Online Fundraising: Prospects And Challenges For Africa

OnlineThe art of raising money to support a cause, be it social, economic, religious, etc.,  is very widespread and has been with us for a very long time.

Fundraisers have used all kinds of tools ranging from face-to-face meetings, telephone solicitations, special events, direct mail, and other strategies to solicit for funding. With the advent of the Internet however, fundraisers are resorting to this new method of financial solicitation.

The use of Internet-based technology by organisations (mainly non-profit as well as political institutions) to raise money in support of their activities or projects has now become a standard method of raising financial resources.

Online fundraising is increasingly becoming more popular.  A survey conducted at the 23rd international fundraising conference held in The Netherlands found that 20 per cent of Britons and more than half of Germans under the age of 40 selected online fundraising as their preferred method of giving funds to organizations.

Madeline Stanionis, author of Raising Thousands (if Not Tens of Thousands) of Dollars maintains that online fundraising is here to stay and provides ten tips to get one’s  programme started and on its way to success. Adam Corson-Finnerty and Laura Blanchard, authors of Fundraising and Friend-Raising on the Web, have put together a collection of online fundraising resources.

Organisations resorting to this method of raising funds are now translating traditional fundraising methods to the online environment. For example, most organizations resorting to online fundraising begin by developing a simple website which makes it possible for prospective donors to give funds. By visiting such websites, prospective donors select a payment option.

With the advent of web 2 technologies such as blogs, community networking, and social peer groups, online fundraising has moved to a different level.  The term, Electronic Constituent Relationship Management (ECRM) is now used to describe this new form of online fundraising.

Politicians have found online fundraising to be one of the most practical and cost-effective ways of raising funds.  The software industry has responding to this emerging field by developing web-based fundraising software to facilitate growth in online fundraising. One such software is DonorPerfect online fundraising software. It provides a fundraising management solution to raise money and manage constituents relationships.

Websites have been developed to provide online resources to potential fundraisers. For example, CharityUSA.org, Firstgiving.com, Rphilanthropyfoundation.org and Givetocharity.com have been developed as one-stop sources of information and resources for Nonprofit organisations seeking to raise money online. Also, GiveMeaning.com is an online fundraising site emphasizing creative fundraising ideas and other unique forms of charity donation.

In addition, charity malls or portals, online fundraising services that return a commission to an organisation when members or supporters make online shopping purchases through their network of online stores have emerged to support this cause. Networkforgood.org, 4charity.com, Greatergood..com, and Groundspring.org are some of the popular charity portals who raise money on behalf of non-profit organizations.

Online fundraising has several advantages over traditional fundraising. With this approach, it is possible for prospective donors to read more about soliciting organizations and the cause for which money is being solicited. Also, prospective donors could be asked to sign a petition to support a particular cause.

Additionally, a video clip about the organization and its commitment to the cause could be placed on line for prospective donors to view. Donors could be asked to download and forward the clip to other prospective donors who are likely to support the fundraising cause.

To achieve the above objectives using traditional fundraising techniques will increase costs and may not be practical in all instances.

Online fundraising saves money. The cost of postage and mailing is eliminated through this mechanism. Due to its global nature, one is able to reach a larger constituent using the Internet to raise funds. Thus, one is able to receive donations outside one’s traditional fundraising reach.

Africa is beginning to discover the value of soliciting funds through the Internet. A number of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have created websites and are actively employing this technique to raise money in support of their projects.  But, our success to raise money online will be limited if we fail to address certain fundamental challenges.

First is access to the Internet.  Access in most African countries is limited to the major cities. Thus, the majority of people who live in rural communities have very limited access to the Internet. Besides, connectivity charges tend to be higher in Africa than in the West.

Training in designing an effective online fundraising campaign is crucial to the success of online fundraising. Online fundraisers would have to be trained in the art of developing strategies for effective online fundraising.

Online payment is another major challenge. Unlike the West where the use of credit cards is very widespread, Africa is still exploring effective ways to receive payments online. Without an effective online payment, using online fundraising strategies will achieve limited success.

While it is true that online fundraising will never replace traditional fundraising, its creates new opportunities for organisations to raise money to support their causes. - Dr. Osei K

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