This article about online advocates, entitled “Online Advocates Help You Raise More”, originally appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of Advancing Philanthropy.
Empower your raving fans to fundraise on your behalf
By Stacy Dyer, Sage North America
Humans are social creatures. We are more likely to support a cause when asked by friends or family. Make the most of people’s natural social nature by empowering those individuals who are most passionate about your cause to share their passion for your cause and solicit support on your behalf.
“We work hard to develop long-lasting, strategic relationships with individuals, organizations, and businesses, so our pool of existing supporters and donors are essential to us,” says Jessica Anderson, communications manager for Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). “Not only are they the most loyal event participants, but they also reach out to new supporters with whom we wouldn’t otherwise connect.”
It’s about more than just getting people to sign online petitions. Encourage your raving fans (you know who they are, right?) to ask their own social networks to support your cause online. There are several ways to encourage personal advocacy online.
First, there is simple peer-to-peer fundraising. This happens when a donor or supporter shares a link to your donation form on their personal email or Facebook, Twitter, or blog page, encouraging their friends, colleagues, and readers to visit your website and make a donation.
Make it easy for supporters to share your organization’s donation forms on popular networks by embedding “share” links on every donation and event registration form you create.
Personal Fundraising Pages
To engage your supporters even more, allow individuals and partners supporting your organization to host personal fundraising pages on their own websites or blogs. Maximize distribution with a portable virtual form. Advocates will be more willing to host a form on their site if it does not require visitors to leave their site in order to complete the form.
Make sure you address security within the form itself. Credit card transaction security is crucial. Allow advocates to host your form without needing to worry about security, and without needing to specially configure their own blog or website. Sponsors and other organizational partners will find this particularly helpful and will be more likely to not only sponsor your organization or special event, but also fundraise and advocate on your behalf on their own websites.
Ideally, the form you distribute to allow others to fundraise on your behalf will be easy for you to update, at any time. The wider your distribution, the more difficult it would be to contact each advocate and request them to manually update it. Create a form that you control, so that if you need to update your message for an urgent call to action, or any other reason, your changes will be immediately reflected anywhere the form is published.
Personalized Advocacy Center
Bring e-advocacy even further by allowing individuals to create their own personalized fundraising page, tracking the donations they have raised for your cause, on your site. This type of advocacy is often used by registrants of race events, as they ask their friends to sponsor their participation in your run, walk, or ride. But you don’t need to host a race to encourage advocate fundraising; it can be used in any type of fundraising campaign.
Create widgets online that supporters and participants can customize and share with their own peer-to-peer networks. Make it both fun and personal. Allow advocates to upload an image and share a personal statement about why they are supporting your cause.
Encourage your advocates to thank their friends and family who donate or pledge their support. Collect and share the email addresses of donors with the advocate, so they can send a thank you message to each of their personal supporters.
Competition can be a great motivator, too. Set clear goals for each advocate, and allow advocates to increase their goal to keep the support flowing even after the original goal is met and surpassed. Be sure that any donations your advocate collects offline are counted, too. Use visual progress meters to publically track progress and allow individuals to share their success.
“We’re excited to have an advocacy center for each of our Pennsylvania Environment Ride participants,” says Anderson. “Making it easy for riders to ask their friends to sponsor them in the event, plus get credit for all the donations they raise themselves, will increase the amount of money raised by the event.”
Expand Your Reach
You rarely get anything you don’t ask for, so ask for it! Your network of supporters, participants, and donors are your greatest asset when it comes to expanding your organization’s reach. Ask your raving fans and most motivated supporters for help and make it easy for them to do, and you’ll be pleased by the results.
About Advancing Philanthropy
With 32,000 subscribers, Advancing Philanthropy is written for the members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and executives of nonprofit organizations and institutions. The magazine provides ideas and strategies for the fundraising community, and includes information on education, training and advocacy for philanthropy. It also addresses ethical concerns and provides the latest news, resources, tools, models and technology for the sector. Web site: http://www.afpnet.org/Publications/IssueList.cfm?navItemNumber=544