Online donations are becoming an increasingly significant facet of the fundraising efforts of many nonprofits. More than ever before, people are using technology to change the way they routinely do a wide variety things. Giving financial support to causes they believe in is no exception.
According to a 2011 Blackbaud study of online giving, all sectors in the nonprofit industry have experienced double-digit growth in the percentage of donations made online since 2009. Another study on giving among high net worth households (where the average wealth of respondents was $10.7 million) found that 38.7% of such households reported making a donation online between 2007 and 2010.
While online giving doesn’t make up the majority of total gifts made annually in the United States, improving the methods donors can use to give online can help you raise more money in the future. Below are some considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the way your nonprofit approaches online giving.
Enable Donations on Your Website
Before discussing how to optimize your site for potential donors, you first need to set up an online donation system that allows those interested to contribute to your cause. (We recommend using Stripe as a payment processor.) If at all possible, try to incorporate this donation functionality directly into your website instead of directing users to a separate donation site. Doing so has a few key benefits.
Donors Prefer Giving on a Nonprofit’s Website
Multiple studies have shown that incorporating donation functionality into your website can help facilitate fundraising success. One online fundraising study found that the average nonprofit with a donation page within their website raised five times more than a nonprofit that sent donors to an external, unbranded donation site.
Additionally, a study of younger supporters (age 20-35) found that 56% preferred donating online via an organization’s website, whereas only 21% indicated they preferred donating via a donation site.
If you have the resources and capability to do so, it’s beneficial for your organization to incorporate donation functionality directly into your nonprofit’s website.
Integrate Internal Donation Functionality with Website Analytics
If your nonprofit’s donation functionality is internal to your website, there’s a better chance you’ll be able to integrate it with your website analytics. While doing so depends on numerous factors, integration with analytics will allow you to see the behavior of visitors that ultimately decide to donate to your nonprofit. You can then make informed decisions as to the best ways to adjust your website to facilitate the donation process in the future.
Design Will Change to Match Your Website
As you update your website, the design of the donation page will update as well, helping to create a more seamless experience for potential donors without necessitating an additional fee to update your donation page separately. It’s evident donors prefer a donation page that reflects the look and feel of your nonprofit’s brand. Incorporating donation functionality into your website will allow you to maintain such consistency and hopefully translate into more donations.
Make the Donation Process Easy
If a visitor has decided to donate, the last thing you want to do is drive them to abandon the process because it’s overly complicated.
In an effort to keep the process as simple as possible, consider the following:
- Ask for Minimal Information – Your donors are there to support you with a financial contribution, not to enter a ton of info about themselves. Only ask for information that you need.
- Indicate Progress – If your donation process requires multiple steps across multiple pages (which may indicate it’s getting too long), tell your users what to expect. Indicate their progress towards donating by clearly showing them where they are in the process.
- Explain Each Field – Make sure it’s very clear what information goes in each field during the donation process. Make the title of each field clear and include an explanation whenever necessary to avoid confusion.
It turns out many nonprofits are already doing a pretty good job at making the donation process user-friendly. A study on wealthy donors who actively use the internet found that 72% of respondents indicated they “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “most charity websites make it easy to donate.”
Use a Prominent, Static Donate Button
You never know when a visitor will be moved to donate to your nonprofit. Regardless of when they decide to pledge their support, you need to ensure they can easily find where to do so.
Make your donate button stand out. It should look different from the other tabs in your navigation and immediately draw a user’s attention. Consider putting it in your header at the top of your website so it’s in the same location on every page. Doing so will help ensure whenever your website visitors feel compelled to donate, they’ll know exactly where to click.
Clearly Display Your Nonprofit’s Financial Information
Many potential donors seek out financial information for a nonprofit prior to making a donation. In fact, a study on the research habits of donors found that both individuals and financial advisors (who make donation suggestions to clients) want to see financial information above any other info on a nonprofit’s website when deciding whether or not to donate. 74% of individuals and 80% of financial planners indicated they’d like to see financial information prior to making a donation. In addition, 71% of foundations indicated they’d look for financials as well prior to making a contribution.
Clearly displaying your financial information can help instill confidence in your ability to handle donations responsibly and run your organization effectively. It demonstrates your nonprofit’s transparency and shows that you have nothing to hide. Many potential donors want to see this information prior to making a financial contribution. Giving them the information they’re looking for can help drive them to take the final step and contribute.
Make the Impact of Donations Clear
Your donors are giving you money because they want you to use it to make the world better. Most donors will want to know how their donation is being used. You should do this both before and after a donor has given their financial contribution. Also consider adding an Impact page to your site.
Before: Tell Potential Donors What Their Contribution Can Do
Including the good that can come from a specific contribution amount can help potential donors envision the effect their donation can have. Give concrete dollar amounts and what each contribution will enable your organization to do in the community you serve.
Comic Relief, a UK-based nonprofit aimed at eradicating poverty, does a good job giving donors an idea of the impact their contribution can have. They list multiple donation amounts and the specific impact such a donation will have on those in need.
To boost the effectiveness of this approach, include compelling photos or videos showing these supplies being utilized.
After: Share How Specific Donations Were Spent
Many donors want to know that they’ve had an impact. Tell them how you’ve spent their contribution and let them know the change they’ve enabled your organization to make.
Sharing concrete impacts can help curb donor attrition as well. The study mentioned before on younger donors found that 77% indicated they’d be somewhat or very likely to stop donating to a nonprofit that didn’t tell them how their donation was making an impact.
Show the Impact Instead of Simply Telling It
Showing is a far more compelling storytelling device than simply telling. Instead of merely telling your donors they’re making a difference, show them as concretely as you can. Utilize photos, videos, and first-person accounts from those impacted by your organization. The more concrete and compelling the stories you weave are, the better they’ll serve your organization and resonate with those that support you.
It’s important to remember that many people donate with their hearts, not just their heads. You have to make them not only understand your impact, but truly feel the work your organization takes on each and every day. Strong visuals help make your nonprofit’s impact concrete, even if it’s happening on the other side of the world.
Representing your impact in a compelling way can not only help with donor retention, but it can also be very persuasive to potential donors that visit your website. In fact, in the study on younger donors, 85% reported that a compelling mission or cause motivates them to financially support an organization. This was more than 50% higher than any other motivating factor. Potential donors want to feel a sense of connection to the cause prior to giving their financial support.
However, at the moment, many nonprofit websites are failing to represent their impact in a way that visitors find inspiring. In one study of philanthropic internet users, only 8% said they “strongly agree” with the statement “most charity web sites are inspiring,” and 32% indicated they “somewhat agree.” Such low numbers indicate there is huge potential for nonprofits that are telling their story in an inspiring way to stand out from the crowd. A visitor that is moderately inspired is far less likely to support your organization than someone that is emotionally moved.
You have a compelling story to tell of how your nonprofit is making the world a better place. Start thinking like a storyteller. Doing so can greatly impact the success you experience in your online fundraising efforts.
The 2010 Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy – The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
The Online Giving Index (Q1 and Q2 2011) – Network for Good
The Wired Wealthy Report – Convio
Millennial Donors Report 2011 – Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates
Money for Good II: Summary Report – Hope Consulting