Online Fundraising: 8 Do's and Don'ts


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As those in the non-profit world are only too aware, the holiday season is a big time for fundraising. Up to 1/2 of all donations for an organization can come in during this busy donor outreach season, through either targeted campaigns or as a result of end of the year giving.

Delivered by Partner and Lead Strategist, Emira Mears and Christine Smith, a Project Manager with an extensive background in online fundraising, this slidedeck was from a webinar focused on best practices for online fundraising efforts. Knowing that campaigns for holiday giving will be underway any day now, this webinar is focused on giving you targeted tips you can put into practice right away to help improve your online donor development now.

If your organization is not organizing a holiday giving campaign, these best practice tips will help you ensure you’re website and online communications campaigns are helping your fundraising and member development efforts year round.

Published in: Technology, Business
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  • EM\n
  • EM\n
  • EM:\nAs most of you on this call likely know, the holidays is one of the busiest times in the fundraising year - the potential for revenue is great and people are in the spirit of giving. And, more and more, this giving is happening online. Today we’re going to talk about some best practices that you can, hopefully put it place right away to improve your online fundraising for this holiday season. \n
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  • CS: - In my experience with charitable organizations and non-profits, the communications and donor development departments are very separate entities with very little cross-over. Often they are located on opposite sides of the office and even opposite sides of the table in meetings.\n\nThis is unfortunate for many reasons but the most important being that these departments are actually dependent on one another to achieve the organization’s overall strategic goals - simply speaking, awareness and fundraising.\n\nAnd nowhere is this more important than the website - which in this day and age, is likely the first point of contact with your audience. For this reason, ownership of the website needs to be shared. I’ve seen many websites that look great and have excellent branding but aren’t fundraising-friendly - and vice versa. The key is to have both working together, which requires your communications and donor development teams to work together. \n\nOn the website, if nowhere else, messaging and branding needs to accomplish the needs of both communications and donor development - again, awareness and fundraising - because those are the strategic needs of the organization. And for the holidays, when the potential for giving is highest, this is all the more important. \n
  • CS: - Although the demographics of your audience are likely different from channel to channel, you need to remember that there is always overlap and that you’ll often reach people through multiple channels. For example, studies have shown that someone receiving your DM, although they are likely to be skewed to the older end of your donor file, is likely to check your website when deciding whether to give. They may not give through the website, and prefer to mail back a cheque, but they are investigating further through the online channel. For this reason, \nso you want to make sure the same campaign/issue/ask is featured across your website, your email messaging, your social media, etc. \n\nIf not, your credibility is at stake - someone receiving an urgent request by mail who can’t find anything about it on the website is likely to doubt the urgency and even the need. \n\nNow that’s not to say you can’t tailor the content and the tone of your message in each channel to better relate to the main demographic - your voice in DM is likely to be different than in your email appeals, and that’s ok - but you want to make sure your messaging is consistent throughout. \n
  • CS: This is an example of multi-channel integration from Covenant House Vancouver. These screenshots show the same campaign featured on their homepage, on their donation form and also in an email appeal. Ideally this would also be featured in their direct mail and social media so that all touchpoints reflect the message. \n
  • EM: \nFrom NTEN Enews: Storytelling is the most powerful means we have of connecting with our donors, volunteers, and other stakeholders. It's how we make the unimaginable problems we address real, specific – and solvable. It's how we connect our work to not just the minds, but the hearts of our communities. \n\nThis can take the form of the way that you tell your story in asks, to actually framing your donations as symbolic giving, and letting donors help reach a goal that is more tangible than just a dollar figure. Everything from the typical OXFAM goat, to BC SPCA who encourage donors to sponsor treatments or boarding fees, to Union Gospel Mission, who frame donations as number of meals served. Sometimes this is much easier for some organizations than others, but even if your ask tells a story about what your goal is that goes beyond just a number of dollars raised and focuses on the human impact, this will go a long way. \n\n\n
  • \nPresume you know when/where/why users gives on your website\n\n
  • EM - list out some examples here or at the end? Thinking a quick run through of a few google analytics/optimizer tools would be useful here to show some people who aren’t familiar with them.\n\nSocial media monitoring tools: Google Alerts, Twitter Advanced Search, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck\n
  • EM - list out some examples here or at the end? Thinking a quick run through of a few google analytics/optimizer tools would be useful here to show some people who aren’t familiar with them.\n
