How to Identify Gaps in Your Online Giving Strategy
by Mike Montalto
November 14, 2019

What would you do if we said you could get a solid idea of why your online giving strategy is falling short with one simple experiment?

In prior blog posts, we’ve stressed the importance of putting yourself in your donors’ shoes. It can be hard to disconnect and see things from an outside perspective when you live, eat, and breathe your nonprofit’s mission.

But, donating to your own nonprofit through your online giving page is a great way to get a better feel for a donor’s experience!

Conversion rates, donor retention rates, and other data points can tell you if your online giving strategy is working. But these raw numbers can’t tell you why donors are engaging (or not) the way they are.

A poor conversion rate can be a symptom of an inadequate online giving strategy. To fix it, you need to find out what’s causing donors to leave your website before giving. Or why they never gave again after their initial gift.

Are you ready to take a hard look inward and evaluate your digital fundraising strategy?

Go to your nonprofit’s home page and simulate an online donor’s journey. Make your way to your online giving page and make a $5 donation. Then, keep these four things in mind while you walk a mile in a donor’s shoes.

1. Is it easy to give?

This one seems like a no-brainer on the surface. We’ve stressed how mobile optimization, offering multiple ways for donors to give, and minimizing the number of clicks makes it easier to donate before.

But for this exercise, we want to think more holistically. That’s why it’s important to start this process on your home page, not your online donation page!

The giving process should be straightforward for a long-time donor and someone who stumbles across your site.

Is it easy to get from your home page to your online donation page? Remember, your audience isn’t familiar with your site. They won’t know to look in a drop-down menu to find your online giving page!

You should feature obvious call-to-action buttons that direct visitors to your donation page.

But your site should also have plenty of educational materials about your mission and impact to engage potential new donors. And you should present this information in a way that effortlessly steers visitors to your giving page.

Optimizing your online giving with shorter forms, pre-filled information, and several payment options won’t do any good if there’s not a clear, engaging path to your donation page!

Donating to your own organization will help you determine if your site structure, poorly placed or ineffective calls-to-action, or load speeds are holding your digital fundraising back.

2. Do you demonstrate the impact of giving?

Are you helping your supporters envision what their donation will do to further your nonprofit’s goals?

You need to constantly remind donors of the immediate impact their gift has. A picture is worth 1,000 words, so use images of your work in action to show the impact of giving.

You should also tie gift amounts to something that feels real for donors.

For example, “Your gift of $100 will provide two classrooms with necessary supplies for a year.”

This strategy helps make a donor’s gift feel less abstract. A donor may struggle to see how a donation of $100 is significant when your campaign goal is $50,000. But if they understand how their donation makes an immediate difference for two classrooms, they are more likely to give.

It’s also important to demonstrate the impact that every donation has on your mission several times throughout a donor’s journey. It’s not enough to make a brief mention on your giving page alone.

Stewardship materials should remind donors of their impact and show how their donation is putting your nonprofit’s mission into action.

And don’t forget to talk about the sustained impact of giving! This is especially important for long-term and monthly donors.

So, as you go through the donor journey, take note of how your communications talk about the difference every donation makes. You have some work to do if you’re website only features things like the percentage to your goal, total dollars raised, and overviews of specific programs.

Donors need to understand how fundraising dollars put your mission to work. Doing so can increase the amount a donor wants to give! It makes it clear that they can do a lot more for the cause by giving just a few dollars more.

3. Your Initial Thank You

If you don’t thank donors properly, your chances of securing a second gift plummets. You should thank a donor three times within 48 hours of their donation.

The first time is on your website when they click “Donate.”

So, once you’ve filled out your own donation form (hopefully that wasn’t a hassle!) and clicked the donate button, you wait a few seconds as the wheels are spinning. Then a page pops up with the words “THANK YOU!” in a large font.

This page should be more than a “thank you.” It should reinforce the impact a gift has on your goals. Consider using a happy picture of the people you support on this page.

But if this is the only element of your initial thank you, you’re making a big mistake!

You also need to confirm that a donor’s gift has gone through. Sending a digital receipt as soon as the transaction is processed is the best way to do it.

Your donors may need this for tax purposes, so don’t leave them hanging! And don’t forget this is another opportunity to say thanks.

Finally, you will want to follow up with a more elaborate thank you. This is your opportunity to show how important every donation is.

You can send this through email but picking up the phone and calling donors or sending a handwritten note is the best approach. This is especially true for those who made a particularly generous donation.

This is your opportunity to tell donors the next chapter of your story. Share the specific ways their donation made a difference. Use powerful visuals and testimonials from the people you support.

Above and Beyond

Your donors may not expect this final step of your initial thank you. Or, you might realize you don’t have a variable, automated email set to follow up on donations.

Maybe you find you are neglecting donors under a certain dollar amount.

Going the extra mile to voice your appreciation can be the difference between securing a long-term donor, and making your supporters feel undervalued.

4. How do you keep donors engaged?

Your work is still not done. This experiment of donating to your own website is ongoing!

Fast forward months from now. What kind of emails are you getting from your nonprofit? This step may not even occur to you, until you see an appeal email about your latest initiative!

Remember, we’re thinking in the donors’ shoes. How would you feel if you were ignored for months after your first gift, and only heard back when the organization needed more money?

Probably not great! This is why it’s important to continue building the relationship over time. You need to build a communications pipeline that helps you maintain contact with donors, so they are excited to give the next time you ask.

This pipeline should be automated and include things like your new donor welcome kit, invitations to events and volunteer opportunities, donor surveys, and newsletters that highlight your mission in action.

If you’re missing one of these elements, that’s OK. None of them are mandatory. But if you find your nonprofit goes radio silent in between appeals, you have some work to do.

Record, Review, Report

Our long-time readers know that an analytical approach is essential to improving results. So, as you undergo this experiment, make sure you take note of the things you like and don’t like about your online giving strategy.

You need organized, qualitative data to identify the gaps in your program and make changes that improve the donor experience.

Remember, no two donors are the same. So, you should encourage more than one person in your organization to try this exercise. It’s better to get a variety of opinions about your approach!

Then, you must analyze your findings and determine the best way to improve your strategy. You will then need to organize them, so you can report what you’ve learned to the decision makers in your organization. Unless that is you!

It’s important that your donors understand the impact of their gift. And this experiment is geared to help you understand the impact of a sub-par online giving strategy.

Donating to your own organization will help make the reasons you struggle to raise money online more concrete. This is a crucial step on the road to more effective fundraising!

Like what you see? Stay in touch!