Jumpstart Year-End Giving with eCards

Christine Woods - 10.23.09

It’s that time of year already, and nonprofits everywhere are brainstorming ways to boost their year-end holiday giving. What better vehicle than the Internet to help give your organization an edge?


According to a study performed early this year on a group of about 2,000 nonprofit organizations using Blackbaud’s Internet Solutions, clients saw an average online gift amount of more than $170 during the fourth quarter of 2008- compared to an average of $120-$130 in previous quarters of that same year. Blackbaud has seen this increase in online giving towards the end of the year consistently over the last 3 years. In 2008, December alone accounted for about 48% of the total dollars raised. The average online gift for the month of December increased to just over $248 for the nonprofits in the study.

This year, I've seen organizations leverage the power of eCards to boost online giving during other holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and even Valentine’s Day.  With the plethora of end of the year holidays on the horizon, why not stretch your year-end online giving with eCards?

What is an eCard?

According to the great folks at Wikipedia, an eCard is similar to a postcard or greeting card, with the primary difference being that it is created using digital media instead of paper or other traditional materials. What’s great about eCards is that they offer multiple benefits all in one neat little package:

  • Offers an interesting alternative to traditional online giving channels
  • Provides an instant benefit to your donors that encourages continued support
  • Spreads the word about your organization to those who would normally be out of your reach

The Life Cycle of an eCard

Using one of my favorite organizations, Alley Cat Allies, as an example, let’s walk through their Mother’s Day campaign and how it was able to help make May one of their biggest months in online fundraising this year.  

  • First, about a week before Mother’s Day, they sent an email to all newsletter subscribers asking them to send a “Mother and Kitten” eCard to their mom for Mother’s Day
  • Then, 4 days later, they sent out a “Last Chance” email reminder about the eCard offer. This was only sent to those that had not yet responded to the first email.
  • The donor, once they took action, was able to choose a giving level, select an eCard they preferred and include a personal message to their mother.
  • Once the eCard was purchased, not only did each donor get an automatic confirmation and acknowledgement, but they also received a copy of the eCard that was sent to their mom.

To see the Alley Cat Allies Mother’s Day eCard campaign in action, check out their Mother’s Day eCard Donation Form.

Creating an “eCard Store”

Charity: Water took the “online store” approach with the eCards option on their website. They post cards for any occasion, from birthdays to weddings and anniversaries. Charity:Water actually chose to require a donation of at least $20 gift for each eCard, and they do a great job of equating the donation to the value it has for them, reminding the donor that “each $20 card can give a person clean water for 20 years”.   Medical Teams International also does this via their online “Gift Catalog”. This option allows the donor to have almost a “shopping cart” experience. There is something to be said for allowing your donors to choose their own online giving experience and support you on their own terms.

Incorporating eCards as Standard Part of Your Donation Form

McCormick Foundation does this with their "Welcome Back Veterans" campaign, which is an initiative to raise funds to help support programs and services addressing the mental health and employment needs of America’s returning veterans and their families. In McCormick’s standard online donation form, they feature a simple option that allows donors to tell someone they love that they have contributed to the campaign. Consider adding an eCard as a standard part of your online donation form as a free benefit to donors and way to raise awareness about your organization. Who knows, it may even encourage repeat donations.

Linking eCards to Tribute

This may be the most compelling use of eCards. Tribute giving has certainly been a standard part of nonprofit fundraising for ages, but FINCA International does a really good job of incorporating tribute giving into their online contribution channels as well. In promoting Memorial and Tribute Gifts for their Village Banking Campaign, they added an extra touch by letting the donor also send an eCard acknowledgement for their tribute gift.

I did something similar earlier in the year with Catholic Charities USA. I’d been receiving regular e-communications from this organization regarding action alerts, news, and events for about a year, but they never once asked for a monetary contribution until about two weeks before Father’s Day. Their request was incredibly timely too, since I had just received a birthday present from a family friend and I was trying not to forget to send him a Thank You/ Happy Father’s Day card in the mail. When I got the email from Catholic Charities, however, it was perfect because I was able to act immediately. I enjoyed how personal it was for me as a donor. I choose the eCard that was most appropriate to me, customized the message, and scheduled it to be sent out exactly on Father’s Day. I especially liked getting a copy of the eCard sent to my inbox, because it allowed me to see the finished product. To see what I did, view my Father’s Day eCard on the Catholic Charities USA website.

Tips for boosting the value of your eCards

I wanted to leave you with some ways that you can increase the effectiveness of your eCards. After all, offering an eCard option is only one part of successful campaign:

  • Let the donor know how else they can make a difference. Turn your eCard donors into loyal supporters by encouraging them to get involved in other, more meaningful ways, like attending events, volunteering, or even making additional donations in the future.
  • Educate the eCard recipient about how they too can join the fight.  You have their attention, make the most of it! Each recipient is going to be pleasantly surprised to see an eCard from a loved one in their Inbox. Take advantage of a golden opportunity by providing links at the bottom of your eCards educating them on how they too can be a part of your mission.
  • Encourage your supporters to “spread the word”. Make it easy for by providing “tell-a-friend” links that allow them to email their family and friends about your eCards or post your eCard option on their Facebook page or other social networking sites.

How are you using eCards to increase visibility and raise more money for your organization?  Leave a comment and let us know!


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