By now, most non-profit organizations have tried their hand at collecting donations online with varying degrees of success. According to a Target Analytics, in 2008, non-profits received approximately 10% of their donations online. That number is expected to continue to grow, constituting the majority of donations by 2020, or sooner.
No longer a novelty, online fundraising has been around long enough for us to identify what works and what doesn’t. A few basic modifications can improve the performance of any online campaign.
Identify Potential Donors
Your first step is to identify your potential donors. You may already have several sources to draw from: people who have bought a ticket to one of your events; signed up for email newsletters and/or alerts; participated in a contest or a survey; purchased merchandise online or on site; past an current donors. You can also set up a program that rewards current donors for inviting a friend to participate, and of course, you should be collecting email addresses at every opportunity.
Reaching Potential Donors
The key elements in an online fund raising campaign are your website, your email marketing and social media campaigns. A well designed website is particularly useful for attracting new donors, getting the news out about your organization and efficiently supporting small-scale impulse giving. Email marketing is useful for making initial contact with new donors or following up with potential donors after an event. When combined with social media, it is also effective in long term donor relations.
What Kind of Information are Donors Interested In?
Whether you are creating web content or writing an email newsletter, potential donors are interested in three areas of information:
1) What are your organization’s mission, goals and/or objectives?
2) What are the donations used for?
3) What results have you gotten in the past? What are your success stories?
In other words, what are you trying to achieve, how will you spend the money, what have you achieved with past donations?
Although organizations typically provide this information somewhere within their sites, users often have had problems finding it. According to web usability guru Jakob Nielsen, only 43% of the sites studied clearly stated their mission and made it easy to find, only 4% indicated how they were using the donations. Make this crucial information easy to find. Highlight the work of your organization by creating a section that specifically demonstrates what the money is going toward, include photos, testimonials, first hand stories of success, videos of events…anything that will make the point in a compelling way.
Keep the Donation Process Simple
Remove any stumbling blocks that might deter any potential donors. 47% of these problems were found to be related to usability and site design, including difficulty finding desired information, cluttered pages, and confusing information flow. On 17% of the sites tested, users couldn’t find where or how to make donations, often the site design caused people to overlook donation buttons.
Make the donation process as easy as possible. Think of it as essentially as an e-commerce checkout, but with fewer complications. Put the DONATE NOW button on every page of your site so that, when the time comes, potential donors won’t have to search for it.
Accepting Online Payments
Make sure you have a way to accept credit card donations. You can either have one developed either directly or through a service such as PayPal. Many small non-profits work with a third party site that take and manage donations, (NetworkforGood is one but there are many more), that provide a turn-key solution to accepting credit card payments. Alternatively, donations can now be made via text messaging, or through social media sites such as Facebook Causes and Crowdrise.
To sum up — speak clearly, anticipate donors’ questions, make the process as easy as possible and the donations should flow your way.