Donors are giving less overall, so what can you do to optimize your nonprofit’s online giving strategies? NonProfit PRO attended the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization (NIO) Summit last week and compiled the biggest takeaways when it comes to digital fundraising.
But be sure to test each of these tactics to see what works best for your nonprofit. As multiple speakers at the event advised, what is considered a best practice for one organization might not be the best option for your nonprofit.
1. Test Donor Fees
Donor fees may be controversial to some nonprofits, but are they really?
Michael Baker, vice president of customer service at iDonate, wanted to test if donors being asked to cover fees causes friction, so he approached a nonprofit client.
“She said, ‘No way, 70% of my donors check that box. I get between 2.5% and 3% more money from 70% of my donors. It would cost me money to run that test.’”
Baker then realized that 60% to 75% of donors at nonprofits with which he worked covered donation fees. That is until they gave $250 or more.
He found a parent organization with two nonprofits that had similar donor bases to run the test, using a checkbox for donor’s to consent to covering donor fees placed below the gift array on the donation form as the control.
For the first nonprofit, the results were 40% more donations when donors weren’t asked to cover the fees. The test for the second nonprofit had the checkbox below the payment information on its donation form as the control.
“After 30 days, there’s absolutely no difference — the exact same number of gifts,” Baker said. “Huh? That’s interesting. We finally have a test that doesn’t show that [having] no donor fees is an issue. So if there’s no difference, that means the control made more money. So maybe it’s not as clear as some of us want it to be.”
Since there’s no definitive winner, it comes down to each nonprofit testing the donor fees’ opt-in placement, copy and how different audiences respond, Baker said, noting newly acquired and major donors shouldn’t be treated the same.
“If I’m doing an acquisition campaign, do I want to put that hurdle in front of donors who have never given to me?” he said. “Maybe not. … If people begin to slow down on the donor-pays-fees option above $250, does a donor that gives you $500 or $1,000 — should they ever see that [option to cover donor fees]? Probably not.”
2. Write Copy That Retains Donors
Though retention is down overall, there are some nonprofit verticals retaining donors at higher rates, specifically faith-based and international organizations, according to NextAfter’s “The Comprehensive Online Donor Retention Benchmark Report — Part 1: Value Proposition.” However, there are also verticals where most nonprofits are experiencing low retention rates, particularly health, education and public policy organizations.
High-performer commonalities. These organizations share values-focused messaging with strong core beliefs and a long-term focus.
Low-performer commonalities. These nonprofits tend to be current-events driven — often with temporary affinity and short-term focus in the messaging.
“If you fall into one of these lower performing categories,” Hill said, “I would encourage you to think about ‘How do I become a little bit more value-centered in my fundraising? How do I understand the core beliefs of my donors and make sure we’re in alignment on how we want to see the world impacted over the coming years? And what problems can we solve together meaningfully through building stronger donor relationships?”
3. Develop Ways to Engage E-newsletter Readers
Building momentum is an easy way to keep your readers engaged. From open loops, to pattern breaks, to scroll magnets, Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, shared plenty of ways to keep your readers interested in what you have to say while sharing your impact. Read more about Handley’s session in “5 Ways to Give Your Nonprofit’s Email Newsletter a Makeover.”
4. Avoid Placing the Same Weight on GivingTuesday and Dec. 31
Nonprofits raised approximately 45% of 2021 online revenue during the last 45 days of the year, according to Virtuous and NextAfter’s “The State of Year-End Multichannel Fundraising” report. However those funds were not evenly distributed between efforts during the weeks of GivingTuesday and Dec. 31, with 4.6% and 16.5% of year-end revenue being raised during the weeks that contain those respective days. That means the week containing Dec. 31 raises 734% more than the week of GivingTuesday.
NextAfter research found 60% of organizations weren’t sending year-end cultivation emails, Rebekah Josefy, vice president of client services at NextAfter, said. However, changing the mix of cultivation emails over a six-month period in a test found those who received cultivation emails gave 42% more online. Here are three recommendations Josefy had for cultivating your online donors during that final year-end push.
Send a postcard. NextAfter found that 65% of organizations did not communicate with online and offline donors in multiple channels. To fix that, send your online donors a thank-you postcard. The research found a 204% conversion in those postcard recipients over non-postcard recipients in a test.
Ask for feedback. A survey email resulted in a 688% increase in clicks and 126% increase in donations compared to donors who received an email ask in a test.
Offer free content. In exchange for their email, offer an e-book, a petition, a pledge, a statement of beliefs or an online course — any piece of content that has value to your audience. Then make an ask.
5. Provide Limited Giving Opportunities on Social Media
Carlos Whittaker, an author, speaker and storyteller, has built a community on Instagram with giving back as a main pillar of his content creation. He advises nonprofits to be human, see humans and free humans. Whittaker also doesn’t believe in giving fatigue. Though his average donation is $3, he has raised thousands of dollars for beneficiaries through his 24-hour giving blitzes.
After his brother-in-law introduced him to Brooklyn to Alaska, a nonprofit providing Brooklyn youth of color access to the outdoors, Whittaker joined an organization trip to Alaska. He soon offered to help raise funds for an $180,000 bunkhouse via his Instagram following that he calls his “Instafamilia.”
“At the beginning of the trip, [I didn’t] tell the Instafamilia, “ Hey listen, at the end of the trip, I’m going to try to raise a lot of money,’” he said. “No. What did I do? For seven days, I just told the story of Brooklyn to Alaska, and the Instafamilia started DMing me and calling me, ‘Hey, when can we give some money? When can we support this?’”
The cultivation of his followers and build up to the ask resulted in a $255,000 24-hour blitz.
But not all of his efforts were successful. He raised $115,000 in a blitz for Waffle House employees on Martin Luther King Jr. Day only to have the manager call him up and inform him three days later that all of her employees had quit.
“Don’t be scared of messing up,” he said. “Listen. Y’all have a hard job. And I know that many of you are like, ‘We can’t mess up. I don’t want to mess up.’ Mess up. Try something new. Give it a shot. I say all the time, ‘You must risk in order to rescue.’”
6. Add a Monthly Donation Button
Only one in eight donors are sustainers, Courtney Gaines, executive vice president at NextAfter, said. But recurring donors tend to give more over the course of the year than their one-time counterparts, and therefore have a higher lifetime value.
NextAfter research found 75% of donors don’t have a separate call to action for recurring donors on their homepage, but having dual homepage donate buttons could be a difference-maker. A NextAfter test found donations increased 87% as a result.
“Or maybe you already have a recurring button at the top of your navigation,” she said. “We’ve also found highlighting it … [like a] pulsating heart on the ‘Give Monthly,’ says, ‘Hey, pay attention to me. Pick me. Pick me.’ [It resulted in a] 20% increase in clicks.”
Also, it’s important to tell donors why they should give monthly. Even if the donor selects a one-time gift, a pop-up showing lower monthly gift options can sway donors.
“We tested this with an organization, and they saw a 64% increase in recurring donations,” Gaines said. “And the big, important part about this is that while they saw this recurring bump with 64%, there was no impact on one-time giving, as in they didn’t abandon the giving process. It’s remarkable.”