Your online giving process can make or break your fundraising efforts — especially during a global pandemic. Read on to learn how to strengthen that process!
Online giving is one of the top ways that nonprofit organizations collect funds and engage with their supporters. As a growing trend over the past decade, online giving has quickly skyrocketed to become essential for all organizations trying to sustain fundraising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing guidelines and bans on large gatherings of people have made it harder for nonprofit organizations to host their regular events and engage with their donors. This has caused many organizations (and likely your own!) to lose out on at least some yearly projected revenue. To adapt to this new normal, fundraisers have begun to more heavily prioritize their online giving process.
If there’s anything that this past year has taught us, it’s that if you need to quickly adjust strategies and pivot from your traditional in-person efforts, you need an arsenal of dedicated software. This is even more apparent for your online giving, a process entirely dependent on the tools at your disposal.
From how you display website content to the donation opportunities you offer, the choices and tools you use will greatly affect your online giving experience and your donors’ relationship with your organization. To ensure your own digital fundraising plan is ready for the rest of this year and beyond, make sure to:
- Design an engaging website.
- Provide a streamlined online donation form.
- Offer additional engagement opportunities.
- Follow up after the gift.
Your donors shouldn’t have to go out of their way to support your organization. By strengthening your online giving process, you make the online giving experience much more enjoyable and easy, leading to higher conversions and increased engagement.
Ready to learn more? Let’s begin.
Design an engaging website
Consider the very first step in the online giving process. It likely starts with a potential (or current) supporter looking up your nonprofit’s website. After all, that’s the place where individuals should be able to learn more about your mission and explore the various ways they can support your organization.
Your website is only as good as the platform you use. Make sure you invest in a website solution that gives you easy design capabilities and can easily be expanded or customized to meet your growing need. WordPress is a common website-building platform for nonprofits because it’s easy to use and customize with plugins.
Web design is a wide-ranging topic, but for nonprofits, just remember that donors don’t want an overly complicated online process. They should be able to find your website with a simple search, scan your homepage, and quickly direct themselves to the engagement opportunity they desire.
A poorly designed website can make this process much longer and can even reduce your visibility on search engines like Google. The average web user won’t even go past the first five listings on a search engine results page.
Taking insight from Cornershop Creative’s picks for the best nonprofit websites, here are some vital elements you need to keep in mind:
- Page load speed. According to some studies, the optimal page load times for peak conversions ranged from 1.8 to 2.7 seconds across devices. If your online donation page or just overall website has large files or clunky content, it can slow down how long it takes to load and drive supporters away.
- Modern design. You don’t want your website to look like it’s a decade old. Stay away from text heavy content and consider more engaging design elements like graphics, buttons, and even animation.
- Clear access to mission statement. If people can’t figure out what your mission is or your mission page is not easily accessible, potential supporters will likely turn away.
- Calls to action to the donation page. Your online donation page should be effectively advertised for all site visitors to find. This is a crucial element in ensuring a streamlined online giving process. For example, make sure your linked buttons on your running header are bold and easy to find.
- Easy to use navigation. Make sure there is a menu that offers links to your popular landing pages. You don’t want supporters clicking around for too long just to figure out where your event calendar is.
- Mobile responsive design. With 96% of Americans using smartphones, it’s now critical to ensure your website is responsive on all devices.
It’s important to have a good first impression for any donor’s online giving journey. So make sure your own nonprofit’s site is well designed, easy to use, and leads supporters successfully to your online donation form.
Provide a streamlined online donation form.
Now that you have a smartly designed website, it’s time to start focusing on how to secure your next gift with your online donation form.
No matter what online fundraising campaign or idea you have, it won’t be much use if your donation form is unusable or causing supporters to abandon the process. People often end up not giving, even if they know they want to support your mission, just because the form is too complicated or takes too long to complete.
If you want to optimize your online donation form, you’re going to need a handy donation tool. With a comprehensive solution to facilitate your online gifts, you can:
- Embed your online donation form within your website for an uninterrupted, seamless giving experience.
- Brand your online donation form to your organization to affirm the relationship that supporters have with your organization and mission.
- Customize your form’s fields to ensure that you’re collecting the right information (and that you’re not asking anything that unnecessarily prolongs the process!).
- Offer multiple ways to pay, including ACH debit, credit, and PayPal.
- Ensure the payment process is secure and safe with a PCI-compliant tool.
- Provide easy recurring giving options to encourage more consistent support.
- Suggest giving amounts with tangible impact to demonstrate to supporters just how their gift will help your cause.
Your online donation form should be guiding the supporter to make the gift in a smooth and uninterrupted manner. Keeping your form short and simple is a good practice to follow and can inspire your supporter to make that final gift.
Offer additional engagement opportunities.
Just because someone gave a gift doesn’t mean your relationship with them is now over. If anything, this is the perfect stepping stone to start building a foundation for long-lasting support with additional engagement opportunities.
Within your nonprofit website and online donation page, consider design elements and features that you can incorporate that sets up the stage for future engagement. These shouldn’t be too overbearing or take away from your main content — after all, you still want them to donate.
For instance, let supporters opt in to consistent communications with your organization through an embedded form. Within your online donation page (and other key places on your nonprofit website), include a field where supporters can add their email or phone number and sign up for more frequent information on your mission, future events, and the status of current campaigns.
Whether it’s through text or email, having a consistent form of communication with supporters is an easy way to start building your relationship with them.
In a similar vein, consider incorporating connections to your social media accounts or embedding a direct feed within your nonprofit homepage. Social media is a great way to engage with supporters beyond the formality of your website and regular newsletters.
Use social media for quick updates on current projects, as well as to spread the word of new fundraising opportunities. Supporters can even repost something from your account so that the message reaches their entire social network as well. According to this article on social discovery with fundraising, paying attention to your donor’s social media habits can clue you into potential new donors over time as your audience grows.
Follow up after the gift.
As you now know, setting the stage for future engagement is a key part of strengthening your online giving process. The easiest way to do this is to simply follow up with the donor after the gift is made. This isn’t just the perfect opportunity to thank them and show your appreciation, but it also creates space for you to highlight the impact of their gift.
Often, the reason why donors don’t give again is because they simply just don’t know what happened with their previous gift. Without something concrete letting them know they genuinely made a difference, they have no incentive to continue supporting your organization.
Take a look at your marketing and email tool and see if you can set up automated communication to send once the gift is completed. This is a quick way to thank your donor and confirm that the donation was received. Make sure to use personalized details like the actual donation amount, the donor’s name, and the specific campaign they gave to. This shows donors that their gifts (and they themselves as your supporters) are more than just metrics in your database.
However, don’t just stop there. Once the overall campaign or event is over, it’s worth it to follow up again and dive deeper into the donor’s impact. For example, you can say something like “As our campaign comes to a close, we wanted to thank you again for your generous donation of X. With this gift, we were able to provide Y families with meals for Z days.”
This includes the gift amount as well as the tangible impact of what it caused. Consider even including an image of the community that was helped for an even deeper connection to donors.
Thanking your donors and following up doesn’t have to be something you spend too much time on, but it should still be thoughtful, personalized, and specific to the recipient. If you don’t know where to start, Fundraising Letters’ collection of donor thank you letters can give you some inspiration.
Your online giving process is more important than ever to optimize, especially amid this year’s challenges and the current year-end giving seasons. Make sure to focus on website design and efforts that strengthen relationships with supporters — this is the best way to improve your online giving process and increase conversions. Good luck!
With 15 years’ experience, Ira is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.
Ira oversees our project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.
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Originally published at https://globalowls.com on October 18, 2020.