Online Charitable Donations 101

Published March 27, 2017
Since founding the HPJ Agency more than 10 years ago, I have worked with hundreds of organizations to help them carry out their fundraisers. Over time, my experience in the sector led me to develop specialized software for that exact purpose. The software is now sold under the names memboGo, memboGo P2P and HPJCC. In the coming months, I will be writing five articles explaining how it works and the best methods for successfully managing fundraisers online. With this first article, I hope to give you a better understanding of the different ways you can manage donations via the internet.

It all starts with a fundraising plan

A fundraising campaign must be managed like you would manage a project: You must establish a financial objective and determine ways to get there. Just as in business, you need a strategic plan. For example, let's say you set the objective of collecting $25,000 for your cause. What steps must you take to achieve your goal? How fast will you be receiving donations? Will you be organizing one or more events? Will you send out newsletters? How will you use social media? 

Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself:
  1. What is my campaign’s financial objective for the coming year?
  2. How much time can my team (if you have one) and I dedicate to the campaign?
  3. What is my available budget to launch the campaign?
  4. How well-known is my organization?
  5. What type of campaign do I want to run?

By answering these questions, you will be better prepared to write your fundraising plan. Here are a few ideas that will help you work out the details.

Create a web page to receive donations

Creating a web page that will allow you to receive donations online is undeniably the first thing you must do for any charity initiative. Setting up a page to receive donations can be very simple. A number of solutions, such as memboGo, are available on the market.

Try to create a donation system within your current website

To make your organization appear serious and to acquire your donors’ trust, it is often best to have an online donation system directly within your website, meaning, a page where donors are not redirected to an external site to make their donations. However, depending on your existing site’s history or your fundraising plan, adding an external donation platform to your website can be a good solution for your organization. 

Create a microsite for donations that best reflects your organization

If you already have a website and you have tight budget constraints, I recommend creating a microsite. Choosing the right technology is very important. Make sure your have a solution that meets all of these criteria:
  • Adopt a product or solution that has already been developed and proven to work. Do not invest in a customized solution in this case. Everything has already been done.
  • Have the option to run multiple campaigns at the same time.
  • Be able to independently manage the content and the parameters for your campaigns.
  • Be able to manage donation forms yourself.
  • Have the capability to manage different types of donations (regular, by activity, anniversaries, in memoriam, etc.).
  • Be able to personalize your microsite so that it best reflects your organization. Ensure that its graphic design has the same feel as your main website. To the greatest extent possible, try to reduce the feeling of switching from one site to another. It is possible to create a nearly seamless transition between the two sites. 
  • Have the possibility to communicate automatically with your donors. Having access to newsletter software within the platform can save you a lot of time.
  • Allow you to optimally manage tax receipts throughout the year
  • Offer the possibility to build and manage a comprehensive donor repository for your organization where you can analyze your donors’ behavioral history (very useful in the years following your first campaign...).
See this article for more details: How to Use memboGo While Keeping Your Current Website

Invest time in your communications and marketing strategy

With your donation platform ready to go, now you must explain your cause to the greatest number of people possible. Using newsletters is known to be the solution with the best return on investment. It is relatively easy to implement and helps you to connect with your target audience. Your fundraising plan should integrate your communication strategy. How many newsletters should you send out per year? What should you say and how do you implement a call to action to get visitors to make a donation? Adopt a modular approach on your donations page. Explain why you're asking for money and what you will be doing with the donations that are received. Be effective: Hundreds of organizations like yours are trying to convince the same people as you. Don’t forget about your site's home page. It should also contain an effective call to action to encourage donations.

Offer your donation platform to external organizations

Organizing events is a lot of work for organizations. There are certainly people who are touched by your cause and who only want to help by organizing a fundraiser. With your multi-campaign platform in place, you will be able to respond to those requests, and even promote them! Take the example of Mr. Smith who wants to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in order to raise funds for a cause. Or Ms. Jones who wants to cycle across Quebec to raise money.

Certain donation platforms, such as memboGo, can accommodate this type of initiative. All you have to do is create a campaign in the Donations application and promote it on your website. You can even create a microsite that is specific to an event. You will have full administrative control over the campaign and can equip your courageous organizer with a link (URL) so that he or she can promote the event. How many people in your circle would like to organize this type of initiative and how are you going to present it? Put it in your fundraising plan.

Create charity events to energize your campaign

Organizing charity events is also a must. Although they take a good amount of work, this type of initiative can be a major source of revenues. The way it works is simple: You determine a price for your event, explaining that a portion of the amount will be treated as a donation. Then put your imagination to work and organize the event that will arouse the most interest.

To implement the initiative, you must:
  • Equip your website or microsite with an event management system. You will also need a page that makes people want to participate in the event. Nice images make all the difference.
  • Have a feature-rich online registration system, for example, one that allows multiple people to register in a single transaction.
  • Be able to issue a tax receipt for only a portion of the event price, automatically. 
  • Some systems allow you to issue receipts after the event. This may be useful for organizations who are unable to determine the exact costs associated with organizing the event beforehand.
  • Have an automatic communication system for registration confirmations and reminders before the event.
  • And why not offer the possibility of making an additional donation when registering?

Have the option to manage multiple charity events

An efficient website will allow you to manage multiple events throughout the year and, of course, several events at the same time. You must envision how you will present them. You can create a separate page for each event that can be accessed from your main menu, or you can work in mosaic mode to present all of your upcoming events on the same page.

Promote external charity events

With your multi-event platform in place, you will probably receive requests – such as for fundraisers – from people who want to help by organizing events in support of your cause. Take the example of Mr. Williams who wants to organize a motorcycle rally between Montreal and New York. Every participant must pay the registration fees and a portion of the amount will be given to your cause. Mr. Williams will take care of the sales and promotion components of his activity and you will provide him with the necessary web platform... since you have everything needed to manage online payments and submit receipts.

An introduction to P2P fundraisers

Now you understand that it is possible to organize many types of online fundraisers without requiring participation from donors. You also understand that it is possible to organize events where donors do actually participate. In addition, you see the benefit of getting help from external organizers who can leverage their own network to collect donations and register new participants. What if you could do all of that at the same time – organize an event where it is possible to make a donation, participate and invite people in your network to do the same? This is what we call a Peer to Peer (P2P) fundraiser. A P2P platform gives your donors the tools they need to work with their networks to generate donations. Let me explain. Say you're organizing a sporting event. A 200-kilometer bike ride. To participate, you must pay $20. As a participant, most likely someone who is touched by the cause, your role is to find other people who will also support the cause in two ways:
  1. Participate in the event with you by also paying $20.
  2. Donate to the cause to encourage you to complete your 200 kilometers.
Now you can see that the additional participant has the same mission: to find other participants or to convince friends to make a donation to the cause. It’s viral. That’s P2P. Social media networks can have a major influence on this type of fundraiser.

In conclusion ...

As with other sectors, the internet is profoundly disrupting fundraising techniques. There are many possibilities out there and they can get complicated fast. Tools, such as memboGo, are available to you to make your life easier and increase your chances of success. But, before anything else, the most important thing is to create a clear fundraising plan. The support team at memboGo and I are here for you if you have any questions on the topic. Contact us.
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