Paperless Fundraising Comes to Your Neighborhood School

Online fundraising makes cents!

Suzanne Oehler, sales & marketing consultant, shares her philosophy for fundraising success:

My philosophy. Don’t wait around for the remarkable idea to dawn on you.  Look to an idea accepted and driven to success in one realm and introduce it in an unsuspecting place that needs it.

It didn’t make sense to me.  I was perplexed by fundraising in public schools.  All these great volunteers, people who really care, working off of archaic manual systems ineffective at mobilizing their “customer base” (students and families) to action.  It didn’t compute.  California is in a public education crisis, and the State can’t be counted on to give our kids the education they deserve.  Someone has to pay for it, so the privately-funded foundations must fill in the chasm of funding.   They don’t reach high enough, because they don’t see or embrace the tools available to them.

After years of friends pinging my inbox for Team In Training, Komen, and you-name-the-fundraiser, plus a season heading up a Leukemia Lymphoma Society fundraiser for a Fortune 500 company, I embraced the ease of donating to a worthy cause at the click of the mouse and the virtual slide of my credit card.  What was standing in the way of bringing the ease of Web fundraising to the school walk-a-thon?  Coming from the world of Tech, it was intuitive for me.  The challenge was in convincing the Board to allocate funds for a web service and to have faith that the families would step onto this brave new land without paper.  After modeling the possible revenue outcomes and ROI, the Board was persuaded to give it a shot.

If you build it, they will come.  I was ready to embark on my new adventure.   First, I qualified and selected an online event management service and  set up credit card processing. I worked with DoJiggy, which has a nice tool for a flat fee based on number of registrations. Unlike other services, they don’t integrate credit card processing up-front. I went this direction so that I controlled credit card processing and could us that for other school functions and logo apparel sales. I went with Dharma Merchant Services for credit card processing, which gives special fee structures to non-profits. They are a Dojiggy partner, so it’s seemless to hook them into the service. Both companies have great customer service.  I designed graphics, developed copy, and integrated event information for a one-stop-walk-a-thon-shop.  The site went live,  attracting hundreds of registrants in time for the big day.   Students sent personal emails to family and friends appealing to their compassion.  Teachers began to take notice, and the class and individual leader boards attracted repeat visitors.  Adding a “share” widget promoted the spread to social networks. Facebook became the #1 referral site, ahead of the school home page. Thank you Google Analytics for this data!

The proof is in the pudding.  Participants requesting pledges online received 3x the pledges of those doing it the “old way”.    Make it easy, make it personal, and take credit cards. Success!

Reprinted with permission from http://yappergirl.wordpress.com – Bringing online fundraising to non-profits.