About Doug White

Doug White, the author of “Abusing Donor Intent: The Robertson Family’s Epic Lawsuit Against Princeton University,” and is the director of the Master of Science in Fundraising Management program at Columbia University.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Online Fundraising

The Do's and Don'ts of Online FundraisingJust because it seems easy to raise money online, charities still must understand and consider several issues before accepting gifts on the Internet.

  • Perhaps the most overlooked by many organizations is that they are not exempt from the registration requirements that many states impose on organizations asking for money from their residents.  If a fundraisers at a charity have any questions about this, they should contact the state’s Attorney General’s office, which has oversight responsibilities for charities.
  • Even though online fundraising has “grown up,” as the Chronicle of Philanthropy  recently put it – these days we are seeing only double digit, as opposed to triple digit, annual increases – organizations cannot just sit back and wait for the money to roll in.  The “Donate Now” button, by itself, won’t do the trick.  If charities want potential donors to hit that button, they have to see it – and be motivated to give.  This means that all the literature and correspondence to prospects need to prominently include the organization’s website address.  A website is today’s calling card – people interested in a charity or its cause go there first.  Therefore, the website has to be as good as it possibly can be, with programs and other relevant information within easy navigation, so that the “Donate Now” button will mean something.
  • Charities need to feed into its online appeals with social media, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.  And whatever else comes along.  Even if any one particular method feels like a temporary fad that will soon die out, todays donors – not all of them the older ones either – are aware of the impact that social media has on their efforts to stay in touch.  Staying in touch with the charities they support is and will continue to be important to donors, so it behooves charities to reach them at their level.
  • Although websites will be an integral part of future fundraising, we are still not to the point where every transaction takes place online.  And we probably never will be.  While organizations need to stay vigilant about technology changes, as well as concurrent changes in people’s attitudes about how they use the Internet, fundraising is not only about clicking a button.  Reaching donors at their level means expanding, not contracting options, even if it seems that driving into the future is all about online communications.  Face-to-face meetings will always play a role in a successful development effort.  While it’s true that a handful of organizations reported receiving gifts of $100,000 or more in 2013 – one, National Christian Foundation, reported a $1 million online donation – despite the rapid growth of online giving, large gifts are still the rare exception.

Even when organizations see their online giving results growing, they must still take care to cultivate and steward donors.  After taking into account issues unique to this new way of giving (yes, it is still new), wise charities will never forget that the human touch will never be out of style or go out of date.




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