How to Use E-Tools to Build and Maintain Relationships for Your Nonprofit

Just as your website and electronic-communications system are tools for serving your constituents and marketing your nonprofit work, they are tools for raising money. According to the “2010 Online Giving Report,” produced by Network for Good, approximately 80 percent of charities raised money online, but online giving represented only about 8 percent (or less) of total money contributed to charities.

Although online giving increases every year, it shouldn’t be your only fundraising approach: It’s a good tool only when it’s used in combination with other methods.

Fundraising is about building relationships with people. It’s in a nonprofit’s best interest to thank donors regularly and keep them informed about what the organization is doing. It can’t hurt to get to know the people who give money to your nonprofit, either. Here’s where the Internet can be of help.

The most frequently used feature of the Internet is e-mail. It’s easy to use, and it’s cheap and fast. Many nonprofit organizations produce monthly (or more frequent) online newsletters about their work. Distributing these bulletins to donors is a great way to keep them informed about how their contributions are making a difference.

If you’re going to send bulk e-mails, you may want to use an e-mail marketing service that can help you build your list, set up your message in an attractive format, and make it likelier that your message is received (and doesn’t land in a spam folder). Some of these businesses allow nonprofits to send a certain number of messages without charge.

As a first step, obtain an organization e-mail account and address that enables people to contact you (and enables you to build an online mailing list). You can use e-mail messages to compel readers to click through to your website, where they can read more about your organization and find out how to contribute to it.

Mention your online donation option in every piece of mail and e-mail you send, and place your “Donate” button in a prominent place on your site.

Related online tools you want to have at hand include the following:

  • A website: Your site should feature clear, timely information, calls to action that encourage readers to get involved, a “Contact Us” option linked to your e-mail address, and an easy-to-use click-through “Donate” button that enables website visitors to make contributions online.

    If you have a wish list of in-kind items that people can donate, place a link to that list in a prominent location (perhaps accompanied by a link to your online wish registry at a website like Amazon.com, where donors can make a quick purchase that’s delivered straight to your organization’s door).

  • A brief electronic newsletter: This e-newsletter about your organization’s work should feature an intriguing subject line and be highly readable. Imagine your typical reader: If she opens it, she’ll scroll through it quickly. You want to write a compelling sentence or two about each topic, inviting the reader to click through to your organization’s website and read more about it (noticing the “donate” button while she’s there).

  • An organization blog: Blogs (and group discussion lists, called listservs) are great tools for inviting comments and feedback. Both tools are available for free at a number of websites.

  • Social-networking accounts: Social marketing options include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Groups, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and many others. These social-networking tools remind people of your organization and urge them to take action on your behalf. Some of them provide features for raising money (such as Facebook’s “Causes”).

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