Using a Website for Your Fundraiser

A website is a powerful and dynamic medium that allows you to spread the word about your mission, your upcoming events, and the good work your organization achieves. The American Jewish World Service, a New York organization, uses the web to post compelling three-minute videos shot by trained staff members who highlight the group's workers and volunteers helping people around the world. The group also posts clips on YouTube, where volunteers discuss their efforts. These highlights will also be featured in DVDs that are sent to potential contributors. This approach does not require expensive equipment — experts peg costs at less than $1,000 for digital video equipment and editing software. Vendors such as Entango (www.entango.com) and TransactU (www.serviceu.com/transactu/index.html) can set up customizable transaction pages that mirror your organization's website. They can handle back-end functions such as online donations, credit card fraud screening, and more.

Videos and Podcasts

High-ranking videos can be a great way to solicit donations or collect a database of prospective supporters who may grow interested in your cause and ultimately donate. Nonprofits also use their website to post podcasts — online audio broadcasts — where supporters can listen to interviews and stories about their favorite organizations either online or by downloading them onto their portable mp3 players. Podcasts are another inexpensive way to communicate a message. All you need is a microphone and software, which are both very inexpensive.

Blogs

Other nonprofits use blogs — online diaries — where an organization's members and volunteers can post noteworthy commentary about their cause and their organization to help raise public awareness and invite online discourse. You can set up a blog for free (check www.wordpress.com and www.blogger.com), and you can post a link to your blog on your site to drive traffic. Readers can stay up to date with your blogging by subscribing to a Really Simple Syndication, or RSS feed, which notifies them of new postings. However, all blog posts should be monitored and in keeping with your organization's mission. Have clear policies in place so blog posts enhance, rather than detract from, your organization.

Driving More Traffic to Your Website

When you post content to your site, think about the words visitors might use when they are web surfing for information about matters pertaining to your cause or organization. Think of these visitors as perspective supporters who might contribute if only they knew about your group. Once you decide on the words they might key into a search engine, be sure to weave the words into the content of your site. This is a low cost way to boost your rankings in the search engines. Of course, there are search engine experts who specialize in attaining high search-engine rankings, but hiring them can be costly.

Furthermore, you can drive traffic to your site by including a link to it in your e-mail signature, both for home and at work, if your employer allows it. Often, companies will agree because they like to support charitable efforts of their employees and their community; what's more, your employer may help you get further publicity by posting a link to your website from the company site.

Putting It All Together

Yet with all the bells and whistles — videos, podcasts, and blogs — it's important your website include some basics. For instance, it is advantageous to set up a separate page, linked to your home page, that provides information on fundraising activities.

Provide the details as they fall into place. Put someone in charge of updating material on the website frequently. This same person can fill in the data on your newly developed fundraising page. However, material you send this person needs to be carefully checked for accuracy. Establish a process whereby the planning committee communicates via e-mail with whoever is maintaining your database. Get confirmation that the material was received and posted. Double-check it to make sure it was posted correctly. Many non-profits are lax in getting timely material onto their websites because there are too many people involved in the planning and not enough communication with the webmaster.

Too many data entry people can spoil the website. Limit the number of people who can post on your site. The more you filter the material through one or two central people (unless you are working in a very large nonprofit), the easier it is to have a website with a consistent look and accurate information.

Try to make the fundraising activities stand out from other information on your website. Design the page in a manner that invites the user to check out the information. Graphics, entertaining and informative copy, and all the important details need to be clear. Make it easy for people to sign up in advance or even buy (or reserve) tickets to your event through the site or by calling a phone number or sending an e-mail to an address posted on the site.

Even if your organization does not have a website, you can develop a page for the upcoming event on one of the many free sites offered on the web. This will let you post information about your fundraiser and provide web users with an easy place to learn about what you have planned. Remember, communicating through your website is only as effective as the number of hits it receives — and this will happen only with good promotion, which will be covered in Chapter 10.

You are better off if you can keep the website design and data entry in-house and not rely on outside computer help. Several years ago, organizations relied heavily on others to handle all of their web needs. Now, technology has made it much easier to do the vast majority of web work in-house, including designing graphics and content and responding to inquiries. If you do require outside help, try to minimize your needs by learning as much as you can about how to manage your own website. Plenty of easy-to-use software programs are available, and you can find numerous websites offering build-your-own web page capabilities.

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