Julia C. Campbell and I were clearly separated at birth, and I’ve told her as much. Because I tend to agree – in spades – with everything she writes. [Plus, her middle name is Claire, so what further proof is needed?] Her recent article, 6 Ways Nonprofits Are Getting Online Fundraising All Wrong, is no exception.
Here are Julia’s 6 tips, to which I’ve added a few of my own thoughts (although they’re really not my own because there are no new ideas – and Julia and I think the same)!
1) Online fundraising does not work in a silo.
Julia reminds you that no fundraising or marketing effort works in a silo. This is SO important! Just building it isn’t enough. Whatever it may be. A blog. A Facebook page. A Twitter profile. A donation landing page. You name it. Sorry. They won’t call. They won’t write. They won’t wax on rhapsodically about your finer qualities. The most they might do is notice you out of the corner of their eye; then move on.
ACTION TIP: Convene a multi-disciplinary communications team. It’s on you to work it – together – as a full organization invested in engaging those folks who share your values. Whatever you do online must be supported by what you do offline. And vice-versa.
2) Online fundraising does not work if your website sucks.
And, by the way, these days if your website isn’t optimized for mobile it sucks. Because I’m willing to bet that a huge percentage of those who intentionally search for you, encounter you serendipitously, or open email from you, do so via mobile devices. And you’re losing them because… you’re just so user-unfriendly. In fact, a recent study by Papilia, Donor Conversion: Why Mobile Optimization Is an Urgent Matter, revealed that more than 20% of online giving comes from mobile devices but more than 50% who attempted to make a mobile donation dropped off. And they’re not going to wait until they get back to their desktop computer to check back. You’ve lost them for good. That should be totally unacceptable to you! What are you going to do about it? Also, if you only have one generic Donation Landing page, your website sucks. The spider whose web isn’t sticky won’t catch any flies. What’s on your landing page that will get folks stuck there? Folks want to give for the purpose/campaign that moved them. If you don’t reassure them – right away on the landing page – that this is how their gift will be allocated, then they’re going to jump ship. “Your gift reduces economic inequality” is not the same as “Yes! I want to send a kid to college today.” The average donation made through a branded checkout page is 38% larger than the average donation made through a generic page.
ACTION TIP: Check out this edition of the nonprofit blog carnival. It’s all about how to build, maintain and evaluate a great nonprofit website.
3) Online fundraising does not work if it is not easy.
Make your donation landing pages inviting, easy to navigate and persuasive. Research has indicated that websites lose 40% of visitors with every click – so make sure yours count! In fact, make your entire website a nice tasty treat for folks! “What’s the nicest thing your website does for your constituents” is a question I sometimes pose to my clients. It turns out that one of the nicest things you can do for folks is make it really easy for them to have a conversation and give/receive feedback. Your website can be a way you collect/consolidate what is happening in multiple media channels so that constituents who wish to can find everything from a single portal.
ACTION TIP: Hubspot offers a free Nonprofit Guide to Calls to Action and Landing Pages to help you turn strangers into supporters.
4) Online fundraising does not work if no one knows about it.
This is a variation on just building it isn’t enough. You’ve got to work from a plan. Every chance you get, let folks know where to find you online.
ACTION TIP: Telling a great story in your e-news, blog, mailed newsletter, fundraising letter, web page or Facebook post? Include a “Donate!” link. Never waste the dose of inspiration you’ve provided. Don’t just leave would-be donors wishing they could give the story a happy ending. Take them by the hand and SHOW them how to do it!
5) Online fundraising is not a substitute for a major gifts program, planned giving program or annual campaign.
Online tools are a complement to nonprofit donor moves management. You’d be silly not to use them. But don’t abuse them. Just because you can doesn’t always mean you should. If your mail campaign is not as effective as you wish it were, throwing it out in favor of an email campaign is probably not the answer. My hunch is that you’d be better off going back to basics and clarifying your messaging. Get crystal clear on why your mission matters, and what’s in it for the donor if they join you.
ACTION TIP: Become a consummate “drip” story teller. Your donors want an ongoing tale. A little today. A little next week. And so forth. There’s no better delivery mechanism for “drip” storytelling than social media. And don’t get hung up on thinking it’s just Facebook or Twitter. It’s lots of things… email; texting; LinkedIn (where a lot of professionals, aka donors, are); Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Yelp… if you start to ask, you’ll be surprised to find out what your donors are doing digitally.
6) Online fundraising does not work if you do not communicate your impact to your donors.
You can’t raise money if no one knows what you do. You really must integrate and adapt your marketing to support your fundraising. Don’t leave marketing staff, or your executive management and program staff either, to their own devices. They’re apt to wax on and on about how wonderful you are, your newest Board member, and your years of service to the community. Readers will be exposed to graphs and pie charts and all sorts of impressive statistics designed to impress people and engage their rational minds. No, NO, no. That’s not going to serve your fundraising purposes. More and more the research reveals that people give from the heart, not the head. From emotion, not reason.
ACTION TIP: Develop a storytelling culture. Stop a minute to consider what you’ve got to “sell.” Your “program” or “service.” Right? But you’ve got to make it about more than that. Those are commodities. You’ve got to make it about hope, or ego or fear or empathy. Something emotional. The best nonprofit stories spin a tale of misfortune, struggle or conflict; depict a protagonist you come to care about, and then show your donor how to be the hero who creates the happy ending.
Speaking of showing your donors what’s in it for them…
One of the best ways to rock your annual appeal is to fill it with content that rewards your donor for acting. Learn how to do this — and much, much more — in my upcoming 5-week E-Course: Your Ultimate Guide to Successful Year-End Appeals. Typically nonprofits raise as much as 50 to 80% of their annual income at the end of the calendar year. Learn to take advantage of this time when donors are feeling most generous. Your annual appeal is a terrible thing to waste! Check out the curriculum here or grab the Early Bird deal and register here. Full satisfaction guaranteed — or your money back.
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