During my 20-plus years as a fund-raising consultant, I have helped nonprofit organizations in Orange County and elsewhere raise millions of dollars for capital campaigns, endowment drives, end-of-the-year appeals and more. Since I started raising money in the mid-1970s, the rules have changed considerably. What was once unheard of is commonplace. Take, for example, corporations advertising on public broadcasting stations or universities that aggressively encourage alums to use affinity credit cards as a means of raising extra income. These fund-raising innovations have been good for everyone involved with nonprofits--donors, trustees and staff alike.
I am convinced the Internet will become a powerful fund-raising tool within the next year or two. Here's why:
First, the Internet is doubling in size every year.
Second, sales volume over the Internet is exploding. Last year, electronic commerce generated $8 billion worldwide.
The Internet is creating a paradigm shift in the way people shop, work, learn and play. Savvy leaders of nonprofits need to position their organizations now in order to reap enormous fund-raising rewards a year or two down the line.
Depending on the number of supporters a nonprofit has, considerable monthly cash flows (that is, commission checks) can be generated on a number of interrelated products and services. These include basic Internet service, Web pages, local and long distance telephone service, 888 numbers, find me/follow me software programs, network computers that plug into the television and much, much more.
I have been "talking up" the Internet with leaders of nonprofits for a year. A number of them represent health organizations, hospitals, art museums or community school foundations. In the beginning, some felt the Internet was simply too technical and that only computer experts would take advantage of this new medium. Now, it is clear the Internet is quickly becoming the world's most effective way to link people.
Virtually all of those wanting to learn more about the Internet and its fund-raising potential are nontechnical users. They are among the 25% of the population just now starting to send e-mail, access reports or buy airline tickets on the Web. Think what will happen when the remaining 75% of the population gets connected to the Internet.
Like the PBS purists who resisted corporate advertising more than 20 years ago, many nonprofit leaders will reject the Internet as a fund-raising tool. Most will accept it, and a few will embrace it enthusiastically. To those who turn their backs on the Internet, I say good luck with your traditional fund-raising efforts. The net proceeds from your black-tie galas, endowment drives and end-of-the-year appeals most likely will help your organization grow at a rate of 2% to 4% a year.
To those who get on board the Internet now, I say hold onto your hats. You are in for a fantastic, Internet-based fund-raising ride.