July 16, 2014

Best Practices for a Crowded Online Donation Space

Though seeking online donations can be an efficient means to spread the word of your cause, it’s becoming increasingly crowded, making it difficult to capture the attention of those most likely to care about your message. Here are some best practices to implement into your fundraising efforts to cut through the clutter of a crowded online donation space.

Establish a clear brand identity that works everywhere

Because donations often have a personal motivation, soliciting donations from the virtual world adds an additional layer of complexity. Establishing a clear, relevant and consistent brand across your online and traditional tactics will help to build a sense of familiarity for your organization. In fact, data indicates that the presence of an established and consistent brand on a donor page can boost donation likelihood by nearly 15 percent, and increase repeat donations by 38 percent.

Cater to appropriate devices

If you do not know the devices visitors use to access your site (particularly on the donor page), you may be missing an opportunity to convert “low hanging fruit” already drawn to your cause. Using a free tool like Google Analytics, you can determine which devices your audience uses to confirm that your site is functional and responsive to relevant operating systems and screen orientations. Ensure that visitors can navigate your website from their device, easily input their credit card and bank account information to make a donation — and share their support of your cause on their social networks.

Make it easy to donate

While branding on your donation form is important, less is more in the remainder of your site’s appearance. Remove unnecessary navigation and search boxes, and “autofill” information that will expedite the customer’s donation experience. Do not force them to create a registered user account, and eliminate duplicate requests for shipping and billing information. Suggest pre-determined donation amounts that the user can select from a drop-down menu (along with the ability to enter a customized donation amount). Additionally, provide a checkbox offering the customers to receive the receipt by email, and demonstrate that payments are secure by showing recognizable logos confirming as much in your footer.

Ensure donors of your legitimacy

Regardless of your cause, donors want to know where their money will go and who will benefit from their gift. Disclose exactly where a customer’s donation goes and the purpose it will serve. Consider using tools like pie charts in your online communications that itemize where donations go, and add language from your organization’s leader explaining the strategy behind the financial allocations. If donations to your cause are tax-deductible, make it simple for donors to secure the appropriate tax information to claim the benefit. If you are affiliated with larger parent organizations or have affiliations within your local community, secure permission from those groups to include their logo in your campaigns and branding materials as well.

Ask for continued support

You invest considerable time and effort into convincing donors of your worthy cause — boost your donation retention by taking advantage of integrated payment processing tools that ask the customer’s permission to make automatic recurring donations, whether monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Allow the user to select the option to automatically donate a recurring amount with the click of a button, and display clear language indicating that they can end the recurring donation at any time.

Spread the word

Your most likely online potential donor pool can be difficult to predict, but birds of a feather flock together. Give site visitors and donors the ability to easily share your cause with their social networks (and the option to share the fact that they’ve made a donation to it). As you expand your online reach with the help of those supporters, you may begin to learn more about the types of people who care about your message, so you deepen and refine future online marketing efforts.

Customize emails to the reader

Compelling imagery can be invaluable to an online donor campaign in the ability to evoke emotion, but an overreliance on such imagery can actually work against your online donor efforts — especially with email campaigns. For example, Litmus email analytics estimates that 43 percent of Gmail users check their email without turning the images on. Analyze your donor marketing list to ensure that the images you do use are appropriate to the majority of email clients your recipient list uses, and redesign messages that will be essentially be “meaningless” if the recipient cannot view the images.

Though the online donation space is becoming increasingly crowded, it’s a cost-efficient mode of communication that nonprofit organizations should try to leverage in efforts to reach donors. By incorporating these best practices into online donation efforts, you can manage the costs associated with marketing and, ideally, locate more financial supporters for your cause.

Kristen Gramigna
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a payment-processing firm that helps non-profits streamline their donation process. The brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.