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Fundraising and the Internet

By Mark Walker

This article provides tips on developing your fundraising skills, carrying out online research and raising money through the Internet

Introduction

Fundraising is the lifeblood of the community and voluntary sector. The Internet provides a great way of honing your fundraising skills; a source of information about funds and data to support your bids; and a way of asking for and receiving money from donors.

Fundraising is a subtle blend of hard work, good research and perseverance. The internet can help with fundraising by offering useful information, teach you how to do fundraising, access to online directories, help with research, downloadable application forms and a way of people giving you money. Email can be used to connect with others in your field, to be kept up to date with useful news, receive updates from funders and to make contact at your convenience, not just when the phones are being staffed. 

The main problem is not that there isn’t any information out there. You can generate piles of possible leads and visit thousands of funders’ websites without finding what you want. The key is starting in the right place, to be focused on relevant information, and disciplined about recording what you find so you can easily return to it.

Making money from your website is also possible, but also this needs to be well-planned if it’s going to deliver worthwhile benefits in terms of income. Or you could just use eBay to sell items which people give you.

1. Develop your fundraising skills

Whether you are a professional fundraiser in a large charity or an accidental fundraiser volunteering for a small community group your skills need to be finely honed to make best use of the time you have available. The internet can help to be an effective fundraiser, with access to a large body of professional fundraising expertise, both through web pages and email.

You can download fact sheets, print out checklists, gather top tips and sign up for email newsletters and discussion lists. This selection of useful sites gives a flavour of what’s out there:    

Funders Online    

Funders Online is a European fundraising portal which covers a wide range of information. The Project Proposal template is a great format for gathering and sharing your initial ideas.

Funderfinder                            

You have to pay for online access to the popular CD-based funding directory, but there are some excellent fact sheets on fundraising skills in their advice section.

Charities Information Bureau              

Charities Information Bureau is a community-based service from Yorkshire which is useful for smaller organisations. Lots of useful information sheets and a monthly email newsletter with funding details [which you have to pay for].

Amazon books            

There are lots of books about fundraising, so use Amazon to see what comments have been left by other readers before you buy one.

2. Research that supports your fundraising

Local information – where’s the money?

Your local council may offer online funding information that it is tailored to your area. Here are some examples:

Hammersmith and Fulham

Many councils have signed up for an Open4Community site. Searches are drawn from a large national database but filtered to be relevant to a particular area. You have to register but they are usually free to use.

East Sussex County Council

Fantastically comprehensive view of funds available. The website also has Regular updates on sources of funding in their monthly bidding bulletin.

Useful to everyone, not just local groups.

Or it may be a voluntary sector resource such as this:

Resource Centre

A good example of how local community services can provide fundraising support to local organisations. This excellent website lists their ‘favourite funders’, which are funders who have funded local activities – great for filtering out a long list of possible sources.

National Information Resources

There are subscription-based online services from funding information providers, such as FunderFinder, but the sites listed here were free to use at the time of publication:

Government Funding        

The Government Funding website is a one-stop shop for information about all Government funding available to the community and voluntary sector.

UK Fundraising

UK Fundraising is a well-established site with lots of useful links and lists. Better for professional fundraisers than multi-taskers from small organisations.

CafOnline                 

Managed by the Charities Aid Foundation, Cafonline has lots of useful information about what other charities are doing. Generally better for medium to larger charities but offers access to many different online services.  

Government Statistics            

Government Statistics is a fantastic source of information to help you with planning and add credibility to your bid. The neighbourhood information collates the most recent Census Data with other public data into an easy to use format. Download data and graphs and drop them into your next application to demonstrate need.

Google                                     

Because every search for information starts with Google. Try putting in “UK fundraising [my specific interest]” e.g. young people, mental health, etc. You’ll find out who’s doing what in your field with latest trends, ideas, contacts and inspiration. 

3. Raise funds through the net

The Internet provides a means of communicating with a huge global audience, any number of whom may be willing to support your cause. Any successful fundraising plans must consider what support you’re looking for and how your web site and email could help you in your efforts.

Large-scale fundraising online is typically the preserve of those charities which have traditionally received a lot of money from individual donors – Comic Relief generates millions through its site for example. These charities have large teams of web developers and professional fundraisers working on their plans, so what can smaller charities and voluntary organisations do?

Raise awareness

Having a web site, no matter how basic, helps people find out more about what you do, how you do it, how to contact you. Make sure yours is clear, up-to-date and provides plenty of straightforward information about how people can help you – whether it’s cash or in-kind support that you’re after.

Recruit support

Whether it’s volunteers signing up to help, or making sure that supporters have information about you to pass on to others.

Raise funds

If you don’t ask you don’t get and by using online payment systems like PayPal your website can easily be open to donations 24 hours a day. This is a relatively risk-free way to gauge how much you may be able to raise, but keep your eye on the cut they take and be prepared to switch if you need to.

Further research is needed to really make this work for you – there are many different charges to take account of and you need to be confident of receiving enough funds to cover your set up costs. You also need to integrate this with your fundraising and marketing strategies to maximise the returns.

Registered charities can access easy to use services such as Justgiving or the services provided by Charities Aid Foundation through Cafonline. Although there are set up costs these have the advantage of addling Gift Aid to what you receive.

Buy and sell goods:

Whether you already have a charity shop or simply get the occasional donated item which could be sold online eBay is a serious option compared to the limitations of the local car boot sale or newspaper classifieds, especially for specialist items. This is also an ideal role for an enthusiastic volunteer who can use their eBay knowledge to get the most money coming in.

eBay also has a special charities section that enables people to donate a proportion of their sales to a nominated charity.


About the author

Mark Walker
ICT Champion for the South East of England and is based at SCIP

Glossary

Boot, Database, Internet, Switch, Web Site, Website

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Published: 28th November 2021

Copyright © 2021 Mark Walker

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