Forge a lasting relationship with donors on the web, says report

Charities should use the internet to woo people over time and improve the chances of persuading them to donate in future, according to a report from the Institute of Fundraising and online giving charity Missionfish.

Passion, Persistence and Partnerships: the Secret of Earning More Online is based on interviews with 15 charities leading the field in the use of digital media, conversations with eight experts and the results of nfpSynergy's Virtual Promise survey of the ways in which charities use the internet, carried out last year.

The report, due to be published tomorrow, says few people go to websites to donate, so leading fundraisers are using the internet to develop relationships by sending email newsletters, developing interactive elements on their websites and making use of social networking sites. Once supporters are engaged, they can be persuaded to donate, it says.

"In the past few years, charities have become more confident and sophisticated in using the web to attract, engage and develop supporters," said Nick Aldridge, chief executive of Missionfish. "They have realised that a lot of the rules of offline fundraising apply online, and they need to have a more engaged style."

The report says reliance on "large but often ineffective" 'donate now' buttons is giving way to wider online fundraising strategies that also include using search engines, online auctions and other affinity partnerships. It also found that blogs by staff, volunteers and beneficiaries are a good way to attract potential donors with stories and experiences.

However, it says many charities remain confused about the exact role of digital communication in their organisations and which department should take responsibility for it.

The report also says small charities are finding it tough to compete with bigger charities online. According to Aldridge, however, if they are creative and clever enough, there are ways that even the tiniest charity can succeed online.

TIPS FROM THE REPORT

- Provide donors with a variety of ways to give

- Don't expect donors to just come to you; improve your online presence

- Use social networking websites to spread your message

- Use personal stories from staff and beneficiaries

- Treat the website as belonging to visitors, not to you: consider what they might want to see

- Use partnerships to provide software and online expertise.

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