improve your 4thQ online donations in 5 minutes

You know stellar online giving income doesn’t happen by accident. And really you need a well-considered strategy and time to test and learn. But you can make a difference in this year’s 4th Quarter with a few simple steps.

Really, if you want to, you can improve your online giving in 5 minutes (or so).

Start by giving a gift. That’s right, go on your own website and give a gift. Really the best thing to do is “The Aunt Ruby Test.” Several years ago we came up with the “Aunt Ruby Test” based on my real Aunt Ruby. Here’s the link to that original post, but really for this what you need to know is that Aunt Ruby is someone who doesn’t know your website. She doesn’t know anything about your website strategies and likely isn’t digitally native.

Your “Aunt Ruby” doesn’t even know where your Donate Button is until she comes to your page.

The major change I’d make to my original “Aunt Ruby” post: I prefer you do the Aunt Ruby test in person or sharing the screen with them. You’ll benefit more if you’re looking over her shoulder and seeing what’s she’s looking at or clicking on. Oh, and there’s no gender stereotyping here. Use an Uncle Mort if you wish — I just don’t have an Uncle Mort.

In 4th Quarter you are limited in what you should change. No big changes in 4th Quarter if you can avoid it! There are too many dollars at risk to try to make a major change.

Your Aunt Ruby will help you spot many of the structural and design problems you have. Make a list. But don’t get overly ambitious in the 4th Quarter. Change only what you have to.

As part of this Aunt Ruby test, make sure that everything about that process is going as smoothly as possible.

Are the donation choices you’re giving to the donor clear? For our clients we’re integrating very tightly with direct mail and offline activities like banquets and events. Think about it this way, if I received your direct mail or attended your banquet, is the website congruent with what I saw or heard?

Are the donation choices current? It’s amazing how easy it is to have out of date or irrelevant choices. I recently saw a website (it was in late September) that one of my choices to give to was their “Summer Heat Wave” effort.

You may discover that there are some things that need to be changed.

Only change what you’re certain will negatively impact income and that are simple changes. Don’t make major structural or system changes unless things are seriously broken. For our clients, unless there are major problems we defer any significant changes to giving forms until 1st Quarter. There are too many things that can go wrong with giving forms to tinker with them in the 4th Quarter.

Next you’re looking for clear messaging. You’re looking for current and integrated messaging. And, because it’s 4th Quarter, you’re looking to be sure donors know exactly how to give.

Don’t get clever with your copy or design. Clear calls to action are the name of the game. If you want them to make a donation or give. Say, “give” or “donate here.”

OK, that’s enough about the website.

Let’s see what else happens after you give a gift.

Did an email response acknowledging the gift arrive instantly (or nearly instantly)? If not, why not? Fix that if you can!

Did the email read well? You can cover the basic “accounting requirements” and still be warm, appreciative and affirming of the donor’s gift. Did the email come from a real-live person?

Is is clear that the email is coming from your organization not just the credit card processor? Again, if not, change what you can and keep your list of bigger problems where you can find it in January.

OK, that probably took longer than 5 minutes but hopefully, not a lot longer.

These are some easy basics for more 4th Quarter online income. With the right strategies, online income can be the quickest to grow and the best ROI for most nonprofits. Maximize yours!

What are you doing right now to improve online income? What are you seeing on your site? I always enjoy hearing from you.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: thenovys)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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