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The Best Non-Profit Intel

Online Donations: Best Practices for Nonprofits

Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on monetary donations from supportive donors. With digital interaction and commerce in full swing, one would expect that an electronic or online donation is a capability even the smallest not-for-profit organizations would possess.  Online donations streamline the donation process allowing donors to pledge their assistance, assuming the process is simple enough, in record time.

What does ‘simple enough’ mean in terms of online donations and how would a not-for-profit organization ensure that it does provide an option that is “simple enough”, yet also elegant and professional? Keeping things simple, clear and uncluttered, while still capturing both the donation and all of the necessary information can be a fine balance to strike, but it is certainly attainable. We’ve compiled a series of best practices to aid not-for-profit organizations in streamlining their online donation process.

1) Remove Hurdles/Obstacles.

An organization’s ‘donation process/page’ should serve the sole purpose of securing a donor’s contribution. A donation process should not become encumbered with marketing lingo or information, excessive data collection for mailing lists or internal research projects or any other details that are not necessary to the success of securing a contribution.  The process should seek, from a donor, only as much information as is required to successfully and accurately secures their donation.  This information is easily summarized as follows: – Who the donor is, – What the donor is contributing, including a list of pre-set values, but always with an ‘other’ option, – How the donor wishes to contribute (how they wish to pay).

This is the information required to successfully secure a donation. To improve the conversion rate between those considering donating and those who do follow through with their donation, it is vital to remove as many excess or unnecessary steps as possible.  Donors want to be helpful, that is why they visit the donation page, to begin with – it is unfair to continually ask them to do more than they absolutely need to. Additionally, a donation process, page or form, is NOT marketing material, nor is it a marketing space – if an interested contributor has clicked ‘Donate Now’, whether in a tweet, the header of a site, via a Facebook post… …chances are they’re just about convinced. Move obstacles out of the way and let them contribute.

Donation processes/pages should also always be device agnostic and cross-browser capable – a bit of extra work at the outset will ensure you don’t fail to secure a generous donation simply because the potential donor loves their device and doesn’t care that some sites don’t work properly. One chance is often all that is provided when it comes to converting a curious, well-meaning potential donor – don’t squander that chance by leaving a procession of roadblocks in their way.  They want to help, let them.

2) Donations Needed – Hide & Seek isn’t an option.

Not-for-profit organizations rely on good will and contributions from the community they serve – it’s no secret.  Donations are needed to forage forward and continue to provide the valuable services that an organization provides.  Again, this is not a secret, to anyone, anywhere.  The option to donate should be tasteful, creatively and prominently displayed on all digital marketing materials and spaces.  Social media profiles should link to donation forms.  Pages on an organization’s website should all provide compelling calls to action and once a potential donor decides, “Hey, I want to support this…” the next step should always be obvious and accessible.

– Donation buttons/calls-to-action should be persistent across all media

– Social networks should be utilized to send reminders and invitations

Not-for-profit marketing centers around informing communities of what they provide and soliciting assistance – with all that marketing force being put forth, an easily accessible and obvious next step should be in place to secure those donors that find themselves convinced.  Don’t hide your donation process within a series of multi-tiered navigation items.  When you request and solicit for donations via social media, don’t just send users to your home page, send them directly to the registration form or process.
People want to help.  Help them help you.

3) Think of the “Long Term”.

An impulsive, lump sum donation is always great, always welcome and always appreciated.  Many potential donors fail to convert their compassion and intent to a supporting donation simply because they feel their socioeconomic status renders what they ‘can’ contribute as ineffectual.  It never is; every last donation matters and helps.  To avoid leaving potential donors feeling unworthy or inconsequential, provide them with an option for a lower sum, recurring donations – a $1000 lump sum is nice, but 5 years worth of $25.00 monthly donations is, well, more. Of course, an affluent donor can opt to provide a higher monthly sum, but it’s important not to set unattainable minimums. Individuals, irrespective of their personal status, want to provide assistance to their community… …assist them in doing so.

4) Manners, manners, manners…

Always say thank you. Always. Vociferously too. Without donors, most not-for-profit organizations would cease to exist – thank them for their donation, immediately, convincingly and every time. Two simple, yet effective methods of offering thanks, which work best when combined, are:

– After a donation is confirmed, redirect the user to a “Thank You” page that highlights how their donation will be applied. A high-level explanation provides donors with some great insight as to where their donation is being directed and contributes greatly to the personal satisfaction of being a contributing member.

– A thank you email (with tax receipt if your software allows it) that follows up, giving the donor an independent verification and confirmation of a successful donation and reinforcing the gratitude an organization has for the support provided. To further express appreciation for a donor’s generosity, NOT adding them to a mailing list unless they specifically requested to be added, goes a long, long way.

Having generosity repaid with unwanted marketing communications or newsletters will not endear an organization to its donors. Most donors don’t contribute for the sake of recognition and thanks, but they deserve it, so give it to them.