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Fundraising in a Digital Age

Fundraising in a Digital Age

Have you donated to a charity lately? Was it in person? Probably not! In today’s digital age everything has gone to the internet. Fundraising is no exception to the new ways of life. In the past most fundraising was done locally, it was hard for it to get too far outside of the area it was started, and usually donations were in the form of cash or check. The television and radio were slightly helpful in getting the information out but the reach was still much smaller than now. As the years have passed more and more technological advances have been made. There are many aspects of the digital age that have helped with fundraising. The creations of internet, social media and many sites on the web have helped bring fundraising from just the local neighborhoods or inside the church to the whole world. Of course, we cannot forget to talk about the influence of celebrity campaigns on fundraising.



The influence the internet has on fundraising and charities is pretty crucial for one simple reason: communication. The internet allows for the sharing of information between the charity and the general public. It allows for the charity to display their cause and need and for the public to gain information through reading or asking questions and of course allows them to donate. Thanks to the internet, organizations—especially nonprofits— can “create and strengthen relationships with new, current, and past donors”. (Ingenhoff & Koelling, 2010) According to an article written by Brooke Weberling there has even been success in fundraising and crowdsourcing via email. There were studies conducted on how the Susan G. Komen organization did with using email and the results seemed to point to signs that email is a great way to communicate with the public. (Weberling, 2012) Often people may not remember to go check out sites often to make sure they are not missing important information but if they have subscribed to an email list they may see information in their inbox.

Social media is a powerful tool for updating followers on what we are doing during the day or ranting about something we are upset about but it can be used for much more. If something bad has happened in the community you are a part of you can create a status about it and share that there are donations being accepted. Simply add an address for a location that is accepting donations and there you have it. You have not only gotten the cause past your small town but may have just doubled the amount of donations you would have typically received. Charities, or organizations that are in need of funding, can create pages on social media for the sole purpose of bringing attention to their cause and gaining donations. If we look a bit broader at groups on social media we will see there are groups for everything from tennis and running to fans of authors and shows, these groups have inspired meet ups in the real world with the people who originally met online. (Gordon & de Souza e Silva, 2011) Now think about if a group was created in support of a cause, people from all over can join because they feel connected to the cause and then they themselves become involved in planning outside-of-Facebook events with people in their areas. Now obviously the use of debit and credit cards has become much more prominent since the 90’s and the ability to use them online has aided in the donation process as well. No need for mailing a check or cash when you can just put your card number in and donate. According to Antecedents and Consequences of Website Atmosphere in Online Charity Fundraising Situations when donating via credit card people tend to donate 15-20% more than when using cash or check (Bennett, 2005). Facebook recently added a feature to their site where you can donate your birthday to charity. You pick a cause you are passionate about and go through the process of having it set on your page for a set amount of time. This way your lovely friends can donate money to a special cause instead of giving you gifts.

(Shumack, 2017)

There have been multiple websites created for the purpose of fundraising and it has made it so much easier. GoFundMe, YouCaring, and CrowdRise are three of the top sites you can create a page on to raise money for your cause. The only downside to using some of these sites is the fact you do not get all of the money raised. For instance, each time you request to withdrawal from your online page with GoFundMe you are charged 2.9% + 30 cents. There is also a site for an organization by the name of Omaze. Omaze is an online fundraising site that gives away unbelievable experiences, usually called “once in a lifetime” experiences. While you may not be able to create your own page for fundraising purposes this is a site that if you are simply a giving individual you can find some benefit. By going to, then selecting ‘campaigns’ at the top you can scroll through all of the active campaigns. For example, right now you can have a chance to win a double date game night with Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell by donating to Opening Act. As written for an article on The Ringer, “with the help of a slick online marketing operation and the cooperation of famous people, Omaze has amassed over $60 million in online donations in its five years of existence”. (Bereznak, 2017)

(Shumack, 2017)

As you can see celebrities play quite the role in fundraising in the digital age. Whether it is in the form of offering something up on Omaze or by putting a video on their personal page urging their fans to donate. However, the most crucial people to fundraising campaigns are each individual. Whether you are able to donate or not you can still spread information about it. If you hear of a local charity having issues with garnering enough funds lend a hand with setting up a page for their cause. I would say that this need to be a part of the online world as an organization is both cultural and technological determinism. Since there is a need for more donations and so many disasters continue to strike it is cultural but the need to keep up with everyone around is technological. (Slack & Wise, 2014) As Allison Guass pointed out in her blog post 4 Ways Nonprofits Are Adapting to the Digital Age adapting to the change is crucial and the Bob Dylan lyric “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone” could be applied to the need for nonprofits to move with the times. (Gauss)

With the internet comes so many possibilities for communication but also an information overload. A large amount of posts and websites can make it hard to catch everything and some information slips through the cracks. Charities and causes never want to be the ones to fall short. One way that an organization can keep their cause relevant and in the public eye is through hashtags. Like Tanya Sichynsky talked about in her article “These 10 Twitter hashtags changed the way we talk about social issues”, using a hashtag helps circulate the cause. However, this can lead to the issue of slacktivism where the internet is used to raise awareness but no one does anything in the outside world. This can sometimes be unavoidable but one way to counter slacktivism can be by holding events in various areas that bring people together. Often people may not be able to donate but can tweet or post about an issue. While sharing the cause is helpful there are other ways you can get individuals involved to build the cause. This can also be a time to post weekly ways that individuals can contribute that do not involve donating or making it to an event. For example, if the cause is helping low income families then you can encourage people to grab an extra canned good from the store each week when grocery shopping and make a contribution to a local food bank once a month. Sometimes when an individual can only donate $5 a month they do not feel they can do enough but buying $5 worth of canned goods from the local Walmart could help put food on the table for a family in need. I know personally I knew I felt that my small amount of money I had to give was not enough recently so instead I purchase a box of gallon size Ziploc bags and different items from the dollar store. I spent $32 and made 5 care bags. I then handed them out when driving through town one day. They had a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, a tee shirt, a couple granola bars and a couple juice boxes. It may not be much but a small snack, a new shirt and some hygiene products can really go a long way for someone with nothing. I knew my money had gone somewhere positive but I had gotten the suggestion from an online campaign. I honestly think that while there are negatives, the positives outweigh them drastically. Charities, organizations and causes can truly benefit from stepping into the digital age whether it is a simple website or creating an entire movement through social media.


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