Read an Excerpt
Nonprofit Internet Strategies
By Ted Hart
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-69188-7
Chapter OneePhilanthropy Strategy: Where Relationship Building, Fundraising, and Technology Meet
Ted Hart, ACFRE, ePMT ePhilanthropyFoundation.org
ePhilanthropy techniques have brought to the nonprofit world an unprecedented opportunity to leverage technology for the benefit of the charity and convenience of the donor.
Although fundraising and relationship building have always been dynamic endeavors, no change has demanded or received more attention in the past several years than the arrival of ePhilanthropy, or the use of the Internet for philanthropic purposes. During this time much has been tried, theorized, and learned. What is certain is that to succeed using the Internet as a fundraising vehicle requires strategy.
In the beginning, some nonprofit professionals thought, hoped, or just fantasized that ePhilanthropy represented quick and easy money for charities. It was unrealistic to ever think that would be the case. However, through careful planning, ePhilanthropy has been shown to add efficiency, reach, options, and success to traditional fundraising and relationship-building efforts.
The book Fundraising on the Internet: The ePhilanthropyFoundation.org's Guide to Success Online introduced many tools and options for developing an online presence. This book, Nonprofit Internet Strategies, is dedicated to helping take those tools andmarry them successfully with offline, traditional fundraising into an Integrated ePhilanthropy Strategy (IePS).
The growth of ePhilanthropy has required even the most seasoned professionals to learn new skills and to reevaluate how they approach nearly every aspect of fundraising. This is not to suggest that ePhilanthropy has taken the place of any traditional fundraising methods-actually, it is the opposite. ePhilanthropy tools add a new dimension of efficiency and require high levels of integration with every offline approach to attracting philanthropic support. Although some would relegate ePhilanthropy as a specialty area to be administered separately, much in the way some offices might have a prospect-research or planned-giving specialist on staff, doing so diminishes the overall effectiveness and denies the opportunity to fully benefit from these tools. This chapter will provide an overview of ePhilanthropy strategy and techniques that nonprofits can use to cultivate and steward relationships, communicate and invite advocacy for their cause, and solicit contributions online.
The true strength of ePhilanthropy-based methods lies in their ability to do more than simply functioning as a novel way in which to send messages or raise money. When integrated with off-line efforts, the Internet provides an ideal platform from which to reach, inform, and engage potential donors, many of which may be beyond the reach of normal communication and fundraising channels alone.
Charities seeking success online should approach the Internet as a communication and stewardship tool first and a fundraising tool second. Any seasoned fundraiser will tell you that when you can build and enhance a relationship with a prospective donor, you have a much higher chance of successfully soliciting a gift.
ePhilanthropy is a set of efficiency-building Internet-based techniques that can be used to build and enhance relationships with stakeholders interested in the success of a nonprofit organization.
ePhilanthropy is the building and enhancing of relationships with volunteers and supporters of nonprofit organizations using the Internet. It includes the contribution of cash or real property or the purchase of products and services to benefit a nonprofit organization, and the storage of and usage of electronic data and services to support relationship building and fundraising activities.
CREATING AN INTEGRATED ePHILANTHROPY STRATEGY (IEPS)
ePhilanthropy is not about a quick (or click) hello and a request for money. It's about building and enhancing stronger relationships with supporters. With the steadily increasing market penetration of Internet, wireless, and broadband Internet access, charities have more opportunities than ever to communicate, educate, cultivate, and solicit their supporters.
Five strategies are fundamental to the online success of nonprofit organizations. Taken separately, these strategies may appear too simple. Combining them and integrating them throughout the organization will create a momentum that helps nonprofits meet the dual goals of friend raising and fundraising.
