Sunday, April 20, 2008

Virtual Person to Person Fundraising; What the Widget's Going On Here?

Some social virtual portals, such as Facebook.com offer their users online nonprofit communities to join up with, either as donors or simply as interested parties. Other sites, such as Kevin Bacon's aptly named Six Degrees, provides widgets that anyone can create (for free), for the cause or organization of their choosing, that become fundraising 'badges' to place on one's own web page, to raise money.

Is all of this good will in the ether working? Virtual fundraising isn't dead. It's experiencing a cold. "Haaa chooo!"

The popular use of the Internet began about ten years ago. Nonprofits, in their ever-existing goal to grow their constituency, educate the public about their cause, and to raise support began learning about these new fangled websites, the Internet, computers, etc. Online fundraising gurus sprouted, as the Internet maintained its foothold on our culture. These wise techies on the mount, to this day consult and teach nonprofits how, through the Internet, they can access people.

Of those nonprofits who bought or received a computer for their office, way back when, some understood that at the very least, that the Internet was a new media outlet. We nonprofits are really still in this stage, in the larger scope of our field. See my post, Foundations Think of Your Nonprofit Constituents Before You...

Nonprofits either raise constituents well, or they go by the wayside. The math is that dire and simple. So, in their month to month budgetary reality, some nonprofit leaders have thought, 'maybe the Internet is a way to raise money that will cost us less overhead?' It's a good question. The answer is...it depends.

How do you get there? Learn, learn, learn. Check out the latest virtual fundraising options and keep up (ha!). Ask colleagues with other organizations what they've done and what their experience is. Share your own, with others. Read. Go to your professional nonprofit affiliation's next meeting or class on the topic. Learn. And then...with any new technology, as with any new fundraising method, the only way to know anything such as 'did we succeed?!!', 'how much is this costing us?!!' (in this case, virtual face to face fundraising) is to plan, before launching the method, and then track results. For instance, one free tool that can help your organization track online successes, goals, and benchmarks is Google Analytics.

Nonprofits would be wise to track (and the following are going vary, nonprofit to nonprofit, as they should):

__ Costs (overhead, direct costs, etc.),
__ Projected Outcome (what do we reasonably hope to achieve through this new method?),
__ Goals (what are your nonprofit's goals in launching this new method, and at what point in time, e.g. 'we expect to have a 10% uptick in new visits to our website from Facebook.com Causes one year after posting our organization, and a 2% uptick in total donations'),
__ Success (numbers of people reached, of those who are reached how many donate, how many of those acquired through this new outreach method wind up investing fully with our nonprofits (e.g. volunteering for us, donating, etc.)),
__ Cost Benefit Ratio at various points over a set timeline (e.g. ' in a year from starting this new method, if we have not increased total donation receipts by 5%, we can not afford to continue this method, at that point; if we are not invested in our using this method over a five year period, minimum').
__ Other goals, concerns, etc.

Virtual face to face fundraising is experiencing growth spurts. Nonprofits must determine which modes of virtual fundraising work for them, individually, (e.g. in this case, face to face fundraising, donation web pages on own site, virtual auctions, email newsletters including a donation request, etc.). Water rolls to the lowest point, and as these various and even new virtual fundraising options linger, we nonprofit professionals who stay up on this fundraising method will learn which virtual fundraising methods are effective and those that are not.

Ultimately, there's no virtual funeral to attend, but rather, nonprofits have (as always!) something to roll up their sleeves over, learn about, plan, implement, and then track their own goals and needs against results. Face to face fundraising will stabilize (or get over its cold) as virtual fundraising methods are understood by nonprofits, tested, and ultimately as they succeed.

[In this month's Giving Carnival (open monthly group blogging session), Peter Deitz, co-author of the "about micro-philanthropy" blog hosts and he provides the question "Is person to person fundraising dead, or is it just getting started?" To join us, see the directions on his post or my post, Join The Philanthropy Discussion... and chime in!]

1 comment:

Christina Lewis said...

Hi! I am so excited to find you online. Unfortunately I will have to read many of your posts slowly due to lack of time, my husband and I work for a small non-profit out of Canada (with an office in the States as well.) We are working in a small school in Zanzibar Tanzania and trying to find some additional funding methods. We have really relied mostly on word of mouth, but would like to try to qualify for some grants. Thanks for the posts!