donor confidential: poor form

A mid-30’s professional, I’ll call him “Phil,” told me about his experience with improper form. Phil and his wife enjoy giving. They’re exactly who you want to begin to draw into your work. They care about people and changing the world. They have some resources, and they’re committed to their community.

Phil had noticed an organization that focused on providing food to people in need. Phil scanned through the NPO’s website. He liked what he saw and decided to sign up online as a monthly donor.

Then Phil noticed that the website had a form to fill out to get more information and have the NPO contact him. Phil wanted a tour and to ask some questions to learn more about what they do and how they do it.

Notice, this is after Phil had plunked down his credit card and signed up to become a monthly donor. Phil told me, “It wasn’t a ton of money every month but it also wasn’t insignificant.” Phil received his automated acknowledgement for his monthly gift. But here’s where things got interesting.

You’ll never guess what Phil received after he hit “Submit” on his “I Want More Information And a Tour Now That I’m a Monthly Donor Form” (OK, you and I know that wasn’t the title of the form but that’s what the form meant to Phil) . . .

Phil received his own form back in an email from the NPO when he clicked “Submit.”

His information in the form.

Nothing else.


Not an email that said, “Here’s the information we received, you’ll hear from us soon.”

Not an email that said, “Thanks so much for your interest in caring for needy people in our area. We’ll be in touch.”

Not an email that even said, “Thanks!”

Nope. Just the information he’d just put into the form. Right back to him in an email from the NPO without explanation or context.

And weeks pass. Silence.

Phil told me with a shrug, “I’m going to give them a few more weeks and then call them.”

Phil thinks that whoever set up the NPOs contact form accidentally programmed it to email the completed form to whoever filled out the form NOT to someone in the organization. That’s a pretty good guess.

What’s crazy is that this is the third story I’ve heard in the last few weeks about website form weirdnesses.

Here’s a couple of takeaways for you:

1. Check your forms. Your website needs great design, solid strategy and income-generating tools, but it also has to be focused on donors. A common mistake by firms that do websites is that they don’t understand how vital donor relationships are. When relationships aren’t a priority, forms aren’t as high a priority as they should be. When a donor (or would-be-donor or volunteer or whomever) fills out a form with contact information, they need to hear back from you. And if for some reason you are compelled to email them the exact same information they just submitted, tell them you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It doesn’t cost you anything but a couple of minutes of your time for you to go to your website right now and fill out all the forms and submit them to see how they work. My guess is that you’ll discover something you’ll want to refine or change. You don’t want to risk the loss of confidence and relationship because you didn’t have all your forms correct.

2. Check your donate form. It’s a pretty smart idea to give test gifts on a regular basis. Any time you’re making changes and touching the online giving form or process you need to give a test gift. It’s an easy mistake to make, and it can be so costly in terms of lost opportunities and lost revenue. Don’t forget that often there’s multiple places designed for an automated response. It’s easy to miss one.

Here’s your bonus takeaway. Be sure to have opportunities and reasons for donors to give monthly gifts on your website. Phil became a monthly donor after plowing through the NPOs website. There are very good reasons not to have “give monthly” as the primary option on your giving page, but you should find ways to make it easy for donors like Phil who decide giving monthly is a good idea.

I would love your donor stories for Donor Confidential. You can reach me at “donor AT oneicity DOT com.” And because I know how these things go, I thought how embarrassing and ironic it would be to discover that my autoresponder and email set up for donor confidential had somehow died. Double-checked. I’m ready for your email.

I’d love to know what you think.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: nasua)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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