The Future of Online Revenue Generation for Charities


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This is presentation given at the NCVO event: Foresight Leading Lights seminar: Changing ICT - What does it mean for your organisation? ( on December 8, 2009.

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  • Hi – my name is Amy Sample Ward and I’m a blogger, facilitator, trainer and general conversation starter about technology for social impact. I am also the Global Community Development Manager for NetSquared, an organization focused on the intersection of technology and social change. This session focuses on the fairly obtuse topic of, dun dun dun: The Future of Online Revenue Generation for Charities.
  • We could definitely talk all day about this topic so to keep within the short 15 minutes of this session I’ll break it down into three areas of focus: the future of online, online revenue generation, and charities (see what I did there?!).
  • The future of online. Social media is changing every day. To say “the future” when talking about the internet or technology is entirely relative. We see this with hardware, too, not just facebook privacy settings. So, this is our context, a continually changing platform.
  • Thus, if we are working in a space that’s always changing, it’s more important, and more beneficial, to think about the processes and not the specific tools. What’s working in the social media space isn’t the tool. For example, Twitter is getting tons of attention and millions of users, but not because of Twitter…actually, most all of the Twitter-related software, widgets, and add-ons that anyone uses are designed and developed by individuals and companies outside of Twitter. It’s the process, though, that works: of real-time searching, sharing and creating, relationship building and conversation.
  • What ARE the processes and attributes of this ever-changing field that do work? Authenticity: be real, be a human. How do you do this? Say who you are online, instead of just using the organization’s name on accounts, list who from the organization is actually maintaining that account. Show some emotion, you’re not a robot: use a smiley face, say “wow!” or share updates, news, resources, links, anything that isn’t just about work work work.
  • Another process is relationship building. Social media thrives on relationships, if you are a real person, then you have something to say and can have real conversations, regardless of who you are or who your audience is. Be part of the community.
  • Finally, one of the most important processes in social media, the gift economy, is thriving. It works very simply: give praise to other people when they share something you like, when they support your work or campaign, when they help you or ask for help. Always say thank you publicly for public things – if others are Twittering about your work to campaign for you, be sure to thank them publicly in the same space – twitter. Find ways to share value from your side as well, links, resources, etc.
  • Now for the online revenue generation bit. My colleague Debra Askanase created this great chart showing some of the most prominent online donation trends. What’s most important about this chart, in my opinion, is that even as new tools or methods are introduced, the others continue. So, even as move into portability of campaigning and fundraising modules, websites should still have clear and strategic donation opportunities on their websites. It’s not an elimination process where you can only have 2 or 3 options, it’s an expanding box of tools.
  • Now for some data! Earlier this year, NTEN released a report called the eNonprofit Benchmarks Report, and here is one slide from that report on online giving by gift size. This is a really interesting slide, I think, because it shows so clearly how small gifts make up the most number of gifts, but the few large gifts make up a great deal of the overall amount raised. Tapping the need for best practices and some experimentation to maximize online donation size and so on.
  • This is from JustGiving’s recent from FLM, analyzing a similar data set: the number of people that donated at different levels. Again, smaller gift sizes are more popular but make up a smaller amount of overall funds raised.
  • Earlier this year, nonprofit professionals in the US responded to a survey, sponsored by NTEN, Common Knowledge and the Port, specifically about their organization’s use of online social networks. On the topic of fundraising, it’s clear that the majority of organizations were using facebook as a place to fundraise. Not in this chart but in the report were the figures that: among the commercial social networks most popular for survey respondents—Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube— 29% of organizations indicated they are getting $500 or less in fundraising revenue over the last 12 months from Facebook. Among all the commercial social networks, only Facebook and MySpace were used to deliver $10,000 or more in fundraising revenue over the last 12 months for any nonprofits in the survey.
  • It’s not only about asking for money. You can innovate (and not just because it’s such a popular buzz word). But really, innovate, experiment. It isn’t just about fundraising but creating something valuable to earn money from. For example, charities from many different sectors are experimenting with paid-for services, free and premium (or paid-for) content, events or workshops that have a participation fee or suggested donation, and even online education like webinars.
  • Now for the last section: Charities. When it comes to social media, there is a very important difference between organization-driven fundraising and individual-driven fundraising campaigns. In the traditional, offline world, it would have been really strange to have a supporter get really excited about the work you do and then start an annual campaign on your behalf without ever asking your help or permission or even without already being a staff or volunteer of the organization. But, that’s exactly what individuals are doing online with Causes on facebook by supporting the same organizations each year with the Birthday Cause fundraising campaigns. Offline, you really would never have had a supporter design and print out their own fliers and start canvassing their neighborhood to get the word out about your cause, but that’s exactly what people are doing in most spaces online from Twitter badges to facebook fan pages and so on.
  • So, to honor the very different way that individuals operate online, you need to do all that you can to empower supporters (especially the ones you don’t know about or don’t already have on your email list). For example, you have press kits and press pages on your website to make it easy for the newspaper to write a story about you, why not supporter kits that make it easy for individuals to campaign for you – a one-stop-shop for people to get your logo, mission statement, tax information, links to your online presences and so on? Make it as easy as possible to support you.
  • As an organization, you can now be leveraging a global community to support your work in many different ways, so you should also leverage what is unique about social media for charities: storytelling and shareability. No other media previously has made storytelling as compelling and news and information as shareable as social media has today. We can see video and pictures, words and links, data and maps, all brought together to tell the story of our work, of our campaigns, of the communities we are serving and improving. It’s incredibly moving and people want to share it. We can also make sharing of not just stories, but calls to action and opportunities to get involved so incredibly easy to share that it is really just one click of the mouse. So, take advantage of the tools online to share your story and the stories of those you are serving – and make everything you do as shareable as possible.
  • Lastly, social media has created a beautiful landscape to think big. It really is a global community and a global conversation. Think about the change your organization is part of, not the services you deliver or the programs you run. For example, think about the battle against AIDS/HIV or the fight for action on climate change, versus your clinic or your meters. You’ll find many more opportunities to collaborate with others, both on campaigns to bring the world closer to the one in your vision statement, but also to bring in more funds or share resources.
  • I know that was a lot in a short amount of time, so to recap: Social media and technology are changing all the time, so concentrate on the processes that are proven successful already. Online revenue generation is really about small, personal, accessible gifts, to organizations and to individuals. Charities have an open invitation with social media to be nimble, empowering, and visionary.
  • I’d love to continue talking with you about this and to answer any questions you have. You can reach me in any of these ways!
  • Finally, here are links included earlier in the presentation for ways to find out more. Thank you!
  • The Future of Online Revenue Generation for Charities

