Web Study and Political Summit Indicate Increased Focus On Internet Fund Raising

Web-heavy political campaigns like those of former Democratic presidential primary nominees Howard Dean and Wesley Clark opened contributors' wallets--and in turn, strategists' eyes.

In an effort to determine the willingness of voters to use the Internet in order to give to political candidates and nonprofits, Kintera Inc., a software provider to nonprofit organizations, paired up with Web research outfit Luth Research Inc. The big takeaway--nearly half of those likely in 2004 to make a financial contribution to a political candidate or party said they would donate online.

They'll have an abundance of opportunities to do just that, if the way in which political campaigns, advocacy organizations, consulting firms, and technology providers are responding is any indication. Take today's Political Technology Summit in Washington, D.C., where even U.S. Senate minority leader Tom Daschle is set to make an appearance. Summit panelists representing consulting firms, tech companies, and political campaigns will make the scene to discuss topics like peer-to-peer Internet organizing and Internet fund raising.

Kintera will be represented at the summit by Michael Agosta of the Carol/Trevelyan Strategy Group, a political strategy and technology company acquired by Kintera in March. Agosta will sit on the panel at a session on strategies for voter contact and platform management.

"Politics is like Hollywood," observes John Hlinko, vice president, marketing and creative engagement at Grassroots Enterprise, Inc., an online technology and communications company and panelist on the "Money, Money, Money: eDollars--Internet Fundraising" session. "Politics is driven by paranoia. ...When there's a success, there are automatically multiple clones of it," he adds, alluding to the online grassroots efforts of the Dean and Draft Clark campaigns. Hlinko ran the Draft Clark campaign.

If more campaigns build Internet fund raising operations, will the donors come? According to the Kintera/Luth Nonprofit Trend Report, 70 percent answered that they were unlikely to make a financial contribution to a political candidate or party in 2004, while more than 17 percent said they were likely to do so. The remainder was neither likely or unlikely to do so. The study also found that 22 percent of participants have donated online to a nonprofit, while 4 percent had donated to a political candidate online. The survey of 1,751 U.S. consumers was conducted online in December 2003.

Of the likely donors surveyed, more than 48 percent indicated that they were likely to donate via the Web. Compared to the unlikely donors, more of the likely types had been involved in donating to a nonprofit organization online; participated in a walk, ride, or bike-oriented fund raising event; and had been involved in soliciting funds on behalf of a nonprofit organization. The report also showed that respondents who have donated online are over 40 percent more likely to solicit funds on behalf of a nonprofit than those who do not donate online. "If an organization can get 5 percent of its constituents to solicit on their behalf, they're doing very well," says Ephraim Feig, Kintera's chief technology officer and chief marketing officer. Counting all the nonprofit fund raising events the company was affiliated with during 2003, Kintera found that 22 percent of people who registered for the events online went on to solicit donations from others via email. That number rose from 17 percent in 2002, according to Feig.

The Nonprofit Trend Report shows that 58 percent of respondents consider a personal request from a friend or family to be their top motivating factor for giving to nonprofit organizations or political candidates. Email solicitation from a known person was ranked ''most motivating'' by 6 percent of participants. "People are much more comfortable asking others to get involved via the Internet" because it has lowered people's inhibitions, Feig believes.

Folks like Feig and Grassroots Enterprise's Hlinko insist that fund raising via the Internet through personalized appeals like viral email campaigns makes it easier for contributors to give, and more cost-effective and time-efficient for campaigns and nonprofits than traditional means involving direct mail, data entry, and processing checks. "The Web is empowering the individual," stresses Hlinko. "They have significantly more power today than they did 10 years ago."

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