Digital Fundraising: 9 Common Mistakes to Fix Yesterday

Digital Fundraising: 9 Common Mistakes to Fix Yesterday

Why aren’t more people supporting your nonprofit? What are you doing wrong? If you’re forgetting about digital fundraising and the best practices you should follow to get online donations, there’s your answer.

Digital fundraising isn’t exactly new, but it’s growing in popularity year after year. In 2018, online giving grew by 12.1% from the previous year, and we don’t see that statistic slowing down any time soon. It’s time you learned the best practices and fix these suspect behaviors that could be driving away online donors.

Digital Fundraising 101

The first step to digital fundraising is developing a process for supporters to give online. You can either accept donations directly on your website, embed a third-party donation form on your website, or send supporters to another website to give. We’d strongly encourage you to follow the lead of 85% of US nonprofits and accept donations directly on your website.

Aside from a form on your website, digital fundraising encompasses all of the online channels that you use to drive people to that form and ask them to give. That means all of the content across your website, emails, social media and anywhere else that you make the ask online.

Digital Fundraising Mistakes

While there are lots of things that can go wrong when you’re asking people for money online, we’ve narrowed down our top nine problematic behaviors to work on correcting (preferably immediately).

It’s hard or confusing to actually give

Go to your nonprofit’s homepage and follow the path that a first-time donor would take to make an online gift. How long does it take you? Are there steps that might be frustrating or confusing if you’ve never done it before? Maybe you have multiple donation forms floating around, broken links to your donate page, a jumbled mess of a Ways to Give page or put donors through a six-page form before they can complete their donation.

Whatever your current process, there’s a good chance you can improve upon it.

You send donors away from your website to give

As I mentioned earlier, we’d recommend collecting donations directly on your website. Aside from building trust through the continuity of staying on the same website, keeping online donations on your website allows potential supporters to easily find the content they might look for before giving, like contact information, financials and impact stats.

You’re not properly thanking your donors 

After an online donation, it’s customary to direct donors to a Thanks for Donating page and send an email with their receipt and a brief thank you message. If you’re not sending a thank you email after every online donation, please start now. You can automate that process to make things easier on your team and prevent lapses.

Once that’s taken care of, begin your other relationship-building tactics to get to know your donors better, share the impact of their gift and encourage future donations.

You don’t use visuals to your advantage

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Choose a strong photo that tells your nonprofit’s story in order to keep donate pages and asks in emails and on social media from becoming too text-heavy.

Your donate page is too busy

A donate page should have just one call to action, and that call to action should be to make a donation. Multiple calls to action, links to other pages or a wall of text that pushes the donate form down the page can create unnecessary obstacles. Most of the time, it’s best to have one simple ask backed by a brief, yet compelling reason to give.

You focus on donations over cultivation

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those fundraisers who focus so much on asking that they forget that they still need to convince people to give. Use your content on the website, blog, on social media and in emails to cultivate connections and educate donors on your cause. Tell a (short) story that demonstrates who you are, educates people on your mission and instills trust in your organization and the important work that you do.

You fail to relay your impact

Donors want to see how their gift will help before they give. Don’t just demand money, show them how their gift will make a difference. Feature testimonials and statistics through your outreach and anchor your impact story in an Impact page on your website. Potential donors will land on this page as they search for examples of the work you’ve accomplished and how you’ve managed to bring your mission to life. Include a call to action to donate on this page and link folks to your donate page.

You don’t know who your donors are

Personalization matters, especially to donors. Knowing who is giving to you can help you to both keep your current donors happy enough to continue doing what they’re doing AND bring new donors just like them into the fold. We’ve all heard how important relationship building is to fundraising, and that starts with getting to know your donors.

Do you have target audience personas for donors? Do you have funnels mapped out with the common paths that supporters take from first learning about who you are to making their first donation?

Aside from giving your donor retention rate a boost, getting to know your donors through activities like creating personas and funnels will make for better content on your digital fundraising channels. Imagine being able to write content for one specific person to get them to do one specific thing. It’s a heck of a lot easier than getting the “general public” to support your organization in a handful of different ways.

You don’t segment your emails to donors

Not all donors were created equal, and they should not all receive the same emails. Email is still the top way to reach donors, but you need to be strategic about who you send to and how you address each group. Donors who’ve been giving for years, and who are familiar with the history and inner workings of your organization, shouldn’t receive the same messaging as a first-time donor, who may not be quite as familiar with all that you do.

Email segmentation allows you to meet a section of your list where they are and move them through the funnel toward another donation. It also allows you to customize the email content to craft a message that feels like it was meant just for that person.

While you may have some other cobwebs to sweep out of your digital fundraising plan, adjusting these common mistakes should put you on the right track to increasing online donations and making the process more pleasant for your donors.

Is your organization guilty of any of these digital fundraising mistakes? Do you have questions about how to get your nonprofit back on the right track? Let’s talk in the comments.