  • EM: Following on the value of Storytelling, don’t just use your email list as an ATM. When we’re talking about building lists and community -- be that via email or Social Media -- with our clients, we always talk about listening and contributing, not just broadcasting. If you only go to your lists to ask for money, you’re not going to find you have a very engaged list. Feeling like they are genuinely a part of your community, and able to contribute more broadly than just as a financial donor, they’ll be more loyal and likely to support your organization. \n\nSo how to you avoid making sure you just ask for money? One way is to, as Christine already discussed, make sure all departments are engaged in using your outreach tools to share stories and gather feedback. Another is to use a tool like a content calendar to make sure you’re spacing out your asks, with good news reports, other urgent actions, events and storytelling. \nCreating that other content doesn’t need to be a huge drain on your resources, it can be about simply retweeting/resharing ideas or information shared within your community of allies out to your followers. You can engage your community in survey’s to gather their opinions, and you can, if possible share good news stories, volunteer experiences, and other stories from within your organization. \n
  • CS: However you use it, your donor database likely stores a wealth of information that you can use for this purpose - like what kinds of campaigns a donor has given to before, what type of actions they’ve taken in the past, where they live, etc. This information can help you to pick and choose which donors should receive which appeals so that you don’t overwhelm them with too many asks that could result in donor fatigue. \n\nIf it’s too late for you on this front, take the time now to start planning for the future. You can add “interests” or “campaigns” to donation forms. Or you try a survey to your existing list to see if you can gather some of this information - this latter one speaks to the earlier point as well in that you’re asking someone to engage at a different level they’re not just a “dear donor”.\n
  • CS: This is an example from the Canadian Association for Community Living - it shows a screenshot of their general donation form that includes a gift designation identifier. The choice selected here helps the CACL target donors for specific appeals related to their area of interest. \n
  • CS: Unless people know your exact URL and type it in, they are likely to arrive at your site in a variety of ways. For instance, if I google Covenant House and Annual Report, I’m more likely to end up a page within their site than on their homepage. If only the homepage has a donation button, Covenant House is missing out on the opportunity to convert me into a donor while I’m already interested and engaged. \n\nThis also speaks to the idea of landing pages. For important campaigns or appeals, especially whether other media is involved in creating awareness, you might want to consider using a landing page to be used as a destination for traffic arriving from other sources. This can be direct traffic - like from links you include in your email appeals and social media - or indirect traffic who end up on the landing page from searching words related to the campaign or appeal as per the previous example.\n
  • CS: So this example is a screenshot from Covenant House showing that the donation button is indeed available in the top right corner of the blog - so if I were to do the search described earlier, Covenant House would be attempting to convert me to a donor while I’m already engaged. \n
  • CS: This is another example, from Codevelopment Canada, showing how their donation button is available in the right column of the site on all pages so it’s visible no matter where you enter the site. \n
  • EM: Don’t just assume your reach is limited to your current lists - make it easy for your advocates to share/spread the word to their lists and networks. Word of mouth is both free and has the potential to go viral. So how do you make sharing easy? First off, simple share this widgets on your site, including donation and engagement pages, easy forwarding abilities in your emails, and then targeted asks for sharing as well on places where you can ask people who have already engaged with you -- taken the first rung on the ladder of engagement as it were -- to spread the word to their communities. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about. \n
  • EM: Don’t miss opportunities to engage your supporters further. Step them up the ladder of engagement by capturing them when they’re already committing to you. \n
  • What you see here is a prepopulated tweet, which can be easily set up on donation thank you pages, like the one we just looked at, to help encourage donors to spread the word to their friends. \n
  • \nEM: As a smaller non-profit or organization it can be hard to compare things like your open rate on emails, or donation return to some industry numbers which are often for large US based non-profits. While it’s good to keep your eyes on those, also make sure you’re creating your own meaningful benchmarks. How big was the proportion of online donations you brought in last year? How much did that grow this year? How many people are viewing our site on a mobile phone this year versus last year and is that growth looking like something we should pay attention to? Look at things like how engaged are your twitter followers or facebook fans, not just how many do you have. There are a number of tools that will help you gather this data, which once, reviewed will help you get a sense of which channels to be putting the most effort into. It may be that Facebook is great for you finding event volunteers, but not good for donation returns, whereas it may be that email is really where your donations start to rise. Pay attention to your own benchmarks, your community and see what you can learn there, don’t just focus on the latest trends or industry stats. \n
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  • EM: give some example of tools that allow for easy A/B testing.\n
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  • CS: Review summary\n\n
  • EM: We hope today’s session has been valuable for you. Before we move into the Q&A section, we want to give you a 20-second overview of what we do at Raised Eyebrow, in case you or someone you know needs a firm like ours. In brief, we love helping organizations working for social good develop meaningful relationships with their communities online. We also build outstanding websites. If that sounds like something you’d like to explore further, please check out our website & blog, or give us a shout. We’d love to talk.\n
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  • Online Fundraising: 8 Do's and Don'ts

