Using the Internet to Raise Money
Number 18 - October 2007
The explosion in social media on the internet has been creatively adapted by some organisations to raise funds for their projects. The web can give you fast, cheap access to a niche audience of people who are interested in your work and this can be leveraged to mutual advantage.
Assess Your Resources
A website is like having a shop or house - its a place where you can put things on display and you can sublet some of the space to other people and thus make money. So if you have a website, you can use it to generate income.
If you don't have a website, don't despair! There are many ways to find income sources on the net without having your own site, and you can accept payments by email using Paypal.
Examples of Ways to Raise Money on the Net
If you have a website:
- Affiliate Schemes such as the one BGCI has with Amazon.co.uk. We place ads for relevant Amazon products on our website, and when someone buys from Amazon via our link, we get a commission. You can also offer an affiliate scheme to other people - they place links to your site on their website, and they earn commission if you get any business from the ad.
- Sell advertising space - Google ads are available to anyone who wants to put them on their site, or you could negotiate with local businesses, or contact an agent offering space on your site. You will need to demonstrate how many visitors you get - free site statistics are available using Google Analytics.
- Ask for donations! You can use Paypal to accept donations, this is probably the easiest way to handle transactions on the net. Other trusted payment systems include WorldPay and Google Checkout
- Open an online shop - you can pay for a package or use free software
- Create your own Google ads to advertise your site - charities do not have to pay for their ads
If you don't have a website:
- Join a social media site and create an interest group where people can come to learn about an issue and donate to your campaign. Glasgow Botanic Garden is using social media to get support on a planning issue.
- Sign up to one of the many schemes that make donations to charities. Examples include Benevolus.com, and donation search engines like SearchKindly
- Use one of the Charity fundraising sites set up for the purpose such as Justgiving.com, DonorsChoose.org
- If you use Windows Messenger (MSN) you can add a donations feature
- If you want to sell things, you can use ebay or Amazon, sell your own branded goods at CafePress
- If you make videos, you can use Revver to generate income
- You can start a blog and allow ads to be placed on it. This will only generate meaningful income if you have something really interesting to say! Blogging begins with Wordpress or Blogger or one of those.
- You could even join Second Life - that's a whole new world where some charities have been successful. Such as Save the Children, who sold virtual yaks to raise awareness and generate money.
- Make a video and put it on YouTube to raise awareness
Dangers to Look Out For
- The main problem on the internet is that there is so much of it. So you risk being overwhelmed by information and getting internet fatigue, or simply scattering your energies too thinly. (I speak from experience!) The key to deal with this is to set a limit to how long you will spend on research. Once you have spent that time, stop researching and pick which methods you are going to try. Set some targets, then get started and allow your ideas to evolve slowly and learn as you do.
- Spam is an ever present irritation. If you start getting too much spam, there is only one solution: you have to get a new email address. You can reduce this risk by not giving an email address explicitly. You can use a form instead for people to contact you, or you can write your address out in words eg "info at bgci.org"
- Fraud is pretty rare and the payment systems I have mentioned are very reputable and have many strong mechanisms to prevent this problem. The only way to completely eliminate this risk is not to get involved. its your call. Paypal's Security Centre and Wikipedia might help you to assess the risks.
Pointers for Doing it the Sensible Way
- Do your research - look at other people's methods (try the links above and do your own search) and get a feel for the options
- Think clearly about your goals and write a short plan - it will be easier for you to communicate your goals and to know whether you have been successful.
- Keep it simple - just do one or two things at a time to start with. Asking for donations or using a fundraising website is probably the most effective way to start off with. Advertising generates very low revenues unless you are a really big website.
The Two-Hour Plan for Getting Started Right Away
If you do not have a process for income to flow towards you on the internet, I have invented a very simple method for you to follow right now. (It's designed for people who just want donations for a specific project, so if you have something to sell or a more complex requirement please ignore this method.)
I recommend you to follow the Sensible steps above but if you are new to all this and just want to get on with it, try this. It should take about two hours to set up. You need to have an email address.
- Open a Paypal account - You will need to look at the 'Merchant' options on Paypal's site and choose what's best for you. You don't have to have a website to receive money by Paypal.
- Put the Paypal logo on your website (if you have one)
- or open a blog if you don't, and put the logo on there. You might prefer to sign up with one of the fundraising sites if blogging is not suitable or sustainable for you.
- Say on the Blog/website what you want the money for
- Email the blog address to all your contacts and send the link to other websites to advertise it.
- Take a look at the resources above and investigate how you can build on your beginnings
- Keep promoting the link and learning about other routes for income to flow towards you.
These are just a few pointers to get you started, you will find plenty more info out there but the best way to learn is to just do it!