting involved with the web, the concept of online fundraising was new and exciting, and we dreamt of cheap and easy income from our globally available websites.

Reality has proved that, although we can raise money online, we have to work hard to get it. Virtual Promise, a report from consultancy nfpSynergy, shows charities average 2 per cent of their income from online sources, although some reported more than 10 per cent (21 May, page 7). The good news is that, as an income stream, online income brings the second best average return on investment, behind only giving from major donors.

Most charities have not started to implement best practice and maximise their income. Most are missing the opportunities from both web and email communications and from the various ways of collecting online income.

The reasons are often simple: they do not have the time, the resources or the knowledge to get the various tools and mechanisms in place, or the management buy-in to get more resources. But for many there is a more frustrating reason: they have the tools but are not using them to sell the charity's proposition. If the route to donate and the ask are wrong, the tools won't help.

We have learnt that having a donate button isn't enough. The concept of 'build it and they will come' hasn't worked. Now we need to look at the how, what and why of online income. We have to learn from the past 10 years and improve what we have done.

Until we learn to sell ourselves online, using our stories to engage our supporters while offering them every opportunity to help, we will not see an increase in online income.

 - Sue Fidler is an ndependent charity ICT and internet consultant

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