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Making 'The Ask' Online

The Internet has provided nonprofit organizations with such a wonderful avenue for getting the word out about the amazing things they are doing. Web sites serve as a great "brochure," blogs allow for more in-depth exploration and storytelling, and social media provides an opportunity to build rapport that can develop into a sense of community with constituents. These are all wonderful methods for reaching out and creating potential for support in the form of donations and volunteer hours.

But, people aren't necessarily motivated to open their wallets or show up for events just because they love your web site or think you're really clever on Facebook. The rules of fundraising and recruitment may differ online, but they share a very important common denominator with more "old school" approaches. That is to say, you need to make "the ask."

While you want your web site to provide information, if you are just using it as an online brochure, you're missing out on so much. Instead, it should function as a platform for soliciting involvement in the form of contributions of time and money. You don't want your requests to be tacky or to overpower the message that you want to share, but you certainly do want them to be included! Here are some recommendations to make them more powerful.

#1 - Make the Ask

The first thing to remember is that you have to actually make the ask. You need to include some sort of call to action with your message. This doesn't mean to constantly "spam" your Twitter feed with requests for donations, but you do want to include them from time to time. This can be especially effective if you tie it in to a specific cause or purpose.

#2 - Have Specific Cause or Purpose

It's a great idea to tie your ask in with what the user happens to be reading. If you run a food bank that offers low-cost recipes on its site, for example, your ask on that page could relate to the specific ingredients, such as "Make a $10 donation that can be used to purchase 20 cans of corn for families in need." An animal rescue organization that tells the story of a particular rescued dog could use that portion of their site to recruit volunteers to help run an event to benefit animals like this sweet dog.

#3 - Give Lots of Opportunities

Each page of your site, as well as your profiles on social media sites, should provide an opportunity for readers to join your organization, make a donation, etc. Don't just bury these opportunities in the content, instead, make them easy to find and attractive to click! "Join Now" and "Donate Now" buttons are a great option. Don't forget that asking readers to subscribe to your e-newsletter is also a valuable kind of "ask."

#4 - Integrate Donation Pages

It's likely that you'll have a third party processing donations made online. While this may be necessary on your end, it's not something that the donor wants to know. Do your best to integrate the giving platform with your site and brand so that the donor maintains the feeling of working directly with you.

#5 - Get Permission for Further Contact

When someone makes a donation or volunteers online, be sure to give them (and yourself) the option for further contact. This can be as simple as asking them to click on a box to subscribe to your email newsletter. Doing so provides the chance to further develop your relationship with someone who has already demonstrated that they are interested in your cause and can help to cultivate a long-term relationship.

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