- Thu, October 04 2007
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
There have been two great pieces of news for the charitable sector in the past week:
1. Google Checkout for Nonprofits: Google is offering its transaction processing service (the Internet giant’s answer to PayPal) for free to nonprofits through 2008. No fees come out of donations they process for your nonprofit until 2009, when they say rates will be $.20 + 2% per transaction.
2. YouTube for Nonprofits: Google-owned YouTube is introducing a new nonprofit service called Broadcast Your Cause that provides your organization with a page for posting videos, viewer comments,—and, of course, a Google Checkout button for donations. In the coming months, nonprofit channels will get a centralized location on YouTube for added exposure.
It’s extremely welcome to see a major for-profit player waiving fees for nonprofits - I sure wish the credit card companies would do the same. In addition to being a community service, the waived fees are a shrewd customer acquisition strategy for Google, which wants to increase the relatively modest adoption rates of Google Checkout. As part of this effort, they have offered Checkout free to everyone - not just nonprofits - through the end of this year. It’s also terrific to see YouTube making it easier for donors and potential supporters to react to the nonprofit videos with its Broadcast Yourself program.
So should you take the Google Checkout plunge and whip out your videocamera in search of YouTube stardom? Yes—with some caveats. Here are some tips for playing with these great new - and free - tools. But before I share them, I want to remind you that I am VP of Marketing at Network for Good, a nonprofit which also offers donation processing for nonprofits. And our services aren’t free of all processing fees - but they do some important things that Google Checkout does not. So I’m not unbiased. But I’m wearing my blogger hat right now, not my day-job hat, and here’s what I’m thinking:
1. You should try Google Checkout.
Heck, you can’t do better than free. If you have the time, test it. But if you add Google Checkout to your website or on your YouTube page, I recommend doing two things.
First, swiftly and warmly thank all the donors for which you receive contact information. (Google passes on the contact information of donors who agree to hear from you; otherwise, you don’t receive it as far as I can tell.) This is really important, because the Google Checkout process is fairly sterile - the experience is exactly like buying something. So you want to follow up with a warm-fuzzy message that assures them you received the donation and reminds people they made a wonderful gift that will accomplish great things.
Second, and please note not everyone agrees with me on this, I recommend you look into registering in all of the states where you have donors. It’s the safe thing to do. This is one small downside of the program - Google does not do that for you. [Nonprofit donation processors that have the status of donor-advised funds (like Network for Good and Just Give) do.]
2. You should not only offer Google Checkout.
Why? Because you want an alternative for donors seeking some of the following options.
-You need to give donors the option to make recurring donations, which you can’t do via Checkout. You want as many donors as possible giving to you every month on their credit cards - it’s convenient for them, it’s a steady source of money for you, and everyone’s happy because you’re spending your time thanking people rather than repeatedly asking them for more money. People also tend to give more over a year with this kind of program.
-It’s good to have a donation solution that allows people to make gifts in honor of other people - we find about 20-40% of donors choose to do this (it’s highest in December).
-You want to offer donors who aren’t lovers of Google or holders of Google IDs (which you need in order to use Checkout) another way to give. Without offering two things side-by-side, you have no way of knowing if you’re scaring off people. Here’s some information on who uses Checkout and their satisfaction levels.
-If you’re getting any serious donation volume, you want to have a least one branded flow (it looks more professional and is a warmer experience) that allows you to own the relationship with the donor—and their contact information.
3. You need to manage expectations about “overhead.”
When you position Google Checkout on your site, it’s great to highlight that the option saves you money and encourage its use. But don’t go so far in pushing it that you start setting up donor expectations that there are no administrative fees involved in running your charity. There is no “free” in the nonprofit world. We all face this problem - we need money to keep the lights on, to fundraise, to pay staff, etc., but donors often want all of their money to go direct to beneficiaries. I think we should be efficient with overhead - and show our efficiency - but not create a false impression that we have no overhead. It could come back to bite us later.
4. Play around with YouTube if you have already covered the online basics.
I’m often asked by nonprofits if they should start a blog or play around with YouTube. My answer is usually yes, if you have already covered the basics. First things first - do you have a great page on your site that makes a compelling case for giving (you’ll need that for links on YouTube and elsehwere)? Are you collecting donations? Are you emailing donors with thanks and updates? Do you do outreach to existing bloggers and videographers? If you’re doing that, you’re ready for more ambitious things like video. And you’re ready for this wonderful primer from a bunch of bloggers on how to use video, courtesy of Getting Attention. Read ALL of this advice and then go play!