Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Internet fundraising takes off… again

Internet fundraising takes off… again

This month’s WebWatch column in Professional Fundraising magazine sees Jason Potts in bullish mood. As head of new media at Burnett Associates, he asks “are we beginning to see the maturing of the web as a fundraising medium?

This month’s WebWatch column in Professional Fundraising magazine sees Jason Potts in bullish mood. As head of new media at Burnett Associates, he asks “are we beginning to see the maturing of the web as a fundraising medium? The answer has to be a resounding yes.” He cites the sophistication of Comic Relief and the NSPCC’s Virtual Collecting Tin.


NSPCC shakes a virtual collecting tin

Past and present fundraising tools have been merged as part of the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign. Donors with Web sites are being encouraged to add a Virtual Collecting Tin to their site, and in return they can keep track of how much their Tin has raised for NSPCC.

[NSPCC Virtual Collecting Tin][NSPCC Virtual Collecting Tin]

The trusty collecting tin, the public face of many charities’ fundraising, has taken on a new life online at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Full Stop Campaign site. The charity is encouraging supporters to add their Virtual Collecting Tin to their Web site. Anyone clicking on the collecting tin graphic will then have the opportunity to make a secure online donation at the NSPCC site. According to Jason Potts of Burnett Associates, writing in Professional Fundraising magazine (May 1999, p.11), “£1,000 was donated by one individual within hours of the launch.”

As NSPCC say, “it’s welcome to the 21st century, where there’s no more standing outside the supermarket on a cold wet morning shaking a tin; you simply place the banner ad on your website, and your visitors can choose to click-through to make a donation.”

Such attempts at free promotion by UK charities are far from new on the Web. Comic Relief gave away a free graphic in March 1997 as part of its attempt to turn the Web red, and repeated its efforts on a grander scale in March 1999 with an expanded range of free-to-download banner ad graphics and photos. Oxfam, Christian Aid and the Disasters Emergency Committee have also recently encouraged supporters to add free fundraising banner adverts to their sites.

The NSPCC Virtual Collecting Tin is different in one important aspect. It lets the supporter who adds it to their Web site find out how much
visitors have donated online via that particular collecting tin. In other words,
supporters get personalised feedback on the effectiveness of their own donation of free advertising space. We can all feel good by featuring a charity’s banner ad on our sites, but we will feel even better if we know exactly how useful we have been to the charity.
Indeed, the results of the Virtual Collecting Tin might spur us on to add the Tin to other
pages on our site, or to publicise just how generous visitors to our site are.

NSPCC has taken measures to make sure that the Virtual Collecting Tin should not be abused. Participants have to sign a legal agreement with the Charity before they can place the Tin on their sites. They also place a clear “Sample” sign across the demonstration banners that appear on their site. You only get to see and use the real banner ads when your application is approved and you receive your unique identification code.

The Virtual Collecting Tin is a most welcome addition to the banner advert method of fundraising. It adds genuine interactivity by tracking the value of donations generated by each Tin advert, and by making this information available to both the recipient charity and the supporter who has donated the advertising space.

Only the supporter can find out how much her/his site has generated, and of course they do not get to see any details on the donors who have given. It is up to the supporter whether they wish to publicise this figure. This seems a particularly good tool for companies or company departments to place on their Web site or on their intranet. Different companies can compete with each other to raise the largest amount via their particular Virtual Collecting Tin. At its launch the Collecting Tin was sported by Microsoft UK, Microsoft Network, and AOL.

UK Fundraising’s Howard Lake has a few suggestions on improving the service:

  • The direct links to these prestigious supporters no longer
    feature the Collecting Tin so should be removed, or at least replaced by a screen-shot
    demonstrating their past support. The NSPCC, however, report that these ads are still
    being served, and in one sponsor’s case are being increased.
  • Reports on the amount donated via a Tin originally appeared in dollars, but this was a function of incorrect regional settings on the new NSPCC Web server, not the Tin’s system.
  • A prompted level of giving might also help increase revenue: at present the default value is £0.
  • The Virtual Collecting Tin is promoted as one way in which your company can help the NSPCC: its page title includes the phrase “how your company can help.” Companies are certainly the most important publishers of Web pages in terms of fundraising income, but many other individuals and organisations publish Web sites which could generate income, so the appeal should be set more broadly than companies. As their FAQ says, low-traffic Web sites are welcome participants: “your support is gratefully received regardless of the popularity of the site.”
  • NSPCC should offer suggested text for the ALT tags on the banner ad graphics as part of the HTML they provide for adding the graphics to your page.

Still, because of the novelty and fundraising good sense behind this initiative, it should not be long before the Virtual Collecting Tin starts to appear on hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Web sites belonging to individuals, companies, schools, and organisations. Similarly, it shouldn’t be too long before other charities set up a similar method of donating online.


UK Fundraising has signed up as a registered user, so you can use any of the following Virtual Collecting Tins to make a donation.

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]

[Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now]


Tips for adding the Virtual Collecting Tin to your site

Make sure there are no spaces in the HTML that is provided for adding the coded graphics to your site. The cut and paste solution can leave a gap in the HTML due to line breaks which will mean that the links will not function.

Include some appropriate text in the ALT tags of the graphics. UK Fundraising suggests “Cruelty to children must stop. FULL STOP. Donate now”.

The technology behind the Virtual Collecting Tin

The Virtual Collecting Tin is a sophisticated product. It offers three different modules, the donor, banner hosts, and reporting and administration areas. The donors area consists of the banner advert, and the infotainment server which detects browser capability and user history and presents one of several infotainment pieces designed to engage potential donors. Online donation fullfilment is implemented using Datacash. The site also makes use of autoresponders and e-mail lists to develop the relationship with donors.

The banner hosts area consists of a registration area for potential supporters, and an administration area where NSPCC can authorise successful applicants.

NSPCC authorise host applicants using the administration area of the web site.

The reporting and administration area includes valuable tracking facilities for NSPCC to monitor the success of banner ads, using the click-through model, and on the success of infotainment, based on a conversion rate. It can also provide reports on other aspects of the campaign such as host site, date, infotainment, and banner ad. The area also allows NSPCC to administer the infotainment and banner server delivery.

The site was built on the Microsoft NT IIS 4 platform using ASP and SQL server.

Who is behind the Virtual Collecting Tin?

UK Fundraising tracked down the companies that created this innovative online fundraising venture.

The Virtual Collecting Tin project was conceived and led by Burnett Associates, with Red Banner acting as their technology partner. Red Banner, which offers e-business intregration services, created and supports the Virtual Collecting Tin.

Red Banner’s other charity clients include WaterAid, Crisis and Greenpeace International. Indeed Red Banner personnel have been involved in developing the Greenpeace International Web site since 1994.

Jim Sweet of Red Banner told UK Fundraising: “We’re very proud of the way we built the VCT system to utilise every scrap of information available to deliver highly targeted services to meet a wide range of users needs”.

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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