Nonprofits rely on charitable donations for a significant part of their revenue each year. They collect these gifts in many ways— in person, via direct mail, or online, to name a few. And all go towards supporting your organization’s mission. So what happens when your nonprofit isn’t receiving the donations necessary to sustain your operations?
As a result of current events, nonprofits worldwide are struggling to obtain the donations they need and keep their doors open. Fundraising in a pandemic is difficult, for sure, but not impossible. That’s why it’s important to take a closer look at your online fundraising strategies and determine how to achieve better results going forward.
Maybe you’ve just started a nonprofit and you want to kick off your engagement on the right foot. Or you’re a part of an established organization rethinking your fundraising methods in light of the coronavirus. Either way, this guide can help.
These are four of the most common (and dangerous!) problems you might have with your online donation page strategy:
- You don’t segment your outreach.
- You don’t ensure a mobile-friendly web page.
- You don’t streamline the giving process.
- You don’t follow up after a donation.
The first step in solving any problem is realizing there is a problem. Let’s walk through each of these concerns. Then we’ll determine various opportunities for improvement that your nonprofit can leverage.
1. You don’t segment your outreach.
Imagine you’re looking to secure some new donors for your organization. You decide to send out a mass email requesting new donations. However, you don’t use donor segments to ensure each message is personalized to the interests of each supporter. The resulting outreach message may look something like this:
Please consider giving to support our mission. If you’ve already made a donation, you can disregard this message.”
This message is entirely impersonal, starting with the generalized greeting. It doesn’t show that you know your donors at all, and it’s very easy to ignore. Plus, for those who have already contributed to your organization, it does not convey your recognition or appreciation. Past donors might even be offended and choose not to continue supporting your mission.
Here’s what you should do instead:
Build long-term donor relationships by ensuring every message a donor receives is personalized and relevant. To do so, be sure to segment your outreach based on the following characteristics:
- Basic demographics: Collecting information about a donor’s age, gender, location, career, and family can help form a more comprehensive donor profile. Then, you can customize messaging to match what you know about the individual.
- Engagement history: Has the recipient given to your organization before? Have they worked as a volunteer? This kind of information can provide insights into the dedication and connection a donor feels for your organization.
- Giving preference: Most nonprofits accept gifts in multiple forms, including online, cash contributions, and in-kind donations. Making note of which method is used by a donor allows you to tailor future fundraising asks to fit their preferences.
- Communication preference: Similarly, making note of a donor’s preferred method of communication is a good way to ensure high levels of responsiveness. If you know a donor is constantly checking their phone for texts, but only uses email once a week, you know which communication method is more likely to gain their attention.
For more great examples, check out this comprehensive guide to donor segmentation from Doubleknot. By segmenting your donor communications, you show recipients that you see them as a human being rather than an ATM— and they’ll be more likely to give as a result.
2. You don’t ensure a mobile-friendly web page.
Imagine you launch a fundraising campaign to raise money for a particular project. You have your online donation page up and running, and you start promoting it to your supporters through social media, email, and text.
However, your online campaign is designed with desktop users in mind. When supporters attempt to give via a mobile device like a cell phone or tablet, the page is difficult to read and navigate— requiring too much pinching, zooming, and scrolling. Many of these users decide it’s not worth the hassle and end up closing the form without ever making a donation.
Here’s what you should do instead:
Be sure to prioritize mobile-friendliness when designing any marketing materials for your nonprofit, including emails, web pages, and donation forms. Here are two things to keep in mind:
- Mobile-responsive web pages: Mobile-responsiveness means that web pages automatically adjust the sizing, layout, and proportions of on-page elements to fit different sized screens. That means that mobile-responsive donation pages can work well on any device, from a smartphone to a desktop computer.
- Mobile-specific campaigns: Another type of mobile giving campaign is one that is specifically designed for mobile devices. For example, a text-to-give fundraiser involves donors texting a predetermined keyword to a mobile giving number. Then, they’re directed within seconds to a simple online giving page. Take a look at Snowball’s guide to text-to-give for more information.
Because more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, designing for mobile is a must. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with new donors who want to give from their cell phones!
