A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Five Fundraising Tips from the charity:water September Campaign

From a fundraising perspective, one of the great successes of the last few years has been charity: water.  In five years the organization has evolved from a lean startup charity into a fundraising juggernaut that has raised millions online and provided potable water to an estimated two million people. 

The organization just rolled out its annual September campaign, which is their big fundraising push each year.  While charity: water clearly has more resources at its disposal than the average non-profit at this point, the fundamental set up of the campaign is something that any organization should be able to replicate. 

(1) Set a goal and a timeline.

The goal of this year’s September campaign is to raise $1,200,000 by the end of September.  On their site they include a real-time counter showing their progress in the campaign.


Setting clear goals like this and showing progress helps to make donors feel invested in the campaign and creates a sense of community.


Using the geo.position meta tag

When we recently released an updated version of our SEO Basics white paper, we added information about the geo.position meta tag.  Using this tag allows webmasters to let the search engines know where the organization is physically located by providing longitude and latitude data. 

This is a useful tool for location sensitive organizations, but it is not as helpful to all organizations.


Announcing Giving eCards

An increasing part of our work at The Bivings Group revolves around helping non-profits and political organizations fine tune their fundraising strategies.  This work has taught us that raising money is tough.  The down economy has created fierce competition for donor dollars, so organizations have to get creative in order for their solicitations to have an impact. 

Into this environment we’re pleased to launch Givings eCards, a new product that provides organizations with a creative and cost-effective way to raise money online.

An eCard is a personalized image and message that an organization’s supporters can send to their friends and family. Giving eCards allows your supporters to not only send a custom eCard through the site, but make a donation to your organization in someone’s name.

Here is how it works from an organizational perspective:

  1. Organizations sign up for a free account on www.givingecards.com.  When signing up, the organization reserves a custom URL for their Giving eCards page (www.givingecards.com/page_name).
  2. Once the account is created, organizations upload their custom designed eCards to their account. eCards can be categorized dynamically, allowing for sets of cards to be created for common occasions such as birthdays,the 4th of July, graduation, etc.
  3. Once the eCards are uploaded, the organization promotes their eCard page to their supporter base via email, social media, website links, etc.
  4. As supporters donate and send cards on behalf of friends and family, the money is automatically deposited into the Paypal account of the organization.  Giving eCards takes 5% of the amount raised on top of Paypal’s fees.
  5. Organizations can access and export all donor information from their Giving eCards control panel at any time.

We’re planning to launch the product in closed beta next week with a more complete roll out in July.  If you are interested in giving the product a whirl, please visit www.givingecards.com and sign up to request access to the beta.

Stay tuned….

eCards Organization Page


eCard Purchase Page


The Obama Site Wasn’t Always the Obama Site

Barack Obama’s 2008 web program is widely regarded as the most successful online campaign that has ever been run.  And the campaign site design is probably the most ripped off in history as well. 

People forget that the Obama campaign didn’t nail their site design right out of the gate.  It took them a while to get there.  See the screenshots below of www.barackobama.com in October 2007 and October 2008. 

Obama Site October 2007


Obama Site October 2008


As you’ll see, in October 2007 the Obama website design was kind of mediocre.  It was super cluttered.  There was no photo of the candidate.  The eye has no idea where to go. 

The Obama team took a look at their site and saw some things that weren’t working so they made changes, despite the fact their site had been up for less than a year.  They iterated and improved based on how people were actually using their site.  And eventually they nailed it.

This is a good reminder that a good website is never done.   There are always ways to make it better if you are paying attention.

Nonprofit Benchmarks 2011: Email

imageM+R Strategic Services and the Nonprofit Technology Network recently released its “2011 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study” covering a broad range of digital issues regarding NPOs. The study has a lot of great information that I intend to breakdown and analyze in a few manageable posts. Today, we’ll start with Email.

As many nonprofits know, a large, engaged email list is like gold. Crafting a simple email, sending to your supporters and watching the donations, petitions signatures, and/or website traffic roll in is like hitting an easy button for engagement. But, as most know, that sort of Utopian world exists only for the elite few who have constantly refined, built, and reengaged their supporters over and over.

Lets take a look at some key stats from the study:

13% Average Email Open Rates
One of the most frustrating things about email is the open rate. Having a list of 10,000 and only 1,300 people opening your messages may seem disappointing but keep in mind that these numbers are often underreported. Many email clients use a small embedded .gif file that counts the number of loads to determine opens so users with images turned off will not be counted.

1.9% Average Click Through Rates
Just when you thought you made a breakthrough with your open rates you realize your stuck with a low click through rate. Your 2,000 opens just turned into only 38 clicks. Sorry to say its an unfortunate truth that not everyone is going to want to do what you ask them to – even if what you are asking is really, really great. I’ll touch on it a bit more later but clear consistent messaging and calls to action can help with this one.

18% Email List Churn Rate
Season change and so do email addresses. Through unsubscribers, inactive email addresses, and the like your list will constantly be losing emails. Its important to remember that this is a natural and sometimes good process. Constantly monitoring the health of your email list is a good practice to get into – what’s better 5,000 people that you know exist and will respond to your calls to action or 10,000 that never look at anything you send them?

The Bivings Group suggestions for improved numbers

Numbers are great, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an “average” organization that fits a cookie cutter mold. Here are a few tips on improving these numbers regardless of where you fall:

Analyze the Success of Emails
Every list will be different and no supporter is the same. Track the days your emails were sent, the number of links in the email, etc. Did you use a specific template? What time of day did you send it? How many days since your last email? Take a look at all those factors and how they effect your open rates, click throughs, and shares. Now am I saying just because one email you sent  on a Tuesday was extremely successful that you should send all emails on a Tuesday? Absolutely not. I am saying that tracking and monitoring all of these factors will help you develop a better overall strategy.