Utilizing The Web To Enhance Image and Relationship Building
By Chris LaBianco
There is more competition for charitable contributions today than ever before. Whether "the ask" is coming from a well-known and established 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization, or one of the seemingly endless number of community-based fundraising groups, solicitations are abundant.
At the same time, the need for many organizations to increase their fundraising capabilities is growing, not only to meet programming demand, but often simply to keep the doors open and the lights on.
Put simply, the difference between large and established charitable organizations and their newer, smaller counterparts is found primarily in the methods and capabilities the charitable entities use to spread their message and their mission.
Ten years ago, direct mail was the only tool development professionals had in their toolboxes to handle mass appeals and marketing issues. When direct mail is all you have, you learn to use it often and to use it well. But the bottom line is that Web technologies have added a whole new set of tools to the fundraising toolbox, tools that offer organizations and fundraising professionals new and unparalleled capabilities in outreach.
As someone who counsels non-profit organizations on their fundraising, I know the inherent value of a good Internet site. The fact is, most donor prospects will visit your Website. And if they're working professionals in an office every day, they will visit it first. The numbers don't lie.
Recent surveys show that over 130 million people in the United States have Internet access, that over 50 million people log on the Web each week, and that over 95% of the people connected to the Web use e-mail. It makes sense to capitalize on these numbers by creating a web presence for your organization, especially when one considers the typically high cost of traditional marketing and outreach methods.
A common mistake made in many organizations' approach to utilizing the web is the theory that "if you build it they will come." If the audience you seek is not given a reason to come to your site, they will not find it, and if they are not given a reason to come back, they probably won't. You can assist people in their search by directing them to your site through viral marketing, e-mail blasts, and mention of the URL in any of your organization's printed materials.
Getting them to view the page and retaining them as frequent visitors are two separate entities, however. For this reason, it is also important to update your information, for information posted on the Web grows old quickly. The quickest way to turn visitors away is to indicate that the organization itself doesn't frequent its own site. As new information is posted, that which no longer seems applicable or current should be deleted.
Utilizing the Web to enhance your organization's image is not just about maintaining a Website, however. Your organization should learn to use the Web to recruit volunteers, to collect contributions, to use e-mails to keep your organizations members informed, and to recruit new members, if applicable. It should also be used to spread the mission of the organization to the global community, as well as to publicize press announcements.
While not all organizations believe their constituents are ready for the Web, times are changing. With such a powerful and fairly inexpensive tool reaching a global community, it is hard to imagine an organization not wanting to take advantage of its promise.
My advice is to get your organization on the Web, build an e-mail database, and start immediate communication with your donors and with your members. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with both the return and the growth opportunities that present themselves.
About the Author:
Chris LaBianco is a Senior Director in Changing Our World Inc.'s Fundraising Division.
You may contact the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org