By Carrie Rice, Project Donor Love
#Donorlove is frequently focused on what happens after someone makes a donation, such as thanking donors and encouraging donor retention. In fact, everyone who interacts with your organization is a potential donor. Applying a few stewardship best practices with each person with whom you interact begins the relationship-building before the first gift – maximizing the chance that this person will become a donor in the future.
Maintain consistent branding
I recently saw a wall of eight different flyers for events at the same organization and none of them looked remotely the same. If they hadn’t been clumped together I never would have known they were all for the same organization’s events. All collateral your organization produces–direct mail, brochures, email newsletters, your website–should look at a glance like it was created by the same organization. Your brand does not need to be professionally created if that’s not possible – just have something that makes your potential supporter recognize all the different pieces that are all part of your organization. Strong, consistent branding helps them trust your organization and prevents confusion.
Use their data mindfully
I still get emails greeting me as “Dear <FIRST>” or “Hi, CARRIE RICE”). I don’t feel much #donorlove there! Use people’s first names in the subject line and in the greeting. Also, if you get someone’s email address on a list, make sure that they are getting quality content in each communication. Segment them so that they are not receiving emails that assume they’ve made previous gifts. The recent GDPR fire drill has been a reminder for many organizations of the importance of good data habits. But beyond compliance requirements, gathering sensible data about your constituents, and using it carefully and consistently, is essential for good stewardship.
Don’t treat them like an ATM
Who wants to feel like a cash machine? Before someone makes a gift they may believe that you are only interested in their money. Use your communications as an opportunity to spread the word about the amazing work you’re doing, not just the funds you need to do it. What about other aspects of your work to communicate to them? Send them great content including impact statements and photos, letters from people who you’ve helped, or information about other ways to get involved. Like many of these points, this applies to all donors. Make sure you are sending out lots of impact information and other calls to action between any solicitations.
Make sure your website is engaging and easy to use
- It should be easily usable and mobile-responsive. As of 2017, more than half of all web searches are done on a mobile device (phone, tablet, or watch). Make sure that your site is mobile-responsive by using Google’s mobile-friendly test. If possible, switch your theme to one that will work well with mobile devices.
- Your website should show impact. Graphics help the potential donor conceptualize the impact of their gift. So do photos (with permission) and even simple impact statements throughout the website.
- It should be easy to find the button to donate. Like, on every page. Big. In a contrasting color. Who knows what page is going to move them to want to hit “DONATE”?
Donation Form Do’s and Don’t’s
- Do make sure it’s easy to fill out. Try making a $5 gift to your organization on your website or your phone. How fast can you do it? If a new donor went to your donation form to make that all important first gift, would they able to complete it as seamlessly as ordering a product on an e-commerce site they’d never visited before?
- Do check the branding on your donation form. Does it match up well to the rest of your website? New donors need to feel a sense of trust before they actually make a donation – make sure they can tell that they are making a gift to you, not your payment processor.
- Don’t make it tedious to fill out the form. Do you really need their middle initial? How about whether they go by Mr/Ms/Mrs/Your Highness? Go through the form with a few friends over a pizza – are there fields you’re asking for that would slow them down or stop them from making their first donation?
- Don’t require fields you don’t need the answer to. While you may want every donor’s phone number, people might not want to share that piece of information with you, especially with their first gift. Ask, but don’t require, the information you don’t absolutely need to process their donation.
Ultimately, treat potential donors the way you treat your donors – they’ll get used to your authentic #donorlove and will be surprised and delighted that they were getting it before they ever made a gift.