Rage Donations: Is Your Nonprofit Ready for this New Trend?

rage donations

“Don’t just get mad, get giving!” Could this become the new fundraising battle cry?

Research shows that nonprofits continue to experience year-over-year increases in online donations, and it seems that at least a small part of that success can be attributed to donors motivated by anger as well as altruism. As our communities become increasingly divided over politics, current events and even local issues, nonprofits are seeing an uptick in people who express their emotions through donations to causes whose missions match their values.

In this age of rage donations, is your organization ready to turn anger into action?

What are Rage Donations?

One of the reasons that storytelling is so effective in nonprofit fundraising is that it creates an emotional response that can motivate someone to give. Rage donations are similar in that an emotion (anger) is driving a donation—except that your nonprofit might not be controlling the story.

[Rage-donation is] the act of feverishly throwing money at a cause you believe in because you just don’t know what the hell else to do. — Ashley Fetters, GQ

Even non-partisan or non-advocacy organizations might attract supporters and complete strangers who want to make rage donations to your cause. A group that works with a local homeless population could experience an increase in gifts after an unpopular decision to cut the state’s grant program. A women’s shelter might see an uptick in donations after an act of domestic violence makes national news.

As long as your nonprofit’s mission and impact align with people’s motivation to give, you’ll want to be prepared to meet their needs by offering a quick and easy donation process, as well as funnel their energy for good.

Tips for Turning Anger into Action

Rage donations might come from a negative place, but you can welcome these gifts with positivity by focusing on what can be done about the issue at hand. And since you might not get a lot of advance warning that this wave of interest is coming, here are ten tips for quickly creating an action plan using your website and related tools:

  1. Prepare key messages and train staff and your board on the issue so that they are comfortable answering phone calls, talking to donors and partners, and responding to social media posts. Reinforce your protocols for talking to the media.
  2. Evaluate your website content to see if related pages can be updated to better explain your nonprofit’s position, goals and programs. Don’t feel pressured to cater to the rage donation audience; help make sure they are well-educated about who you are and what you do as an organization. You also don’t have to wait for rage to strike to make sure your website content is fresh and relevant. Tackle it early and often.
  3. Be ready to tell people how to help. Donations are definitely nice, but are there other needs that can be met? Brainstorm all the ways that someone can get involved, like volunteering, in-kind gifts and writing letters. Verify them with related staff.
  4. Update public-facing frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are on your website and in other materials. Update frequently as the situation evolves, balancing a compassionate tone with strong facts. Like your website content, it’s best to keep these continually updated, but you might find you need to add to your FAQs about the specific event or issue at hand.
  5. Capture information with email sign-up forms so that you can keep track of people’s interest and follow up with them later. Another way to motivate email sign-ups is to offer a helpful download, such as an action kit or fact sheets. If you already have an email sign-up form on your website, consider adding a field to capture “how you found us” to collect even more data about your new audience.
  6. Even better than a sign-up form, add a landing page to your site that serves as an action center. Reiterate your mission and acknowledge the pain that might be driving people to your site before showing them how they can turn it into support for a solution.
  7. Update your homepage, at least in the short term, to direct people to your landing page or a related page or post on your site where they can learn more. Depending on your site design, you could use a banner at the top of the page, update the main visual to a topical hero image or add a pop-up to help visitors navigate to the right place.
  8. Update your press page and media kit to be responsive to media inquiries and to help your communications staff be proactive in gaining some control over the story.
  9. Test tools for “in-the-moment” storytelling like Snapchat and Facebook Live that can help you reach people quickly and less formally, which could be required in an emergency situation. Twitter is also rolling out donation functionality, which could help your cause become a part of the digital conversation.
  10. Create a donor retention plan that will keep your rage donation audience engaged and informed in the long-term. Consider a follow-up plan beyond your normal IRS receipts such as newsletter articles, videos, blog posts and social media updates about the issue and the impact of the gifts.

One of the most difficult parts of managing controversy is thinking beyond immediate actions and coming up with a strategic response that looks at the big picture. Dealing with rage donations is likely an overwhelming part of an already hectic and stressful situation for your nonprofit and your constituents. By quickly taking action to effectively communicate with and capture information from these supporters, you can help coordinate your organization’s response and cultivate new donor relationships over a longer time period.

Has your organization changed a negative into a positive for fundraising and outreach? Or have you made a rage donation? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.