Donate onlineA lot of non-profits have online donation pages but complain that they still receive very few donations.  Why?  There are several reasons that could explain the lack of online giving ranging from low traffic to a poorly designed website.

In essence, to be effective your entire online communication strategy must be built around increasing donations, which has implications regarding how your website is designed and what information you offer.

Below are five keys to online fundraising success.  While some of them sound intuitive, a recent study of non-profit websites found that a surprising number of them do not meet these criteria.  Potential donors were left feeling frustrated and discouraged from donating.

To keep that from happening to your potential donors, take another look at your site:

1.  Does your website clearly outline who you are, what your mission is, and who you serve?

The key here is that the answers to these three questions must be readily available.  You shouldn’t have to dig for them, they should be apparent on the front page of the website.  Site visitors often stay just 1-2 minutes, and want quick answers.

Less than half of all non-profit sites studied in a Non-Profit Donation Usability Survey clearly answered these questions on their homepages, and difficulty navigating a site and finding information was the number one reported “donation killer”.  If you need to tweak your site, try to keep your text short and succinct, and use photos to help communicate who your target audience is.  Make your impact tangible so visitors can connect immediately with what you do.

2.  Does your site appeal to visitors on an emotional level?

Studies have demonstrated that statistics and rational arguments don’t drive online donations– stories of real people do.  Visitors need to be able to connect with real people on an emotional level, through a story that highlights their shared values.  Donors like to see faces and profiles of the people they will be helping, and they need to know that their donation (no matter how small) will really make a difference.  If you’re not sure what the emotional connection is that drives your cause, talk to some of your current donors.  Then communicate that “selling point” through stories of the real people you serve.

3.  Does your site explain how you will use donated money?

The Donation Usability Survey of non-profit websites found that only 1 of 23 sites surveyed actually explained what they would do with donations on their home page.  And many non-profits don’t even explain what they will do with donations on or leading to their donation page.  The more transparent and specific you can be about where donations go, the more confidence you will inspire in your donors.

For example if you can cost out your services (”for every $20 donation we receive, one child in X country will receive a year’s worth of school supplies”) you make your impact tangible and your donor knows that they’re making a real difference in someone’s life.  That is both compelling and rewarding.

4.  Make online giving quick, easy, and secure.

The more time it takes to make a donation, the more discouraged potential donors can become.  Make sure your online giving process is quick (don’t add in unnecessary survey questions for example), and consider adding security features (like McAfee or VeriSign) so donors can feel safe giving out their personal information.

5.  Reach out.

You can follow all of the previous steps impeccably, but if your site traffic is low then your pool of potential donors will be insignificant.  So how to attract new visitors and donors?

You can increase your traffic through online marketing and communication strategies such as e-newsletters with links back to your site, viral campaigns, social networking, directories, strategic online partnerships, online press releases, using well-indexed content management systems, or even paid advertising.  And just reworking your site to make sure it is fully search engine optimized can substantially increase your traffic.


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Posted on 09 November 2009

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