By Alan Sharpe, Certified Fund Raising Executive
The secret to raising funds online is not Facebook, Twitter, texting, or
even your website. It’s email. To raise money on the Internet you
need the email addresses of folks who believe in your cause and want to see
you in their inbox. Here are nine principles to follow in acquiring those
addresses.
1. Only add subscribers to your list who have given you permission to email
them.
2. Attract new subscribers by offering them regular, valuable content.
Before anybody gives you their email address, they’ll want to know what’s in
it for them. Tell them: They’ll get a weekly email newsletter; bulletins;
alerts; updates; or tips on how to manage their health. Offer valuable
content in exchange for their email address.
3. Offer a tangible incentive, such as discount coupons or free admission to
a special event.
4. Aim to get the email addresses of donors and non-donors, activists and
non-activists, members and non-members. Advocates; volunteers; anonymous
website visitors; and any other non-donors who sign up for your newsletters
are prime prospects for donations.
Don’t just concentrate on getting the email addresses for your donors. Try
for anybody who could turn into an advocate, volunteer, or future donor. The
thing to remember is to just be patient. The nice thing about email is it
doesn’t cost a lot of money to write to those people over time, and encourage
them to give a gift. So, start off by trying to get the address rather than
the donation.
5. Ask for as little information as possible to get their email address. You
could simply ask for their email address alone–but, most of us would be
horrified to do that. We’d at least like to know the name of the person. But,
when you start asking for their name, address, phone number, date-of-birth,
and social security number, you’re asking for trouble. Ask for as little as
possible in order to get their address.
6. Make sure every single message you send to your list is helpful and
relevant. Quality, relevant content is the easiest way to keep your
subscribers subscribed, and encourage them to refer you to others.
7. Don’t rent or borrow email addresses from anyone except the most
reputable organizations and list companies in the industry. And, even then,
exercise great caution because you don’t want to be branded as a spammer.
It’ll put you on the blacklist for a long time, and once you’re on, it’s hard
to get off. If you’re on a blacklist, obviously, you can’t do any email
fundraising.
8. When you ask for someone’s email address, describe what you’ll send them
and how often you’ll send it. You could even say, “You’ll be hearing from us
every Friday,” or “You’ll get our Monday morning bulletin.” Let them know
either how often, or when they’ll be hearing from you, so they’re not
surprised.
9. Give your subscribers an easy way to opt out. Make it really simple for
them to tell you they don’t want to hear from you anymore. There’s no point
building a huge list of subscribers if they simply delete your messages or
flag them as spam. I subscribe to a newsletter right here in Canada sent by
one of Canada’s largest fundraising newsletter publishers, and there’s no way
to unsubscribe from it. I have to phone them or visit their website. Nowhere
in the emails does it tell you how you can stop hearing from these people.
You don’t want to be in that position. People will think you’re trying to
make it hard for them to unsubscribe and you’ll spread ill will that way.

—Source: Excerpted from Online Fundraising Secrets by Alan Sharpe. Alan Sharpe, CFRE, is a fundraising practitioner, author, trainer, and speaker. Sign up for “Alan Sharpe’s Fundraising Pointers,” at www.raisersharpe.com. C 2009 Alan Sharpe.