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Online Funding 101: Fundraising for Nonprofits and Campaigns

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If you aren’t using the Web to raise funds for your nonprofit or campaign, you’re missing out. According to a report by Chronicle, online gifting yielded $2.1-billion in 2012, up 14 percent since 2011. With the help of new sites and technology designed to streamline campaigns, online fundraising is easier, and more lucrative, than ever. For instance, one Minnesota radio station raised $128.8 million in online donations just by offering an online auto-renewal for monthly donations, notes Philanthropy.com. If you want in but aren’t sure where to begin, read on to discover the many resources designed to help you succeed:

Get the word out

Promoting your cause online is easier than you think. New campaigning sites such as Thunderclap provide free, simple access to a wide online audience. Thunderclap initiates momentum by creating widespread synchronized social media messaging. Dubbed a “crowdspeaking platform,” Thunderclap lets individuals sign up to support a cause. Then, if the cause receives enough supporters, Thunderclap uses the Facebook and Twitter feeds of supporters to post the same message at the same time, creating instant widespread awareness of the issue. Outreach campaigns can quickly reach tens of thousands of supporters or more. It’s no wonder the tool has gained popularity with diverse customers, ranging from the White House, to Dr. Quinn, to disease researchers. Use these kind of tools to create awareness and drive support to your fundraising efforts, and make sure to utilize a cloud back up to keep track of donations.

Make giving easy

It takes more than word of mouth to fund causes, so you’re going to need some fundraising-friendly infrastructure. If you have no idea how to get started, don’t worry. There are plenty of online resources dedicated to helping you achieve your goals. For instance, Fundraise.com can piece the whole ordeal together. They’ll create the fundraising page and the social media campaign, and even help recruit teams to raise funds for your cause. They’re open to anyone — independent causes and 501c3’s alike — so if you’re still starting up, they can help. As an added bonus, they even take care of the thank you notes.

Or there’s Fundly.com, which boasts more than 300 million dollars raised, to date. The site capitalizes on your cause by promoting visual content (photos and videos) and by giving your cause a personal touch with blogging features. They can help you strategize to tap your existing social media for all its worth, while giving you control of how hard-hitting or casual you want your campaign to be.

Streamline your research efforts

While online fundraising can be tremendously helpful in assembling large sums from individual supporters, don’t forget the brick-and-mortar foundations itching to support great causes. You can still use the Internet to scour online databases of top donators and see who’s funding what. Just in case you’ve convinced yourself that no one is donating to causes like yours, sites such as Foundationcenter.org and NCCS.urban.org will give you hope.

Foundation Center not only provides lists of the top donators (spoiler alert: it’s the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with more than $34 billion in annual donations), but they also provide resources to help you learn more about accessing donators. You can search their online foundation databank by company, grantmaker or grants.

You can also use either of these sites to check out annual grant and grantor statistics to identify trends in funding. Or, bring it home by pursuing lists of grantors in your area. Knowing what issues are hot, and who’s giving in your neighborhood, can help you revamp and market your cause more effectively. Sites such as Philanthropy.org take it even further by letting you explore donations that are specifically made online. They also have an impressive library of articles dedicated to mastering the art of online fundraising. From monthly automatic withdrawals to mobile connectivity, these resources will put you in touch with the latest best practices, and catapult you to the forefront of Web-based fundraising.

If you think you’d prefer a little more help navigating the grant world online, check out Grantspace.org. Designed as a “learning community,” you can use the site to download video workshops and podcasts on the latest grant-seeking buzz. Or take one of their many webinars dedicated to honing your fundraising skills.

Whatever platform you choose, remember with any fundraising campaign, the more you humanize it, the better. Like Entrepreneur says, people feel compelled to make purchases or donate when their emotions are involved, and they want to be part of a worthy cause. Make sure your campaign includes testimonials from those who you'll be helping, and make it relatable to potential donors.

Topics: Fundraising