1. Integrate all supporter messages.
2. Give supporters a reason to visit you online.
3. Interact with supporters; don't just send messages.
4. Communicate using multiple methods.
5. Assess and improve performance.
Integrate All Supporter Messages
In the always-on online philanthropy world, the job of the development professional is a lot tougher. Gone are the days when synchronized tone and manner and consistent look and feel were the benchmarks of successfully coordinated campaigns. Today, the coordination of experiences across both online and offline activities requires three steps:
1. Integrate technologies, systems, organizations, and processes to enable your organization to deliver meaningful experiences to deepen supporter relationships. The efficient and effective use of e-mail-while an incredible boon to nonprofits-is best utilized in concert with and integrated into a strategy that includes outreach through traditional methods of print, phone, and face-to-face communication and fundraising. 2. Synchronize information across various communication channels to deliver relevant and consistent experiences at the right time and in the right place. 3. Integrate data from all over your organization to optimize supporter experiences.
In short, if you don't integrate data and activities in new ways, it will be difficult to apply the next four strategies successfully; your efforts are likely to fall short when you treat the Internet as just another communications or donation medium, as opposed to a relationship channel. To be successful, your organization will need to implement organizational and organization process changes to create and manage effective supporter experiences.
Give Supporters a Reason to Visit You Online
The supporter controls the mouse-and therefore, controls the interaction and the relationship. When the supporter dictates the rules, charities earn loyalty and contributions when they deliver value to those supporters. Many Internet-based strategies fail because they never offer a reason for someone to go online and fail to use all their resources in concert with one another to enhance and deepen relationships with supporters.
To create a sustainable ePhilanthropy strategy, charities must deliver the right experiences to the right supporters. This requires understanding both the supporters' needs and their likelihood of making contributions over a sustained period of time.
To identify value for the supporter, you must assemble data to significantly increase your understanding of your supporters. Why and how do they use the Internet? What online information and opportunities could they use that would open the door to a deeper relationship?
Four online categories usually define value for the supporter:
1. Access to information about the organization's mission and services
2. Increased convenience/saved time in philanthropic transactions (making a donation, volunteering, or advocacy)
3. Ability to expand support to others through use of online tools that aid in supporting the mission (making it possible for family, friends, and colleagues to be informed about your charity directly by your current supporters) 4. Online stewardship and information on accountability
The key is determining what will have the biggest impact on supporters' interest and satisfaction, while increasing value for your organization. As you gather information to gain insights into these topics, you can simultaneously identify the value of supporters and prospective supporters, measured by current and potential contributions. With analysis and prioritization complete, you can deliver the information, experiences, and services that meet supporter needs most effectively and efficiently.
Interact with Supporters-Don't Just Send Messages
Your supporters read newspapers, they watch television, but they use the Internet. The Internet's value is measured by its ability to give convenient and quick access to what supporters want when they want it, and by what it empowers supporters to do. Although a basic strategy of ePhilanthropy would be to collect e-mail addresses and send out messages to supporters, your strategy should NOT look like an electronic version of a high school public address system, where all communication is blasted out to the entire audience and all communication is one way.
The Internet enables charities to initiate dialogues, invite two-way communication, and enhance relationships. The value of ePhilanthropy is not solely determined by the design of a Web page, but by providing supporters with convenient access to what they want when they want it, and by providing useful tools allowing them to accomplish their interest to support the organization's work and to share their support with their personal and business networks.
A good example is an online service that helps donors reach out to friends, family, and colleagues to solicit funds in support of a race or walk. By focusing on ways to truly interact with your supporters-giving time-starved professionals instant access to easy-to-use tools-your strategy is to develop the charity as a partner geared toward enhancing the ability of supporters to share your message with others. Studies show that by putting such tools in the hands of online supporters, nonprofits will raise much more money from many more contributors than the traditional offline "pass around the pledge form" approach.
Communicate Using Multiple Methods
Getting information and services into the hands of the right supporters at the right time and in the right place is as important to ePhilanthropy success as creating the message itself. This makes distribution a critical component of ePhilanthropy.
Key to a successful ePhilanthropy strategy is thinking about your online and offline presence as a series of experiences that intersect with your supporters' activities and preferences. Conduct research to understand where and when your organization is of greatest relevance to supporters and prospects. Armed with this supporter insight, your strategy should emphasize a series of services that can be distributed to your supporters as distinct messages across various methods of communication (e-mail, Web site, direct mail, telephone, print, etc).
