We're glass-half-full types of people around here, and realize that for every "don't," there should be a "do" in improving our online fundraising and marketing. Here are the six "dos" of asking for donations on your website.
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1. Make it painfully easy to find the "donate" option.
As marketing guru Seth Godin once blogged, our target markets are often "lazy people in a hurry." (No offense to our lovely, unexpected donors!) Let's face it: People are getting savvier by the day, ad banners are blending into the background, and cluttered layouts are turning people away. Big, bold, beautiful buttons are what we're after. (When we at Network for Good put our button front and center on our homepage, we brought in 30 percent more donations!)
2. Show where the moolah goes.
Belts and purse strings are tightening, and folks are becoming increasingly skeptical of charities. Now's the time to be completely transparent about where contributions and gifts are going. The more honest and open your organization is, the more trustworthy you'll become. Illustrate this with testimonials, endorsments, and badges from groups such as Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau.
3. Explain the how of your mission (not just the what).
Nonprofits often put a lot of stock into their mission statements as if these short explanations are the lifeblood of a good organization. Sure, they're important, but they're not compelling in and of themselves; just because you're out to "end poverty" or "save animals," etc., doesn't differentiate you from the other anti-poverty or animal-friendly charity down the street. Paint the picture of how your nonprofit is getting the job done in addition to explaining what the job is. Be specific!
4. Appeal to donors' ideals and values.
Put yourself in your donor's shoes: What's most important to me? Am I looking for convenience, a happy feeling, or a sense of accomplishment? Do I want to affect a certain group of people's lives? Your mission won't tug at the heartstrings of every single person—but make sure it hits home with your target audience(s).
5. Show your connection to or presence in the local community.
This element is key to making the ask: Do your best to make a connection to the people and places from which you're soliciting donations. Whether your program work is in Africa or your soup kitchen is on Main Street, be sure to include language to bring a sense of relevance to your website visitors. (According to a recent study, an organization's presence in the user's own community was the second most important deciding factor after the organization's mission and work.)
6. Don't forget to ask.
This is not the time to be shy about actually asking for donations. Now that you've made it easy and compelling to become a part of your nonprofit's work and impact, be sure to make the call to action.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on October 22, 2012 and has been updated.