There's a lot of buzz already about the online fundraising success of the presidential contenders, with Obama, Clinton, Edwards and Romney leading the pack so far.

The buzz treats “online fundraising” as something independent of and a world apart from “traditional” fundraising. But that ain't true.

I've launched the small gift fundraising programs for a host of advocacy
groups from Amnesty and Greenpeace, NARAL, NOW, you name it. I've also
been involved in lots and lots of political campaigns … the McGovern campaign in 1972, Udall ('76), Kennedy and Anderson ('80) and 40 or so other candidates and causes, plus building and selling (before the bubble) a sizeable new media company.

Based on these 35 years of raising money I want to modestly offer some perspective.

The online world is NOT independent of the paper/direct mail and telemarketing worlds. They operate best when used together.

There is a myth that somehow the online world is cleaner, better, cheaper,
whatever than the other, earlier, realms.

The powerful (I believe MOST powerful) trait of the internet is that it provides the “when” dimension. In postal, tv, telemarketing channels it is possible to target the “who” (folks most likely to give), the “what” (the offer and the amount), but not the “when”. The internet provides folks the vehicle for giving WHEN they want to give or otherwise become involved.

*Believe me, any consultant worth her/his salt knows this and will properly take advantage of it. That's why every well-prepared direct mail piece, telemarketing script, tv spot, or event presentation should urge potential or repeat donors to go online and make her/his contribution — right now.

“Frankly, Ms. Donor, we don't have a moment to lose. Rather than writing a check and waiting for it to arrive at Campaign Headquarters, we can have the money tonight if your will simply go online and contribute right now. And, by doing this you also save us lots of postage and processing money — money that can be put to work immediately in the campaign.”

*In reality, there is no competition or verifiable cost savings between
the new media and the old media if used in tandem and in an integrated manner. Fundraisers succeed best by using ALL CHANNELS.

In addition to the speed in collecting funds, the reality of online fundraising is that, in the U.S., it can only be done through the use of credit cards. And, for nearly 30 years we've seen that when someone uses a credit card the average gift is almost always higher.

Because of the WHEN FACTOR, the internet is the candidate and consultant's
best friend. Breaking event> News conference> Increased website traffic> Increased contributions. Ink doesn't have to dry. Postal Service carriers don't have to deliver the mail two weeks after the event.

Make no mistake. Partly because older folks are now more comfortable with
transactions on the internet, online fundraising is already powerful and it's growing rapidly.

But it ain't a world unto itself. Not some pristine realm free of greedy direct mail and telemarketing consultants. But a world that helps bring greater productivity and ROI to those who know how to incorporate it with the other, proven and predictable channels.

Roger

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