How charities can make the most of online fundraising

As online fundraising continues to grow, social media expert Robert McAllen explains how charities should help their supporters to raise money and build long-term relationships with both participants and donors

Robert McAllen
Robert McAllen

The rise of online fundraising over the past decade has been phenomenal, as social media makes it even easier for people to ask friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances for sponsorship or donations.

Our company recently analysed 86,000 online fundraising pages to get a detailed picture of what works and what doesn’t with online fundraising, and found that an engaged fundraiser (blogging, sharing pictures/videos and using thank-you emails) raised on average 264 per cent more than those that didn’t. But how involved are charities with this process and what can they do to help their fundraisers?

Keep you brand visible - We all get lots of requests to sponsor runs, or swims, or bike rides, but for how many of those could we say confidently what the cause is, rather than just the name of the friend doing it or the brand of the online giving platform? You don’t want to over-burden online fundraisers with complex brand guidelines, but it is important that people know which cause they are sponsoring and where and how to get more information if they are interested. Make sure your supporters choose an online giving platform that puts your brand first.

It’s good to talk – Stay in touch with your fundraisers and give them the tools to communicate with their supporters properly, sharing information about the cause and how to find out more. Engaged and interactive fundraisers are far more successful than those who are not, so encourage them to share photos and videos, send emails and make requests for sponsorship. Give them pointers on what works and what doesn’t, and send them examples of who has done a good job fundraising in the past for your cause.

How much? – Fundraising target-setting is often done in isolation and based on guesswork with no charity influence. So give advice on what a typical target might be and supply statistics and images that give some idea of what money can help with – for example, one malaria net costs only £5. This will help your fundraisers set a realistic target and their supporters to visualise how their donations will make a difference.

Build relationships that last - Make sure you capture the data of people who sponsor your fundraisers and feed it back into your own CRM systems. Data is such a valuable tool for charities, and having the details of people who have actively shown an interest in your cause by sponsoring someone could be the start of a life-long relationship.

Online fundraising is only going to grow and the government’s recent commitment to a consultation on making digital Gift Aid more simple will only help the process. Online fundraising will one day be the usual method of donating and not-for-profits should be doing all they can to help their fundraisers.

Robert McAllen is manager of interactive products for the European operation of fundraising software company Blackbaud

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