9 Steps You Can Use Now to Raise More Money Online in December
You may know that 40 percent of all online donations arrive during December. But did you also know that year-end online fundraising doesn’t just happen in December? It takes effort that you can begin today: e-mail list building, inspiring donors, cultivating them, testing and analyzing metrics to make the absolute most of year-end online donation opportunities.
At Artez Interactive, we recently hosted a webinar, “The 2010 Overachiever’s Guide to Year-End Online Fundraising: Nine Steps You Can Use Now to Raise More Money in December,” that featured two experts with years of experience in online fundraising.
Alia McKee, a principal at Sea Change Strategies, is an online communications and fundraising strategist with more than 10 years of experience developing successful online campaigns with groups like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Environmental Defense Fund, International Rescue Committee and Conservation International.
Eric Rardin, director of nonprofit services for Care2, helps nonprofits recruit passionate supporters. Care2 is an online social network of nearly 14 million people worldwide who want to make a difference in causes they care about. Prior to joining Care2, Rardin designed and executed integrated advocacy campaigns for environmental nonprofits for more than seven years.
They outlined nine practical steps in the webinar:
1. Do what your mother taught you
Always take time to say “hello and thank you.” Too often an online donor receives an unsatisfactory response after making a first gift. The e-mail response is often automated and deals only with cold, hard facts such as tax receipts. Worse yet, an online donor migt be asked immediately for an additional gift or encouraged to join a monthly giving program.
Take time to make sure your online donors know how much you appreciate their donations … and resist the urge to upgrade them immediately. Also, don’t forget about sharing the love with your online activists: Donors don’t constitute your entire online community.
2. Make your website an e-mail collection and donation magnet
Try to look at your website with a fresh perspective. Is it hard to miss your online donation button? Can someone drop her e-mail address with one click from the top of your homepage? Websites sometimes force online visitors to scroll or click several times before they can leave a donation or e-mail address. Is your website a magnet, or are you making it too challenging for the well-intentioned guest?
3. Test your forms
Once someone makes it to your donation form, he can either complete it … or not! Look at your form, and ask these questions:
- Does it look scary and long?
- Do you have unnecessary questions or fields?
- Do you allow multiple nongiving options?
- Is it hard to find the security and privacy information?
- Do you provide a phone number for questions?
Our data shows that "abandon rates" (when a website visitor begins a form but does not complete it) can be extremely high for donation forms — sometimes greater than 50 percent.
4. Take your site for a test drive
Recruit some unsuspecting subjects, and watch them navigate your site. Select a variety of age, gender and attitude, and ask all participants to donate to your organization. Lend them your credit card if you need to! You’ll learn a lot about the usability of your website and forms from a few simple test drives.
5. Review your traffic
You currently have some traffic coming to your website, but how much do you know about it? Visit Alexa.com, and enter your Web address. It’s an easy way to get a high-level peek of your own traffic. Sign up for a free Google Analytics account, and connect it to your website. All of the instructions are online and relatively easy to follow.
6. Get to know your supporters
You have lots of information about your supporters — now you need to take a little time to use it. Something as simple as personalizing your e-mail thank-you with “Dear Philip” shouldn’t be underestimated. It amazes me how many organizations are still sending “Dear Donor” e-mails.
Of course, you can go even further with very little effort. Send a different e-mail to donors who gave above a certain amount or supported a specific cause. If all you can do is send one "blast" thank-you e-mail to your online donors, it’s better than nothing, but taking a little more time to personalize can go a long way.
7. Grow your list and welcome newcomers warmly
There are still many weeks before the holiday rush to grow your e-mail list. The larger your e-mail list going into the December giving season, the better your chances are of generating online donations. If you feel you’ve done all you can on your own, you can engage third-party services such as Care2 that will build a list for you on a cost-per-click or cost-per-e-mail basis.
8. Tell your story
You have inspiring stories to tell about people you’ve helped, animals you’ve rescued and/or forests you’ve protected. The online donation experience often suffers from an overly transactional feel. Visitors making gifts to you aren’t purchasing a new song on iTunes or a book from Amazon. Make sure they feel it!
9. Write down a plan
Something empowering happens when you commit thoughts to paper. An online holiday plan doesn’t have to be overly complex, and any plan is better than no plan at all. If you can access your data from last December, you’ll have a good baseline. If not, don’t worry. The key is to take a few simple actions now to prepare for the largest online donation month of the year.
Good luck online for the 2010 holiday season!
Philip King is president and CEO of Artez Interactive.