Charity Badges: Turn Your Supporters into Fundraisers

Charity Badges: Turn Your Supporters into Fundraisers

Widgets offer an easy, free way to spread fundraising campaigns

By: Brian Satterfield

March 2, 2007

Publicizing an online fundraising campaign can be time-consuming, often requiring your organization's staff to spend hours emailing potential donors, updating your Web site, and posting to online discussion boards. But what if there were an easy, low-maintenance way to get your supporters involved in spreading the word about your campaign? And what if it were free? If this sounds like an appealing prospect, you may want to learn more about charity badges.

Turning Supporters into Fundraisers

Charity badges — also known as fundraising widgets — are small graphic modules (similar in appearance to online banner ads) designed to help individuals and nonprofits raise funds online. Charity badges solicit donations for a specific cause or organization and can be posted to Web sites, blogs, and social networking pages. They can also easily be repurposed by other bloggers and site owners who are interested in supporting your cause.

Beth Kanter, a nonprofit technology consultant and blogger who has spearheaded several successful charity-badge fundraising campaigns, thinks that offering others a way to quickly add your charity badge to their own blog or Web site is one of the technology's most powerful aspects.

"[A charity badge] allows individual people to be the fundraisers for the organization," Kanter said. "To me, it's really exciting, because you can raise more."

The Components of a Charity Badge

An example of a charity badge.

Though not all charity badges look the same, they have all been created for the same purpose. As such, most of them share a few common features.

A charity badge's most important element is a button or link that takes a site or blog visitor to a page where she can donate money. Charity badges also typically include a short description of the cause or organization it helps fund, the number of donations it has already generated, and the total amount of money it has raised. Finally, charity badges often feature some type of visual element, such as a photo of the people the money will benefit or the logo of the organization the badge is helping.

Most charity badges feature an icon or button labeled "Copy" or something similar; when a visitor clicks this button, the badge's HTML code is automatically generated. The visitor can then simply copy and paste the code into his own site or blog, exposing the badge, and the fundraising campaign, to an entirely new audience.

How Your Organization Can Create a Charity Badge

Although creating a charity badge might initially sound daunting, you don't need extensive technical skills in order to create one for your organization's Web site or blog. Online services such as Network for Good, ChipIn, and Firstgiving allow nonprofits and individuals to build free charity badges simply by creating an account, filling out a questionnaire, and uploading graphics to a Web site. Though your charity badge can be embedded on an infinite number of sites and blogs, these services store the actual badge itself on their servers, allowing you to save space on yours.


ChipIn offers two systems for creating charity badges: one for the general public and one designed specifically for nonprofits.

While the public service requires you to collect funds via PayPal, ChipIn for Nonprofits also allows you to receive donations by check or direct deposit. If you choose the latter options, ChipIn will take a 3.9 percent of all proceeds in the form of an administrative fee. PayPal, by contrast, may retain anywhere from a 1.9 to 4.9 percent transaction fee of the total donations you receive. For more information on PayPal's service charges, see its official fees page.

ChipIn's public service allows individuals to give their charity badge a name, set a time limit for the fundraising campaign, and specify how much money they hope to raise. Badges can be created in one of five color schemes and in a number of different sizes. While all of the badges display the fundraising campaign's title, ending date, and percentage of the total goal raised to date, the larger sizes include additional information, such as a meter visually depicting the money raised to date and a description of your cause.

Once you've created a ChipIn badge, you may choose a social networking or blogging platform where you wish to publish it. So if, for example, you want to place your charity badge on your MySpace page, you'd simply click the MySpace link to generate the badge's HTML code, then follow ChipIn's instructions to embed it in your profile. You'll also find an option for generating badge code for your own Web site; if you don't have your own site, ChipIn will allow you to host it on its site free of charge.

In addition to offering more fund-collection choices than its public service, ChipIn for Nonprofits also allows for a greater degree of badge customization than its public service. For instance, ChipIn for Nonprofits lets organizations add photos and graphics to their badges, change the badge's color scheme to match their Web site, and link to videos related to the cause they're supporting.

Network for Good

Network for Good, a service that helps nonprofits raise funds and find volunteers, offers a charity badge program through periodic fundraising contests in partnership with large companies and public figures.

For example, in late 2006, Network for Good partnered with Yahoo in a charity-badge contest, in which the organization whose badge raised the most money would receive up to $50,000 from Yahoo. Currently, Network for Good is holding a charity-badge contest called Six Degrees, which offers matching grants of up to $10,000 to each of the six organizations whose badges raise the most money between January 18 and March 31, 2007.

With Network for Good, the money earned through your charity badges is deposited directly into your nonprofit's bank account once a month. To help cover transaction costs, Network for Good charges a 4.75-percent tax-deductible fee for credit card transactions; donors can either choose to cover this fee themselves or have it deducted from the donation.

When creating a Network for Good charity badge, you simply enter a blurb about the cause or nonprofit being supported, then upload a photo or graphic from your computer. If you like, you can also place a link to a video on your badge. You then create a badge for your own nonprofit, or you can create a badge that supports any charity listed in the GuideStar database of registered 501(c)3 nonprofits.

After you add the nonprofit to your badge, choose between a green or black color scheme, and copy and paste the HTML code into your site or blog. Though Six Degrees charity badges do not come in different sizes, they do provide a link that allows others to add the badge to their own site.


