Digital giving

Learnings from the State of Nonprofit 2019

In the Spring of 2019, Bigwidesky decided to undertake a study to provide insight into how effectively nonprofits are performing with regard to their digital donations. Bigwidesky, a human business consultancy selected at random 100 U.S.-based nonprofits. “We made donations, signed up for email, followed them on social media, and opted into calls and text messages when offered.”

Throughout the study, the organization tracked how the selected organizations present themselves, what the donation process is like, how they respond to first-time givers, what their behavior is on social media, and more. The organizations within this study made up all sizes and types of nonprofits from humanitarian organizations to local and international feeding groups, to child welfare NGOs, and many more. (Download: State of NonProfit 2019)

Here is what I learned from the report: 

Donation Experience

Bigwidesky attempted to make 100 online first-time donations and here are the results: “92 donations were a success, 5 linked to donation pages that did not exist and 3 organizations said the gift went through, but no charge appeared on the card.”

The study also highlights that the most frustrating and unnecessary problems encountered in the donation experience were the use of reCAPTCHA. “In the most painful scenarios, we encountered reCAPTCHA loading as many as six times. (You’ve likely run into this yourself. First, it’s street signs. Second, it’s crosswalks. Third, it’s bikes. And on and on.)”

Many organizations implement reCAPTCHA because they feel they get too many fraudulent credit card attempts. However, every additional click in the donation process increases the likelihood that the donor will leave the page before completing the gift. Additionally, it may send the signal to the donor that your organization cares more about its own security or data issues than it does about the donor’s funds or experience. If you still want to implement it then try these alternatives suggested by the study such as NuCaptcha, Honeypots, or No CAPTCHA.

In addition to the above, the study found some common issues such as:

  • Loading a confirm details page:  when the user has already confirmed to process the payment. This extra step increases friction in the donation process.
  • Recurring donation: Interrupting the donation process by confusing it with a recurring donation. This happens when the Nonprofit lacks clarity between one-time donation and recurring donation. Recurring donations are required but the majority of Nonprofits are confusing donors or are not providing ample reasons why should donors give on a monthly or a quarterly basis. In my recent article on Recurring Giving and Nonprofits, I addressed why Nonprofits should ask three simple questions before implementing recurring donations. Food For Hunger is a brilliant example of how to implement recurring donations. The website explains how donated money can transform a child’s life and has an elaborate section defining “Why sponsor a child with Food for the Hungry?” The section covers what is the child blessed with and what does the donor benefit from the act of giving monthly. At least it is a sizeable amount of effort from the organization rather than just asking money just because on moral grounds.
  • Inconsistent brand imagery and communication in different pages: It is advisable to keep consistent brand imagery on the website and donation pages. This only increases the anxiety in the donor. With increasing privacy and hacking concerns, more and more people are wary about visual changes within a website. Branding inconsistencies may cause donors to lose trust. I have shared my thoughts on donation frictions and anxieties - How can you make Donation Pages effective.

Post Donation Experience

According to the study:

“The time immediately after a donation is a perfect time to solidify the relationship between your donor and your organization. Think about it this way—if someone has just given you money, they likely feel good about it and are in a place emotionally where they want to help. Unfortunately, nearly every Thank You page in our study left us with nothing to do.”

Good donation pages should facilitate a good conversation. The most popular is having Social Share buttons. Milaap has Facebook and Whatsapp. The crowdfunding organization has messaging integrated with Whatsapp and it also believes both these platforms drive more engagement for the platform. Social sharing is also the most preferred choice by organizations. But at the same time, 55 organizations offered no next action. This is a lost opportunity, according to the NextAfter Institute - “The State of Donation Pages.” The report is based on the online giving experience from 203 Nonprofits organizations.

My thoughts on how you can make the Thank You Page little human.

