6 Strategies to Wake Up Your Year-End Fundraising Campaign
This is the biggest fundraising time of the year.
Don’t sleep through it!
Too many nonprofits, sadly, are asleep at the wheel when it comes to assuring their messaging and calls-to-action are even noticed by prospective donors.
If you’ve put a ton of time and effort into crafting a compelling appeal, wouldn’t it be a good idea to do something proactive to assure folks actually wake up and smell your coffee?
I’m going to suggest six strategies to help your appeal along. Some you can do on your own; some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff; all are well worth the effort. Even just one or two will make a difference.
You’ve still got time!
If something doesn’t reach out and disrupt folks’ senses during this super-competitive time when folks’ inboxes are bombarded by messages from everyone under the sun, your coffee (aka “fundraising offer”) will become cold and flavorless before donors ever drink it. If they ever drink it.
Let’s get started…
1. Make Your Donate Button Stand Out
Make sure it’s big, bold and easy to find. This may seem obvious, but many nonprofits blow this opportunity to drive more philanthropic giving. You may think it’s unseemly to call too much attention to it. It’s a lot more unseemly to let those who rely on you down because you failed to raise the money needed to fulfill your mission.
Tactics to try:
- Put the donate button at the top, so it stands out. Ideally, in the upper right-hand corner. That’s where people will look, as that’s become the custom.
- Put it in a color that contrasts with your branding colors. Don’t make it so “tasteful” that it blends in with the woodwork. And use color psychology to inform your choices. Generally, orange and green perform best — but not if these are your corporate colors.
- Try an irregular shape. One theory on call-to-action buttons: Such shapes are subconsciously more appealing than regular rectangles and ovals. Just make sure it won’t be mistaken for a graphic element — so not too cutesy.
- Make sure it’s tappable by a thumb — so big enough to be touched when folks are using a phone or tablet.
- Put it on every page.
- Consider using alternative language other than “donate.” I like “Give Now.” This is also something you can test, as long as this is the only variable you change. This way, next year, you’ll know for sure if one message converts better than another.
Note: You can test any of these suggestions, as long as you only change one variable at a time.
2. Tweak Your Donation Landing Page
When folks come to your donation page, they should be able to give to you quickly and easily. If your landing page (or lack thereof) is a barrier, rather than a facilitator, of donor generosity, you’re in big trouble. Because you’ll be losing donations hand over fist.
Tactics to try:
- Make sure your page converts well via personal computer, laptop and mobile. Did you know half of website traffic last year came from phones or tablets? Per the “M+R Benchmarks Report,” nonprofits reported main donation page conversion rates of 21% for desktop users and 9% for mobile users. Do you know your conversion rate?
- Verify your trustworthiness. Not seeing trust indicators can deter donors. Add something to show your credibility, such as:
- Charity watchdog rating (e.g. Charity Navigator, give.org, Charity Watch, Candid/Guidestar)
- Verified encryption security
- Lockbox icon (NextAfter conducted research showing this one thing increased donations by over 14%)
- Testimonial (e.g. from an influencer, donor or client). I love this handwritten one on the Hole Food Rescue website:
- Add a story. The human brain is wired for storytelling, and folks will be more receptive to a story than data. Make sure your story demonstrates how the donor’s gift will help and will give the story a happy ending. Donors want to be the heroes who save the day!
- Include a photo. It’s worth 1,000 words, and it’s something that will “stick” with the donor and reinforce the message of your appeal. Images are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text. Since people have an attention span of eight seconds, it just makes sense to use images or videos consistent with your year-end campaign messaging, so your landing page is an extension of your direct mail or email. You can even add a photo to your donation button!
- Make sure you reference your current campaign. The holiday giving season is no time for a generic donation landing page. If you’re not going to create a specific campaign landing page (if for some reason your software won’t allow it), at least consider tweaking the page to:
- Add a specific year-end call-to-action.
- Add visuals that match your mailed appeals.
- Make suggested donation amounts match what’s in your appeal.
3. Take Over Your Homepage
There’s nothing more important to your visitors on certain days of the year (e.g. Thanksgiving, Giving Tuesday, December 25 through 31) than giving. So why not make your appeal the centerpiece of your homepage on those days? It makes what people are looking for easier to accomplish.
4. Consider a Light Box or Pop-Up Splash Page
The form-based box that pops up over a website with a call-to-action is called a light box (or splash page). It generally pops up the first time folks come to you during the period for which you set it up — perhaps just for one day on Giving Tuesday; perhaps during the four to six weeks you’re running your year-end campaign. You can tinker with how often a visitor might be shown the light box. (The best advice I’ve heard is if your visitor dismisses the pop-up, don’t show it to them again for at least a week).
You or your leaders might find them annoying. But they work. Why? It’s a simple matter of eyeballs. Conversion rates go up because more people can’t help but notice your call-to-action. The first time I used one of these, when I was director of development at the San Francisco Food Bank in 2010, it increased online donations during that period by almost 30%. This may/may not work for you, but it’s worth testing.
Consider a delay in pop-up timing. Most pop-up software will let you customize when your pop-up appears. You can create one that appears only after the reader has been on your site for a set period of time. For year-end, I’d suggest having your pop-up timed right away, but you can test and play with the timing if your bounce rate spikes or you are fielding complaints.
TIP: There are tutorials on how to code light boxes on YouTube.
5. Eliminate Donation Form Clutter
The more choices you give your donor, the less likely they are to give you what you want.
Tactics to try:
- Eliminate some fill-in fields. If you don’t really need the information, don’t ask for it. The longer it takes folks to complete the transaction, the less likely they are to persist.
- Strip other menu items from the top/bottom of the page. NextAfter research found eliminating the following increased donations 195%: other menus, other ways to give, other ways to get involved, social media icons and multiple action items.
- Remove “pre-clutter” pages. Too often when folks click on “Donate” from your homepage, they’re taken to a page explaining your mission or describing different forms of giving. Do that, instead, on a drop-down menu at the top of your homepage. Once they click on “Donate,” take them directly to your donation landing page. (The more times folks must click to get where they need to be, the less likely they’ll follow through.)
6. Make Sure Your Ask is Donor-Centered
Don’t say, “It’s annual giving time again, so please make a gift.” Make the ask about your donor, not about you or your organization. Don’t say, “Give to our Giving Tuesday campaign,” “Help us meet our fundraising goal” or “Last chance to make your year-end gift.” These asks are all about you and your process. They’ll look exactly like a million other fundraising emails; you won’t stand out.
Donors don’t care about how you do things and what you think is important. To the extent monetary goals and deadlines matter to donors, they are merely secondary considerations once they’ve made an emotion-based decision to give.
Donors care about what they can do to make a specific impact. Use action words that encourage them to help, heal, rescue, save and change the world in a manner that’s near and dear to their hearts.
What Will You Choose to Wake Up Year-End Giving?
You’ve still got time to do a few things that will most definitely improve your year-end fundraising results. While you may not be able to do all these things this year, surely, you can do at least one. Pick what works for you — and see what happens! You can find more year-end fundraising To-Do’s here.
If you like craft fairs, baseball games, art openings, vocal and guitar, and political conversation, you’ll like to hang out with Claire Axelrad. Claire, J.D., CFRE, will inspire you through her philosophy of philanthropy, not fundraising. After a 30-year development career that earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award, Claire left the trenches to begin her coaching/teaching practice, Clairification. Claire is also a featured expert and chief fundraising coach for Bloomerang, She’ll be your guide, so you can be your donor’s guide on their philanthropic journey. A member of the California State Bar and graduate of Princeton University, Claire currently resides in San Francisco.