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Predictions: How the Internet will Affect Nonprofits in 2004

January 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP eWire - Jan. 12, 2004) - The Internet can be a tremendous communication tool for all nonprofits, but are you using its full potential? Do you know how to integrate the Internet into your fundraising plan?

Ten predictions about the Internet and its impact on nonprofits for 2004 were presented at the end of December in the newsletter e-fund News!, the newsletter of LLC, Warrenton, Va., an Internet direct marketing agency for nonprofit organizations and associations. Rick Christ, president of and newsletter editor, talked about some of the predictions recently with eWire.

More nonprofits will do more acquisition online. More nonprofits will look to the Internet to generate new supporters, Christ said. However, nonprofits need to have good websites with relevant and updated information.

'It really is a fair process on how you rank on a search engine,' Christ said.

Simply put, if your website does not have enough content about the area that is searched for, your site won't rank high in the search results and it won't attract visitors this way. Internet users rarely check the second page of their search results, let alone the third or seventh pages, Christ said.

Another way to be highlighted on search engines is through 'keyword buys,' short two-line advertisements that appear on the right side of a page of search results.

After the recent earthquake in Bam, Iran, nonprofits did not have enough time to raise money through a direct mail campaign, and they could only email people whose email addresses they had. But by purchasing keyword buys nonprofits could reach those people who were directly seeking out ways to help. A search of 'Bam' on Google brings up ads about donating to earthquake relief through UNICEF, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Islamic Aid.

Nonprofits, particularly advocacy organizations, can also develop clever banner ads. Christ thinks this will increase in 2004. However, while banner ads are relatively inexpensive now, online retail did well in the last quarter, Christ said, and if that continues, ad prices will increase, freezing out some nonprofits.

Nonprofits who actually ask for money online will get lots more of it. Too many nonprofits are afraid to make hard asks for money in an email, Christ said. Nonprofits may have donation pages or 'donate now' buttons on their website, but they need to ask people to use them. Sending a simple email to supporters, announcing an urgent need and asking for money, is a 'brilliant' strategy that works, Christ said.

There will be more spam and more regulation of the Internet in 2004. After easy passage of the new Can-Spam Act (S. 877), lawmakers will continue their regulation of spam, as the abundance of spam only increases. Can-Spam makes it unlawful to send unsolicited commercial emails and requires organizations to give recipients an opportunity to opt out of receiving further emails.

Spam also affects whether potential donors will even see nonprofit appeals. Spam filters are becoming more sophisticated, and more nonprofit emails are being caught as spam mail, Christ said. In addition, as people become more fed up with spam, their trigger fingers hit delete more often, sometimes deleting legitimate messages from organizations they are connected to.

In addition, board members and executive directors afraid of new spam laws may try to reign in marketing and development professionals from using email to connect with potential donors, Christ said.

For many nonprofits, the Internet will no longer be a separate channel of fundraising but will become integrated into overall development campaigns. The Internet is a communication channel for the entire organization, not just a type of giving, and your organization's website should involve major giving, annual giving, planned giving, donor stewardship and capital campaigns, Christ said.

Christ will teach development professionals how to evaluate and improve their nonprofit websites during the next AFP Audioconference. This Wednesday, Jan. 14, he will present 'The Internet Fundraising Audit: Making Your Website Work With Your Fundraising Plan.' The Audioconference will show you how to evaluate your website by gathering and comparing monthly statistics, perusing your website with different browsers, thinking about who is visiting the site and considering various design issues.

You'll also take home handy tips on how to improve your site by adding such aspects as a search tool, more donor testimonials and more interactive components.

For more information on the Audioconference, visit The Internet Fundraising Audit: Making Your Website Work With Your Fundraising Plan. For more information on and e-fund News!, visit the website.

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