Donation Processing Best Practices

Roderick Campbell 07/20/2015
Donation Processing Best Practices

Note: This article assumes you have a basic understanding of online donation processing. If you're brand new to the concept, read our Donation Processing Guide for Nonprofits.

Donation processing is a surprisingly complex subject, and one of our biggest ongoing challenges here at CommitChange. By focusing rigorously on the giving process, we've been able to increase online donations by 75-180% for the organizations using our platform. Today I'd like to share some of the best practices that got us there.

1. Remove Absolutely Everything

More than any other test, removing steps from the giving process yielded the easiest gains in donation volume. Our found that reducing the steps between supporters and donations yielded more results than any other test. Get rid of every field that isn't necessary. Is the extra information worth losing donations? Probably not. Get supporters through the door quickly and then steward them -- don't turn your welcome mat into a barrier.

2. Present Donors with Choices

Another surprising finding was that giving supporters "choices" significantly increased the probability of converting into a donor. This can be as simple as asking "would you like to make this gift one-time or recurring?" or "would you like to donate to this fund, or that one?" An easy way to implement this strategy is to create giving levels on your website that correlate to impact. You can also use CommitChange to create custom giving programs.

3. Have Multiple Giving Prompts

A "donate" link on your website isn't nearly enough. Build multiple giving prompts into each page on your website. Use a variety of calls to action and see what works best. A good rule: there should be a visible giving option on every page of your website. Ideally, that giving option should correlate in some way with the content of each page. Many nonprofit worry about displaying too many giving options -- don't! In fact, you can probably double your asks.

4. Focus on Email Fundraising

Most of your online donations will come from email campaigns, so we recommend learning as much as possible about email marketing. Your organization should be sending monthly emails to supporters with stories, opportunities, and giving options. Focus on building your supporter email list as quickly as possible and test lots of strategies. Especially savvy nonprofits segment their supporters into lists based on their interests and giving preferences.

5. Think of Crowdfunding as Marketing

Most of your online giving will come from email appeals, but crowdfunding is an excellent way to introduce your organization to new supporters and grow your brand. Nonprofits often make the mistake of using crowdfunding primarily as a fundraising strategy, but that's a mistake; there are much easier sources of revenue than crowdfunding. But don't despair! Crowdfunding is still an incredibly powerful tool, if you understand how to leverage it. Your objective should be to run small, regular, and relatively low dollar campaigns several times per year in order to introduce your nonprofit to new supporters. Crowdfunding is a very powerful marketing tool, but a mediocre funding model for most orgs (though we have many exceptions who have raised hundreds of thousands as well -- just don't bet on it).

6. Build Relationships with Supporters

There's nothing worse than receiving unsolicited, generic appeals from nonprofits. Innovative nonprofits build real relationships with supporters through frequent 1-on-1 communication, customized content, and by maintaining a database of supporters. CommitChange is making it easier than ever to build, manage, and leverage these relationships at scale by intelligently pulling data from across the internet, tracking relationships, and making it easier to communicate regularly with supporters. The donation process begins on day 1 and continues until the supporter leaves your organization, don't make the mistake of treating your donors like an anonymous email list that generates free money. Build real relationships; they pay off.

7. Ask Other Websites to Raise Money

Know a local business owner with a popular website? How about a trade association? Or maybe a media outlet? CommitChange allows you to embed your donation form on any website, allowing your organization to raise money from any site on the internet. Ask friendly webmasters to include your organization's appeal on a page of their website to reach new supporters. You can even track which websites had the greatest impact and give them credit for their suppport.

That's all for now! Feel free to implement any of these strategies at your organization, or contact us if you have questions or comments. We're very excited about the impact our team is having on increasing online giving and we'll continue to share insights!

Roderick Campbell is the CEO and Co-Founder of CommitChange. He works with hundreds of nonprofits throughout the United States to increase charitable giving.

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