Funding the Next Big Idea: How to Raise Money Online
You've got your organization name, you've got your team, you've targeted your goals. Now all you need is to raise the money. Or, maybe you have been raising money through direct mail or occasional snail mail requests, until now, when you decide to save overhead and paper by doing all your fundraising on the web.
The people at EchoDitto are experts at building powerful online communities that take action for change. As the strategists behind many successful campaigns, they know what it takes to build a base of committed funders. Here are their helpful tips and best practices for successful fundraising online:
Identify your audience
First, target your audience and build your list. Successful fundraising campaigns start with established communities that have good reason to trust the group asking for money. If you don’t have a list already, think about partnering with a group that does.
Set a goal
State your fundraising goal. Tell your audience what the need is and what their money will pay for. Be as specific as possible. Find a simple way for list members and contributors to track your progress toward that goal on your site. Presidential candidate Howard Dean used a baseball bat image that filled as donations poured in. Maybe the rising thermometer image is overused, but what about an image related to your cause?
Write an effective e-mail
This is the most important element of the campaign. Authenticity is key to the success of any Internet venture-political or otherwise. Your e-mail must be both casual and intimate, without losing authenticity--you’ve got to have personality! A strong e-mail appeal is simple, efficient, immediate and personal.
- Develop a voice. Your e-mail must have not just a human voice; it needs to come from a person! Don’t put an organization name in the “From:” line. Ideally, it should be a distinctive person’s voice, one that your target audience can relate to.
- Make a specific ask. It’s not enough to say you need money. You need to spell out why you need money and what that money will do. Given the immediacy of the Internet, the best requests convey a sense of urgency. Remember to be specific. Don’t say you need $500 to fund an after–school center; say you need $250 for teachers, $50 for basketballs and $100 for snacks.
- Make it pretty, but not too pretty. With a few exceptions, graphics don’t make much difference unless they serve a specific purpose –i.e. a contribute button or a strong image summarizing the request or tracking your progress. Heavily stylized e-mails can work against you.
- Time it right- Send them early in the week, but not too early. Best of all, send them in the early morning on Tuesday or Wednesday.
- Include easy-to-use links. Use the actual URL instead of words embedded with hyperlinks. A separate visual link address or button is easier for users to find.
Be sure that your e-mail asks the reader to take some action, even if you aren’t yet asking for money: to watch a clip, read an article or forward it on to friends. Adding something that people can do engages them in the process.
Structure your e-mail simply
Believe it or not, best results come from messages that follow the same time-honored format:
http:// link to some action on website
Two more paragraphs
http:// link to some action on Website
Two more paragraphs
http:// link to action on Web site
You want to cultivate a relationship with the members of your list over time. This means sending personal, engaging e-mail communications that build trust and interest in your organization. Keep your communications as consistent as possible. If you send e-mails on the same day or two days each week, then your members will begin to expect updates and action alerts on those days and be ready to follow through.
Make sure to track your open rates, unsubscribe rates, click-throughs, contributions and list growth. Study the data to find out what is working and to change what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to experiment and be bold!