Online Giving- Philanthropy of the Future?

 I don't know about you, but my inbox is flooded with tips, articles, and invites to webinars on the topic of online giving. Most mid-level organizations have a very long-standing history of traditional fundraising streams: a lot of churches, a lot of local foundations, and a lot of individual donors writing checks.

Is this sustainable for another decade? Two? Three? 

According to recent research, online giving continues to rise at double-digit rates even as overall charitable giving struggles to regain pre-recession numbers (http://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthasharf/2014/02/05/charitable-giving-grew-in-2013-as-online-giving-picked-up/). It's our duty to our organization, to the community, and to the missions we serve to stay on top of trends in fundraising and prepare practical plans for reaching newer and younger donors through a compelling, enticing online presence. It's highly doubtful that most donors will still be writing physical checks and not utilizing electronic methods of giving ten years from now, so if your organization is late to the dance, you may be left with no dance partners! Start planning and get online now!

Where to begin?

As I mentioned earlier, it seems the market is flooded with advice, training, and literature on online giving- so much that it quickly becomes overwhelming. Studying your organization's existing donor base, however, is the absolute first step in determining how you can best implement an online charitable giving plan. Determine basic statistics on your donor base. What's your donors' average age? Sex? Income level? Family structure? Education level? Only when you get a clear snapshot of exactly who is giving, and how much each group is giving, can you begin to pinpoint weaknesses and grow the under-represented groups.

How do I reach them?

Once you've identified those groups, your next step is to conduct more research. Identify where your target group "hangs out". Are they online? On social media? Or are they event and gala people? Utilize the research, not only in national trends but in your local area, to figure out how to reach your donors where they are.

I've reached them...now what?

Now be real. Be genuine. The number one rule to fundraising still is, and forever will be, developing great relationships. Just because you're in cyberspace doesn't mean you ignore those relationships. Respond to comments on social media. Engage donors with videos and "live events" online to keep the relationship vibrant and keep them interested and engaged. Provide ample space and tools for feedback and interaction.

Be patient.

Developing an online giving plan requires an expectation of slow and steady results. If it took thirty years to develop a great donor base, it's not realistic to expect to develop a great online donor base overnight. Statistically, it takes three years for a monthly sustainer program to take off. Again, be genuine, gently persistent, and vibrant online and not only will you see great results online, you'll make your organization a more multifaceted presence in your community. 
For more tips on developing a monthly giving program:http://www.fundraisingsuccessmag.com/article/10-things-you-need-know-about-creating-monthly-giving-program-410431/1 

Warmly,
~m

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