3. You don’t streamline the giving process.
Imagine you’re looking to promote online giving and boost your overall fundraising strategy. You launch an email campaign to raise awareness and seek new donors to support your mission. Several of these donors are intrigued by your nonprofit and decide to follow the provided link to your online donation page.
However, the donor is led to a donation form that is several pages long, asks seemingly hundreds of questions about the donor’s background, and takes nearly thirty minutes to complete. As much as the donor wanted to support your organization, they don’t care nearly enough (yet!) to work through such a lengthy process.
Here’s what you should do instead:
The more information you collect about the donor, the better— right? This is true, but asking for all of that information at once can be dangerous. Excessive questioning will very likely lead to donation form abandonment. Instead, design your donation form with these best practices in mind:
- Only ask for necessary information. Be sure to only include required fields for information that is truly necessary to the giving process, such as payment information, donor name, and email address. Then, you can continue to collect further information down the line as you build on existing relationships.
- Offer suggested donation amounts. The first time someone gives to your nonprofit, they might be unsure what an “appropriate” gift size is. Providing suggested amounts is a great way to speed up the process and diminish any uncertainty through the use of social proof. However, it’s important to allow donors to choose their own gift if they’d like, so be sure to leave an option to customize.
- Encourage recurring gifts. The fastest way to make regular donations is by setting up a recurring gift schedule. After the initial gift is submitted, no further action is required on the part of the donor, and a preset amount will be transferred automatically according to the schedule. They never even have to retype their credit card number!
All of these strategies require your organization to have the right tools to set up your donation page. Employing the right fundraising software can make a huge difference in your fundraising. For example, many online donation platforms offer pre-made customizable donation forms that can provide a better understanding of the type and amount of questions you should include.
4. You don’t follow up after a donation.
Imagine a donor makes a generous contribution to your organization. They support your mission and they’re eager to get further involved. However, they never hear back after submitting their donation. Not only do they not receive any sort of “thank-you” for their gift, but they never get to hear about the impact their donation made, either.
As a result, the donor decides to stop giving to your organization, opting instead to support a different mission that will put more effort into personal correspondence. What had the potential to become a lifelong relationship ended with a single donation and a slightly irritated donor.
Here’s what you should do instead:
Go above and beyond to show your donors that you appreciate them! After all, your mission wouldn’t be funded without generous contributions from your supporters. In order to specifically show your thanks, be sure to:
- Send an immediate confirmation email. This should be a simple message with details about the gift, essentially functioning as a receipt for the donor’s own financial purposes. It’s a good idea to include some sort of “thank-you” at this step, it’s not considered a sufficient form of appreciation on its own.
- Send a follow-up thank-you message within 48 hours. 24-48 hours after the donor makes their initial donation, be sure to send your specific and personal thank-you letter. This provides an opportunity to show your appreciation, inform donors about other engagement opportunities, and share how you plan to use their gift. And if you’re not sure what to say, you can find a list of free, downloadable thank-you letters here, or check out the following template.
- Continue to build a long-term relationship. The relationship between your supporter and your organization doesn’t stop as soon as an individual makes a gift. In fact, it’s just getting started! It’s important that you continue to follow up with each donor on a regular schedule— sharing updates, success stories, and eventually, further fundraising asks.
Professional fundraisers know that retaining a past donor is significantly less costly than securing a new one. And in order to retain that donor and build relationships, effective donor engagement strategies are key.
If you’ve fallen into one of these traps of a poorly designed donation page, there’s still time to make it better. By taking these things into consideration when designing (or redesigning) your nonprofit’s online giving tool, you can set yourself up for long-term fundraising success. Good luck!
Author: John Killoran
John Killoran is an inventor, entrepreneur, and the Chairman of Clover Leaf Solutions, a national lab services company. He currently leads Clover Leaf’s investment in Snowball Fundraising, an online fundraising platform for nonprofit organizations.
Snowball was one of John’s first public innovations; it’s a fundraising platform that offers text-to-give, online giving, events, and peer-to-peer fundraising tools for nonprofits. By making giving simple, Snowball increases the donations that these organizations can raise online. The Snowball effect is real! John founded Snowball in 2011. Now, it serves over 7,000 nonprofits and is the #1 nonprofit fundraising platform.