Nurturing Donors Online is NOT Magic
Have you ever been disappointed with the results you are getting with your online fundraising program because you thought it was going to be so easy? As you began the process, you might have thought you'd put a donation button on your web site, and suddenly the donations would start flowing. That is a common misconception, and it's one that often sabotages online fundraising.
Getting donations online requires some effort, some creativity, and a few key tools. Of course, you have to have online donation software that actually processes the transaction, but that’s only a fraction of the story. You have to set all of the action into play! You have to ask for
donations, remind supporters about your great work, and then ask again.
Online fundaising should one tactic in your overall fund development toolkit, and should be combined with other strategies. But, if you are asking for donations through postal mail and events, you may miss opportunities to engage donors on the spot, in the moment that they are considering your well crafted appeal. The immediacy of the connection between an email that links to your donation button offers opportunities to capitalize on the natural need for immediate gratification.
There’s a natural cycle involved in engaging donors online. It looks like this:
What are the two most basic tools you need to make the online fundraising cycle go around?
- You’ve got a great website (check?) (Think carefully
about what “great” means!)
- You are using well designed, high-impact, regularly delivered email newsletters and email blasts to keep your supporters, donors, and constituents informed (check?)(No? Download The Nonprofit Email Marketing Guide from Network for Good.
If you are missing either of these elements in your online fundraising toolkit, it’s time to get to work! Here’s what you can do to improve your organization’s chances of becoming a online fundraising superhero:
Your Website and your DonateNow pages
When was the last time you took a look at your site as if it was the first time you visited? Sit down at the computer and pretend you have never been there before. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does the site provide information that is compelling,
complete, and tells the story of your organization’s work?
- Does it include a form for visitors to complete if they want
to learn more about your organization or subscribe to regular email
communication from your organization?
- Do you ask visitors if they would like to receive an email
- Do you know how to capture those addresses and use them to contact potential supporters?
Take a look at the sites of other similar organizations. How does your site look compared to the “competition?”
- Is your site as
attractive and does it look as professional as the other sites in your field?
- Are you proud of your site?
- Would you be proud of your site if a potential grantmaker visited?
Ask a friend to take a tour while you watch. See how that friend gets around and be prepared to ask questions.
- Is it easy to find your donation links?
- Do your DonateNow pages tell your story?
- Can your friend easily describe your work and tell you why your cause is important and worthy?
How did your site stack up? If it did not meet your expectations, don’t worry! Maintaining a website is an ongoing process. You should expect to care for your site regularly, and do a significant facelift every 2-5 years. It doesn’t have to be expensive to make sure you are hitting the most important elements. If you need help, take a look at these resources:
Your Email Newsletters and Email Announcements
If you are currently not using email to communicate with potential and current donors and supporters, it’s time to think about subscribing to a professional email provider. If you already are using a system, consider the following tips to optimize your results:
- Make sure your email newsletter sign-up form is placed in a
very visible location on every page of your website.
- Be sure to ask for donations and link to your donation page in
every issue or announcement.
- Refresh your email list every time you send an announcement or
newsletter with the new addresses that have been entered since the last time.
- Plan an editorial schedule with topics that your donors and
supporters are likely to want to know.
- Be flexible with your editorial schedule. If an emergency or
natural disaster occurs, you will want to include information that is timely
- Write compelling stories about the impact your organization has had. Make them as personal as possible. Think like a donor….they want to know that their donations have had a impact and made a difference for the cause.
There are literally thousands of e-mail marketing systems. Here is a list of a few of them:
EmailNow (Nonprofit Organizations only)