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In Search of Digital Donations

By Carl Weiss

While fundraising is the lifeblood of charities in this country, many have had a hard time making the transition to the digital age.  A recent study noted that eighty-four percent of charities, including many of the nation’s largest, make it difficult to donate online.  This article will discuss the changes that many non-profits need to consider, along with some strides made by several notable charities who have taken the plunge. So read on and learn how to find gold in your search for digital donations.

We all get them, snail mail requests for donations.  Sometimes we respond, sometimes we don’t.  But one thing is for certain.  Charities sure cut down a lot of trees in their search for donations.  Between these over-the-transom solicitations for funds combined with armies of telephone fundraisers, it’s no wonder that charities in the US are big business, having raised an estimated $316.23 billion in 2012 alone.  But while most charities are still using old school techniques to drum up support, many of them are still reluctant when it comes to making the switch to using the internet for fundraising.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Charities Are Now More Accountable

One thing that is certain, since 2000, it has become far easier to vet the accountability, transparency and financial health of nonprofits.  Portals such as Charity Navigator have been created to provide the public with information regarding thousands of charitable institutions from coast to coast.  By entering you come to a site that lets you search listings from A to Z, Top-10 Lists, or even Hot Topics that relate to charities.  This and other such portals make it as easy to check on a charity as it does for anyone online to search for a pizzeria or dentist in your neighborhood.

More importantly, many of these sites not only report on the veracity of a charitable institution, they also let you know how much of every dollar you donate makes it to the people whom the charity supports.

Sites like Charity Navigator also allow you to follow the money line item by line item, revealing everything from a charity’s revenues to how much they spend on administrative, fund raising, and program expenses.  Best of all, if you like what you see, there is a handy “Donate Now” button right on the site that makes contributing to the charity of your choice as easy as point and click.

When you consider that 72% of charitable contributions come from individuals and only 21 percent from foundations and corporations, then it would seem that the internet would be a match made in heaven for nearly every charity. 

Yet according to a post on, “Eighty-four percent of nonprofits, including many of the nation’s largest charities, haven’t made their donation websites easy to read on mobile devices, one of several flaws that can cost them significant contributions, according to experts who studied 150 charities and other organizations.”

According to the report, this included 100 charities big enough to be included on the Philanthropy 400 that lists the groups who raise the most money from private sources.  The post went onto lament the fact that most charities aren’t doing enough to use email as a fundraising tool, and that those who do are for the most part not making it clear to donors as to what action the recipients should take.

Goodwill Has Figured It Out

Courtesy of Wikipedia

That’s not to say that every charity is having a hard time finding ways to leverage the internet.  Take Goodwill Industries for example.  Recently they have added a couple of new sites that are designed to help people donate to the cause. The first is, which is kind of a hybrid of a Goodwill store with EBay.  On the site, shoppers can bid on thousands of items, which are then shipped to the highest bidder. 

Another site that is owned and operated by Goodwill is Job Junction.  This site not only helps job seekers intersect with local employers, but it also includes a tab that shows you how and where to make a charitable contribution to Goodwill. (The site even provides donors with a handy form that they can submit come tax time for every item donated to Goodwill.)

Important Facts Worth Noting

While some charities are finally starting to take advantage of the internet, many still haven’t successfully joined the digital age.  Among the other findings by
  • 37% of the organizations send no emails within 30 days after site visitors signed up
  • 56% of the organizations did not ask for donations within 90 days of signing up
  • 79% did not personalize email appeals with either a first or last name
  • 65% of the websites polled required visitors to click three or more times in order to donate

Fortunately, there are a number of providers such as Charity Navigator that are willing to trail blaze in this realm.  On top of that, several new starters are willing to cut out the middleman altogether when it comes to giving.  One is called, that provides a way to give money directly to recipients, thereby eliminating intermediaries and charities.  It also allows you to contribute funds to individuals worldwide.

“GiveDirectly does not attach conditions to the donations, allowing recipients to spend the money in any way they want. The assumption is that poor people know better than anyone else what they need. A recent study published by MIT, co-written by one of GiveDirectly's former founders, argues that unconditional giving allowed poor households to save more than those in conditional giving programs, as well as increase food consumption by 20 percent.”

College Students Create CentScere

Another of these direct-to-recipient sites is called, a charitable service created by a group of college students whose avowed aim was to “turn your social media into charitable donations.” Their service allows you to “choose how much to donate for each post or like on Facebook, or for every tweet on Twitter, and then select your favorite charity among a list. Your credit card is charged every time you reach $7.99 in donations and your contact information is provided to the nonprofits you donate to so that they can keep you abreast of their latest efforts.”

While some charities still seem reluctant to fully embrace the internet as a fundraising medium, Centscere co-founder Ian Dickerson summed it up perfectly when he said that, “The methods that worked on the
 baby boomers and older generations just won’t work with us. We grew up online; it’s part of our everyday behavior. We can’t afford to give as much as older generations, but we would happily give some change here and there. For charities it's also a way to build a relationship early on so that when we do have an income, and can make larger donations, we'll donate to them.”

Besides, any fundraising method that saves a tree or keeps my phone from ringing at suppertime is all right by me. I could go on and on but it would be better if you check out the Radio shows links page. There are more than a dozen links to articles that we research this week’s show and write this article for you. Here is the link.

Free Donate Social App on Facebook
In last week’s article, "Social Media Madness Roundup," my partner talked about how Facebook has finally embraced online charitable donations by including a new feature called “Donate”. This new feature allows any subscriber of Facebook to donate to any of the 18 charities listed on Facebook. All you have to do is log into Facebook and pick a charity (you can use this link to their help page listing all the charities). Once you select a charity, you will go to that charities Facebook page, click on the amount you want to donate and enter your credit card information (PayPal, MC, Visa, Discover or AMX), and your done. One hundred percent of your donation goes to the charity you selected. Charities you can find and donate to on FaceBook include the following;

Other donate Apps on FaceBook

In this article, I discussed how many charities are finding it difficult making the transition from the analog world of asking for donations to the internet enable digital world where most of the world’s population spend its time. This is especially true of our younger generations who have never known a world that is not internet connected. We highlight several success examples of companies that have successfully made this transition, to help other charities follow their lead and learn from their success.

If you found this article to be useful, share it with your friends, family and co-workers. If you feel, you have something to add to this article leave a comment below.  I It is my hope that by sharing this information with you my readers that more charities will be able to make the transition to the World Wide Web. I look forward to seeing the success that good charities will experience in the coming years.

 Thanks again for reading and sharing.  Until next time.

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Since 1995, Carl Weiss has been helping clients succeed online.  He owns and operates several online marketing businesses, including Working the Web to Win and Jacksonville Video Production. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show, "Working the Web to Win," every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern on

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