Top 10 Mistakes of Online Fundraising

With some mighty big funders losing money because of the bad economy and the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, this is a good time for nonprofits embrace grassroots fundraising. This, after all, is how the president-to-be was able to raise such an enormous sum: lots of people making moderate donations.

If you're not raising funds online, do it! Too many websites make it too hard – or impossible - to give online. Here are the top 10 transgressions I’ve seen many times. Learn from these mistakes.

  1. No Donate or Give button. Don’t be shy. People want to donate. How will they know to if you don’t ask?
  2. Donate/Give button not big enough. Make it easy for them to see a donate button. Big red or orange buttons are good.
  3. No way to pay online. Sometimes those big buttons lead to an e-mail or snail mail address. People sit at their computers with a credit card in hand, ready to pay. Our clients use our shopping cart technology to collect donations, sell T-shirts and mugs or accept reservations for events – all classified as fundraising. That’s the best return on your investment, and there are plenty of free services out there too.
  4. Clashing systems. Make sure your fundraising efforts dance together, not bump into each other. Coordinate direct mail campaigns with online campaigns, with a goal of moving more online. It’s vastly cheaper.
  5. Neglecting other technology. You can ask for support though e-mail, blog, Facebook, and other places in addition to your website.
  6. Paranoia. I’m always a little surprised to hear how many people think it’s unsafe to ask for money online. True, nothing is completely safe from fraud, and you shouldn't be taking credit card numbers through e-mail, but donating through a secure website is much safer than a check in the mail.
  7. Asking for support once. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  8. Not rallying the troops. Tell others to tell their friends about how they donated. Give them a button for their website that links back to yours. Have your supporters help by spreading the word.
  9. Not tracking. There are great tools out there that you can use that track the number of people who’ve visited your site and what they did when they got there. Make sure you keep records of traffic and compare it month by month to see how your online fundraising campaign is doing.
  10. Bad publicity. Asking for money isn’t enough. You need to market your campaign. Aim for media coverage, write about new campaigns in all of your literature and partner with other organizations for added punch.

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