Web-based fundraising service Firstgiving also offers free charity badges, though in order to get one, you'll have to also create a fundraising page on the Firstgiving site. While your organization or its supporters can create a Firstgiving page for free, the service will deduct a 7.35 percent transaction fee on all donations before it transfers funds to your bank account.

Firstgiving allows you to set a time limit for your fundraising campaign, from as little as one month to as long as one year. Firstgiving charity badges display the name of the person raising money, the amount of funds they hope to raise, and a meter showing the campaign's progress. However, unlike ChipIn and Network for Good charity badges, Firstgiving widgets do not offer a button that allows other users to quickly repurpose them.

Though Firstgiving fundraising pages can be personalized with text and images, the charity badges themselves cannot be customized with different color schemes, photos, or graphics. However, Firstgiving does offer four pre-built badge styles in a few different sizes and colors; you simply find the style you want, then copy and paste accompanying HTML code on your Web site or blog.

Successful Charity Badge Campaigns

In the course of just three weeks in late 2006, The Sharing Foundation, a nonprofit working to improve the lives of disadvantaged and orphaned Cambodian children, used a charity badge to raise nearly $100,000.

Led by the efforts of Beth Kanter, the Sharing Foundation's first experience with a charity badge was somewhat of an experiment. When Kanter, who sits on the Sharing Foundation's board, received an email about ChipIn's beta launch, she decided to see if she could use a widget to help raise funds to send a Cambodian orphan named Leng Sopharath to college.

As Kanter recounts in this case study (written at ChipIn's request), she first defined the specific cause her charity badge would support before deciding on a realistic goal of raising $750 in seven weeks. Kanter then launched the campaign by reaching out to her online and offline contacts, posting in her blog, and uploading photos of Leng Sopharath to the Web. She even produced a series of videos, one of which explained to viewers how to post the badge on their own sites or blogs.

In two weeks, Kanter's charity badge raised more than $880 for Leng Sopharath. Additionally, a dozen of the donors had posted the badge on their blogs, as did an additional 12 bloggers from around the Internet.

When Network for Good and Yahoo announced their aforementioned charity badge contest in December 2006, Kanter decide to build on what she'd learned from the Leng Sopharath campaign to attempt to win the contest and the $50,000 prize. To accomplish this ambitious goal, Kanter enlisted the help of The Sharing Foundation's volunteers and board members.

Besides posting the charity badge on the Sharing Foundation's site and her own blog, Kanter also asked a few other bloggers to repost the widget on their sites. In addition, the Sharing Foundation's volunteers and board members also sent emails about the campaign to their supporters and asked that they forward it to their friends and colleagues.

In addition to its online efforts, The Sharing Foundation also helped spread the word by conducting offline outreach. Kanter recalled how the organization's founder took her laptop around her apartment complex asking neighbors to contribute; Kanter's husband did the same thing at his office holiday party.

As the contest neared its end on December 31, 2006, The Sharing Foundation was running neck and neck with another organization for first place. Kanter believes that the close race helped The Sharing Foundation's badge raise quite a bit of money at the last minute. "The competition aspect was really motivating," she said. The Sharing Foundation eventually won the contest, with more than $49,000 raised from nearly 800 donors.

Kanter believes that nonprofits and individuals interested in using charity badges to raise money should first have a least some experience raising funds online before they dive into this new technology. She also advises organizations that launch a charity badge campaign to start small.

"As long as you have the basic strategy in place, start with a low-risk experiment with a smaller goal," Kanter said.

Using MySpace to Increase a Charity Badge's Reach

Saving Shelter Pets (SSP) — a nonprofit organization working to rescue animals from shelters — is currently participating in Network for Good's Six Degrees contest and has raised nearly $4,000 in the course of a month. According to SSP's CEO Jamie Marfurt, the organization already conducts a substantial portion of its fundraising efforts online, so the decision to participate in the charity badge contest was a logical one.

"Outreach via the Internet is already a fundamental course of action that Saving Shelter Pets uses for its fundraising," said Marfurt "so this effort is a natural extension of what we do anyway."

Marfurt called the badge-creation process "pretty simple," and explained that SPP placed the badge on its Web site's home page so it would be the first thing that visitors see. The organization helped spread the word about the contest by creating a post in its site's forums and encouraging supporters to pass the badge's HTML code on to their network of contacts.

"We specifically asked our supporters to help Saving Shelter Pets by promoting the badge with their family and friends," said Marfurt, "and [we] gave them the HTML code to make it easy for them to do so."

SSP's MySpace page has also played a prominent role in helping the organization spread its charity badge campaign around the Web. "In our experience, we have found that the network opportunity on MySpace is fabulous," said Marfurt.

Marfurt explained that SSP regularly discusses the charity badge contest in its MySpace blog. The organization also encourages its MySpace friends and visitors to publicize its charity badge by providing them with the widget's HTML code and link, as well as text they can paste into their email signatures. According to Marfurt, SSP's networking efforts seem to be yielding positive results. "We have heard from a number of MySpace friends that they have posted the Saving Shelter Pets badge and contest info on their Web sites and their MySpace pages," said Marfurt.

Marfurt praises charity badges for their cost-effectiveness, environmental friendliness, and ease of use, but also echoes Kanter's sentiment that a widget's ability to spread across the Web may be the technology's most promising aspect.

"Networking is a crucial element of successful online fundraising," said Marfurt, "and charity badges make it easy to communicate and promote your fundraising activities."

About the Author:

Brian Satterfield is Staff Writer at TechSoup.


Faith (for Content):