IT Intelligence: Sue Fidler on making it easier for visitors to your site to support your cause.

One of the clearest messages we can take on board from our supporters is that they want to be able to choose how and when to support us. The internet is a perfect vehicle for offering that choice at an extremely low cost and in a format that is accessible 24 hours a day, every day.

First, offer as many ways to pay as you can. Debit and credit cards are a must. If you can't offer direct debits, then offer standing orders. Add PayPal as an option and always include postal and telephone options for those who still won't pay online or have a problem with the form.

Try to include information about alternative ways to support the charity. It costs nothing to add a page explaining how people can support you through eBay auctions and Everyclick, but it makes the choice much wider. Other possible alternatives include in-memoriam services and affiliate schemes.

If you have any donors doing sponsored events, add a page explaining how they can use online tools. They may not have the confidence to do it alone.

Give people the chance to offer any kind of support you can think of, even if it isn't electronic. You should have pages about legacies, shares, gifts in kind, trusts, corporates and so on. The pages might say no more than who you are, who and what you welcome and how you deal with such types of donations - but, again, it offers choice.

Finally, never forget that volunteering is a way to give. Even if you don't use volunteers in the office, you can use them to run services such as eBay auctions and MySpace and Facebook pages.

Engaging with your supporters is critical to retaining their support. Offering them e-communications, easy ways to give, direct routes through the site and multiple options will make it easier for them and will increase your income.

 - Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant.

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