Raising funds the high-tech way

The key word is integration. If you can build an integrated communications circle linking the email addresses of potential donors with your website and your fundraising database, the whole philanthropic process suddenly becomes very simple.


What are 3 easy steps to developing an online fundraising strategy?


* Get permission to email.

The most fundamental error many nonprofits make is gathering a wonderful base of potential donor email addresses without also acquiring permission to communicate with them on a regular basis.

It’s a complicated world now.  You can send anything to a P.O. Box, but send an email to the wrong address and you may get blacklisted.

Make it very simple for those who find their way to your website to sign up to communicate with you regularly, whether that’s through a newsletter, action notices or other periodic updates.

And when you ask for a potential donor’s email address, be sure to get more than one – for example, both home and work – in case one becomes inactive.

Or you can even host an email address for your donors through your organization.

Outsourcing is another cost-effective and time-saving option. The price of sending out email is ridiculously low; no one should even attempt to do it in-house, so why take the chance of being blacklisted?

* Link emails to your database.

Once you’ve gathered a collection of usable email addresses, place them in a database that allows you to email potential donors while the resulting donations flow in automatically, without duplication of effort.

Don’t feel bound and tied to a software host group if they don’t change with the times. Switch to a group that already “handshakes,” or makes links between email, databases and the web.

* Link your database to your website – then advertise.

The final step is to get your database online. Set up online pages that will both accept gifts and pledges and funnel these transactions directly into your bank account and your fundraising database simultaneously.

The pages should look and feel like part of your organization’s website to avoid confusing potential donors who may be wary of sending money to an organization other than the one they intended.

For donors, especially the elderly, who may not feel entirely comfortable with online giving, offer a second option. After giving once, many donors then will have developed enough trust in your organization to make subsequent gifts online.

Drive prospects and donors to your website by advertising it everywhere you possibly can.

Your website address should be on every document you put out, from business cards and newsletters to event registration forms.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

Jay B. Love is President and CEO of eTapestry, a web-based fundraising software company with headquarters in Greenfield, Ind.

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