Online Donations Exceed Expectations at Diabetes Group

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The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, New York, has raised more than $50,000 in online donations from 230 donors since it began accepting contributions through its Web site last month.


"We were late to the Web and e-commerce," said Robert Moulthrop, director of communications at the JDF. "Before we decided to start accepting donations online, we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done right, for both ourselves and those we work for."


The JDF has had a Web site, www.jdf.org, since 1997, and it hired someone dedicated to maintaining and updating the site last year. The foundation spent nine months creating the online donations section.


"It had to be a reflection of us as an organization," Moulthrop said.


The site does not have a flashing banner or highlighted area to draw people's attention to the donation process. Instead, it has a simple "Make a Donation" button at the top right-hand side of the page.


After "testing and kicking the tires were done," Moulthrop said, the foundation sent out a broadcast e-mail to its 110 chapters throughout the world to let them know the organization's main site now had the ability to accept donations online. That was the only notification the JDF sent publicizing online donations to its chapters.


"I have spoken to some of our chapters and they told me that they did not do any type of outreach to our members informing them about the Web site," Moulthrop said.


"If it hasn't done any type of outreach, then [$50,000] is a significant amount," said Ken Weber, director of nonprofits at AppNet, Falls Church, VA, a Web development company that works with nonprofits. "It could represent a donor base that has been waiting for a while to do something online."


Weber said it would be important to see if the JDF had been in the news recently or made any type of announcements that could have caused that initial spike in online activity and subsequent donations.


Moulthrop said the response greatly exceeded the JDF's expectations and explained it by saying that the cause is one that appeals to a lot of people.


While there has yet to be a direct mail or teleservices campaign to promote online donations, Moulthrop said the JDF will "definitely" promote the new feature in future direct mailings and other campaigns.


The foundation hasn't conducted an analysis of online donors yet, so it is not sure how many are new. Moulthrop believes the majority of donations coming in through the Web site represent "new money."


"We get a lot of visitors to the site who are non-members," he said. "That's the reason most of our [online] donors are probably new."


The names are being captured and each donor receives a thank-you e-mail. Those who contribute more than $250 receive a personal letter through the mail. The letter also contains information on JDF and asks them to send a reply card back to receive more literature. Donations have ranged from $25 to "significant four-figure amounts," Moulthrop said.


Even though the initial interest in making online donations has been strong, the JDF plans to improve its site and increase the online activity of its donors.


"Our site is rich and a bit complex, although we have not received any complaints about it," Moulthrop said. "But within six months it is going to look different than it does right now and will be more user-centered."
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