Jul/Aug 2007

Using Advocacy to Grow your Online Donor Pool

by Stephen O'Keefe, Senior Account Manager, Convio

One of the exciting things about working with our clients is helping them achieve strong results by leveraging the power of the Internet to take relationships to new levels.

Still, we see organizations missing some important relationship-building and fundraising opportunities by making some common mistakes:

  1. Maintaining different databases,
  2. Using different online tools for advocacy and fundraising,
  3. Not converting those who advocate on their behalf into donors, and
  4. Not educating their donors about engaging more with their organization through advocacy.

American Cancer Society, Human Rights Campaign, Humane Society of the United States, NARAL, and Sojourners, for example, have successfully blended email outreach and Web site content with advocacy and fundraising engagement to achieve some phenomenal success.

In September 2005, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had 16,500 email addresses. Today, they have more than 59,000. Tim Lash, Online Fundraising Officer for the IRC, described the organization's use of advocacy campaigns to cultivate donors at Fundraising Day in NY, sponsored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New York Chapter.

The IRC grew its email file by expanding its offerings to constituents, from one email newsletter to three email subscriptions to provide people more choices for getting involved (opt-in). In addition, the IRC started doing advocacy campaigns via new "Advocacy Alert" emails. The IRC launched an online petition to collect email addresses, which, by using Convio's Tell-a-Friend feature, is a popular way to expand an organization's reach. The IRC also worked with Care2, a list-building partner for nonprofits, which generated $13,865 in total income (274 gifts with an average gift of $51). The partnership allowed the IRC to make its petition available on Care2's ThePetitionSite.com, generating 10,000 opted-in names and email addresses at approximately $2 per email acquired.

In addition to the Care2 online partnership, IRC's online advocacy campaigns have brought in 5,575 new email subscribers. With a sizable email file, the IRC tested using advocacy to increase fundraising. In October 2006, IRC launched an online fundraising appeal, generating $6,703 (129 gifts w/average gift of $52) that was more than twice as successful with IRC's online activists than with non-activists (a 0.5 percent response rate for online activists compared with 0.2 percent for non-activists who belonged to the email list).

Online advocacy can be an effective way to grow your email list and online donor pool. Launching an online advocacy strategy to boost fundraising won't be an overnight success; it's a long-term investment. But giving donors another way to support your organization, and giving activists a well-timed opportunity to donate will yield results.

Using Advocacy to Grow your Online Donor Pool | Convio