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Four Cornerstones of Online Fundraising

John Kenyon is a nationally recognized expert in online presence for nonprofits. He is an educator and strategist who has worked exclusively with nonprofits for over 25 years, providing advice, teaching seminars, and writing articles.

Many tactics contribute to successful online fundraising, but there are four foundational elements that I consider to be essential cornerstones of success. Whether you are just getting started with online fundraising or are an old hand at it, these bear reviewing.

1. User-centric Donation Process

Make your online donation process simple and easy for donors to use―one click to the donation page from anywhere on your organization’s website. If you are revising your donation pages or switching vendors, make sure to have actual donors test out the page to identify any issues. Do the same if you suspect there is something off-putting or confusing about your existing online donation process. Ideally, your donation page should provide options for giving via mail, phone, and online. Also provide options for monthly giving and memorial/tribute gifts, as well as links to information on planned giving, stock transfer options, and even volunteering.

2. Ongoing Engagement

Provide interesting, useful content in a steady stream throughout the year, not just in your year-end appeal. Offer a variety of content that increases knowledge and awareness about your programs, results, contributors (staff, volunteers, board members, donors), and the communities you serve. Be thoughtful about ways to move prospects along your ladder of engagement, from being strangers to acquaintances to friends to donors and beyond.

3. Easy Sharing

Make it easy for your fans to spread the word by providing simple ways to share content from your website using tools like AddThis or ShareThis. Also, make it easy for folks to share that they took an action, i.e., signed a petition, made a donation, commented on your blog, etc. For those who may be concerned about privacy, include clear options to remain anonymous and not share actions.

4. Ongoing Appreciation

Don’t only thank people once for an action or contribution―find ways to continually show your appreciation throughout the year. Thank them when they make a donation, then send them an email with an update on progress that includes a thank-you message. Consider creating videos of staff, program participants, or other community members expressing their gratitude for the support. Look for ways to spotlight heroes of all types in your community―volunteers, board members, donors, and even other organizations―on a regular basis.

There are many other pieces of the online fundraising puzzle that can support success. To learn more about them, join me for Foundation Center’s three-part webinar series, “Excellent Practices in Online Fundraising and Engagement”, on November 5, 12 & 19. Learn more and register.

Have you taken these steps? What kind of results have you seen? Do you have other online fundraising "cornerstones" to suggest? Share your tried-and-true wisdom in our Comments area.

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Want to learn more now so you can ask more in-depth questions during John's webinar? These GrantSpace items can help you learn some basics of online fundraising:

Effective Online Storytelling (Podcast)
Allan Pressel of CharityFinders shares his tips for using the internet to tell compelling stories about your organization that can help turn interest into action.

Social Fundraising: Myths and Musts of Raising Money With Social Platforms (Video)
Fundly CEO Dave Boyce talks about the types of campaigns that are really successful, a common challenge of social fundraising, and how social fundraisers can overcome it.

Is Mobile Giving Right for You? (Live Chat)
Learn what you need to seriously consider and have in place before getting into the text giving wave with Jump Market Strategies CEO Douglas Gardner and mGive Foundation Executive Director Jenifer Snyder.

Online/Virtual Fundraising (Articles)

Communications/Marketing (Skills Gallery) 

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