Editors’ note: This article, first published in print during Nov/Dec 2015, has been republished for Nonprofit Quarterly with minor updates.
IT’S NO SECRET THAT DECEMBER is huge for fundraising. With #GivingTuesday and annual appeals, most organizations see a large share of their annual revenue in December. Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index reports that nearly one-third of all annual donations on the online giving platform comes in the last month of the year. So, how can nonprofits make the most of all of this generous activity?
Beyond creating the perfect appeal or finding the right donor, there’s one thing that fundraisers absolutely must do to ensure they’re maximizing their year-end fundraising efforts: It’s simply to be the donor.
Too often we get so caught up in our point of view as nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, we forget to connect with the very thing that will help us better connect with our donors. And that’s to put ourselves in their shoes and remember what it’s like to be a donor.
At Network for Good, we encourage all nonprofits to observe a “Be Your Donor Day” each fall to prepare for the influx of activity at the end of the year. This is an opportunity to step into your donor’s shoes and walk through your entire fundraising and marketing experience from their perspective.
Without understanding how our donors interact with our organization, what the donation process looks like from a donors’ point of view, and how donors are thanked for their gift we can’t do much to improve (or overhaul!) the process.
Before the crush of late December, set aside some time now to look at your nonprofit’s marketing materials, fundraising experience, and online presence from your donor’s perspective. Consider how to refocus your fundraising efforts on the donor experience at each touch point your supporters have with your organization.
It’s one thing to think like a donor, but take it one step further and play the role of a new donor to your organization. Try searching for your nonprofit, reading an appeal, or visiting your website, and then attempt to make a donation. Some simple testing can uncover significant issues that could negatively affect your fundraising results this year.
As you test your process from your donor’s point of view, ask yourself these three key questions:
- Does it work?
First things first. If your emails, websites, landing pages, and other elements have technical issues, get those resolved. If these things are just plain broken, then none of the rest of your outreach will matter. Test your website and donation page functionality, as well as that of your email appeals. Also, test the various ways that people can get in touch with you. If a donor has a last-minute question, you want to make sure they can quickly reach someone at your organization, instead of getting an error message or a disconnected number.
- Does it flow?
Think about meeting your donors’ expectations when they interact with your campaign. When donors follow a call to action or take a next step from your emails, website, or other outreach, does the result make sense? Are they taken to where they expect to go, or do they get lost? Are there too many steps or are your calls to action confusing or misleading?
As you create or update your year-end fundraising campaign materials, keep in mind your goal is to achieve maximum message match. That is, your images, language, and giving options that appear on your website and donation pages should be consistent with your appeals and campaign type. If your appeals focus on supporting one particular program in your organization, don’t make donors hunt to find how to designate their gift Ensure that the look and feel of your communications all tie together. This builds consistency and helps reinforce your core message. You do not want donors to feel like you’ve switched the story mid-stream.
Here is a simple outline for testing your giving experience and communications to ensure they’re easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, and create a moment of inspiration for your supporters.
First, put on your donor hat and run through your organization’s website:
- Find (and test) your nonprofit’s contact information or contact form. Do these submissions go to the right place? Do donors get a confirmation that their message was received?
- Call your phone numbers, test your phone tree (if applicable), and see if you reach a real person or hit a dead end. Are the phone numbers you list accurate, and do they connect donors with the right people in your organization?
- Make sure you can locate your donation page and easily click to make a donation.
- Subscribe to your email newsletter and find out what happens next. Can you find a way to easily subscribe to your list? Next, ensure your online donation page is easy to use:
- Does the language and design of the donation page reflect the campaign materials and your nonprofit’s brand?
- How many fields do you need to fill out to complete your gift? How long does it take?
- Is it easy to make a recurring gift?
- Are there suggested donation amounts?
- What happens once you submit your donation? Are you prompted to share and learn more?
- Do you immediately get a receipt? How long does it take to get a thank you for your donation? Apply the same scrutiny to any direct mail response devices:
- Are the giving options easy to understand?
- Is it clear the impact a donor’s gift will have?
- Is there an obvious way to reach out to your organization if a donor needs assistance or wants to discuss a larger gift Is this contact information up to date? Do phone numbers and email addresses get a donor to a real person?
- Are there clear instructions on payment options and how to return the response? Then, make sure your communication channels are up to date:
- Do your email and direct mail templates match your fundraising campaign and nonprofit’s brand?
- Is the contact and other standard information in your letterhead or template accurate?
- Who is the sender for your email communications? What happens when you reply to this address?
- Do your social media profiles have accurate contact information and descriptions of your work?
Now, whip out your smartphone and repeat all of the above for any online channels—how does everything look and work? More donors are viewing your appeals and sites via smartphones, so ensure that your supporters can read and act on your materials from their mobile devices.
Once you have completed this process internally, ask a volunteer or current donor to complete the same test. Then, ask someone completely unfamiliar with your organization to visit your website and attempt to make a donation. Can they find the information that they need? Is the process clear? Ask them to verbally describe the process and their thoughts or questions at each step. For best results, do these tests in person so you can observe their body language and facial expressions—often your testers may not be able to tell you right away that they are having trouble, but you can catch these nonverbal cues and hesitation that signal that your site or donation process may be more confusing than you expect.
Make it your mission now to find and fit any problems that may trip up your donors before the busiest giving days of the year. You still have time to improve and optimize the process—and get more out of all the hard work you’re putting in this season.
For more tips on how to improve your giving experience in time for your year-end fundraising campaigns, download a copy of Network for Good’s free Thee-in-One Donor Experience Guide.