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Expand Your Mail Campaigns Into Web Campaigns...And Other Online Tips

Resource Center - Foundation

(Jan. 12, 2009)  Do you believe that your organization is not sophisticated enough to enter the world of online giving?  Think again.

Not only can you likely achieve more on the web than you currently are, but if you track your successes, you’ll learn how better to reach your constituents.

Valerie Lambert, assistant director of development at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth, has experience with fundraising shops both large and small. She has several creative ways to move donors online, whether you have the capacity to email hundreds of thousands of people at once or still run a direct mail-only campaign.

Lambert will be speaking at the AFP International Conference on Fundraising on Tuesday, March 31, at 8 a.m. She will present How to Incorporate Online Giving With Your Annual Fund…And Track It! (Session AG5). Click here for conference details.

From Mailbox to Inbox

In addition to having a Donate Now button prominently located “above the fold” on your website, most important, Lambert explains, is to have several distinct hyperlinks that are meaningful to the donor, such as “You don’t want the URL to look like something devised by the IT department and have nothing to do with fund raising or marketing,” she explains. “It needs to be short, memorable and related to what you are asking the constituent to do, or to the mission of the organization, such as feeding children or providing scholarships.”

The reason for several hyperlinks, according to Lambert, is to track different appeals. While all of her online giving forms are simply replicas of each other, the various hyperlinks correlate to different mailings or e-mail appeals. When donors give online, she then knows if they responded to a spring mailing, an annual report, or a fiscal year-end email, etc. Each appeal has a separate mail code as well, so she knows how much income was from funds via mail vs. the web.

Additional tips:

  • Include the direct hyperlink in all portions of direct mail pieces: in the letter (P.S. recommended), the reply card and near the stamp corner on the return envelope, encouraging people to “go green and go online” instead of mailing their donation.
  • Print your appeal code on both the reply card and the return envelope, since donors often mail contributions with one and not the other. This will improve tracking of gifts.
  • Always track two appeal codes (mail and web) separately for mail appeals, but consider tracking a third code for gifts made by phone if you get many such donations. (You simply ask, “And what prompted you to give today?”)
  • Don’t assume that people are either mail or web donors, regardless of their age. Studies have shown that most people use both—and higher average gifts come from a cross-pollination marketing approach.
  • Analyze your data after each appeal and find your successes as well as your shortcomings. Every appeal has them. Whether or not you made more overall income, there are successes. Did you have a higher average gift? Splice out renewals and acquisitions, etc., and look at those pieces of the pie. Perhaps the percentages of the whole are increasing, decreasing or the overall contributions are better in one area or the other. Know your trends!
  • Use your data to lobby for trying new (or more of the same) things. Opinions don’t win debates, but facts often do. You should stop doing what doesn’t work for your organization and invest more in what does work, but you won’t know until you collect and analyze your data.

For a small sample of Lambert’s upcoming AFP conference session, go to

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