    1. 1. Online Holiday Fundraising 8 Best Practice Do’s and Don’ts Emira Mears + Christine Smith
    2. 2. Your PresentersEmira Mears Christine Smith@emiramears Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    3. 3. Food For Thought:Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all Canadiancharitable contributions occur duringthe holidays Text Twitter: Image credit: sunliner500 on Flickr #raisedeyebrow
    4. 4. Poll #1Do you have an online holidayfundraising plan? • Yes • No Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    5. 5. Don’t:Create departmental silosDo:Make sure communications and donordevelopment are both involved when itcomes to the website and online Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    6. 6. Don’t:Mix your messagesDo:Integrate across delivery modes - web,email, social and mail outs - to beconsistent in your overall messaging Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    7. 7. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    8. 8. Don’t:Focus Only On NumbersDo:Use stories to engage your community.People don’t just want to give money,they want to give meaning. Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    9. 9. Don’t:Use your email list as an ATMDo:Build your community by emailing yourconstituents about news and updates inbetween asks; solicit and listen to Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    10. 10. Don’t:Spam your whole listDo:Target and segment your lists if youcan, based on what you know about theaudience and their likelihood to Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    11. 11. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    12. 12. Don’t:Assume everyone enters through thehomepageDo:Make sure your donation button isclearly accessible on all pages and ifpossible create campaign-specificlanding pages, tied to your outreachmessaging Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    13. 13. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    14. 14. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    15. 15. Don’t:Limit your reachDo:Make sure that sharing is both easyand, if possible, targeted Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    16. 16. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    17. 17. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    18. 18. Don’t:Only rely on industry standardbenchmarks and best practiceDo:Execute your own tests and createinternal benchmarks and best practices Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    19. 19. Some Useful Tools • Google Analytics/Optimizer (A/B Testing Tools) • Google Alerts • Social Media Monitoring Tools • • Twitter Saved Searches • Google Blog Alerts/Searches • Create Your Own Dashboard Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    20. 20. Some Useful Tools Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    21. 21. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    22. 22. Twitter:#raisedeyebrow
    23. 23. 8 Actions to ImproveYour Online Fundraising • Involve communications and donor This Season development • Integrate across delivery modes for consistency • Use stories to engage your community • Email supporters with news/updates between asks • Target and segment your lists • Make your donation button visible everywhere • Ensure that sharing is easy and targeted • Test internally to develop your own benchmarks Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    24. 24. Need more help?Raised Eyebrow offers:• Online Communications • Usability Consulting Strategy Consulting • Email Newsletter design,• Information Architecture development and and Interaction Design management• Website Design & • Accessibility and Search Development Engine Optimization Consulting• Web 2.0 and Social Media Consulting • Custom workshops for your organization Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    25. 25. Thank YouEmira Mears Christine Smith@emiramears Twitter: #raisedeyebrow
    26. 26. Questions? Twitter: #raisedeyebrow