Charities In Changing Times

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Synopsis — The economic downturn of the past couple of years has hit everyone in some fashion, and charitable and non-profit organizations are no exception. When money is tight, one of the first discretionary items to leave many personal budgets is donations to charity. Non-profits and charities themselves need to make use of every possible means of soliciting donations, and one avenue that be overlooked is to use the Internet for fundraising.

In his article, “Charities In Changing Times,” Ross Dunn of Stepforth, provides information and inspiration to non-profits and charities looking to expand to the web or improve their web presence. The article is full of tips to help improve websites and ways in which to be found online, together with advice on connecting with potential donors through social media. As always, Ross includes notes on some useful tools and existing charitable websites as inspiration for your own forays into social media.

The complete article follows …

Charities In Changing Times

I just finished my first InnAid presentation to non-profits/charities about ways to leverage the Internet for fundraising. The opportunity to speak was a tall order considering the subject, but I was more than willing to help, considering the difficulty charities are having during these financial times. If you are involved with a charity or non-profit looking to expand online, or an SEO wishing to donate some time to help, here are some suggestions to get you started.

1. The Website

Plan on paper before talking to a designer. Consider the site’s goal(s) and your expectations and talk things over with an experienced marketer to determine how to make your goals a reality within your budget. You may discover that the two don’t fit, which can be a valuable discovery at an early stage, enabling you to find additional funding or the necessary volunteers to meet your needs.

Next, plan the site structure using a mind-mapping program like XMind (free) or Mind- Manager ($$$). This often works out kinks before you face them in the design process. With a complete plan in place, bring on a designer. I suggest considering building your site with WordPress because it has such a strong support community and fabulous plugins that offer unique marketing advantages. It also has free, step-by-step tutorials on optimizing a WordPress site for search engine rankings.

2. Be Found

As a non-profit/charity, you have an enviable ability to get a lot of visibility for free on the web. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Find large and small directories with categories accurately representing your non-profit’s mission and then submit your website. Nine times out of ten, you will get the listing for free.
  • Provide your current sponsors with a written thank-you note via email and suggest they put it on a sponsorship page on their website, with a link back to your site. Explain that this looks good for them and helps your initiative at the same time. You may even go so far as thanking your top sponsors for their support with a video testimonial, which they may very well use to market their social responsibility.
  • Apply for the Google Grants Program, where — if approved — you can receive $10,000 to even $40,000 USD per month in free pay-perclick advertising on Google.com.
  • Contact popular social networks like Facebook and StumbleUpon and ask for some free advertising credits — you never know if your request will succeed unless you ask!
  • Social networking users like to join causes, so be sure to have a Facebook profile for your nonprofit and provide an attractive badge for supporters to display on their profiles. They may not actually donate to your cause, but they will help to raise awareness.

3. Blogging and Social Media

According to a 2008 study by the Center on Philanthropy, 57.7% of respondents say they stop donating to a charity when they are “no longer feeling connected to the organization.” This really drives home what should be your primary use for social media and blogs — to keep current sponsors connected with your organization. You can also use social media and blogging to generate funds, but this should be secondary to providing a transparent view of your organization in action making use of the funds it receives. Check out these online charities for inspiration on using social media:

The Acumen Fund
(www.acumenfund.org)
Twitter @Acumenfund

Goods 4 Good
(www.goods4good.org/)
Twitter @Goods4good

ASPCA – Facebook
facebook.com/aspcateam

None of these tactics will turn a profit overnight for a charity/non-profit looking to succeed online. However, they are based on proven principles that will put your organization in a better position to raise funds and retain sponsors — increasingly important in today’s economy.

About the Author

Ross Dunn is CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, Inc., a respected leader for 13 years in providing SEO, research, and consultation services. Contact him at [email protected] or visit www.stepforth.com. Read more at news.stepforth.com.

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