For example, an organization that traditionally has a gala/auction event would benefit greatly by offering e-invitation options to supporters to aid in selling more tickets; online registration to cut down on staff time updating attendee rosters; and an online auction to expand the number of donors beyond those able to attend the event. By offering these tools and promoting them both online and offline, the organization does not alter its message yet expands its audience and reach.
Assess and Improve Performance
ePhilanthropy is more than conceiving and implementing innovative strategies that meet the demands of supporters and the objectives of organizations. It is also about continuously measuring and improving results for your supporter and your organization.
When optimizing online services such as content or online donation functionality, the vital measure is the return on supporter time-how well you enable supporters to quickly get the information they want to execute their desired tasks. When reviewing data on Web activities and e-mail donor or advocacy campaigns, it is critical to measure both the immediate actions taken by those receiving the message, as well as their long-term impact on future supporter activity. Therefore, you should track, assess, and act on results across multiple time horizons.
Although it is more difficult to get this information regarding the opening and reading of direct mail or newsletters, what is learned in the online world about your supporter interests and preferences should be used to help enhance the offline services. This sharing of learned experiences will enhance efforts to build an Integrated ePhilanthropy Strategy (IePS).
Be certain you build into every program ways to measure, analyze, and adjust. For example, the data you receive from a single online e-mail campaign will allow you to understand how many received, read, forwarded, and discarded the message, but by looking at longer time horizons, you can learn the long-term effect of such messages on event registration, donations, and Web site traffic. You will be able to plan future campaigns based on an analysis of where and how you acquired the most valuable supporters, rather than on acquisition data that do not factor in links between long-term supporter value and short-term online activity.
Be certain you measure performance on an integrated basis across all media both on- and offline, not in channel silos. True optimization can come only from understanding your supporters' activities across various avenues-offline drive traffic, Web site campaigns, direct mail, e-mail campaigns, newsletters, the content you provide to other Web sites through partnership agreements, telephone outreach, and special events.
After all, ePhilanthropy is less about simple fundraising-that is too easy-and more about creating an always-on interface between your organization and your supporters. You will need to understand and influence technology platforms, and you will want to integrate with systems, databases, and data flows that will enable experiences. Likewise, in building performance-tracking systems you will need to integrate multiple data sources, both online and offline, to ensure a comprehensive, integrated view of your supporters' behavior and their activities with your brand.
You Can Do It
Marketing today is not about saying hello and making an offer, as it was at the turn of the twentieth century. It's about enabling supporters to never have to say goodbye. Now companies can always be connected, and your interface with supporters can always be on. So, success will hinge on how well connected you are with your supporters. Will you always be on for them? Will you conceive and deliver relevant services to them? Will the services be valuable to both your supporter and your organization? Will your attempts at advertising be embraced as welcomed services or rejected as intrusive annoyances? Will you rigorously optimize the supporters' experience, as well as your marketing budget? Will you integrate your organization, your processes, your channels, and your data in new ways that enable you to take advantage of the Internet's power? Follow the five strategies just described and you will ultimately prevail in the always-on age.
DONORS MUST BE ASKED
Whether the solicitation for support comes via news broadcasts reporting on a tragic event or in the form of an e-mail message from a charity, donors must still be asked for support if organizations expect to receive it. These would-be ePhilanthropists are much more likely to be inspired to contribute based on the mission, the stated need, and the opportunity to give, presented by a charity they have likely already supported offline. But to obtain their support, they must be asked!
Local and national charities that do not offer their supporters the opportunity to communicate and contribute online fail to do so at their peril. Every nonprofit has the opportunity to reach out to more donors and prospects than they could ever afford to using traditional methods of direct mail, telephone or personal visits, but they must cultivate an online relationship before asking for support. This cultivation and solicitation must be part of an integrated fundraising program that includes both online and offline fundraising techniques.
Excerpted from Nonprofit Internet Strategies by Ted Hart Excerpted by permission.
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