The Most Important Statistic Nonprofits Don’t Track
by Mike Montalto
January 17, 2019

So, your fundraising emails are getting a ton of opens and clicks. But once potential donors arrive at your online giving page, they disappear! There are few things more frustrating for nonprofits than putting so much work into an appeal, only to see users stop short of donating. Yet, many nonprofits can’t paint an accurate picture of their conversion rate.

If the clicks and opens are there, you must be doing something right! Unfortunately, clicks alone don’t raise money. The good news is, figuring out and improving your nonprofit’s conversion rate is easier than you might think. If you are tracking your website interactions with Google Analytics and monitoring online donations through a donor management system, you can determine your conversion rate in three simple steps:

  1. Using Google Analytics, determine the total number of unique visitors to your online donation page within a specific time period.
  2. Using your donor management system, determine the total number of online donations made online during that same time period.
  3. Divide the number of unique visitors by your online donations to determine your conversion rate.

So, if 150 people visited your online giving page, and your nonprofit collected 25 donations online. Your conversion rate would be 16.6 percent. That’s just below the average of 17 percent for nonprofits, according to the latest M+R Benchmarks report.

Blame Your Donation Page

However, that 17 percent average is still far too low for our comfort. If you find your conversion rate is on par with or below that average, you may be suffering from a sub-optimal donation page.

Though the end goal is different, your nonprofit’s online giving page should function similarly to an online checkout page. We’ve all been there, trying to finish up an order with a website that just won’t cooperate or is a hassle to navigate. More often than not, your frustration caused you to visit a different site to make your purchase.

Whether you’re trying to sell a product or collect donations for your nonprofit, you don’t want your visitors to abandon their shopping cart before the transaction is complete. Using the following strategies will help improve your conversion rate and significantly grow your revenue.

ECFS's online donation page

Effective Integration

Take another look at that appeal email you sent. Then, pull up your online giving page. Compare them side by side and ask yourself if the average person would know that these two communications are part of the same campaign. Is it even clear that they are coming from the same organization?

When a donor lands on an online giving page without the same branding, messaging, or other elements as your appeal, they will feel a real disconnect. This is one of the major reasons your donors might be leaving the page as quickly as they arrive.

If your email was effective in driving clicks and visitors to your page, you already have everything you need to work with. Taking the images, messages, and call-to-action from your email and using them again on the donation page creates a cohesive experience for donors. It also keeps their reasons for giving in mind throughout the entire process.

Communicate Impact

Your email is a great place to really get into the specifics of how each donation furthers your organization’s mission. This information is important to donors, as they want to be able to visualize the tangible benefits of their gift.

While you want to keep things shorter on your giving page than in your email, there are ways to subtly remind donors of the impact their gift makes. Consider including a picture and testimonial quote from someone your organization has helped right on the giving page. This serves as a last-minute reminder of the difference their gift makes.

Another option is to compare a donors dollars to the impact of their gift. Something like: “A gift of $50 provides food and medicine for 10 at-risk children.” Donors want to know the specific ways they are helping the cause and reminding them just before they give can be extremely powerful.

Your giving page should read well on a smartphone.

Make it Easier to Give

However, you don’t want to restate everything that you said in your appeal email. Overwhelming donors with a bunch of information after they’ve already decided to visit your donation page does more harm than good. Keep your donation page short and to the point, so it’s easy for donors to make a gift.

It is also important to consider how your online donation page will look on mobile devices. Remember, 54 percent of nonprofit emails are opened on a mobile device. You don’t want mobile users pinching, zooming, and scrolling when they click the link to your giving page in your appeal email. Be honest, when you land on a page that functions poorly on your phone, you probably back out right away. Your donors will do the same.

You should also offer several payment methods so donors can give in the way that is easiest and most comfortable for them. Donors with a PayPal account might rather make a click or two to log in and process payment rather than enter all their credit card information on your site. If someone lands on your giving page, they probably want to donate. But you have to meet them halfway and make the process as easy as possible for them.

The Power of PURL

If you’ve been following our blog, you already know the impact personalized content can have on building relationships and inspiring gifts from donors. If your organization has a talented web developer (or if you outsource one) you can apply that personal touch on your donation pages.

Personalized campaign pages allow you to extend each donor’s unique experience throughout the entire giving process. This strategy allows you to use the same personal materials from your appeal on your giving page. If a donor has second thoughts before hitting that “donate” button, these references can remind them why they wanted to give.

PURLs also make the giving process faster and easier for donors who have previously given to your organization. Having information pre-filled on the donation page, like a donor’s name and email address, reduces the amount of information they must enter before giving.

You can also offer targeted ask strings based on a donor’s previous giving history. The less steps a donor must complete to give, the more likely they are to see the gift through.

Visitors / Donations = Conversion Rate

Other Considerations

If you’ve incorporated the strategies above in your email appeals and online giving pages, but you’re still not seeing the donations come in as expected, there are several other things to consider.

First, be sure that you are not misleading your donors in any way. As we mentioned earlier in this post, when a donor feels a disconnect between your appeal and giving page, they are far more likely to leave before making a gift. A donor who follows the CTA in an email about your capital campaign will be turned off if the button brings them to your annual fund donation page.

Another factor that could be holding back your conversion rate on email appeals is the load speed of your online giving page. The average user waits just a few seconds for a page to load before they back out. This could be a reason why your online donations don’t measure up with your opens and clicks.

One simple fix is to compress the size of your image files on the page. This can drastically reduce load speeds and hopefully lead to increased giving.

You’re Already Halfway There

If your conversion rate for email appeals is well below your click-through and open rate, we understand your frustration. However, there is some good news. If your emails regularly generate a good number of opens and clicks, you’re off to a better start than many organizations.

You must be doing something right! After all, if your appeal emails weren’t inspiring donors, they wouldn’t make it to your donation page in the first place! It might just take a few small adjustments on the giving page itself to get those donations flowing in.

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