An essential component to any nonprofit fundraising strategy in 2016 ought to include raising money online. Not only is online fundraising an easy part of your overall fundraising strategy to implement; there’s a lot of money in it if approached in the right way.
There is a New Generation of Sites to Help Raise Money for Your Cause Online
These older more well-established options pair well with newer methods. I will be looking at two very well-established websites that offer the chance to earn passive revenue and a few popular crowdfunding models. I will explore what makes each platform unique, how it works and whether it’s right for you and finally, I will look at our own affiliate program at ApuforLife as a comparison. It’s easy to be involved in more than one of these programs and I encourage you to take full advantage of all of them.
So You Want to Sign Up for Amazon Smiles…
Our first example, Amazon Smiles is an affiliate program for nonprofits and it’s very easy to get started. Upon visiting their site, you’ll need to register your 501(c)(3) at https://org.amazon.com. Once registered, any customer that chooses your organization as a recipient will cause the Amazon Smile Foundation to donate a whopping 0.5% of an eligible sale. Bear in mind, the customer is not actually making a donation, instead Amazon Smile Foundation is. Customers get the buzz of helping a good cause without actually doing so. Also customers can only designate one organization as the recipient of Smile Foundation donations at any given time, which will narrow your chances of receiving significant funding from this source. And even if you do have a lot of sign ups to support your organization an excerpt of an article by @bradyjosephson will give you a very clear understanding of what this percentage and Amazon’s overall model could mean for other donations you may (or may not receive) as a result of participating in this program.
if you wanted to give $50 to a charity you’d have to spend $10,000 through AmazonSmile. $10,000 to Amazon. $50 to charity. It’s pretty clear who wins here and I’ll give you a hint: It’s not the charity. -Huffington Post, 12/02/2013
All that being said, when you’re looking for sites to help raise money for your cause, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. However meager Amazon’s program benefits may be, you never know until you try it, probably for a couple of years. Once you’ve seen the returns over time, you will be able to make a better decision as to whether or not Amazon Smile is right for your organization.
The Mega Affiliate Network for Nonprofits: iGive.com
If I were the development director of a nonprofit and I had to choose, I would go with iGive as a solid choice for a large scale affiliate program that specifically serves nonprofits. iGive offers shoppers a diverse array of products and services from more than 1500 participating companies and effectively facilitates cause marketing on a mass scale, collecting pledges as a percentage of a participating business’s sales. The aggregate return a nonprofit can earn on iGive is significantly higher than Amazon’s program. See iGive’s FAQ here.
Companies that get involved with iGive join for many reasons- the goodwill that comes from cause marketing to be sure, AND the purposeful mission to do something positive through their businesses. It’s most likely a little bit of both, but regardless of the reason, business contributions are an essential part of the nonprofit ecosystem.
Actual percentages earned (pledged) through iGive vary wildly from Company to Company , but from all the participating companies the average looks to be around 3-4%, with some companies giving as little 0.4% and as much as 24%!
The iGive model relies on many points of contact: contributor members, affiliate members (nonprofits), the marketing automation software that iGive uses to manage it’s members and the customers themselves. Surprisingly, they do not operate an in-house affiliate network and instead farm out the service to one of several approved networks, which probably cuts into somebody’s bottom line. Another concern is that shoppers may lose sight of iGive among all the choices and integrations required to take advantage of this powerful program.
That being said, nonprofits have the chance to rally their donors and supporters toward the most rewarding companies. Thanks to iGive’s visibility people can find them while surfing the internet which could bring in additional donors through organic search. Plus iGive provides a suite of marketing tools to empower nonprofits to get the most out of the service. Recommended.
Crowdfunding Sites for Nonprofits
Are you launching a new program, expanding your services, or increasing your reach? Have you won an award and you want to follow up on that momentum with a new campaign? If so, your nonprofit might be ripe for crowdfunding .. While you can run a campaign for any reason or no reason in particular, the type of projects that are perfect for crowdfunding are the types of projects that you would have done a press release for in the past. Crowdfunding can be a spectacular way to raise a lot of money quickly.
What you need to consider:
1) A well designed campaign that entertains and moves people emotionally is more likely to succeed. Can you make a video? Great. Images, some thoughtful design and copy and a compelling story about how your nonprofit changed someone’s life will help to motivate people to support your campaign.
2) In order to get your fundraising off to a great start you will need some support from your own community contacts in the beginning. Most fundraising sites use simple statistical algorithms to prioritize campaigns that are performing well. Campaigns that have solid support starting out will be made visible to more people and will be more profitable.
If you’re looking for crowdfunding campaigns that are tailor made for nonprofits, check out this article for an expansive list.
In writing this post, I looked at Razoo’s 24 hour “Giving Day” promotion that offers the opportunity to gameify the fundraising process with a marathon of giving. Razoo’s feature offers the ability to present giving statistics over the course of a 24 hour ” race to the top” of charitable contributions.
I also took a look at Startsomegood.com which does not require 501(c)(3) status for eligibility and hosts campaigns across a wide variety of categories. Startsomegood.com has it’s own email follow-up system that is available to campaigners, which allows you to take care of even more aspects of your campaign all in one place. Oh, and with startsomegood, there are no fees until the campaign goal has been reached.
The All-in-One E-commerce/Affiliate Model
Lastly, and moving back toward the affiliate model of Amazon and iGive is our little program here at ApuforLife. I’m sure there are other programs like mine out there, but I haven’t found them yet. Let me know in the comments if you know of another organization like ours.
ApuforLife offers an affiliate program to nonprofits that pays out 20% on every sale, which is hard to beat. Like us, there are other small sites to help raise money for your cause popping up every day. Rare opportunities don’t last forever… so these more obscure (and often more generous) sites are worth looking into. As far as affiliate programs go, I haven’t seen a comparable model to ApuforLife that is willing to offer this kind of return. Part of the reason for this:
1) the Company is small and therefore the overhead is very low
2) ApuforLife has its own e-commerce stores and its own affiliate program, so the only people we share profits and value with are our affiliates and the customers who can still often find discount deals to rival or beat Amazon’s prices. This business proudly admits that it’s business model is sustainability, not endless growth. Our investment and positive ROI comes in the form of stronger communities and better services for populations living on the margins. ApuforLife seeks to maximize the percentage we can give to our nonprofit partners.
Why does this model work?
Most e-commerce businesses rely in part on advertising to drive traffic and sales to their stores. But running Facebook ads and Google Adsense gets expensive quickly, not to mention when doing this, businesses trade hard won money in exchange for advertising. But for a company that wants to work with nonprofits, all parties stand to benefit by doing our advertising, buying, selling and fundraising within our own circles, cutting out the larger advertisers in favor of a more targeted community focus. For us it means giving those advertisers dollars to nonprofits who can most benefit from this kind of partnership via commissions earned through affiliate referrals.
No matter which directions your nonprofit decides to take with it’s online fundraising strategy, it’s important to be aware of the legal issues governing fundraising in your State. In addition to most States requiring Charitable Solicitation Registration , you will want to be aware of Commercial Co-Venture Regulations as well..