Our firm was established on January 1, 1996, and since day one, we have taken the Internet seriously. We have always allocated a significant amount of our time and resources to gaining a better understanding of the Internet and bettering our presence on the web.
It is as though we have been living out the adage “live and let live.” We have been trying to better our living by learning about the Internet and trying to help determine what people, especially our potential customers, are going to want from our website, so we can help them “live better.”
We studied what worked and what did not work so well. We read other peoples theories on driving traffic and customers to your website, but there are so many pretenders out there that it becomes hard to differentiate the good advice from the horse manure. So, we continued to work to get more traffic and more hits, primarily through the search engine games.
We registered and re-registered with the search engines and online directories, trying to ensure that we would place highly in the returns for searches in our generic field/s. We became pretty successful with this, learning to tweak our site and add keywords and metatags and descriptions which enabled us to return high for any related search terms, such as fundraising, fund raising consultants, fundraising firms, capital campaign consultants, fundraising companies, etc. People looking for those types of terms will generally find us in the first page or two of listings and often in the top two or three slots.
So, we were getting traffic, but the people were just stopping in, not spending much time on our site, and not trying to buy our services. We needed to get them to spend a longer time visiting our site and to see more of it so that it might inspire their serious inquiry, which would lead to a sale. We continued to wonder what we could do to drive those highly qualified and interested people to our site and keep them there a bit longer.
The answer was there in front of us for years. It involves putting the needs of the customer (Potential Client) first. During those first few years, everything we were reading pointed to our need to offer something of value to our potential clients, something that would really allow us to provide them with useful information or service.
For years, people had been telling me I should circulate a free e-mail newsletter on fundraising. Not too long ago we began publishing this e-publication, which we’ve entitled The Fundraising Free Press, which goes out every two or three weeks to some 10,000 development related professionals throughout the United States and Canada (a copy of which you are reading now). Our goal with this free electronic publication is to provide the people in the fundraising profession with practical insights and suggestions to help them continue to develop so that they can reach their potential.
The Fundraising Free Press has driven an enormous boost in traffic (especially highly qualified traffic) to our website. Though our website requires much time, attention and money to develop and continuously improve, I am confident that our investment will pay off, for both our clients and our professional staff. The Internet is the way of the future and CDS is committed to bringing you the things that will be most helpful to you as you tackle your development-related challenges. That is the real purpose of this article. I need to ask for your help.
A DEVELOPMENT VORTAL - AN INDUSTRY TOOL
For some time now, I have been trying to conceive of and develop an idea for the ultimate fundraising launch pad onto the Internet. The technical jargon for such a website is called a Vortal (Vertically Integrated Portal). This simply means that the site is a portal onto the Internet that specializes in, or caters to, the fundraising/development professions. Much like Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other famous vortals, we envision the CDS website to be the fundraiser’s toolkit. It will be like a customizable desktop that has everything a fundraising professional wants and needs to do their job effectively and efficiently.
Calendar and Datebook Functions
Helpful to have a multi-functional calendar that will allow for scheduling of appointments and day planning, as well as long-range monthly and annual planning.
For custom use in marking your time schedule.
With reminder and alarm. This allows you to let you computer remind you when an important deadline is looming or when you have an important meeting for which you need to prepare.
The ability to search the site and the Internet for the object of your inquiry.
Each duly registered user gets a free e-mail account with up to a certain amount of free disk space. You can send and receive unlimited messages, but they cannot exceed a certain pre-agreed size, thus preventing you from attaching large, data–intensive files.
This is something that has real priority. This would be a real-time question and answer exchange between development officers on the site. I believe people will gravitate towards a fundraising site that takes things seriously and provides you with constructive answers. This message board must be very functional and attractive to boot.
Not to be confused with the Message Board, this is for posting information that is of interest to the fundraising and development community. FYI.
Lots of Information
We want to present as much fundraising and development related information as we possibly can, without the risk of becoming boring.
Free Trial Versions of Planned Giving Software
Downloadable, with the ability to use only for a certain period of time or only for demonstration purposes only.
Development Related Humor
Quotes, jokes, etc. related to fundraising and development.
Newsletter Articles Index
The cache of articles that have already run in our bi-weekly e-mail newsletter called The Fundraising Free Press.
Sign-Up sheet for the newsletter.
Fundraising Current Stories
Automated news feed services and whatever we can paraphrase from the wires, newspapers and magazines related to fundraising and development.
IRS Interest Rates for Planned Giving
These rates are used to determine the actual value of a future gift, expressed in today’s dollars.
Section on Basics in Planned Giving
Timely information about planned gifts and the distinctions between the basic types of planned giving instruments, versus other investments.
This might be the place where you warm-up your computer desktop with photos you scanned of your spouse, your friends or your family.
This section might have suggestions and ongoing discussions of how to dress-up and improve your website.
Related and Interesting Generating Material—You can participate in development and geographic rings (websites linked into circular discussion groups) where desirable.
CDS Professional Staff Listing
Their resumes and a description of the clients they have helped in the past. Photos will go up on one page next to each person’s name.
Links to Tools and Resources
You name it, if it is about fundraising or development, we will want to be highly involved.
These are some of the ideas we might include in the newly redesigned CDS Website, currently under development. Is there anything else that would allow us to personalize this portal for you and your use? Is there any way in which we could personalize this desktop in a manner that would be more helpful to you, your clients or your employer?
By taking this time and effort to design and create what you really need and want, I hope we will be able to provide you with a useful tool that you will want to come and use for your own reasons—not just to support us. Let us know your thoughts and suggestions and we will try to include as many of your ideas as we possibly can. Please send your suggestions to email@example.com. Many thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.
David G. Phillips is president of Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS). CDS has become one of North America's best and most sought after fundraising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question for CDS, please call 800-761-3833 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.