How Donor-friendly is Your On-line Presence?

by Laura E. Kaufman

There is nothing scientific about this post. No studies were conducted, no metrics gathered.

I am simply sharing observations based on the experience of one donor: me.

This year, I did my year-end giving either partly or entirely on-line. I gave to multiple non-profits. They included local, national and international organizations. Some gifts were to grassroots projects and others to large, well-resourced non-profits. I used organization websites, and if I was less familiar with an organization, I checked their ratings on Charity Navigator.

More and more non-profits are using Web 2.0 to promote their cause and attract donors. However, simply establishing a website, Facebook page or tweeting is not enough. Non-profits need to keep their web presence current. If attracting supporters is a key goal of an organization’s web strategy, then each web location should be as donor-friendly as possible.

Most non-profits are already stretched to the limit personnel and time-wise. So what is a busy and overburdened non-profit professional to do?

If your organization does not have a clear social media strategy, this would be a good place to start. It’s a new year. Plan to spend some time setting realistic goals for how you will use social media this year, and then secure the resources (people, time, quality content) to do this well.

Good planning takes time. But my experience reminded me that there are several simple (and often free or low-cost) steps that non-profits can take to make a prospective online donor’s experience with your organization as donor-friendly as possible. These are the ideas that came to mind as I was donating on-line:

1. Your website: Has anyone in your organization ever tried to give on-line to your organization? How would they rate the experience? Is it easy to navigate to the donation page from your home page? Do you have a “donate now” button on each page?

  • Some of the websites I visited only linked to the donation page from their home page. If I was on another page, I found it aggravating to navigate back to the home page to give a donation.
  • Some websites I surfed looked as if they had not been updated for years. This may lead a donor to wonder if your non-profit is well-run or if you are even still in business.

2. Your donations page:

  • Several organizations failed to offer me the opportunity to print the donations page and submit it – with a check – via snail mail. Some of us still like to write checks. We look at your website to get information about your work, and then give via the US Mail. If you think this might apply to your donors, make it easy for them to do so.
  • There was large variation in suggested giving levels, even for non-profits of similar size and budget. Some sites listed $100 as the top gift choice and then added an “other” check box. Other sites listed their top gift as $500 or even $1,000. One site did not list any suggested amounts at all. How did you arrive at the suggested gift amounts posted on your donations page? Are these amounts based on analysis of your average gift size on-line and on strategies to increase your average gift size? Have you ever tested other ways of listing donation levels to see if they increase the size of your average on-line gift?

3. Organization Contact Information: Is your organization’s address on your donations page? Is it easy to find? Several times I wanted to check an organization’s website, download a donation form and give offline. But, I often had trouble locating the organization’s mailing address and had to search out “contact Us” pages and navigate away from the donations page.

Donors expect on-line giving or even on-line research of organizations to be easy. If I were a little less determined, I might have given up at several of the sites I visited and donated to another organization. Is your website as easy and donor-friendly as it can be?

There are certainly other easy fixes non-profits can apply to their online giving system, but this list provides a good starting point. What are some of your ideas?

Laura E. Kaufman is the immediate past Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago.She currently consults on effective strategies for raising funds as the Principal at Partners in Effective Philanthropy and blogs at Change 4 Your Dollar.