  • Personalization: This isn’t about adding the name in your static message. It is good. Now focus on your copy and create a thank you message that connects with the campaign rather than having a bland thank you message. Someone has given her hard-earned money so make sure you put the required effort.
  • Donation impact: Can you talk quickly about how the donation will impact the cause. Connect with a recent impact story. This will get the user engaged. But test this, see your data if it is working. If not then remove the link or embedded an impact video.
  • Social sharing: Embedd the social sharing buttons. Largely we donate because we want to feel good and we love to share how we are changing the world. Nothing wrong on it. But don’t keep the entire bunch of social media icons, have the ones that work for your organization. Check your Google Analytics to get an answer. Integrating Whatsapp could be an interesting feature.
  • Recurring donation: Quite a few NGOs have the recurring donation option, right here. I am not very cool because you are asking someone more money when she has just given it to you. Why not build the trust first and introduce the concept of recurring donations over the period of your next few emails, when you have more credible stories to show how her money is impacting the cause. You are showing how your organization is making a difference with her money and now she can start thinking of becoming a monthly donor. You have sold her the Why and How.

Email Recipiting and Cultivation

“Of 92 successful donations, 91 organizations emailed a receipt. Every organization that emailed a receipt sent it on the same day the gift was made. 65 nonprofits sent a receipt email with no significant thank you messaging or any other information other than transaction details.”

An email communication followed after the donation not only gives donor confidence about the online transaction but this also opens the door for ongoing engagement. It is advisable that you sent an email within 48 hours, but if you ask me I would recommend doing it in 24 hours. We are already busy in so many ways and the more time we spend in delaying the first communication, chances are that we are fading out of the donor mind. This is where you can integrate your Thank You trigger emails.

The next step obviously is building the one on one relationship with the donor via Direct Emails. According to the study: Out of the 34 organizations that sent direct emails - only 12 organizations mailed a receipt and the fastest response came after 3 days post-donation. “Even if you cannot send receipts or thank you direct mail quickly, you should at the very least be taking the opportunity to mail the donor. The sooner you can do it, the more likely it is that the donor will respond positively to be contacted via a different channel.”

After the thank you emails and one-time communications: 43 organizations sent no email and 12 averaged less than one email per month and 13 averaged at least one and less than two emails per month.

This is where most of the Nonprofits are missing out on harnessing the power of email marketing. According to The State of Non-Profit Email Cultivation by Kindful and NextAfter Institute: Direct traffic is the biggest source of revenue, followed by Email when properly tracked. Email tends to be the most powerful channel for driving donations and revenue.

Social media

Nonprofit organizations are thinking beyond Facebook. Facebook’s organic reach is dead and continuous changes to the algorithm are the two main reasons. According to the study: “60 percent of these nonprofits post less than once per day and 11 percent less than once per week.”

When we ran a correlation, we found that the more email an organization sends, the more likely they are to post frequently to Facebook, and the more they post to Facebook, the more engagement they receive.

My latest story on the Changing Face of Online Fundraising based on Classy’s latest report: The Modern Nonprofit Professional Experience highlights the same trend. Social media plays a big role but The top three channels for large and medium nonprofits are direct mail, email, and social media, while the top channel for small organizations is word of mouth, followed by social media and direct mail. Social media also provides 50% of traffic for Peer to Peer campaigns, along with personal fundraising campaigns.

LinkedIn is a platform that has been overlooked because of its reach but I think it can still play an essential role. “We chose to look into LinkedIn because while its audience is small, it also has shown strong interaction rates and organic visibility in prior research. We have found that LinkedIn can reach certain audiences very well and much more cheaply than Facebook advertising for example, but it’s difficult to profitably run ad campaigns because the number of people you can reach is so limited.”

Be the donor and try wearing her fancy shoes is my biggest learning from the study.

I like how Eric Pratum ends his author’s note in the study:

Your organization does not need the flashiest website experience, you don’t need to be everywhere, and you don’t need the biggest budgets. What you do need is to look at how you present yourself to the world, what your website experience is like, how quickly you send a thank you letter (if at all), and more.

Before you put anything out in the world, look at it from the donor’s perspective.

P.S. Did the article give value to your time? If yes then can you do a one-time donation to my ongoing fundraising campaign for COVID-19. Donation Link. If no, then I will keep trying. I don’t give up easily. Thank You!