As the national president of the Delta Gamma Pi Multicultural Sorority, Inc., I always had my eye on the infamous “bottom line”. You know, basically, how much money did we have in the bank account every month. While dues were our main source of income, I also wanted to diversify our revenue stream and establish a vibrant fundraising program. Well we had a lot of ideas, but most of them didn’t work out in the end. However I did see some absolute bright spots of potential — and iGive.com was one of them.
We created an entry on iGive back in 2009, before we received our official 501(c)(7) non-profit designation from the IRS. This was key, because iGive does not require you to provide this documentation, so you don’t have to wait a year (or two) after you’ve launched your non-profit to participate. From there, it is relatively easy to start raising money.
The premise is, you shop online, through the ‘iGive’ mall, and a percentage of your purchase gets donated to the cause (non-profit) of your choice. In order for your purchase to count, you have to register for an account with iGive, and designate the cause that will benefit from your purchase (they have added the ability to connect using Facebook). You can also install an iGive button for your browser toolbar. This makes it easy to never miss an opportunity to donate (no need to go through the ‘iGive mall’ to find a participating online retailer), and is less intrusive than the iGive pop-up window that has to be open if you don’t have the button. Additionally, you can raise money just by using iGive to search the web ($0.01 per search).
As for the money that comes in…well let’s see. In two years, we raised $286.38. I realize that it does not sound like much. However, we only had 16 people participate in the program in those two years. Of those 16 people, 4 only utilized iGive for one transaction. The largest single donation that came through was for $21.04, when one of the sorority sisters used Expedia through iGive to book the flight & hotel for her honeymoon. I alone raised $110.95 over the course of those 2 years, but mainly through small, regular purchases…like my contact lenses from LensMart. 🙂
How do I know all of these stats? Well because the cause administrator gets all of this fiscal information, as well as information on purchase frequency, dormant users, and who contributed to your latest cause check (I would love to include a screen capture here, but there’s too much personal information attached to the reports). You also have access to a ’cause toolbox’ where you can email your supporters, print off customized flyers and handouts, and generate a logo (with a link to your cause’s shopping mall) for the web.
Sounds great right? Well…almost. On their end, the customer service on iGive’s end is pretty shoddy. We received all but one of our checks just fine. And to be fair, the check that got lost was partly our fault because we changed our mailing address, but forgot to update our iGive account information. Well it took more than 6 months to get that check re-issued. So don’t bank on those iGive funds…until they are actually in your bank! Oh, and of course there is a minimum amount that must accrue before you get a check (as of now, it’s $25).
The second downside to iGive is that it takes a real plan and good execution to really make money off of it. It’s an ongoing fundraiser…so you need to come up with ways to keep your supporters participating. All too often, we have supporters sign up, create an account, buy something…and then that’s it. In our case, we had 3 users who really raised the bulk of the money through iGive. So it may be beneficial to focus this fundraiser on a core group of supporters. You can still advertise it, but don’t expect the money to come rolling in like magic. Another thing that worked for us was an incentive program. Whoever raises the most money via iGive in a given time frame receives a gift (for us, it was a discount on dues).
Overall iGive is a great fundraiser in that it is very easy to get started, and is an easy sell to supporters (no additional costs to them; especially if they are big online shoppers anyway). The downside is the lag time that it takes to get your money (although, it will improve as your revenue and supporter base grows), and the extra effort that it takes to keep your supporters interested throughout the long-term. Be sure to check out iGive’s reviews on Viewpoints and Epinions as well (although most are written from the perspective of supporters, and not cause administrators).