online fundraising: 5 easy improvements

If you want to increase your online donations, take advantage of these 5 easy steps culled from our intensive survey. OK, it wasn’t an intensive survey. It was an intense hour and half of real-life giving. But my opening sentence holds. If you’ll follow my suggestions, your income online will improve.

Here’s what happened. December 31st, Hoots and I sat down to give end-of-the year donations online. Probably like you, we give throughout the year to our favorite ministries and charities but on the last day of 2009, we wanted give to some nonprofits that had caught our eye. Collect 200 dollarsThey’re doing good work and we wanted to help.  We were new donors landing on the website with a credit card and the intent to give.

Bottomline. It was a frustrating experience 75% of the time. 25% of the transactions were seamless and easy. The rest…not so much.

Here’s my list of “suggestions” from our 2009 online giving experience:

  1. Ask for as little information as possible. One website forced us to create a login and password BEFORE we could complete our donation. Hmmmm, we don’t have a relationship yet, I’m not thinking I want to make a password. And does that mean you’re going to be storing my credit card number? That whole password thing nearly lost us as new donors. If we hadn’t really wanted to give a gift, we’d have moved on. Other websites had weird field issues, like limiting the number of characters in our city name. Sorry, we live in a town with lots of letters in the name. Why would you limit that? And I know, I know, your online giving software forces these kind of crazy situations. But still, why would you use software like this? And just as importantly, why would a knowledgeable software provider require these forms of craziness? Just saying, it’s dumb and shouldn’t happen. Online giving should be easy.
  2. Make it clear what’s going to happen when I click “give.” We clicked donate and then the screen changed but nothing said: “Great, you gave us some money”. We looked at each and thought, “hmmm…. did that go through?” And then that raises the question, did I do that wrong? But a donor isn’t going to go through all of that again because who wants to accidentally give a gift twice? Tell us something when we click that button. Sometimes we were not on the org’s site any longer because their online provider took us off their website to a secure site. That’s OK, but tell us that’s going to happen. You want to create good feelings not doubt when someone gives online.
  3. Give me a “GIVE” or “DONATE” button I can find on any page. This year was better than last year’s experience, but we were on a couple of websites where we had to hunt to donate. We did see some wonderful examples of easy to spot donate buttons and even some who follow my line of thinking, which is multiple links for giving in different looks on every page. Why not make it easy to figure out where to click to give?
  4. Use Paypal if you have to but give me another option if you can. I don’t like Paypal. Hoots doesn’t mind it as much, but when I see Paypal as my only option for giving my urge is to move on and give to another organization who’s more technosavy. That’s probably snobbery on my part, but I suspect I’m not the only gift processing snob out there. Paypal makes me nervous. If Paypal is your only option (and for many smaller charities, it makes sense) go the extra mile to explain to me how it’s going to work. If I’ve never given via Paypal, help me know what’s going to happen.
  5. Thank me with an email instantly. We gave gifts and almost every charity emailed a thank you in a few minutes. A few were in our Inbox as soon as we checked. Most came within a few minutes but one didn’t arrive until the next morning. And one still hasn’t arrived. We wonder if we have done something wrong and more wonder if they really need our donation. You sure don’t want a donor wondering if something went wrong when they are choosing to give to you.

Online giving can be a huge income generator for your organization, but you can’t take that for granted. Clunky interfaces will hurt your fundraising. You can’t afford to make it difficult for donors to give. If you haven’t brought in your Aunt Ruby to assess your online giving interface, you should. If you haven’t given a gift online and experienced the process from your donor’s perspective, you need to.

So what about you? What’s your online giving experience? Did you give a gift(s) at the end of the year via websites? What’s your charities biggest struggle with online giving? As always, we want to know what you’re thinking.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Shayne Kayer)

Picture of Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

3 thoughts on “online fundraising: 5 easy improvements”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention oneicity // income solutions for non-profits » online fundraising: 5 easy improvements -- Topsy.com

  2. Another great post on how getting the small details right leads to a stronger relationship, or even a relationship at all. You give me hope that fundraising is not some daunting gigantic feat that only the brilliant can accomplish. Compassion trumps brilliance. Actually, you don’t even have to be that compassionate – just exercise good manners. (What has happened to good manners? Has civility taken a holiday? Oops, starting to sound like Andy Rooney.)

    I dislike online giving for all the reasons you mentioned. One reason I donate online is because I ALREADY have a relationship with a person in the organization who has made a personal appeal.

    Thank you for the helping us see through the eyes of the donor once again.

  3. @Deborah — thank you. “Compassion trumps brilliance” what a great, true thought. And the Andy Rooney imitation is perfect.
    Your point about giving because you already have a relationship is interesting. I wonder how unusual Hoots and I are in that we give online at the very beginning of the our relationship with an org.
    Anyone with an opinion?

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