I believe that there is no excuse for a bad online experience. Yet too many large national and multi-national organisations have appalling websites, no mobile site and lack-luster digital profiles. Charities and not for profits love to cry poor and say that they don’t have the money or resources to put into digital fundraising. But I know from personal experience that many of these organisations have millions of dollars in their fundraising budgets, they simplechoose not to spend it online.
Reasons why not for profits have been slow to adopt Digital fundraising
There are many diverse reasons why charities have been slow to invest in digital fundraising, I can speculate on a few. Reluctance to divert efforts and budget away from tried and true channels such as direct mail and face to face. Lack of internal knowledge of the digital space and the perception that you can’t build trust online. But my biggest frustration is the plain pig-headedness of some traditional fundraisers who just don’t like the idea of it so therefore ignore the opportunities digital fundraising presents.
My approach to digital fundraising
I have been a digital marketer and fundraiser for over 10 years. My personal approach to building digital relationships is based on three core elements 1) A good user experience 2) compelling content and 3) behavioural data analysis. In simple terms what this means is, if you invest the time into understanding what your supporters care about and create your digital experience around their needs, you will achieve your organisations mission as well – building a supporter base and generating siginificant money online.
I have dedicated part of my career to digital fundraising to support causes that matter to me, like Homelessness and people who have to live below the poverty line.
Why write a book about Digital Fundraising?
I’m writing this book because I want to contribute to the not for profit digital revolution. I was a serial donor for many years before I became a digital fundraiser. I am an excellent digital marketer. I have worked for Toyota, News Corporation and Telstra BigPond making them literally millions of dollars in revenue through digital marketing, online advertising, website product development, social media marketing and email marketing. I took a year off to teach English in Central America and while I was working in Honduras I decided that I wanted to use my skills to raise money for causes that are important to me and can change the world.
I am a passionate advocate and supporter of women’s rights, human rights and equality for all people on this earth. I am a conservationist (although my husband is far more concerted and disciplined in this area than I) and I try to do my bit to ease the burden on those living below the poverty line, in Australia and around the world. So when I came back from my year overseas I decided I wanted to work for a charity and to convince them of the great opportunity that digital fundraising presents. I found myself at WWF Australia.
The results. What digital fundraising can achieve
Within 1 year at WWF I was able to increase their online revenue by 40% year on year. In the 2nd year, while building a new website, we still generated an additional 118% growth. In the 3rd year, with the new website live, we saw an additional 48% growth in revenue from digital fundraising channels. Now I am not saying that all of this growth was generated from digital alone. Digital fundraising is most effective when integrated into the overall fundraising strategy. When digital is used as a transaction channel supporting messages and appeals communicated through telemarketing, direct response television (DRTV), direct mail and face to face fundraising, it’s potential is incredible.
To achieve this we had to go back to basics. I spent the first 3 months pouring over every piece of digital data and analytics I could find to understand what the WWF Supporters responded to online. I wanted to know what they they said they cared about as well as what they actually took action against. We started by segmenting the email database by interest, based on their actual behaviour (what they clicked on, petitioned for and donated to). We had to create content and appeals that were written for the supporter, in a style that fit best with online. And we had to make some fundamental changes to the donation gateways on the website to make it faster and easier, improving the user experience.
Apart from a few email templates that we had to outsource the design for, we spent almost nothing in the first year. The return on investment, against internal resource head hours only, would have been off the charts. And when we did start investing in technology and data integration and user experience, the cost was offset with a return on investment of 530% in the first year it went live.
I had proved to myself and to the industry that you don’t need a big budget to achieve big results. You just need to put the supporter’s needs first, deliver them content that is inspiring and motivates them to take action and give them a platform that makes it quick and easy to do so.
My goal: Convince the skeptics
My goal for this book to convince traditional fundraisers that digital is the future of fundraising. During my time at WWF Australia, my goal was to convince one particular fundraiser, who I keep in my mind’s eye when I write this book, that digital is a powerful channel that they cannot ignore. And more than that, I wanted her to get excited about digital fundraising. To see it as a great opportunity to diversify the fundraising strategy, to find new audiences and give our donors more ways to give. I wanted to show her how efficient digital channels can be, how huge the ROI was and how much time and money it could save us in the long-term. And I think I succeeded.
I wanted to write this book because when I was doing my research, I couldn’t find a book about digital fundraising that focused on content and the user experience as the key themes. In fact, I found it hard to find many books at all about digital fundraising. There are a few of course, but the large majority of books about online fundraising were centred around political campaigning and advocacy, rather than giving.
It frustrates me that there are millions of dollars, that these causes desperately need, being missed out on because the charity has been slow to see the potential in online. I want to see the not for profit sector truly start to challenge the private sector for a share of online spending. Because I know that if they start to do it right, the outcome will be more money to feed homeless people, a more strategic and convincing voice for equal rights for all people in every area of society and a greater representation for the environment with policy makers. Investing in digital fundraising can deliver ten fold what your expectations are. Just try it.