Ever get the feeling you could do better with online fundraising? The fact is, you can – and with the right basics in place, you will.

We all know that online fundraising is growing rapidly; every survey shows a great number of gifts from more donors. And rare is the nonprofit of substantial size that does not offer Internet giving as an option for its donors.

Online fund raising is still very much in its infancy – but has great growth potential. To start meeting that potential, your organization needs to make sure it has the basics in place. Here are five common problems I see in online fundraising efforts, and five ways to solve them.

Problem 1: You don’t have enough e-mail addresses

Solution: Never pass up an opportunity to capture them. It’s worth redoing every form and response device your organization sends out (or posts online) to ask for e-mail as well as mailing address and phone.

But don’t stop there. Give prospects a reason to communicate with you via e-mail. On your home page, urge visitors to sign up for your free e-newsletter. Even if it’s just your latest press releases or a summary of your most recent donor appreciation luncheon, it opens new channels of communication – and lets you gather addresses.

Once you get e-mail addresses, be sure to keep them all in a single database. This way you can track how many e-mail addressees are converted to donors.

Problem 2: Your Web site’s donor sections aren’t visitor-friendly

Solution: Get your site ready to ask for, and receive, gifts. When you invite people over for a big party, you spruce up your house first. Do the same with your Web site. Make sure it’s well organized and attractive. And – just as in any kind of fund raising – don’t forget to actually ask for the gift! Recruit someone who’s not affiliated with your organization to progress through your site to the point of donating. Can they find the right page and understand what to do? (Web site examples)

Problem 3: Your efforts lack immediacy

Solution: Get personal. If you don’t already personalize e-mail–just as you would a direct-mail letter–learn how. (With the right software, it’s not hard.) Work on achieving the right tone as well. Remember, you couldn’t just take a direct mail letter and slap it into an e-mail message – any more than you could put a phone-a-thon script in an envelope and mail it. E-mail can be a bit more casual, as if you were dropping a friend a note.

Problem 4: You don’t really know what works online

Solution: Test, test, test. Set up the infrastructure that will help you find out what gets results. The right software will also allow you to track click-thrus so you can learn what parts your visitors like most. It’s Marketing 101: Measure your response to find out what to do more of – and what to stop doing.

Here’s a good way to start. Split your e-mail list into two groups and mail the same content to both groups using different subject lines. Then see which version is opened or clicked on more frequently. If you run several articles in your e-newsletter, try experimenting with story order. You could be surprised at which story links get clicked on the most!

Problem 5: You fail to keep your prospects’ options open

Solution: Communicate with donors in a variety of ways. Today it’s all about options. Some people want to mail a check. Others want to charge their donation by phone. Still others want to click and give on your Web site. Your job is to provide the full array of easy-to-use options so that your donors can choose for themselves the means they like best. Just because you get a response one way this time is no reason to cut off other avenues next time. They should all work together for the benefit of your donor, and your organization.

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