Harnessing the Internet

E-mail, not the Web, is the key to raising money online. A strong Web site is absolutely necessary, but it’s far from sufficient. If you build it and just let it sit there, they won’t come.

Get out your pencil and notebook now. It’s time for a pop quiz.

Question: Which one of the following statements is true?

  • The most important thing for raising money online is the capacity to accept donations on your Web site.
  • E-mail costs so much less than direct mail that it is rapidly replacing it as a fundraising medium of choice.
  • Nonprofit organizations in the United States are raising more than 10% of their revenue online, and that proportion is expected to rise to 50% by 2013.
  • The way to raise money online is to take your direct mail letters and send them out by e-mail to all your donors.
  • Almost everyone in the United States is now online, so it’s only a matter of time before nonprofits can expect their donor lists to grow exponentially through an influx of younger donors who will join through the World Wide Web.

Careful now—that was a trick question.

Have you got it? You figured out that not one of these answers is true? Go to the head of the class! But if you’re unsure about whether these statements reflect current reality, listen up. Fundraising online is a highly promising field, but it’s a world in itself, with its own rules, quirks, and culture. If you plunge in blindly, heedless of the idiosyncrasies and challenges of communications online, you may find that fundraising via e-mail and the Internet is anything but cheap.

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