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Three Clever Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Boost Online Donations Through Your Website

Chris Houghton
September 23, 2021

Simple tips for the hands-on comms manager to take their online presence fundraising to the next level.

It is an unfortunate truth that most websites simply underperform. Often, they don’t receive enough visitors, and the people who do visit don’t stick around for very long. This is also true in the third sector, with most donations getting hoovered up by the largest charities who can afford to invest heavily in their online presence. Ultimately, the consequences of this mean that the little guys are often left in a more vulnerable position.

But it’s not all bad news. Smaller charities have the benefit of being nimbler and less bureaucratic. They can roll up their sleeves and trial new ideas at a pace that their bigger brethren could only dream of. In this article, we look at three things that the hands-on comms manager can do right away to help charities boost their online support.

1) Ask for support again. Then ask again.

Street fundraisers, a staple of the charity world, are known for their passion and enthusiasm with which they engage passers-by. Typically employed by larger charities, their role is to take the cause right to the heart of the community. The evidence suggests that their zealous technique returns a significant profit for charities they represent.

Websites, on the other hand, offer a completely different experience. One of their core roles is to raise money, but unlike street fundraisers, charity websites simply don’t ask their visitors often enough to lend their support. Here are a couple of ways you can encourage your visitors to make a donation.

Include calls to action everywhere

Banner blindness” is an online phenomenon that causes readers to subconsciously ignore banner-like information. Banners are usually ads, and we’ve all gotten pretty well accustomed to not seeing them. Calls to action - such as those large donate now! buttons - can also fade into the background. This is why you should place call to action buttons in various places on your pages - in the top-right, after your introductory statement for each page and again at the bottom. This helps to ensure that they are seen, regardless of where the reader is on the website. Many organisations shy away from asking for donations so brazenly, but you could benefit from taking an in-your-face leaf out of the street fundraiser’s book.

Experiment with a pop-up message

If you’ve ever visited a clothing store’s website to be met with a large message overlaying the screen asking you to sign up for a 10% discount, that’s a popup. Many consider them to be intrusive, but the data suggests that popups work when done correctly. For example, you could place a popup on the page as the user reaches the end of an appeal, or once they have watched a video. The trick here is to display a popup message at the right time. If a popup appears asking for a donation once you’ve made an emotional connection with the visitor, the chance of them donating increases dramatically (by up to 30%).

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to request support from your website visitors. As the sage old adage goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

2) Position the donor as the hero of the story

Many organisations spend an awful lot of time talking about themselves. “We do this”, “we have achieved that”. This sort of messaging definitely has its place, but in the first instance you would do well to talk about the donor, rather than yourself.

Your credentials are important, but they’re not the reason that somebody gives. A person donates their time or money because something inside them is compelling them to do so. Let’s take a look at a few ideas:

Understand the donor’s “best self”

When somebody gives to you, what are they looking to achieve? The chances are, their goals will be aligned with your own, but their reasons will vary. This complex relationship can only be understood by considering the deep motivations for giving: a young person donating to an international development charity might see themselves as a citizen of the world, wanting to positively affect change and finding a sense of status in doing so. A donor to a domestic abuse charity might give their time as part of the healing process, their road to recovery from trauma.

As a charity, it is vital that you understand and reflect your donors emotional state at every opportunity. By simply updating the content on your website to reflect the core motivations of your would-be supporters, you can speak directly to them to earn their trust.

Link the donor’s goals to your impact

As we said earlier, talking about your impact alone won’t move the needle much. Instead, make efforts to invite the potential donor into the story. If they can see themselves in the case studies you share, this will create trust that you are the organisation for them to support. Disparate statistics alone will struggle to make an emotional impact on your reader, whereas carefully placed stories, interwoven into the bigger picture, can build a strong case for support.

Every time you write a piece of content for your website, ask yourself if you are flying the flag for your supporters. Make them feel extra-special and they will remain loyal to you for years to come.

3) Give something away for free

In order to boost your online donations, your website must work hard. The visual design needs to be clean, and your content must be accessible and easily navigable. But there is something else you can do; something that so many charities miss out on: you can give something away.

You will have no doubt seen the sort of things we are talking about: a free ebook or white paper download, quizzes and infographics are all ways to further engage your visitors. Here are a few ideas:

Let the user download some free material

There is probably a huge amount of knowledge floating around your charity. Why not take the time to distil it into a useful takeaway e-booklet? For example, if you work at an eating disorder charity, you could provide a free downloadable guide for teaching or medical professionals on what signs to look for in young people. All the visitor would need to do is give you their email address. Armed with this data, you could configure your CRM to automatically follow up with a donation request a week later.

Entertain the user by running a quiz

Everybody loves to learn more about themselves, and quizzes can help them to do this. For example, an animal rehoming charity might run a quiz called “find your perfect pet”, asking the participant to answer questions about their personality and lifestyle. At the end, not only would the user discover their ideal pet, they would also be asked to make a donation to help the charity keep it fit and healthy.

Give away a product with a donation

Another way to encourage a donation is to offer something in return. For example, donkey sanctuaries and guide dog charities are great at sending the donor letters/emails from the animal they have sponsored. More tangibly, you could simply post out a free wristband to the person making the donation. Implementing these product-based freebies is relatively straightforward these days, and small charities could begin to experiment with them at a low cost.

Giving something away can add a sweetener to an already-great deal. It can make your charity more memorable, and give people even more reason to offer their support.

Your website could unlock more support than you can imagine

There are charity websites out there generating thousands of pounds every month. What is the difference between you and them? Of course, you need to bring people to your website in the first place, but it’s likely that your website could work a lot harder for you if you give it a little TLC. The ideas expressed here should be pretty simple to get started with, so gather your team around a table for the afternoon and get stuck in!

But before you do, be sure to grab a copy of our ebook, The modern guide to collecting donations online, to give you a running start.