Photo by Cristian Dina from Pexels
6 min Read
November 22, 2021

Want to increase online giving? Start with an audit.

How are you engaging your donors every day? What impression are you communicating to prospects across your digital channels (website, email, and social media)?

As we are deep into the “generosity season” here at the end of the year in the United States, even taking just one or two hours to review your online platforms can make a huge difference. While it’s exciting that 30-40% of your online gifts will come between #GivingTuesday and December 31st (Blackbaud Institute), we know that getting those donors to give again is difficult and donor retention rates are hovering around 45% for many nonprofit organizations (Bloomerang).

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve spoken at several webinars and conferences about how to shift your communications efforts from year-end solicitation to year-round engagement. In these conversations, I’ve conducted a few online audits and I wanted to share some of the questions someone might ask, in the first person, so you can do the same. Since I’ve worn glasses my whole life, I learned early on that “four eyes are better than two,” so ask a co-worker or friend to join you and evaluate away!

Is it clear what you are about?

When a supporter first visits your website or sees your nonprofit come across one of their social feeds, do they get what you are about? Is your mission clear and findable? When I read the bio of your organization on Twitter or Instagram, do I understand your purpose?

Is your content up-to-date?

How current is your “latest news” or most recent posts? Promoting an event that happened last month (or last year) without anything new or reference to it in the past can start to erode trust. Out-of-date content happens, but if it happens consistently, supporters may question your credibility. Featuring timely content is definitely important, just be sure to set reminders or make plans to check the most highly-trafficked sections of your site on a regular basis so you can avoid giving off the wrong impression.

How easy is it to sign up for your list?

Take a look at your data for online revenue and you’ll likely find that one of the top sources of gifts are the emails you send out to your list. Building your email list is still an important area to focus on and use to build relationships with current and future supporters. With that in mind, the visitor who lands on your site or follows you on social media should be able to easily give you their email address if they want to! Many organizations include a consistent prompt on the footer of all pages on their site and list this as a clear navigation item in their menu or site map. You can also include links in your Linktree bio via Instagram, add a button on your Facebook posts, run an ad or post on Twitter or LinkedIn. Figuring out how to get your enews or how to sign up to learn more should be as simple and findable as possible.

How easy is it to make a gift or support you in other ways?

Avoid making your visitors and followers feel like they are on a neverending scavenger hunt or trapped in an escape room by examining how you invite them to take action. When someone visits your “get involved” or “support us” section, are the ways to give one’s time, passions, and financial support clear? Is the process of giving or signing up to volunteer simple? Be sure to particularly test this (if not all of the audit questions!) on a smartphone, since more and more viewers are looking at your website and social media via mobile devices.

How readable is the text on your donation and volunteer or activist pages? Can people fill out the form in a few clicks? For the donation form, do you accept more than credit cards in case supporters don’t have those handy (e.g. PayPal, ApplePay, etc.)? And once someone gives, do you invite them to do more, such as sharing or connecting with you on social media, taking a relevant action, or attending an event? Oh, and ask this question about your social accounts too. If you have a lot of supporters on Facebook and Instagram, consider turning on the fundraising feature so people can give and raise funds for you via those channels. This can be particularly helpful for celebrating #GivingTuesday and drawing in support around key holidays and milestones.

Is the reason to donate clear?

Back to that donation page of yours. Is it a sea of text with lots of jargon or do you feature a short and simple explanation for why someone should give? Those long paragraphs you may have to write for a grant application have no place here. Any request to give on your website or other digital platforms should be simple, clear, and compelling. Get to the point and focus on your mission or programs (if it’s a restricted “ask”). It can be helpful and build confidence to let donors know what you will do with their donation, even when it is supporting your general operating costs.

Did you thank donors for giving?

What happens on screen, and later in their inbox, once someone makes a donation online? How are you thanking your supporters from the first message that appears immediately on their device to the one they receive via email? Do you just send out the auto-generated receipt from your constituent relationship management (CRM) system or do you add or follow it up with a little flavor? If you can’t edit the immediate message, schedule another message that’s a bit more personal. Use the supporter’s name, reference the amount and name of the campaign they gave to, and invite them to do more with you (beyond giving).

If you’ve got these follow-up messages in place, great, give them a fresh read. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten notes “sent” by people who no longer work at the organization or featuring content that references events or issues that are clearly outdated. Examining and updating how you acknowledge your supporters can go a long way to getting them to give again.

Who can donors contact with questions?

Sometimes a donor wants to reach out and chat with someone on staff about your work or to update their name, pronouns, address, or credit card. (I have certainly had to reconnect with organizations I was a monthly sustainer for after losing my wallet.) Can supporters easily find the phone number or email of someone to call on your development team? Do you use staff names on your site, on social media, or in emails so supporters feel like there is a real person behind your communications? Examine how easy to locate this information is and ask if it should change in any way.

Is it easy to find your organization on social media?

Social media can be a great place to get donations, support donors as fundraisers, and drive support to peers and partners who may share in a greater collective mission. Many nonprofits also use social media to build community with their supporters and prospects and share updates about the impact you are having. As such, finding you on social media should be easy. How and where are you promoting your social channels on your website and emails? And once I’m on your social channels, are your handles intuitive and similar or different across every platform? What about your bio or about sections on these platforms? Is it reflective of who your organization is today?

What else do your donors and prospects want to know?

How else can you use your website, email, and social media accounts to build relationships with supporters? Keep asking questions. After the year-end season wraps up, set aside some time in January to craft your donor communications plan for the year. Not sure what goes into a donor communications plan, or want the help of a friendly consulting firm, send us a message. We can help!