The key to raising money online isn’t Facebook or YouTube or Twitter or a donate button on every webpage.
Email is the tool that gets your message into the mind of your donor and persuades her to return to your website to make a donation.
Your charity cannot afford to wait for donors and potential donors to return to your website. You need to give them a reason to return. And you need to give them a way to return. Email is that way.
Which means the number one priority of your website is not to raise money or to acquire donors. It’s to acquire email addresses.
Unless your charity is a national, well-known charity that helps people during emergencies, and unless there is an emergency on right now, most visitors to your website will not donate during their first visit.
You need to start a conversation with them. A conversation that starts with email.
Stop asking for donations and start asking for email addresses instead.
Invite your visitor to complete a survey. Or take a poll. Or sign your petition. Or subscribe to your email newsletter. Or request your e-bulletin.
Use as many creative, compelling, donor-centred ways of persuading your visitors to give you their email address. But don’t simply say, “Enter your email address here to be added to our mailing list.” Instead, offer your visitors something of value that is delivered by email.
Your goal is to acquire as many email addresses as possible. Online fundraising is a numbers game. And the numbers are small. Open rates of 8%. Click-through rates of 2%. With metrics like these, you need to be reaching as many donors and potential donors as possible with every email appeal.
Think tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Aim for quantity. Secure as many email addresses as you possibly can, using as many tactics as you can think of, can afford and can manage.
Then develop a plan for converting a large percentage of the people on your email list to donors. Pretend you are dating. Treat their first visit to your website as the way you happened to meet. Instead of asking for their phone number, you asked for their email address.
In your first series of email messages, start the relationship by helping your potential donor get to know you a little better. Be interesting. Charming. Engaging.
When the time is right, pop the question. Ask for a gift. Direct the reader to your website to make a donation. Then follow up with a heartfelt thank-you letter.
Stop asking for donations and start asking for email addresses, and you’ll succeed at online fundraising.