    1. 1. The Future of Online Revenue Generation for Charities NCVO Foresight Leading Lights Seminar: Changing ICT – What does it mean for your organization?
    2. 2. Where we’re going:
    3. 3. The Future of Online: Speeding Ahead Flickr: Stig Nygaard
    4. 4. The Future of Online: Focus on Process Flickr: Erik Charlton
    5. 5. The Future of Online: Authenticity ®
    6. 6. The Future of Online: Relationships Flickr: Pink Sherbet Photography
    7. 7. The Future of Online: Gift Economy Flickr: bandita
    8. 8. Online Revenue Generation: Trends Blog:
    9. 9. Online Revenue Generation: Data
    10. 10. Online Revenue Generation: Data
    11. 11. Online Revenue Generation: Social Media
    12. 12. Online Revenue Generation: Innovation Flickr: cam_rich345
    13. 13. Charities: Org vs Individual Flickr: anneh632
    14. 14. Charities: Empower Supporters Flickr: bugeaters
    15. 15. Charities: Leverage Social Media Flickr: quinn.anya
    16. 16. Charities: Think Big Flickr: su_ku_ra
    17. 17. The Future of Online Revenue Generation for Charities
    18. 18. Let’s Connect! Online: Twitter: @amyrsward Email: [email_address]
    19. 19. Links! These slides are available on SlideShare at: