How do you create loyal donors? By creating satisfying engagement and amazing experiences.
At. Every. Step. Of…
The. Donor. Journey.
This is the trek you facilitate. You’re a bit of a Donor Sherpa. The way you lead will impact whether, and how long, donors will follow. Every step of the journey is important.
How carefully are you thinking through each step?
No matter what you do, the steps exist. Your donor has to step through them. Forwards or backwards. Upwards or downwards.
Ascertain what these steps look like for your organization’s donors. Are they leading folks onward and upward? Or are they forbidding, dangerous and inherently unenticing? Honestly assess whether the journey is one that is donor-centered. Or one that is all about you, your convenience and your needs.
Before we get started with the creation of five donor experiences to boost online fundraising, I’d like you to being with one “to do.”
TO DO: Begin by “auditing” your donor journey. This is also called “user testing.”
Simply make an anonymous donation online. Ask one or two friends to do the same. See what happens every step of your would-be donor’s journey.
- How easy is it to fill out the donation form?
- How does this step make you feel?
- Once you give, what happens?
- Are you taken to a page that tells you what you’ve just accomplished?
- What does your email confirmation look like?
- Do you receive a subsequent thank you of any kind (i.e., through snail mail, via telephone or via a subsequent email or welcome package)?
- What does your subsequent thank you look like?
- How does it make you feel?
Ask your friend for their input as to their experience. Be open and honest with your own feedback, and receptive to the feedback you receive.
Once you’ve done this “audit,” consider the following five areas where you’re likely to be able to improve your donors’ experience.
5 Secrets to Facilitate Online Philanthropy
1. Quality of Content/Quantity of Communication
- Inconvenient format
- Dull and boring
- About irrelevant programs
FIRST, rethink your vague, inconvenient, dull, irrelevant monthly newsletter. Stop for a minute to think about the four content sins enumerated above, and I’ll bet your newsletter commits all four of them. It’s all over the place trying to touch on every program or department. It’s way too long. It’s written in a format that fails to engage (too much like a term paper). It doesn’t cover the program your donor donated to.
TIP: Break things up and send shorter, more pointed, less overwhelming emails more frequently. You’ll likely get both more “opens” and “clicks.” Especially “clicks,” and that’s what you care about. Because now you know this person is interested enough in this topic to want to learn more. And now you can note this in your database. The next time you plan to send information and/or an appeal related to this topic, you can pull this person from your database by creating a segment of folks interested in this program.
TIP: Think from your donor’s perspective. What’s in this for them? How can this help them solve a problem or find greater meaning in their life?
SECOND, include lots of images, including photos, infographics and videos. They’re the best way to tell your compelling story, create an emotional connection and draw people in. And in the age of limited attention spans and information overload, a picture truly is worth 1000 words.
TIP: Don’t just put them on your home page, but on multiple website pages. Don’t just put them on your website, but in your e-newsletter or blog links and social media posts. Visual content is number one when it comes to catching attention and driving likes and shares. Research shows:
— Image tweets generate up to five times more engagement than regular text.
— Social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.
THIRD, share quality content from other trusted sources. This will increase your credibility (especially when influencers say nice things about you) and strengthen your standing as a player and thought leader in your area of expertise. By making the effort to do this type of “content curation,” you’ll bring more content variety to your constituents and build your reputation as a valuable resource of information on your topic.
FOURTH, recycle and repurpose your content across multiple platforms and media. Great content is a terrible thing to waste! You can change the title, change the images and rearrange the paragraphs; then reuse it. You can also turn it into different content formats, for example:
- Turn key facts and images into a slideshow, graphic or infographic, checklist or video clip
- Add voice to your post and turn your blog post into a podcast
- Turn long posts into a white paper or ebook
2. Website Dynamics
In 3 Content, Online and Social Media Venues for Every Nonprofit, we talked about the importance of your website as the hub for all your fundraising and content marketing. Everything you do should drive people to your site so you can drive desired actions. That means your website better be pretty awesome once folks arrive there.
When is the last time your website was updated? Does it have anything dynamic at all, or is it more like an online brochure?
You want a dynamic, direct response website.
FIRST, purge from your website anything that already happened . Nothing makes you look more inefficient than a “Save the Date” for an event that happened five months ago. Or a contact who no longer works there.
SECOND, make sure every piece of content calls for an action. This doesn’t necessarily mean asking for a monetary gift. But… the way to build a relationship is to ask people to make a small commitment or do a small favor. It can be as simple as “watch this video.”
THIRD, make sure your website is mobile friendly. More and more people are accessing you on their phones and tablets. Plus… Google is now separating search results between mobile and desktop. If your website is not mobile friendly, Google may not even show your organization at all in results.
