This is a sample plan for an imaginary local animal rescue organization called Save the Animals (STA) which is trying to take their outreach efforts online to become well known in the community. While the specifics of your online fundraising plan will be unique for your organization, the overarching themes will likely be similar. This intensive plan calls for a relatively high budget but you will likely want or need to dedicate much less.

The goals of this online fundraising plan are to:

  • Open an online channel of communication with direct mail donors who want it.
  • Acquire new online donors.
  • Cultivate and re-solicit existing and new online donors.

The key to acquiring new online donors will be developing partnerships to drive traffic to our site, building a large e-mail list for prospecting, and making our site even more successful in converting visitors into donors. In addition, we'll expand the opportunities for raising money elsewhere online. At the same time we will use our direct mail (and telephone) program to offer online communications to those donors and to integrate online communication with other fundraising communications.

1. Website

Our site should be a major tool in engaging and interacting with new and existing donors, while still meeting the needs of our various other constituencies- people seeking to adopt, kids, animal lovers, etc. Some of our donors also probably visit our site now and then, so it needs to demonstrate to them that they've invested wisely. They should see offline fundraising themes reflected on the site, new content, things to do, compelling features, etc. Many new people will also visit our site simply to look at the animals, without any intention of adopting. We'll need online mechanisms to engage those people, and to turn them into donors. Here's what we'll do to make that happen.

  • We'll re-develop our site to improve its look and feel and increase its functionality. We'll focus on finding vendors and/or application service providers (ASPs) who offer easy-maintenance solutions to reduce the burden on staff. Then, we'll work to make our site more appealing to our various constituencies with interactivity (surveys, contests), news, compelling appeals, easy event sign-ups, and new features like e-cards.
  • We'll maximize our giving opportunities on the site and give them high visibility on our home page and other pages, especially our most visited pages and those pages that tend to evoke strong emotions (animal pages).
  • On an ongoing basis, we'll monitor opportunities for promoting STA's work online in the context of animal-related news and our many events.

2. E-mail marketing

  • We'll develop an e-mail outreach program for communicating regularly with donors and prospects. The program will initially include a monthly e-newsletter with donor and non-donor versions and occasional action or event alerts. Eventually, we'll build in targeted e-mail messages for people with expressed interests in certain subjects like no-kill policy, dogs, feral cat care, etc., and deliver e-mail renewals for existing online donors; and solicitations and special appeals for both existing donors and prospects.
  • We'll develop and implement strategies for building our e-mail list. In addition to offering simple email sign-ups on our site, we'll design creative ways to build our prospect e-mail list through incentives, such as offering a chance to win a gift certificate to a local pet store for people who subscribe to our e-newsletter.

3. Increasing site traffic

With a compelling website and technology in place to manage content and donor relationships, we'll develop campaigns to drive traffic to our site. We'll work to improve our search engine and directory rankings and links, create and run campaigns on our site and elsewhere, and develop corporate partnerships and sponsorships to drive traffic to our site. Strategies will include:

  • Finding an appealing, easy-to-remember URL
  • Increasing our visibility on our offline corporate partners' Web sites through links, banners and special campaigns.
  • Promoting our site as a no-kill information center by disseminating (free) content, tips, facts and interactive devices to other sites with links back to our site.
  • Promoting our fundraising campaigns on media sites. We'll develop graphics and try to place them free on national, regional and local media sites.
  • Promoting our events online through event listing services like CitySearch.com, local media listings, and others.
  • Maximizing our search engine rankings by improving our meta tags, buying some keywords, and paying for increased rankings at some sites.

4. Special Campaigns

We'll run a few targeted online campaigns throughout the year: one in December, and one in the spring.

  • The December campaign will have a holiday focus with special holiday giving opportunities (gift memberships, with the calendar as one of its features) and also drive traffic to our store.
  • The spring appeal will be combined with a no-kill (or other issue) awareness campaign with special web pages and a strong tell-a-friend element. While it will have a fundraising element, the focus of this campaign will be to build our online reputation and our e-mail list.

5. Integration with Direct Mail

  • We'll use traditional communications channels to build our donor e-mail list and promote our website.
  • We'll send a cultivation mailer to our lapsed donors inviting them to visit our Web site. We can direct them to a special page on our website that makes an appeal for why they should make another gift.
  • As our e-mail list grows, we'll test ways to use email to boost response to direct mail, such as:

- Sending a pre-mail e-mail that tells people that they'll be receiving an important letter in the mail or invite people to respond

- Sending a post-mail e-mail that says "We hope you received our recent letter. If you haven't had a chance to give yet, please give online today. It's fast, easy, and efficient."

  • We'll promote some online services in our direct mail - especially our store during the holidays.
  • We will develop a persistent program for gradually gathering the e-mail addresses of direct mail donors who want to add e-mail to their communications with us. We will test asks in the direct mail (P.S., buckslip, reply device, etc.) and track response to find the most effective and least expensive ways to gather e-mail addresses without depressing gift response. We'll send test and track communications and re-solicitations to these donors.

6. Tracking, benchmarking, reporting

  • We'll evaluate the e-mail messaging program by tracking the number of recipients that are converted into new donors and the number of gifts and renewals received from existing donors in direct response to an e-mail solicitation. We'll also carefully monitor the overall giving levels of donors receiving the e-news versus donors not receiving the e-news to evaluate the e-news as a cultivation tool.
  • We'll evaluate our site traffic to determine which content is most appealing and increase the visibility of that content, as well as tie in giving opportunities.

7. Budget

Expenses depend on many choices, but might include:

  • Website redevelopment (including back-end functionality) $15,000-$100,000
  • E-mail messaging system set-up fee $250-$500 one time
  • Website maintenance $500-$2,000 monthly
  • E-mail messaging on-going fees up to $250 monthly
  • Banner ad development $5,000 annually
  • Online campaigns $10,000-$50,000 each
  • Consultant - ongoing monthly retainer $3,500 monthly

- Consultation on website development

- Development of online partnerships

- Production and management of monthly e-news and up to one stand-alone solicitation to donors and non-donors

- E-mail messaging system management, including monthly data imports/exports to integrate with offline database

- Integration with direct mail

- Copy writing for appeals for the site