Picture one of your supporters sitting at her computer. She’s browsing your website. She just finished reading a heart-warming story of success about someone whose life has been transformed by your nonprofit’s program, and there’s a tear in her eye. Will she be compelled to give? What can you say during this open-minded moment of truth and what should you absolutely avoid saying during this crucial time?
Consider these five things that you should never say to your online donors:
1. “I’m not trustworthy.”
Obviously you would never have a headline on your nonprofit website that read: “Don’t Trust Us with Your Money.” However, make sure that’s not the message folks are reading between the lines. Are you set up to receive online donations? Did you hide your enigmatically named “consider giving” page beneath 12 layers of informational pages? Are your physical address and annual report easy to find? Legitimize your online presence, validate your online visitors’ preference to donate online, and show your site visitors you need and appreciate their help.
2. “I take you for granted.”
If your website forces supporters to search for a long time to find out how to, you know, support you online (or if there’s no way to support you at all), it’s frustrating—see point #1. If online supporters are not acknowledged, it’s downright ungrateful. If your site is set up for online giving, ask yourself, “What happens when people donate?” Do they hear from you again? Do they get a tax receipt? Is the only thing they get a receipt? The quickest way to make sure a donor won't give again is to neglect the follow-up.
3. “I have no idea how much you should give.”
Of course your donors will give in varying amounts, and you want to allow that flexibility to your supporters. However, to say, “Give whatever you want,” is not a specific, tangible ask. Make it easy (and easy-to-picture) to choose a giving level. Here’s an example: Recently one of our Network-for-Gooders sent a birthday fundraising ask that outlined exactly what a $37 donation would buy (“the food for a healthy, homemade breakfast for 15 homeless men and women”). Set up custom giving levels (like Malaria No More’s “$10 buys one bed net!”). Paint a clear picture of how the money will be used.
4. “What’s your name again?”
If you met a donor in person, you wouldn’t greet him with, “Hi, friend.” Why treat your online donors any differently? In your email marketing and outreach, be sure to include personalization whenever possible. Use whatever data you have to create the most engaging messages possible. For example, “Hi, Bob! I wanted to reach out and say thank you for your $20 online gift."(This works if his name is Bob, of course.) And here’s a helpful hint: If it looks like a form letter, sounds like a form letter, and quacks like a form letter, it’s a form letter and your donor will know it. Although, sending something is better than nothing, which brings us to point #5.
5. *Nothing at all.*
And, the most important thing to avoid saying to online supporters and donors: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Radio silence. Truly successful fundraising is about engagement and building connections. Thank your donors. Encourage monthly giving. Offer other opportunities to get involved including volunteer openings, signing up for your e-newsletter, and so on. If you donor came in as anything above and beyond “anonymous,” take that opportunity to build a relationship and make the most of it.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself “Gasp! I can’t accept donations online,” or, “Heavens to Betsy, we’re not sending email campaigns!” let us help. We’re pleased to offer easy-to-use, affordable, and effective fundraising tools. Learn how to create your own branded online donation pages and more.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 18, 2012 and has been updated.