Take a moment and think about the word ePhilanthropy. What do you think of first? Raising money online is the response I hear most often. As you might have guessed by the title of this article, I do not necessarily agree with that answer. It is my hope that after you finish reading you will no longer think of fundraising first when you hear the word ePhilanthropy.
Let me assure you, I am not simply taking this position to be provocative. The ePhilanthropy Foundation (http://ephilanthropy.org) was founded nearly two years ago as a nonprofit organization with the express purpose of providing educational services and promoting ethical standards that will help nonprofits make maximum use of the Internet to further the mission of their organization. From its inception the Foundation has developed its online and offline training programs around the central themes of the ePhilanthropy Code of Ethical Online Philanthropic Practices (the ePhilanthropy Code of Ethics) and around the concept we call THE RULES STILL APPLY sm. This is meant to remind us all that the best practices of identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship developed for off line use, apply to this online environment.
In order for your organization to succeed online and to begin raising money online you will need to think FIRST about using the Internet to improve supporter relationships, to add new efficiencies in your operations, to seek advocates for issues, to communicate with your supporters, to recruit and manage volunteers and a host of other relationship and community building efforts that will then prepare your organization to raise funds online.
When you are ready to raise money online, you may be faced with the position held by some who predict that the use of the Internet will replace traditional methods of fundraising such as direct mail, telephone, personal solicitation and even planned giving. This is not and will not be the case. Instead, organizations that are succeeding are those who utilize the efficiency and effectiveness of Internet-based ePhilanthropy services integrated fully with traditional fundraising methods.
What has become painfully obvious to those who thought ePhilanthropy meant easy and quick money, is that raising money online takes just as much effort, and just as much careful strategy as does raising money offline. The growth of ePhilanthropy has required even the most seasoned nonprofit professional to learn new skills and to re-evaluate how they approach nearly every aspect of fundraising. These tools will add a new dimension of efficiency and will require a higher level of integration for nearly every ďoff lineĒ approach to attracting philanthropic support.
To succeed, an emphasis must be placed, not on the technology being used, but on cultivating and enhancing relationships. The Internet provides countless opportunities to enhance relationships, provide meaningful stewardship to past support, improve donor satisfaction and to therefore, raise more money.
I have another question for you. What is the number one reason why people do not give money to your organization today? Offline? The answer is, of course, because they were not asked. The truth is, the number one reason why people are not giving to your organization online today, is because they havenít been asked. This is not to say that issues of privacy and security are not important but they exist offline as well. It comes down to a matter of trust, once someone is familiar with an organization, grows in their respect and interest in its work, the likelihood they will be open to a request for financial support grows. Internet use continues to grow at very strong levels around the world, by any measure use of the Internet as a communication and information transfer medium has grown at a faster rate than any other means of communication in human history. If you want to have the opportunity to raise money from current supporters and to increase the number of supporters you currently have, you must begin incorporating the use of the Internet into your communication and fundraising strategies. Your donors are already online, they already read email, they already surf the web, it is a matter of time before some organization devises a strategies that will identify, cultivate, solicit and steward your supporter, the question you should be asking yourself is, will that organization be yours?
The true powers of Internet-based development methods lie in their ability to do more than simply functioning as a novel way in which to raise money. It lies in the areas of communication, marketing and relationship building. In fact, these are the real drivers of fundraising success both offline and online. The Internet is an ideal platform from which to reach, inform and engage potential donors, many of which may be beyond the reach of traditional fundraising channels. When an organization can successfully build and enhance a relationship with a prospective donor, they have a much higher chance of successfully soliciting a gift. Therefore, charities should approach the Internet as a communication and stewardship tool first and a fundraising tool second.
What the Internet represents is the opportunity for nonprofit organizations to reach out to more donors and prospects than they could ever afford to, utilizing traditional methods of direct mail, telephone or personal visits. For the donor, the Internet gives easy access to numerous philanthropic choices, over just the past two years more and more people have turned to the web to fulfill their charitable intentions, this trend will not only continue but intensify in the years ahead.
Although technology and the Internet offer tremendous opportunities for efficiency and success, it is the personal relationship each donor can build with the charity that will define the degree of success the nonprofit will have.
Copyright „ 2002 by the ePhilanthropyFoundation.Org.