On-line donations increased significantly last year. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in January 2005, 17 million Americans reported that they had made contributions on-line. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 26 million Americans, or 18 percent of U.S. Internet users, said that they had made an on-line donation during 2005. In just a few short months, the number of Americans making contributions via the Internet had grown 53 percent.
These findings should encourage nonprofits to take advantage of e-philanthropy. Among other things, organizations should take advantage of the opportunity GuideStar offers them to connect with donors who research their charitable giving on-line.
To illustrate further how the Internet can enhance fundraising, consider the lessons learned by emerging nonprofits in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region.
In 2002 Washington Grantmakers launched a regional e-philanthropy Web portal, TouchDC.org, in partnership with GuideStar.org and Network for Good. The site was created to encourage D.C.-area residents to contribute to 1 or more of the 25,000 nonprofit organizations in the greater Washington metropolitan area, either through on-line donations, offering volunteer support, or both.
Washington Grantmakers also wanted to introduce area nonprofits to the growing e-philanthropy trend. In the public awareness campaign statement issued during the launch of TouchDC.org, Washington Grantmakers noted, "The Coalition envisions this as the first phase of a long-term effort to encourage more giving and volunteering in the DC region and to increase the capacity of local nonprofits to fundraise successfully."
Organizations were advised how to take advantage of a powerful fundraising tool:
- Update your organization's GuideStar listing
- Equip your own Web site with a free "Donate Now" button
- Post your volunteer opportunities
- Send your organization's compelling story
The same year that TouchDC.org was launched, the District of Columbia Office of Partnerships and Grants Development (OPGD) created the Strengthening Partners Initiative (SPI) to improve the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of newly organized community-based and faith-based nonprofit organizations. The SPI is designed as an executive leadership training program. Over the course of one year, up to 25 nonprofit executives participate in structured training workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and an end-of-year final demonstration project. The workshops offer capacity-building instruction in board development, program and strategic planning, human resources management, financial management, and fundraising.
TouchDC.org was launched in November 2002. OPGD included information about TouchDC.org in the December 2, 2002, issue of the agency's weekly funding newsletter, Funding Alert,
and organized a special workshop to introduce GuideStar to SPI program participants. The presentation, advertised as "Free Fund-Raising Help," was conducted on December 16, 2002. Nonprofit organizations that attended the workshop followed the guidance offered by GuideStar and Washington Grantmakers. More than one-third of the SPI program participants have a complete report, current financials, and a Web site link at TouchDC.org. Another one-third have some combination of the three.
Organizations with more complete profiles are better positioned to attract the attention of donors. In fact, one SPI participant that updated its information on GuideStar and made enhancements to its Web site was invited almost immediately to submit a grant application to the Kellogg Foundation.
Every year TouchDC.org showcases select nonprofit organizations representing each issue area under the banner heading "Give Where You Live: TouchDC makes it easy to give wisely." Organizations featured during this showcase are positioned to enhance their abilities to receive donations from area residents and to attract larger contributions from foundations and charitable organizations. To date, four organizations from the first two SPI classes have been featured.
TouchDC.org reports that on-line donations tend to be larger than donations by check. The average on-line donation is $125, whereas the average donation made by check is $89. Washington Grantmakers is adding enhancements for tracking and acknowledging donations, features that will help organizations establish relationships with donors. The recent merger of Network for Good and Groundspring will create a more efficient resource for nonprofits, especially the small to mid-size organizations, to obtain affordable, easy to use Web-based tools for fundraising.
An added benefit of TouchDC and the SPI is access to the broader community of national foundations and donor-advised funds. Of special note, the following donor-advised funds are partners with GuideStar, providing an opportunity for individuals and families to make charitable contributions through them: Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund
, Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving
, and T. Rowe Price Program for Charitable Giving
Jillian Watkins, MW Financial, Inc.
© 2006, MW Financial, Inc.Jillian Watkins is project coordinator with MW Financial, Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in supporting innovative funding strategies with a focus on advancing the use of technology.