10 Secrets to Acquire Donors Online via Digital Technology
Given the relatively slow rebound from the economic downturn that began some six or seven years ago, there has been an emphasis on donor retention in the nonprofit fundraising sector over the past few years. It only makes sense. After all, retaining a donor costs much less than acquiring a new one, and donor retention is vital for any organization to survive.
However, without donor-acquisition efforts, it is impossible for any nonprofit to grow. In fact, it's impossible for any nonprofit to remain at its present standing without continually acquiring new donors, as current donors lapse due to numerous circumstances including financial changes, relocation and, yes, even passing away.
It's also no secret that online giving continues to rise. Yes, direct mail and other means are still workhorses for fundraising, but more and more donors are moving online. That presents a great opportunity for nonprofits to acquire donors via this channel, often in a relatively cost-effective way.
1. Digital integration requires drivers
"Just because you have a great website does not mean people are going to automatically show up," Jones said. "You have to drive people to your website. There's right ways to do it and wrong ways to do it."
Here is the integration superhighway, aka the drivers:
You have to use these drivers — social media, website, mobile, email, direct mail, paid search, organic search, radio, television and banner ads — to get potential donors to your site.
2. The high-performance website
"You have to make sure that website is fully optimized," Jones said.
What does that mean? It means:
- Focusing on user action
- Easy navigation
- Use of features, sub-features and news
- Functional utilities
- "Banner blindness"
- A simple, easy, predictable donation process
- Relevant content with rich media to tell stories
- Updated in real time
3. Test site optimization before you rebuild it
"Right now, the technology exists where you can, through a widget, build a mirror of your current site, and you can serve up hits to your website," Jones said. "And you can split them. Some go to your mirror site and some go to your real site."
With the mirror site, you can A/B test easily and look at results. When testing site optimization:
- Start with a "quick and dirty" usability test to find the biggest opportunities.
- If the site requires it, provide site redesign or refresh.
- Perform ongoing A/B site testing, which has a huge revenue impact.
4. Use search engine marketing to spike giving
Why are search engines important? Search engines are often the first place online users go to start the information-gathering/decision-making process. Google makes it easy to search a charity, and often supporters will use their search engines over clicking on hyperlinks.
"If you're not playing the game in search engine marketing, you're losing a lot of money," Jones said. "You've got to get involved in bidding on specific keywords in your market that relate directly, sometimes indirectly, to your charity."
Focus on those keywords.
Jones also said you should use both paid search and organic search.
5. Don't ignore display advertising
Display advertising helps you target prospects, Jones said, which can lead to retargeting and remarketing efforts. Once a cookie is embedded on people's device, you can intensely focus advertising efforts.
Many donors don't give the first time they search for you, Jones has found. It takes time to decide, which is why retargeting is so critical.
6. You must use retargeting
Here's how retargeting works:
Jones says it's wise to start retargeting within 12 days of a visit, usually starting around day 4. After two weeks, response rates go down pretty dramatically for retargeting.
With retargeting efforts, you can track the following:
7. Use social media
Social media is uniquely suited for nonprofit if deployed correctly, particularly local organizations. It's still more about brand and relationships than driving revenue, but it's all connected … and as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge showed, there is a potential for fundraising.
It's a good way to drive traffic by engaging with supporters and followers.
8. Get mobile fast!
"When I say get mobile, I'm not talking about text-to-give. I'm talking about how your website formats," Jones said.
Websites these days must be mobile-enabled, aka responsively designed. Make sure it can include display ads on current mobile websites.
This is important because mobile search has shown massive growth as smartphone use has increased. More than 50 percent of local searches are done on mobile phones, and the emergence of fourth generation networks has enabled rapid growth in the mobile channel.
9. Use Web analytics
"If you're not using Google Analytics, the e-commerce version, you're making a big mistake," Jones said.
- Are often free
- Can capture real-time and actionable data about your current and potential donors
- Measure how users interact with your website and allow you to make adjustments based on that data
- Segment visitors by how they reached your site
- Track visitors all the way through conversion (revenue)
- RFM+ — Use recorded Web activity in segmentation for appeals and mail deeper if they've recently visited your site.
10. Use email benchmarks strategies
Email response rates are very low compared to direct-mail response rates, Jones said, and there's lots of reasons for that: People ignore hyperlinks, use search engines, activate SPAM folders, etc.
In order to optimize email, you must understand your own email audience. Do an email audit and embark on email list-building and segmentation, Jones said.
Integrating email efforts with other channels is the optimal strategy. Every appeal you do should have an email companion, Jones said.