Online fundraising programs are presenting new and effective ways for nonprofit organizations to raise more money and reach a wider audience more than ever, especially when integrated with other nonprofit organization communications efforts. In recent years though, organizations have found that more than just a simple donate now button linked from an email is needed to get the attention of information-overloaded supporters who are spending more and more time online – and being bombarded with more messages, online invitations and digital marketing than ever before.
Numerous noteworthy campaigns have surfaced as of late, breaking through the clutter and compelling online users to not only donate but also attaching a tangible element to the somewhat general act of donating online. Mission inspired gifts specifically, or using ecommerce to allow supporters to “purchase” certain tangible objects that reflect what funds are used for in supporting an organization’s mission, have proven to be an effective way of harnessing these elements in raising funds online. (These are often referred to as gift catalogues, as well)
After hearing about this webinar next week with Common Knowledge, Defenders of Wildlife, Operation Smile and Sierra Club sharing their strategy, program concepts and best practices for implementing gift catalogues, I was inspired to dig around and make a list of 10 noteworthy campaigns using this concept.
1. Oxfam Unwrapped – Oxfam is well-known for working to end poverty and injustice worldwide, but wanted to find a way to show how the money supporters donated went to provide simple things to people, villages and movements around the globe. Not only can you buy, well in family friendly terms manure, but you can also see a number of other items at incrementally larger price points that make various different impacts. They’ve also done a great jobs on including descriptions for each item in their ecommerce store on hoe exactly that item helps a specific need. For example: if you purchase to “train a midwife” it tells you this “Help[s] train a midwife working in rural communities to provide prenatal care and birthing support to pregnant women.
2. Defenders of Wildlife Adoption and Gift Center – Here you can adopt animals from Sea Otters to Tigers to Snowy Owls. They take the idea of the emotional tie people feel when seeing pictures of (yes cute) animals and allow them to actually “adopt” the animal of a supporter’s choice to illustrate how that person’s money is helping to save the lives and well-being of creatures shown in the ecommerce store.
3. International Fund for Animal Welfare– Similar to Defenders above, IFAW also allows for donations to provide “the gist of life” for seals, bear cubs and cats and dogs. Their clean interface and beautiful photography is inspiring to browse, and the offer of tangible gifts like stuffed animals of the breed you are supporting add additional incentive to participate in the program.
4. The Nature Conservancy– The ecommerce offerings of the organization highlights a ton of “gifts” including adopting reefs, trees, habitats for hummingbirds and jaguars – things similar to the organizations above. But they take the offering one step further by presenting the option to literally adopt an acre of land in areas all over the world. See the example of Australia. Think of all the locations around the entire planet that are important to people that they can now personally impact.
5. Sierra Club Sponsor a Wild Place– Sierra Club takes a mix of the elements above, using ecommerce to sell virtual sponsorships of locations as well as adding an incentive of gifts supporters receive when donating. To all the animal lovers out there: who wouldn’t love a little stuffed animal or photo of the location you helped save?
6. Seva Foundation Gifts of Service– Putting compassion and caring to work with supporter donations, the Seva Foundation ecommerce items include restoring sight to a blind person, money for projects that alleviate suffering caused by poverty and disease and providing human rights and medical support to women and girls.
7. The Red Campaign– Known for tying their mission of ending AIDS in Africa into contemporary brand’s marketing and entertainment projects, The Red Campaign offers a more mainstream way of supporting the organization. Supporters, or even online consumers, can purchase actual consumer products like a customized pair of Converse sneakers, red “Beats By Dre” Monster headphones or a red iPod nano with proceeds benefiting the organization. The beauty of this campaign? All of the ecommerce items are popular items consumers are purchasing anyways, so by adding a personalized or unique branding element, the campaign benefits from something online consumers were probably already planning to purchase.
8. National Geographic– Organizing elements of their site by the missions they support, NatGeo supporters can purchase personal items through their online ecommerce store, knowing that each purchase they make helps support the various missions. Like the Red Campaign, consumer goods (typically NatGeo branded) can be bought to add value to the buyer while also benefitting critical expeditions or scientific fieldwork.
9. Save the Turtles– With an emphasis on branded clothing, Save the Turtles makes being an advocate of the cause both fulfilling for a supporter, but also smart for the organization in that supporters will likely publicly support their cause throughout the year when wearing apparel marketing the cause.
10. Operation Smile– “Life-changing” gifts fill the online catalogue for Operation Smile. Antibiotics for 10 kids, equipping a volunteer surgeon and children’s pain medication are just a few items for “sale” that literally help to make the efforts the organization make on daily basis to change the lives of children around the world for the better.
Each of the above exemplify creative and powerful ways to connect the mission of an organization to the emotional (and yes, sometimes materialistic) ties of supporters, helping to drive crucial funding in ways that resonate with donors. If you’re interested in learning more about how some of the above organizations are designing and implementing these programs, don’t miss next Tuesday’s webinar outlining gift catalogue examples and tips.
*And as a bonus, as our “transmedia specialist” Josh points out not to forget Newman’s Own!