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The Importance of an Online Presence: Engaging the Next Generation of Donors

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By: David Fowler, Director of Marketing and Communications at CIRA.

As more Canadians turn to the Internet for information and services, it is becoming critical for nonprofits to use the web to engage with the communities they serve. With the help of Framework, the team at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) analyzed these organizations’ digital capacity in a special edition of the .CA Internet Factbook. The research shows nonprofits are embracing the Internet; 63 per cent use a content management system and 86 per cent are able to collect donations online.

If your organization is lagging or you think you can improve your presence, consider reevaluating your digital communications strategy. Below are a few things you might want to consider.

Make online donating easy

Donations are often the lifeblood of nonprofits. And people are more likely to donate if it’s easy. 

Last year, Framework conducted an audit of 400 Canadian nonprofits funded by the .CA Community Investment Program. The study found some discrepancy in how nonprofits are collecting donations. Although there is no best way to solicit donors, ease of use should be top of mind.    

Choose a simple way to collect funds. The Framework audit found nearly half of nonprofits outsource to The website takes three per cent off the top of donations but handles the administrative elements of donating, including issuing online tax receipts immediately to donors. As one fundraising chair said to me recently, “Three per cent of donation amounts are often more than equivalent to the human resources and postage costs my organization would have to absorb if we handled these donations themselves.” 

Of the organizations that do not use, 15 per cent designed their own online portal and 12 per cent rely on PayPal, both valid means of collecting funds.

Make your website mobile friendly

Tapping the next generation of donors may require nonprofits to improve their online infrastructure. Canadians are a mobile-savvy bunch; the 2015 .CA Factbook shows more than half of young Canadian adults use mobile devices for everything from grocery shopping to banking, with 20 per cent of 18 to 34-year-old Canadians making a financial transaction online in 2013. Despite this reality, just one-third of Canadian nonprofits currently have a website that is responsive on mobile devices.  

Use online platforms to tell stories

Everyone loves a story. Sharing success stories online is a great way to engage donors, partners and other stakeholders. 

Too often however, organizations neglect to update their websites. Left static, your website can become irrelevant in search engines. Use your website to share human interest stories, data outcomes and financial reporting. Video, photo and other multimedia content give visitors a snapshot of your organization.

Share regularly on social media 

A social media presence is essential to maintaining and expanding your current network. Organizations, particularly those with a small staff, may feel too busy to maintain social media platforms. But in a digital world, where everything from bank statements to cat videos are garnering the attention of your users, sharing relevant information on a few social media platforms helps you keep in touch with stakeholders. 

Choose a domain that fits you

Limited choices used to make choosing a domain extension easy. Over the past three years, however, a number of new domains have been released into the market, many explicitly targeting the nonprofit community. These include .care, .education, .community, and .ngo. These options have joined .org, which is run by the Public Interest Registry (and the second most common choice for Canadian nonprofits). 

It is critical that your domain extension fit your overall brand and mission. Currently, 53 per cent of Canadian nonprofits use .CA as the domain extension for their websites. This makes sense for those targeting Canadian audiences— research shows Canadians trust .CA over other domains, particularly when it comes to making financial transactions like donations. 

About the Author

David Fowler is the executive in charge of the .CA Community Investment Program at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA).

CIRA manages the .CA top-level domain on behalf of all Canadians. A Member-driven organization, CIRA also develops and implements policies that support Canada’s Internet community, and represents the .CA registry internationally. CIRA runs the .CA Community Investment Program, a program that helps build a better online Canada.  

The .CA Community Investment Program is accepting funding applications until March 4, 2016.  Please check for more information about how to apply.