Beyond fundraising: Using your website effectively


In addition to soliciting donations, what are three ways to use the Web to effectively engage constituents?


When I think about using the Web, I typically break it into three distinct categories.

* Content

One thing organizations could do to engage people is use their website to tell an impact story. What a lot of people want to know is: If I donate my time or my money, how will I make an impact?

Content is still king. Publishing impact stories online can be a really powerful way to attract like-minded volunteers or donors.

Impact stories also are a great way to sustain interest. If you take the time to build just one story first, every so many weeks or months, you can tell another one. People will go back to the website to look for those.

* Commerce

Giving doesn’t have to be faceless. The Web is a great place to create alternative giving programs.

As opposed to giving $50 or $75, let your donors feel like they are giving something concrete. So instead of just making a donation, they’re purchasing livestock for a village, sponsoring an animal at a zoo, or helping to build a school.

This is a much more emotional and powerful way of giving.

* Community

Begin to work on leveraging all this “Web 2.0” stuff that’s out there.

A lot of organizations are still stuck on Web 1.0 and don’t understand what MySpace and YouTube are or how they work.

However, these are very effective ways to engage people.

For example, if you just did a coastal clean-up, take a video and post it on YouTube with a link to your website.

This works as double advertising – you’ll catch the attention of people who already know about your website, and you’ll attract new constituents who are merely surfing for groups that share their interests.

If you’re a large hospital, take video of your new oncology ward. It’s a more “sticky” way of engaging people in your organization’s work from afar.

A great way to get started thinking about how you use the Web is to look at what peer organizations are doing.

There’s nothing that says you need to come up with these things on your own. Borrowing ideas is a great way to get started.

–Compiled by Elizabeth Floyd

Steven R. MacLaughlin is practice manager for Blackbaud Interactive, the Internet strategy and services group at Blackbaud Inc., a Charleston, S.C.-based nonprofit software provider.

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