NetAction Notes

Published by NetAction Issue No. 56 April 26, 2000
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.

IN THIS ISSUE:

Michael Stein: Click and Give Online
About NetAction Notes

Michael Stein: Click and Give Online

QUESTION: My organization wants to set up a system to take credit card contributions from new members over the Web, but we can't afford the services with high set up and monthly fees. What do you suggest?

ANSWER: Probably your most affordable option is to use either helping.org or charitableway. Neither require any setup fees or monthly fees. The only cost to you is a percent commission per contribution that you actually receive. For Helping.org it's a 2% fee, for Charitableway.com it's a 9.9% fee. I know that sounds too good to be true, but that's how it works. The downside is that you don't control the look and branding of the pages on these services. You can update the content on your pages, but that's all. Still, if you're starting out with online fundraising, and can't afford a custom setup, these two services will work great.

Probably their best feature after their low cost, is that you can link DIRECTLY to your donation page from your Web site, thus creating your very own secure server credit card tool. Both services provide nice graphic buttons that you can use on your site. Plus, Helping.org and Charitableway.com are becoming known as reputable Internet brands, so using their logos on your "Donate Now" button will inspire confidence in your potential donors.

To learn more about this service on helping.org visit http://www.helping.org/register/link.adp. On charitableway visit http://www.charitableway.com, and click on "Charity Signup" at the bottom of the page, and on the next page click on "Info for Charities/FAQ" in the right column and look at question 12.

If your organization is a 501 (C)(3) then you're most likely already listed on both of these services. Make sure you take the time to review your listings and update all the information. People may make donation decisions based on the content of your listing, so put your best foot forward. Also, with both services, you'll have to enable the service for direct linking from your Web site, so be sure to go through the complete setup process.

Finally, consider updating your information regularly on both these services with campaign information, event updates, or news about your work. Use it as a secondary Web site that disseminates your content. Every viewer on Helping.org and Charitableway.com is a potential donor!


QUESTION: We've been hearing a lot about The Hunger Site http://www.thehungersite.com which has raised millions of dollars for the United Nations World Food Programme. People just click on the site and money gets raised. How does that work, and how might our nonprofit participate?

ANSWER: Ah, the lure of "Click and Give!" Yes, I've caught the buzz too. The United Nations World Food Programme was a recent client of mine, and they are among those who have been surprised (and pleased!) by the response to this online fundraising technique that is clearly growing in popularity. The system works like this: you recruit several corporate sponsors who pledge fixed amounts of money, and then you build a Web site that tabulates the "clicks" from visitors to the site. You then calculate the value of a "click" in relation to some kind of advocacy activity, like food for the hungry, or acres of rainforest saved. Finally, you build an automated tool on the site that shows how much money was raised today, yesterday, last month, etc.

The challenge of this type of online fundraising is that you have to drive a lot of Web traffic to your site. In the case of Thehungersite.com, which began in July 1999, they're now getting over 10 million clicks a month. Their partnership with a global United Nations agency has certainly helped their publicity efforts. Since its founding, almost 34 million people have visited the site which has translated into $1.5 million in corporate contributions -- enough to buy more than nine million pounds of food.

The other challenge is that you have to sign up corporate sponsors. Thehungersite.com has several permanent sponsors (CoolSavings.com, InsWeb.com, OnHealth.com, Proflowers.com, Sprint) and a number of other occasional sponsors. You have to keep finding corporate sponsors to donate money, because you're not asking your donors to contribute their own money.

By the way, Thehungersite.com was recently acquired by Seattle-based online fundraising giant GreaterGood.com.

There are several other "Click and Give" Web sites that are out there:

Also, Freedonation.com is a "Click and Give" Web portal, so you can keep up with all the various sites that are out there.

Expect soon to see a "Click and Give" online fundraising service for non-profits, which will offer a generic development environment for non-profits to plug in their content and launch their own site.


QUESTION: My nonprofit wants to have an email newsletter to supplement just having a Web site. What advice can you give us?

QUESTION: My initial advice is that it's a very good idea, and you should definately have an email newsletter as part of your Internet presence. In all my experience as a nonprofit Internet consultant, nothing works more effectively for nonprofits in using the Internet as having an email newsletter that you send out regularly to members and supporters. Whereas your Web site relies on people themselves visiting you, an email newsletter is something that you send to them. With an email newsletter, you are "pushing" content at your supporters.

If you're starting a new newsletter, pick a publishing schedule that matches your staff's realistic ability to assemble and distribute it. Try every other month to begin with, and increase the frequency to monthly if you've been successful during your first year.

Select interesting and engaging content for your email newsletter. Combine and coordinate its content with the content on your Web site. Your email newsletter can list half a dozen new content items that are available, and then link directly to your Web site where your readers can obtain the complete item. Generally, you're better off with shorter items in an email newsletter, teasers to the longer pieces that live on your Web site. But this isn't an absolute rule, as I've seen excellent newsletters that are standalone items, separate from content on the Web.

If you're starting out, one "general" email newsletter will suffice to keep your supporters updated on your projects and campaigns. Later, as your readership grows and your staff becomes more experienced with Internet publishing, you should consider having a newsletter for each major campaign or project you are involved in.

One of your most important and challenging tasks will be to build a subscribership. First, be sure to advertise the email newsletter on your Web site, preferably with a little "form" that people can easy fill out. Put your newsletter subscription "form" on as many of your Web pages as possible. If you've got a Web page that updates people on a campaign, be sure to put the "form" on that page, so people will have easy access to subscribe. Second, enlist your staff, volunteers and board in an active campaign to collect email addresses that can be added to your subscriber list. Avoid proliferating email spam by asking people's permission to be added to your list. If you ask people personally for permission, they likely say yes 99% of the time. Nominate June (or another month) as Email Newsletter Month and go on an all-out search for new subscribers! Build your readership!

As far as technology for email newsletters, there are several options at your disposal. The easiest and most low-tech technique is to use an address book in your email software. Netscape Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Eudora and others all have address books where you can store hundreds of email addresses in one spot using an "alias" like "Email Newsletter List." When you use this technique, be very careful when you send out your email newsletter to use the BLIND CARBON COPY field (also known as BCC) when adding all your names. That will avoid the annoying practice of receiving a huuuuuuge header of email addresses at the top of an email message. The downside to doing it this way, is you have to manually add and remove subscribers. When your email newsletter has a lot of subscribers, you won't want to keep doing this!

The other technique at your disposal is to use one of the free email newsletter services that are on the Internet. Try Topica, eGroups (now merged with OneList.com), or ListBot (from Microsoft). All offer tools such as easy setup, open discussion or one-way distribution, discussion moderation, and archiving on the Web. The upside to these services is they automatically handle all the subscribing and unsubscribing for you. That's more time for you to write interesting content! Also, these services offer snippets of "programming code" that your Web person can add to your Web pages so new subscribers can sign up quickly.

So, maximize your Internet presence by combining your Web site with an engaging email newsletter, and start communicating effectively with your friends, supporters and allies.


Michael Stein is a nationally renowned Internet strategist with a decade of experience working with advocacy groups, non-profits and labor unions. He is the author of two books about the Internet including "Fundraising on the Internet: Recruiting and Renewing Donors Online," published in 1997. He works as a freelance Internet consultant to non-profits and unions specializing in Internet strategy, marketing and online fundraising. Projects include CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, Children Now, Service Employees International Union, Independent Media Institute, Family Violence Prevention Fund and California Labor Federation. He is a frequent speaker on Internet strategy to non-profits nationwide, and has been featured in The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Industry Standard. He can be reached at 510-883-9530 and .


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