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On-line Fundraising Best Practices: Two Words of Advice

"Raise money on-line! Lower costs! Get donors on-line today!" It's almost impossible to avoid seeing this type of hype around fundraising. A myriad of companies are touting the effectiveness of moving fundraising efforts on-line. The array of on-line donation products available ranges from buttons that can be put on a Web site to allow supporters to make on-line donations to fundraising pages that let supporters reach out to their own network of potential donors. All are great options for organizations pressed for time and money. (And who isn't?)

Does on-line fundraising work? There is strong evidence that on-line fundraising is helping organizations raise significantly more money at lower costs than traditional off-line methods. But there is a big piece of the equation that often gets glossed over: you have to promote your on-line fundraising efforts in order for them to succeed.

People won't fundraise or donate on-line if they don't know that they can. Promotion doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive. The beauty of on-line fundraising is that you can promote your efforts using communications that already exist. The tips below are just some suggestions to help you take advantage of being on-line; you probably are creative enough to use these and go even further.

If you do nothing else, remember these two words:  links and e-mail. Because you need to:

Tell People What You Are Doing

  • Use your organization's Web site to create awareness. Adding information about and links to your fundraising page from your organization's Web site will let your supporters know about this unique way they can support your organization.

  • E-mail your supporters. A short and sweet e-mail to your supporters lets them know how they can use your on-line fundraising tools. Remember to include links in the message; they'll read it when they're on-line anyway and can get started in just one click.

  • Create content in your newsletters. Create a section in your organization's newsletters or other support communications to promote your on-line fundraising efforts. Use these communication channels to educate your supporters about on-line fundraising and to let them know that it's a very low-cost way for them to reach out to their own social networks to fundraise. Include links!

  • Talk it up at kick-off sessions. If you hold a kick-off session for your fundraising events, be sure to give some time to getting your supporters excited about using Personal Fundraising Pages. Print out flyers with the relevant URL and tips for on-line fundraising.

  • Share the news with colleagues. Communicate with your coworkers, peers, and partners about the availability of your on-line fundraising tools. You never know who might pass the news along to their own social networks. Easy ways to do this include sending an e-mail to your network and posting fliers around your office.

  • Set up your own individual fundraising page. There's no better way to start an on-line individual fundraising trend than by adopting it yourself. Set up your own page and e-mail it to your friends, family, and social network.

  • Add a link in your e-mail signature. Put a link to your fundraising page in your e-mail signature, so every e-mail you send out will help drive supporters to it.

Ask Your Supporters to Tell Others about What You Are Doing

Here are some tips you can pass on to your supporters (cut and paste, if you'd like). They're there, waiting to help you; they'll be glad to and will wonder why they didn't think of some of these before. You can also use these tips in your efforts to support your organization outside of the office.

  • Use your own e-mail as well as any e-mail capabilities associated with on-line fundraising programs. Since you are already familiar with your own system, you can set up groups, and you'll be able to send more e-mails at once than you can via your sponsorship page. Also, some of your potential donors may feel more comfortable opening an e-mail from an e-mail address that they are accustomed to.

  • Use your e-mail signature as another way to communicate. Change your e-mail auto-signature at work and/or at home; after your name and title, etc., add a line at the bottom including the address of your fundraising Web page. This addition will raise awareness of your efforts and ensure that every e-mail you send out could prompt a possible donation.

  • Make sure you've left no donor stone unturned. Check that you've e-mailed all groups of potential supporters. Apart from friends and family, these might be colleagues, former colleagues, college friends, fellow members of church/clubs/PTA. Encourage them to pass the message on to anyone else who might support your chosen charity. The Internet really widens the group of people you might immediately think of; for example, friends, family, and colleagues living in different parts of the United States whom you rarely see. You might be surprised at how many people will be happy to support you and your cause.

  • Think globally. Don't forget your friends and family abroad; friends, family, and colleagues can give from anywhere. The Internet is global, so make the most of it!

  • Keep in touch with your donors. Send an e-mail update on your progress. It's nice for those who have already supported your efforts and a nudge for those who haven't contributed yet. You know what it's like: people mean to donate, but sometimes they don't quite get round to it on the first request! We know this works well from other people's experience.

  • Promote yourself. Make the most of your efforts for press releases and other publicity. This is great if you managed to get some publicity for your efforts in a local paper or radio station. Local media are often starved for content and would be glad to talk to you. For example, doing a major run is no mean feat, and local papers do like to tell the public that people are running for a good cause.

  • Leave your message wherever you go. Put a notice up in your gym, church, college, children's school, etc. Include the link to your fundraising page and/or your organization's Web site.

  • Work your own company. Ask to be on your company's Web site! See if your company would be prepared to add your fundraising site to its public Web site or private company intranet. Many companies like to promote the charitable and public-spirited efforts of their staff, and you could get a lot of extra donations from this. Some companies may even offer a "matching gift" program, where they match any amounts you raise, helping you reach your target even faster.


On-line fundraising can certainly help you raise more money and reach more donors; the incremental benefits can be astounding. The more you get your on-line message out there, the more benefit you'll see.

All of the above suggestions come back to the same two words: links and e-mail. A few minutes of your time and a commitment to going about your daily business with an eye to how you can use these tools will help you and your organization really leverage the advantages of on-line fundraising.

© 2006, Firstgiving

Firstgiving is a private company located in Lexington, Massachusetts. The company was founded to connect supporters with causes. Our on-line tools include fundraising Web pages and on-line event registration. Our mission is to help individuals raise more money for the causes they are passionate about, and our tools can be used to fundraise for any nonprofit organization, using any event or personal occasion as a reason. Firstgiving is considered a leader in providing on-line fundraising tools to fundraisers and organizations, helping thousands of individuals raise millions of dollars for more than 2,500 U.S. nonprofit organizations. Firstgiving is committed to offering the best value and the best on-line fundraising tools to our users. We succeed only when our fundraisers succeed. For more information, call (781) 863-6166 or visit
Topics: Fundraising