In this episode of the Strategic Nonprofit podcast, our host Trista sits down with Tim Kachuriak to discuss digital fundraising strategies and the age-old question: “What makes people give?”

Tim shares how nonprofits can increase donations through effective email marketing campaigns and refining the messaging of your mission.

Join Trista and Tim as they cover:

  • What makes people donate
  • Considering the donation journey of the user
  • Using your value proposition to increase donations
  • How empathy is your biggest tool

What Makes People Donate? 

Getting people to donate can be a hard ask – you’re asking someone to giveaway some of their hard earned money for someone else’s benefit. Often what affects donation rates for websites is their Ingoing Motivation; what are they coming to the website for in the first place?

Generally, if they are there to consume content, it’s fair to assume that their likelihood of becoming a potential donor is relatively slim.

But there are ways to optimize your website to prime people to donate. Here are a few ways you can optimize your website for donations:

Optimizing the Donation Page

When it comes to digital fundraising, start by looking at your donation page. When somebody clicks the donate button and arrives at the donation page, they have communicated that they have some intent to make a gift. But when we look at data across the industry, less than 25% of the people that click the donate button actually complete the transaction.

One of the reasons for this is friction and cost factors. Meaning how difficult is it for them to donate?

Often to donate on a website one must wade through long forms with lots of questions, many of which the donor never anticipated to answer. For example: Which of the many different gift designations would you like to chose? Adding questions like this adds ‘friction’ and often when people don’t know the answer, they abandon the process.

So look at ways to simplify your donation process.

Make sure to also considered the time it takes for a user to navigate your page, click buttons and enter their payment details into the donation form.

Anticipate every question your potential donors will be asking themselves; How much do I want to donate? Can I pay safely with Apple pay, Google or PayPal? And does this have to be a reoccurring gift?

Anticipate these questions and make it easy for them to answer them.

Focus on Your Value Proposition

Something that makes a big difference in digital fundraising efforts is how the value proposition is articulated.

The Value Proposition seeks to answer why someone should donate to your Nonprofit Organization and convince your potential donor the value your organization brings.

There’s one question that every donor is thinking but rarely do they voice it:

“Why should I give to you, instead of another organization?”

When that question can effectively be answered using persuasive copy on the website, it’s not uncommon for organizations who apply this technique to receive a 300-400% increase in donations.

Empathy is Your #1 Tool

To be able to optimize your donors’ donation journey, you need to learn how to empathize with them. To do this, you need to complete a donation payment on your organization’s website. Take this opportunity to create notes at every stage; What worked well? What didn’t? How did you feel afterwards?

Everyone wants online payments to be quick, easy and painless, so hold your donation process to this benchmark.

Once you’ve thoroughly explored the process, you can then implement tweaks, changes and tests to find out if your hypothesis is correct.

Tools For Optimizing Digital Fundraising

You can’t optimize what you can’t measure. So consider using some of these tools to better track the effectiveness of your fundraising campaigns.

Google Analytics should be an imperative aspect of your optimization toolbox, especially considering it is free to use. Your Google Analytics data enables you to identify and view patterns of behaviours concerning potential donors on your website. Effectively, it’s the closest you can understand your prospect’s perspective after conducting Mystery Donor Studies.

Most organizations probably only use about 10% of what Google Analytics can do.

Tim Kachuriak

Fine-tune your Digital Fundraising Optimization Strategy with UTM codes (Urchin Tracking Module); when enabled, you can track all of your activity by the source. For example, Google search, YouTube, LinkedIn, or an online advert from an email you sent.

Now that you have the context of their intent, you can begin to consider questions such as: “Did they contribute a gift?” “What is their average gift amount?” and “How many visits did I get?”

That will enable you to optimize your strategy. For example if you find that you’re getting lots of visitors, but not getting the donations you were hoping for – you’ll want to look at those pages that they’re landing on and look at ways to improve them.

Using Email As Part of Your Digital Fundraising Efforts

The end goal for many organizations is for the donor to eventually donate, so it’s important stay connected with them until they’re ready to make that decision.

Try strategically placing valuable offers like free ebooks or a newsletter offer on your website to gain the email addresses of site visitors. This will allow you to continue to build the relationship long after they’ve left your website.

Email marketing is a critical part of building relationships with potential donors, and sometimes it’s just a matter of reminding them that you exist!

People don’t give until they care, and it’s hard to make someone care right away.

Tim Kachuriak

So use your email list to cultivate relationships.

Also read:

Simplify Your Emails for Better Results

Considering that email is the largest revenue driver for most organizations, it’s fair to assume that similar principles apply when fundraising via email.

While many nonprofits create highly designed email templates full of HTML, graphics, and big clickable buttons; Tim warns that different email service providers see that code and will put your email straight into their promotions or the spam box. So one of the simple reasons why plain text emails work better is because they have much higher inbox deliverability.

People give to people.

Also, highly designed emails come across as marketing and that’s an issue because people don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be communicated with. Consider the emails you send to colleagues, friends or family, they’re probably not laden with distractions, right? That would be overwhelming and unnatural.

See for yourself and analyze your fundraizing appeal, does it have too many distractions? Remove them and replace them with a plain text email to test how much more engagement you receive.

More About Tim Kachuriak

Tim is the Founder and Chief Innovation and Optimization Officer for NextAfter, a fundraising research lab consultancy and training institute that works with Charities, Nonprofits, and NGOs to grow their resource capacity. 

A Nonprofit thought leader and a frequent speaker at international nonprofit conferences, Tim is also the author of Optimize Your Fundraising and is a lead researcher and co-author of the Online Fundraising Scorecard, Why Should I Give to You? (The Nonprofit Value Proposition Index Study), and The Midlevel Donor Crisis.

About Tom (TJ) Abbott

Tom (TJ) Abbott, CSP is the Managing Director of AMC NPO Solutions and an authority on Governance. He has over 25 years experience as CEO, President and board director of several not-for-profit organizations. Tom has also spoken in over 20 countries.

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