CNP Expo: Optimizing Online Donations

May 22, 2013

Ron Mazursky, moderator of a panel on the challenges of accepting online donations, started the session with a telling statistic: Overall charitable giving in 2012 was up only two percent over the previous year, but online donations are up about 11 percent. So it seems online giving is growing, but what are the challenges in soliciting online donations? Teri Lamitie of WGBH, Boston’s PBS and NPR affiliate, notes that the biggest challenge is ensuring the best possible experience for the donor.

“For us,” Lamitie said, “being a media non-profit, we have so many channels where people interact with us—how do we build a relationship within the context that inspired this donor to give in the first place?”

For WGBH, as for many other non-profits, this has to do with the Website itself on the front end—keeping a consistent look and message—and tracking each donor’s interaction with their non-profit on the back end in order to nurture the relationship going forward.

Dan Gillett, CEO of Kimbia, observed that the strategy for online fundraising is actually quite simple: “Focus on what the donor wants. If someone wants to give you money, just take the money. Conversion rates drop significantly with each click. Make it easy on them—don’t bog down the process by trying to collect too much information or making people go through too many steps.”

Andy Kinnecom, co-owner of Swipe for a Cause, agreed, adding that nonprofits should “include a ‘click here for recurring billing’ button right on their donation site. Here’s someone who wants to give you money, and so many non-profits leave money on the table by skipping that simple ask.”

In terms of converting social-media followers into donors, Gillett noted that Facebook users tend to balk at giving when they see that they will have to give personal information like their address. Again, he says, focus on what the donor wants.

“If you offer them a small gift and need to ship it, now you have a reason to ask for that information, and they are willing to give it. This allows you to add your social-media followers to your donor database and build your relationship with them through other channels as well.”