You Don't Need a Web Site to Raise Funds on the Internet

You Don't Need a Web Site to Raise Funds on the Internet

Learn how to raise money through other methods

By: Rick Christ

December 8, 2000


This is the absolute best way to raise money. You MUST start collecting and using e-mail addresses now. Direct mail is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your Web site (when you're ready for that) or to promote any of the other fundraising opportunities I'm about to mention. Good lists of other e-mail addresses are very hard to find and won't work nearly as well as your own list (reminds you of direct mail, doesn't it? So, every time you're getting supporters to give you information, ask for their e-mail address and offer to keep them informed of your group's progress through e-mail. This includes reply forms from direct mail appeals, signup sheets from special events, membership applications, and any other time you ask for someone's phone number or address.

You must change your database to include e-mail addresses. Since some are very long, ( you need to allow at least 50 spaces in each record for e-mail addresses. You must also begin an e-mail newsletter, preparing a series of one or two paragraph stories about important events, successes, challenges. Each should conclude with a call toaction (send money, call a legislator, attend a meeting, e-mail for more information).

This one step is SO important that you need to stop reading this article, begin the process of collecting e-mail addresses, and modify your database BEFORE you move on to step two.

Online Charity Shoppping Malls:

If the culture of your organization allows, sign up for one or more online charity shopping malls. If you're even a novice web surfer, you've seen affiliate buttons on other people's sites (if not, go to and see the ones at the bottom of that page). It's there because, if you buy the book I recommend by clicking through to from my site, I get 15% of the book sale. Charity shopping malls are little more than collections of affiliate buttons that promise to share (usually half) of the commissions with the charity that the shopper designates. Your supporters are shopping somewhere already, why not have them shop online with you as beneficiary?

Choose carefully from among the over thirty malls that are available. More spring up literally every week. Even those of us who consult in this area can't keep up with their explosive growth. Some are aimed directly at certain kinds of non-profits, like schools. Others are open to any non-profit. Some actually charge to sign up, though most are free. Some offer a donation to you for each person that registers, even if they don't buy anything. Some include a variety of other services, such as the ability to process credit card donations to your group. Samples include,,, and

Most keep the names and addresses for their own promotion (though most do a lousy job at that, too) but some will share the names, if you ask, or allow you to e-mail those supporters. Another reason to check carefully.

Of course, these malls will generate a paltry some if you don't promote them to your user base, and encourage them to promote this kind of shopping to their friends. That's why I put e-mail as the first thing you need to do. (You DID start to collect e-mail addresses, didn't you?)

Online Charity Auctions:

If you already do a real-life charity auction, you need to explore expanding your auction to the web. You already do all the work of collecting the items you want to sell, and you promote the auction to everyone associated with your group, right? But you can only raise money from the people that show up.

If you take the same auction and run it concurrently on the internet, you'll be able to attract more enthusiasm from local supporters, as well as participation from more distant supporters. And you don't even have to feed them the spaghetti dinner first!

Generally, the online auction closes the day before the live auction, and the highest online bid becomes the opening live bid. If there are no higher bids, the online bidder wins. There are almost as many online charity auction sites as there are online shopping malls, so again careful evaluation is essential. Samples include,,, and

ISP's, Get Paid to Surf, and Viral E-mail programs that support charities:

Almost every business model for making money on the web has an angle that lets users donate part of that money to a worthy cause. Websites gain value and make money if lots of people see them. If you send your supporters to a website in return for money, the Web site gains from that traffic. At least two Internet Service Providers allow users to sign up and direct a portion of their monthly ISP cost to the charity of their choice. Let's face it, everybody hates their ISP equally, so why not switch to the ISP that will give $20 or even $60 to your favorite charity, just for switching?

There are various get-paid-to-surf sites, where you agree to have ads "served" to you while you are connected to the internet. At least one of them,, offers you the chance to donate that revenue to the non-profit of your choice.

Other firms recruit web users to attach advertisements to their outgoing e-mails. They offer a referral fee each time a recipient clicks on the attached link in the e-mail, or makes a purchase on the site that is linked. Web users who subscribe can elect to contribute a portion of their "earnings" to charity. Favemail and Epidemic are the two biggest players. Barnes & Noble has their own version called mybnlink, which allows users to direct their earnings to one of five preselected big-name charities.

How do you know which of these opportunities are right for you, and which are an online version of New Era Philanthropy? Fortunately, the web makes it easy to check on these firms. Most will tell you which non-profits are signed up. Talk to your colleagues, and monitor the discussion groups cybergifts (through Charity Channel) and online fundraising (Gilbert Foundation). Try some things, and have fun!

About the Author:

Rick Christ is President of NPAdvisors, a nonprofit that helps  organizations use the Internet for fundraising, education, advocacy, and communication.


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