The Internet provides activist organizations with new ways of communicating with members, recruiting new members, and soliciting contributions. With some exceptions, Internet membership building and fundraising activities will mostly have an incremental effect in the short run, and it is too early to predict what will occur in the long run. Organizations that start now to integrate an online presence into existing activities will be in the best position to capitalize on the technology as it evolves.
Know your organization's mission and understand your members before trying to identify online strategies that enhance your organization's work. Do your members need to know the latest information about AIDS treatment? A daily email newsletter that summarizes developments in AIDS treatment and provides pointers to more detailed reports on the Web might be a useful supplement to your other communications. Does your organization offer a support group for parents of children with diabetes? An email discussion list could supplement the group's weekly meeting.
A free tool is available on the Web for non-profit organizations that need a membership database to track contributions and donor demographics. The tool is ebase, a database template that any nonprofit organization can adopt to its needs. In addition to its database functions, ebase can be used to print envelopes and mailing labels and generate customized merge letters, including personalized email messages to subsets of the organization's membership list. Manuals and online help are also available. The database was developed by Desktop Assistance with support from several foundations.
Copies can be downloaded from the Web at: http://www.ebase.org/
Many organizations are experimenting with cyberspace fundraising. Email solicitations are increasingly popular, especially as year-end appeals. And despite early concerns, these solicitations are not generating widespread complaints about spam. The key is to limit your online soliciting to those individuals who have already expressed an interest in your work, by becoming a member, joining a list service, or participating in an action or event that your organization sponsored.
Many organizations have set up membership forms on their Web sites. These efforts range from "bare bones" efforts that provide a postal address and encourage readers to send in a check, or sophisticated secure servers that enable the donor to use a credit card.
Three different examples of fundraising approaches:
Security should not be taken lightly on the net, especially when you are trusted with other people's financial information. It is not wise at this time to send your credit card information over the net without using some kind of secure methodology, be it encryption via PGP and/or use of a secure server. Many non-profit organizations house their Web sites on external site hosting providers, while others are in full control of all resources related to their Internet connectivity. Similarly, you may have the capability of implementing electronic commerce software on your server or through your host service provider to offer the security needed for credit card transactions. Alternatively, you may choose an intermediate service such as a trusted third party (such as First Virtual), funds transfer (such as CyberCash), digital cash (as it is), or an outside credit card processing firm to handle your transactions.
There are many different ways that organizations can fundraise on the Internet. Read How Can We Use the Internet for Fundraising? and Netaction Notes Click and give online and Profiting from non-profits for starters
Some websites match people who want to donate money with charities that are trying to raise money. Nonprofit organizations can register with these sites to find potential donors.
Fundsnet Services is a grants and fundraising portal.
There are also sites that will do the soliciting of donors for the organizations that are registered with it.
Other sites allow a certain portion of their profits to be donated to non-profit organizations.
For further information on non-profits and e-commerce, read this article from www.Benton.org
CyberCash is a secure payment technology that facilitates financial transactions between banks, financial institutions, transaction processors, merchants, and consumers. Consumers must first establish an account with CyberCash. Once they have done so, they can make purchases from participating merchants, and CyberCash collects a fee for processing the transaction.
Credit card processing firms, such as creditnet.com, facilitate financial transactions by providing a secure server through which the transaction is processed. This prevents the consumer's financial information from being read by any of the computers it goes through as the data travels from the customer's computer to the credit card company.
A third alternative is to encrypt, or code, the data so that it cannot be read as it travels over the Internet. Here is some background on PGP, one popular encryption technology.
Next: Part 5: Privacy, Copyright, and Censorship