Being online is a critical part of fundraising.

People expect to find your website and maybe a page on Facebook.

If you’re serious about fully funding your nonprofit, you need to be online.

And you can’t just be online, you need to look like you know what you’re doing.

You don’t have to be a social media guru to look like you’ve got it all under control, but you do have to have a few things in place.

I’ve seen lots of nonprofits slap a Twitter profile together or put up a Facebook page because they’ve heard others talk about it, and they think they need to do it, too. Except they haven’t thought through a strategy. They’re hoping for a “build it and they will come” experience.

It doesn’t work.

It’s okay to be a newbie. Just don’t look like one.

Here are some surefire signs that you are an amateur Fundraiser online:

1. Your nonprofit doesn’t have a website. A website is a MUST for every nonprofit. Most people will check you out online before they decide to make a gift. If you don’t have a website, you don’t appear to be taking yourself seriously. Potential donors are likely to move on to someone else.

2. Your website is obviously outdated, with information about events that happened over a year ago. It’s not enough to just have a website; you MUST keep it updated and fresh. If your website is basically an online brochure, and nothing ever changes, why would anyone visit more than once? If someone visits your website and they read about your upcoming dinner in May of 2005, they may get the sense that you aren’t organized or aren’t in business anymore.

3. There is no Donate Now button on your website. Your website MUST have an easy-to-find Donate Now button to facilitate online gifts. Without it, you’re leaving money on the table.

4. Your marketing materials are all business, with no stories that connect people to your cause. People give to people. Make sure everything you send to potential donors includes something about why you do what you do and how they can help make a difference.

5. You use a Gmail or Yahoo email account (or something similar). Your email needs to have your website domain address. Otherwise, you look a little “fly-by-night.”

6. You don’t use a subject line when you send email. A blank email subject line can look like spam. Always put something, even if it’s just a word or two.

7. You have no email signature. It’s easy to set up an email signature that gives your full name, title, link to your website, physical address, and a note about your organization. Without it, you are wasting precious real estate!

8. On Facebook, you use your profile for your nonprofit. This is a big no-no. Profiles are for people. Pages are for organizations. Rumor has it that Facebook removes profiles that are set up for organizations.

9. On Twitter, you’re an egghead. When you create a Twitter account, it gives you an egg graphic until you upload a photo. An egghead is a sign that you’re a newbie and haven’t quite figured out what you’re doing.

10. Your Facebook or Twitter status hasn’t been updated in weeks. This is as bad as a website that’s out of date. It’s a sign that you haven’t quite figured out how to use social media. It’s social after all, which means you have to interact.

11. On LinkedIn, you use your first name and last initial. This is definitely noncommittal! LinkedIn is a great resource for connecting with other professionals and companies, so you have to appear professional to get the most out of this networking site.

12. For your blog, you use a Blogger blog. Integrate your blog as part of your website. Putting it somewhere else means that you’ll have to work twice as hard to help people find it. The benefit of including your blog on your website, and updating the blog regularly, is that search engines like new content and will rank you higher because you have an active site.

13. On your blog, you have only a couple of blog posts and they’re really old. If you’re going to blog, then do it. Commit to writing something at least once a week for at least 3 months. Anything less says you’re goofing around. Remember, you don’t have to write a thesis, just a few paragraphs about your organization, the cause you are serving, client stories or anything else interesting about your nonprofit will work.

Professional fundraisers are vital to the success of every nonprofit. Amateurs won’t cut it.

If you recognize any of the above items at your organization, then it is time to step it up. Invest in yourself, your career and your cause. Otherwise, you are treating your job as a hobby, and that isn’t helping anyone.

If you’re going to do it, do it right. Spend the time to learn or find a volunteer to help or outsource.

People are becoming smarter about online tools and they’ll spot an amateur right away. And it might just keep them from supporting you.

  1. I have to admit – several of these surprised me – although I guess they really shouldn’t. There are many groups that I’m aware of that don’t have web pages – or whose website lists as ‘upcoming events’ things that happened in 2009. There are also several ED’s I’ve run across using gmail accounts.

    The truth is though, there are so many things that small nonprofits need to be focused on. I can really understand why they get behind on technology. It can be really overwhelming. Regardless, you’re right. It’s time to go beyond being an amateur.

  2. Amen, sista! It’s better to have nothing up than something amateur. Take the time to get it done right – even in small doses. It’s a lot to attack at one time and can seem overwhelming. If you “eat the elephant bite by bite” your approach will be much more professional.

  3. Great coaching, Sandy. With your list even newbies can look polished. With technology and the internet today, there’s no excuse for not looking professional and committed. The expense is minimal and the payoff is huge.

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