*Nonprofits Focus on an Internet Future

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WASHINGTON -- With some nonprofits looking at possible double-digit rate increases, this week's DMA Nonprofit Washington Conference looked at new ways to do old business.


Because of the U.S. Postal Service's recently issued rate case, and a possible increase of almost 25 percent in paper and production costs, experts here said the Internet will become vital to a nonprofit's marketing strategy.


"People are going to have to start looking at what it's going to cost them to raise a dollar through the mail and then compare it to what it would cost them to raise it online," said Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, Washington, and one of the 400-plus attendees at the 10th annual conference. "The time for nonprofits to start doing and investing more in their Web sites and online fundraising campaigns may get here a lot quicker than most of them thought it would."


At the opening general session, DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen focused on the Web and its opportunities, as did guest speaker Seth Godin, author of "Permission Marketing."


"Last year, nonprofit organizations raised $220 million over the Internet," Wientzen said. "In four years, that number is expected to pass $1.3 billion."


While some organizations are seeing more success than others with online fundraising campaigns, Wientzen said he was pleased with the progress most nonprofits are making online. He also said the privacy issue is more serious than some think.


"You have to give people the chance to know what you are doing with their information and you must be straightforward with them about information practices," Wientzen said. "The press and policy makers will be watching us, which they have the right to do, and there will be government regulation if it looks like we can't do it ourselves."


The DMA is also strongly opposing the Postal Service's rate case.


"We don't like it, especially due to the hits that nonprofits will take," he said. "The DMA Board has passed a resolution of no confidence in the USPS, and there needs to be postal reform. It needs to be changed."


Wientzen also said these challenges were outweighed by the opportunities that lie ahead for nonprofits.


"I assure you that the DMA and its nonprofit council will help you cope with these challenges and adapt to the electronic age," he said.


According to Godin, the one thing nonprofits need to succeed on the Web is permission.


"We continually spam people and use the 'poking marketing strategy,' and that stops working over a period of time," he said. "Permission helps cut through the clutter of all that other mail. It provides price and competitive insulation; and get permission now while it is cheap."


He outlined five things about permission that nonprofits need to know: Permission costs time and money to acquire; it is revocable and nontransferable; it doesn't happen by accident; it needs to be nurtured; and permission is selfish.


"If you are not sending them 'me-mail,' then they don't want to know about it and it's spamming," he said.


With the number of Web sites and continual onslaught of advertising online, nonprofits need to deliver a message and benefits to donors that will make them stand out.


"I don't care how long you spend on your Web site or how good you think it is," Godin said. "No one is coming to it. The Web is the most cluttered marketing medium in history."


Organizations need to develop a trusting relationship with donors through regular contact, which is made more cost effective by the Web, Godin said.


"In the past, no one wanted to date because it was too expensive to do repeated mailings," Godin said. "But the Web has changed all that. Frequency and stamps are free."


The same tried-and-trusted methods of speaking with people one-on-one needs to be applied to nonprofits'online campaigns, he said.


Every page on the Web is an offer page and nonprofits should look at their sites and make sure that each page is optimized to do one of three things, Godin said.


"They should either be able to send money, go to some section where they can learn more about you, or notify you that it is alright for you to send them a follow-up message or reply," he said.
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