Fundraising fundamentals: the path to becoming a better online fundraiser

You’re a good fundraiser. It shows. The people you meet respond to your words, your actions and your belief in the cause. So beyond shared values and your relationship building skills, to what do you attribute a successful canvas?

To some, it is all a matter of timing. To others, it is maintaining a simple process for the donor to follow and removing any potential distractions as part of the close. Both of these points are true and play a large role in the success of any offline fundraising strategy.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that these same tested principles are often ignored by many organizations when it comes time to developing their online fundraising strategy. In fact, nearly 50% of the people who visit a website intending to make an online donation give up before completing the process.  Let’s take a step back and look at how you can start applying the same offline fundraising fundamentals to your online fundraising strategy.

Timing is everything

Whether you’re reaching out to a new or repeat donor, you should know the best day of week and the time of day to e-mail them with a solicitation request. You should have access to this data either through your donor management system or your favourite analytics tool.

Going by intuition alone or playing the propensity game without data to back it up can lead to a significant increase your churn rate. If the answer is ever ‘no’ from a qualified lead, one of your follow-up questions should always be if there is a better time of day, week or even year that you may continue the conversation.

Now that they have read your e-mail and have expressed interest in supporting your cause, what is required of them? It is always a good idea to provide an indication of how much time your online donation process takes and the approximate level of effort required to complete. You would be surprised at how much people appreciate that little bit of information as it helps manage expectations from the start.

Run a series of tests yourself and ask others in your office and at home to do the same.  How long does it take on average to find your organization’s website, event or campaign after a Google search? How many clicks until they land on your your donation form? How long to complete your form, including payment, press submit and be issued a tax receipt? Is the whole process easy and intuitive? Does everything render well on smaller devices such as a smartphone?

If the donor believes that they have spent too long trying to find the appropriate page on your website, had trouble completing your donation form, experienced issues viewing content on their mobile phone or expressed frustration that the process was not as straight-forward as they had thought, you have a problem.  Always look for ways to reduce the time it takes your average donor to complete their online donation.  In turn, you will see your churn rate drop and your conversion rate rise.

Keep the donation process simple

Most organizations invest a lot of time, energy and resources into the technology used to power their online fundraising initiatives.  So it’s quite common to want to throw every digital tool, widget and feature into a fundraising website.  As impressive as that might seem to their internal team, it often creates unnecessary friction for their visitors with an inefficient and complicated user-flow leading to a poor user experience.

When it comes to your donation form, start with a simple, branded page and include only the baseline requirements to process a donor’s payment. Include brief instructions on how to complete the form including a contact number if additional help is needed. Consider adding other elements that could improve the donation experience but not detract from their purpose on the page. These elements could include the option to pay the credit card processing fee, e-mail subscription or to leave a message of support. Remove any cross-promotion event advertising you may have, remove your social media links and hide anything that could prove to be a distraction to your visitors.  Amazing. Now watch as your bounce rates decrease and your conversion rates rise.  Want to take it a step further?  Ensure that every element on that page is mobile responsive, setup field validation with helpful hints and create a processing animation to ensure your donors don’t inadvertently contribute twice while waiting.

Providing a simple process with minimal distraction will ensure your supporters can get through your registration or donation flow as efficiently as possible. With that positive experience in mind, they’ll be back the next time they’re called upon to support the cause.

For more ideas on how you can optimize your digital fundraising strategy, get in touch with a Giving Gateway fundraising concierge at 1.888.930.GIVE (4483) or schedule a FREE demo.