3. Donation Form Optimization
The better your donation form and process, the more folks you’ll convert to donors. This is not just good for your bottom line; it’s good for your donors’ souls. In fact, giving (or the act of giving) is what makes donors feel most engaged. So, how do you make your donation form engaging?
FIRST, cheap is cheap. You’ll leave money on the table. So… leave PayPal, take the leap, and find a good donation processor. You want people to be able to give to you in a way that feels secure and is intuitive and engaging.
SECOND, shorter is better. Don’t ask for every piece of information you can think of here. It will stop people dead in their tracks and depress the completion rate. Even asking for a phone number can decrease completion.
TIP: People are more likely to enter their phone number in an event registration than a pure donation. This is also true if you’re having a give-away or raffle. People seem to intuit there’s a reason you’re asking in this case. So… you might want to give a reason why you’re asking for this information (e.g., “So we can thank you and reach you if there are any questions. We promise not to ask you for money on the phone!”)
THIRD, you want to include specific donation amounts. Your donor doesn’t have a clue how much they should give. Help them out! If you just have a “fill in the blank” they’ll give you $10 when they could give $50. Use “anchoring” and begin with a large amount so this gets fixed in their brain. They’ll then be more likely to choose a lesser level that will still be “anchored” to the higher amount they first saw.
TIP: Don’t start too small. If someone wants to give $10, they can type it into the “Other” blank. Instead, look at your average online gift and make that your smallest gift level. You can do this for different segments of your database as well (which means you’ll need different donation landing pages). Also, don’t be afraid of going too high. A recent study found people were comfortable giving donations, on average, of $300 online. Some went as high as $10,000! Of course, it’s best to test this for your own organization.
TIP: Most platforms include software to do A/B split testing for you. So search for A/B split tests on the tool you currently use. If it doesn’t have this functionality, consider getting a new tool.
4. Thank you
An Abila Donor Engagement Study found that 21% of donors say they were never thanked for their gift. Hmmn… Is that really true? Or do they just not feel like they were thanked? Yup. Many nonprofit thank you letters are completely boring, generic and the reader can’t even tell who they’re from. Even worse, sometimes the thank you comes so late that the donor has already got the idea that s/he received no thank you stuck in their mind.
FIRST, thank within the first 48 hours. In Donor-Centered Fundraising by Penelope Burk, research reveals that donors called and thanked by board members within 48 hours gave an average of 39% more than those not called – and they gave 42% more even after 14 months!
TIP: If you can’t do this via email and/or mail, make an immediate thank you call. If you can’t call everyone, prioritize different donor segments and call who you can. I like to call first-time donors and donors over a certain amount (that will vary, depending on your organization — $250+? $500+? $1,000+?)
SECOND, tell a story that shows the impact of the donor’s gift. Don’t begin with “On behalf of the board, thank you for your $100.” The donor didn’t give because they had a $100 burning a hole in their pocket. They gave to give a happy ending to a story.
TIP: Hopefully you told a compelling story in your appeal? One about how Mary went to bed at night with nothing to eat? Consider continuing the story you began in your appeal as the compelling opening line of your thank you — but this time show the happy ending: “Because you cared, Mary will go to bed tonight with a full tummy.”
5. Ongoing Follow up
This is the Big Kahuna.
If you only communicate once or twice before asking for a second gift, the donor’s warm glow has evaporated before that next ask..
In fact, direct mail guru Tom Ahern suggests you don’t even consider a first-time giver a “donor.” Rather, look at the first gift as the gift of attention. They’re letting you know they’re inclined to become a regular donor, but not until you show you’re worthy.
If you don’t immediately thank them, and continue to follow up with them to demonstrate the impact of their gift, you’ll squander that gift of attention.
FIRST, consider setting up a series of follow up emails. Your email service provider should make it possible for you to set these up as automated responders.
TIP: In each follow-up email include: (1) Thank you; (2) Impact, and (3) a Story that makes the donor the hero.
SECOND, don’t worry you’re emailing too much. Donors tell Penelope Burk that feeling over-solicited is simply an outgrowth of being asked to give again before they’ve learned of the impact of their previous gift.” As long as you’re thanking and reporting on impact, supporters will be happy to hear from you.
TIP: Ask questions and engage your community in surveys or polls. Everyone likes to be asked to give an opinion or offer advice. It shows people you care about more than just their money. You can ask for feedback on just about anything – from the design of your logo to opinions on current events, trends or developments in your field. By getting feedback from your audience, you’ll not only boost engagement but also get insight into what your constituents a looking for from you.
How do you facilitate online philanthropy? Please share in the comments, below.