2 min Read
September 29, 2009

A clever cultivation stumbles at the finish line

Don't stumble through the finish
Don’t stumble through the finish line.

A few weeks back, I had a disappointing online interaction with a nonprofit, and I think it serves as a cautionary tale about creating too many barriers to signup or participation online.

About two years ago, I connected with a nonprofit online to buy an event ticket, and in the process, I gave them my email address. Since the ticket purchase, I’ve gotten occasional updates and campaign fundraising emails, but all things considered, they’ve been very respectful of my information and haven’t abused the privilege. It seems they’re employing a good segmentation strategy–they know I’m not closely connected to their mission, so they just let me sit quietly on their list and send me the occasional update.

A few weeks ago, I got a very simple, straightforward email inviting me to sign up for their weekly enewsletter. They made a good case for why I might be interested–upcoming events, special offers–and I thought, “Hey, they’ve shown themselves to be good communicators so far, and their newsletter looks interesting–I guess I’d be willing to hear from them more often.” And I clicked “Subscribe”.

Up to this point, I’d say this organization did a stellar job communicating with me. Once they’d built my trust, they piqued my interest in connecting more deeply by pointing out what’s in it for me, instead of focusing on what’s in it for them. Signing up for a weekly enewsletter might not seem like a big step, but it puts me one rung higher on the engagement ladder–I’m now a bit more interested in what they do, a bit more aware of what’s going on, a bit more likely to give come year-end. Bravo to them.

Unfortunately, the cheers stopped there. The “Subscribe” button took me to a page on their website, where I entered my name and email address. Done, right? Wrong. A screen popped up, asking for a username and password (probably something I created two years ago while buying a ticket in what I thought would be a one-time interaction). After a few failed login attempts, I was directed to a re-registration form that required all my contact information: phone, mailing address, the works.

I gave up. All I wanted to do was join their email list, and it should have been one-click-simple. Instead, they lost a subscriber, and maybe even a donor down the line.

It was a smart call-to-action and a good use of their email list. But the signup process was too much of a barrier–either they were too eager to collect as much information as possible without considering the user’s experience, or their constituent relationship management solution wasn’t flexible enough to accommodate a simple email signup.

For the record, I tried again and decided to share all of my information so I could sign up. But not every site visitor will come back after a difficult first experience, and a long signup process can undermine even a great, engaging call-to-action. Is your nonprofit making it as easy as possible for new audiences to participate online, or are you losing opportunities?