Thanks to Microsoft Citizenship Asia Pacific, I’ve had the great honor to present a series of online fundraising and social media trainings to over three hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout Asia Pacific over the last three years. The experience has made me acutely aware that access to information about trends in nonprofit technology, online fundraising and social media often do not reach small NGOs – especially those in rural areas. Many lack access to information about how to create their own websites, publish an email newsletter, accept online donations and use social media effectively. It’s not for lack of desire or technical capability, but simply due to a block in information flow. Many small NGOs are also unaware of the services and resources offered to the NGO community by TechSoup Global, SANGONeT, NASSCOM Foundation, Meedan and FrontlineSMS.
Here is a list of the top five Online Fundraising Best Practices for Small NGOs in Developing Countries:
1) Launch a new website that is mobile-optimized
Globally, smartphones now outsell feature phones, so in the near future the majority of your website traffic will occur on a mobile device. Therefore, launching a new website that is mobile compatible is important. Fortunately they are not that difficult or financially challenging to create provided your NGO is willing to invest the time to create a new website and has access to a credit card as most of these services only accept credit cards as the method of purchase.
Using a Content Management System (CMS) makes it very easy to update and edit your own website. To effectively raise money online, NGOs need a website that makes a good first impression.
Tools such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace enable small NGOs to launch modern, well-designed websites that are mobile compatible and easy to update. The website templates include social media integration and fees can be as little as USD $8 a month for a website absent of advertising, with some templates offered in multiple languages.
NGOs can also use WordPress.org as a CMS for your website and download a free or low-cost theme to design a mobile-optimized website. To do so, you’ll need a web hosting service such as BlueHost.com. If that’s too complicated, then your NGO could set up a free blog on WordPress.com which offers numerous, easy-to-install mobile-optimized templates. If you decide to go with WordPress.com, you should purchase a ‘.org’ website URL and have it forward to your WordPress.com blog. However, ‘.ngo’ and ‘.ong’ will be available soon.
Finally, if you need custom graphics or a new logo, but do not have the financial resources to hire a designer or the graphic design knowledge to create them yourself, contact a university in your area to find a graphic design student and offer to promote their work in exchange for volunteering their services. Or, you could post the volunteer position on your website, blog or Facebook Page and share it on volunteer boards in your country or on Idealist.org, CraigstList or in LinkedIn Groups.
2) Launch an e-newsletter
For over a decade e-newsletters have been the driving force behind online donations in developed countries. Invest the time and financial resources into publishing an e-newsletter at least twice monthly. Web-based email communication services such as iContact, Constant Contact or MailChimp make it very simple to launch an e-newsletter with fees starting at USD $15 monthly for email lists of 500 subscribers or less. This can be financially challenging, but is an investment well-made (especially if your goal is to acquire donors in developed countries). If funds are limited, consider asking a major donor to sponsor your e-newsletter for a year in exchange for occasionally promoting their business or service in your e-newsletter.
Email communication services offer reporting metrics, such as who opened your email and what links they visited, and eliminate the need to manually manage your email list as your subscribers are stored in an online database and unsubscribes are automatic.
To help build your email list, all three services suggested above offer the ability to add e-newsletter opt-in forms to your website. Ensure that the opt-in is prominently featured on your home page and in a sidebar on every page of your website and blog.
Finally, it’s important to be aware that e-newsletters that are sent BCC often trigger spam controls and are blocked by email servers.
3) Accept donations online
Accepting online donations can be difficult for many NGOs. Regulations vary widely from country to country and NGOs in some countries can’t accept online payments at all due to a limited online banking infrastructure or sanctions based on perceived terrorist threats. That said, if it is possible for your nonprofit to set up an account to receive credit card payments on PayPal (view list of countries), then no matter how tedious or time-consuming the sign-up process may be, accepting online donations is a huge step forward for your NGO. There’s also Ammado.com which enables NGOS in many countries to accept online donations in 76 currencies.
Once your nonprofit has been set up to accept online donations, then add a “Donate Now” button to your home page and every page of your website and blog. You should also create a “Donate” page that details how donors can donate online, wire funds, mail funds or send you mobile money. Also, your e-newsletter design should always include a “Donate Now” button. During times of crisis your NGO should send urgent email fundraising appeals to your e-newsletter list in addition to your bi-monthly e-newsletter.
Alternatively, if your NGO has a long-term, close working relationship with a large nonprofit in a developed nation, start a discussion about partnering with them so you can accept online donations through their website. In the United States this is called fiscal sponsorship. It’s not easy to secure, but is a possibility for some NGOs that have been in operation for multiple years and have a proven track record of success. For more information, listen to this podcast about fiscal sponsorship hosted by the Foundation Center. You can also explore the possibility of having one of your projects listed on GlobalGiving.
4) Study and mimic large NGOs
Small NGOs can learn a lot by studying the online fundraising and social media campaigns of large NGOs. Analyze their websites and donation pages, subscribe to their e-newsletters and follow them on social media. Review my list of Top 100 NGOs to see some great websites.
5) Create a Facebook Page
Creating a Facebook Page should be your first step in launching a presence on social media. Telling the story of your NGO through status updates can result in online donations, provided you have the ability to accept online donations on your website.
To create a Facebook Page, first create a personal Facebook account and then visit facebook.com/createapage > Company, Organization, or Institution > Select the “Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)” category and then set up your page.
To easily create a Facebook cover image, go to PicMonkey.com > Create a collage > FB Cover.
For best practices on how to manage your page, please see all posts about Facebook.
Finally, to make it easier to promote your page in print materials and online, be sure to reserve your Facebook username at facebook.com/username.
Want to know more? Click here for Heather’s Social Media Best Practices for NGOs in Developing Countries.