20 October 2005
A recent survey* that suggested that the charity sector is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Internet as a fundraising tool. However, this is at odds with the experience of a leading medical charity.
The survey found that only 18% of medium sized charities now believe that the Internet is helping them to reach new audiences – a drop from 42% just five years ago.
However, Action Medical Research says that this flagging enthusiasm may come from the realisation that a charity website is not a quick fix, instant solution for donor recruitment, but it does offer new channels to develop traditional fundraising methods such as sponsorship.
The charity, which has seen dramatic increases in traffic, online donations and sponsorship, says that the key to success online is to plan for the long term.
In the last year, the website overall has seen an increase of nearly 60% in unique visitors each month, and much of this can be attributed to the online sponsorship pages, which are part of the main site.
The pages not only offer participants in challenge events such as the Flora London Marathon or the London to Paris Bike Ride a chance to set up an online donation account, but also provide bulletin boards for people to discuss their training for an event, and provide a strong sense of community among the participants that increases their motivation.
Because all of this useful content is housed within the main charity site, new visitors can be generated every day, and not just the people signing up to events, but also all their sponsors.
Melanie Dickie, who has taken part in the London to Paris Bike Ride with Action Medical Research for the last two years, said:
“An online account is a great way to let people know what you’re doing for charity, and makes it really easy to provide support. In the last two years, I’ve raised nearly £4000 online, it’s much easier than trying to hand out a sponsorship form, quicker than making lots of telephone calls, and your sponsors have a chance to find out as much information about the charity as they wish.”
Based on open source software, the Action Medical Research website is maintained and developed in-house, a strategy which is unusual for a medium sized charity, but one which is paying dividends.
Saïd Dajani, web editor for Action Medical Research said:
“As we have seen in the commercial sector, the fastest initial growth in Internet business comes in the online delivery of existing products or services – for charities, this obvious candidate is sponsorship. The Internet is nor going to go away, and charities containing their website to straightforward information provision are missing a great opportunity to fundraise and increase their audience.”
Like the website, all challenge events are managed in-house, and the Action Medical Research Events team are passionate about encouraging their participants to sign up online, start a sponsorship account and make use of all the resources the website offers.
Amanda Borg, head of Challenge Events for the Charity stated:
”We always encourage people to open an online sponsorship account. Although people do still collect some of their sponsorship face to face in the traditional way, increasingly people are finding that an online sponsorship account can save time, allow you to speak to more people about the challenge you’re taking on, and the secure direct debit facility provides friends and family with an easy way to provide support.”
An online sponsorship account offers many advantages to anyone taking part in a charity event – it’s easy to distribute the page widely using a link in an email, people can sponsor using credit or debit cards, which often increases the average amount of sponsorship, and for charities who keep the system in-house, it can be the shop window they use to encourage newcomers to the site to find out more about the charity. For these reasons, Action Medical Research has seen a 162% increase in income generated through online sponsorship in the past year.
At present, only 50% of charities offer online sponsorship, and most of these make use of external sites but with such clear growth potential, and with more and more people getting online every day, it can’t be long before charity websites branch out from supporter communications to online marketing, and make moves to carry out more of their business there.
*nfp Synergy Survey.