Tech-Fueled Tips to Improve The Online Donor Journey

July 14, 2021
Check out this post for tips to optimize the donor journey.

Guest post blog submitted by: Donately, a nonprofit technology provider.

It’s time to step into your donors’ shoes and work to optimize their experience on your website. 

Why? Because more than ever, donors are looking for opportunities online to champion the causes they love—especially in the wake of a pandemic, which has shifted so much of life to digital spaces. 

But there’s a lot competing for your donors’ attention online. Once you have directed them to look at your site, your goal is to keep them there! You don’t want social media feeds or a text message to take their attention away from their goal of giving. 

Keeping this in mind, you’ll need to optimize your nonprofit’s tech. A major part of that process will be making sure your site holds your donors’ attention and gives them access to easy-to-use online donation tools. You’ll also need a way to let donors know you appreciate them.  

In this post, we’ll walk through a donor’s online giving journey, starting with getting them to your nonprofit’s website all the way through to the thank-you they receive after donating. We’ll give you four tips for how you can use tech to improve your donors’ journey at each step:

  1. Include a variety of calls-to action pointing to online giving.
  2. Design a straightforward online donation form. 
  3. Make it easy for supporters to give in higher amounts. 
  4. Follow-up with a thank-you note in a timely manner. 

By following these steps, you’ll be able to make your website the best it can be. And with a great website, donors will have an easier time giving more and giving more frequently. 

Let’s get started! 

Include a variety of calls-to-action pointing to online giving.

To get donors going to your website, you’ll want to take a multi-channel approach to marketing your cause. According to Donately, communication is key when engagement with donors is so decentralized in a virtual space. 

So you’ll want to give them several avenues through which they can find your site, including: 

  • Links across social media channels: Make it easy for your supporters to find you on social media and for them to access links to your website. This is also a great way to connect with your younger supporters, who use social media more often. 
  • Emails: Short, personalized email newsletters can be a great way to catch your supporters’ attention and give them opportunities to donate. Make sure to include links to your website so supporters can easily click through to your donation page. 
  • Text message: With phone notifications on your side, you’re sure to get your supporters looking at your site. Short text messages reminding supporters about ongoing campaigns or events should be paired with a link that takes them to your site. 
  • Printed materials: Though they’re physical materials, posters, direct mail, pamphlets, etc. can still guide your supporters to the digital spaces you need them to find. Try adding a QR code on a poster or including social media channel information at the bottom of a letter to direct them back to your online presence.  
  • Once your donor has made it to your site through one of the above avenues, effective web design is what will keep them there. Make sure your website will work well on a mobile device and make it easy to navigate. 

Additionally, you’ll want to pay extra attention to these two elements wherever they’re used on your site: 

  • Call-to-action language 
  • Donation buttons 

Ensure your website contains effective calls-to-action urging your supporters to “contribute now” or “click here to give” that are paired with buttons. These buttons should automatically take supporters to a donation form, allowing them to complete the donation process easily.  

Tip: Remember not to overwhelm your website with call-to-action language to the point where it feels too “in-your-face.” A little can go a long way in making sure your supporter clicks that donation button! 

2. Design a straightforward online donation form.

Once a donor has clicked through a button to start the donation process, they should see an online donation form that is easy to fill out. 

Your donation form will be most effective when it: 

  • Is embedded on your online donation page. There’s no need to send donors to a third-party site when you embed your form on your own site. Plus, people tend to be wary of giving their information to third-party sites, even if they’re trustworthy. Eliminate any hesitation by embedding the form. 
  • Is accessible for all viewers. The key to making every donor’s experience a positive one is making sure everything on your website (including your donation form) is accessible. Optimizing your donation form for accessibility includes making all elements visible “above the fold” (viewable on the screen without scrolling), providing labels on fields, and marking required fields clearly. 
  • Is mobile-friendly. Keep in mind that not all donors will be viewing the form on a computer. Some will be looking to donate using their phone or tablet. The device the donor uses will change their experience with the form. Be mindful of things like having alternative text in form fields for mobile users (which will usually be shorter), and making form fields tab friendly for computer users.
  • Is branded to your organization. Instead of having a generic donation form, brand it specifically to your organization and your cause. Remind donors why they’re donating in the first place. Donating should feel like a comfortable and familiar experience so donors want to do it again!
  • Only asks for information that is need-to-know. We’re all wary of websites and forms that want too much of our personal information. Keep your request for information simple, with an emphasis on contact and payment information (after all, that’s what counts on a donation form!). You can still get useful donor data from a simplified form. 

When it comes to the actual act of giving, give your donors options. Include multiple suggested giving amounts so that donors feel comfortable giving what they can, but also have the option to give more or a custom amount if they decide to. 

Also provide different options for how to give. Offer options for credit card payments, or payments through systems like PayPal (or PayPal alternatives) or ACH transactions (for donors who want to give through direct debit). 

As you’re optimizing the journey your donor takes, you’ll need to put a lot of focus on the online donation form. This is where the rubber meets the road! So when it comes to ironing out the online giving process, make sure you’ve got a simple and easy donation form. 

Hint: Need more help? Check out these tips from Donately to create a great donation form. 

3. Make it easy for supporters to give in higher amounts.

When people are giving their hard-earned money to a cause, they like to have options. While most nonprofits are happy to accept donations of any amount, no matter how small, you also want to make it possible for a donor to feel like they can give in higher amounts if they want to. 

There are a couple different ways you can give your donors the option of giving a large amount online: 

  • Include suggested giving amounts on your donation form. Not only does this help streamline the donation process—it can also signal to your supporters that you’ll accept large donations online (if you give a wide range of options). 
  • Provide a recurring gift option. Who knows how many of your supporters would be recurring donors if they had the option? Make the process the easiest it can be—let donors opt into recurring giving so they don’t have to remember to manually enter all of their information every time they want to give. 
  • Embed matching gift database into your site. Many companies offer the option to match their employees’ donations to causes they care about. However, employees often don’t know if their company has a matching gift program. Make it easier for them to find out if they’re eligible and to get their gift matched by providing a corporate philanthropy database on your site.

These are some great ways to give your donors options, and who doesn’t love options? They can make the giving process more comfortable and natural. Plus, having options to give more or get an employer involved can make your donor more excited about giving to your cause. What a great way to increase their loyalty to your mission!

4. Follow-up with a thank-you note in a timely manner.

Every donor should be thanked for giving to your cause. The best way to do so is to follow-up their donation with a thank-you note in a timely manner. 

You don’t want your donor to donate and then get a thank-you a year later. They won’t be impressed with your lack of promptness, and they’ll likely be less motivated to give again, since they could be feeling forgotten and unappreciated by your organization. 

On the other hand, when you thank your donors in a timely manner, you maintain a strong reputation for your nonprofit’s brand. A thank-you also rounds out the donation experience, capping it off with a positive experience

This will also open the door for future engagement, whether the donor ends up giving again, attending an event, or sharing about your cause on social media. (And It’s a well-known fact that retaining a supporter is much cheaper than pursuing a new one, so this is extremely important.)

There are a couple different ways to thank donors. You could set up an automated email that is spurred to send after a transaction. Or you could create a thank-you note that pops up directly on the donation page after the transaction is completed. Either way, you’ll probably want to start with a template

Once you’ve written your thank-you note using a template, you can start making it feel more personalized to your donors. Consider these best practices for writing thank-you notes: 

  • Avoid asking for another gift right off the bat.
  • Include next steps, such as signing up for an email list, signing up to volunteer, or viewing other resources on your site. 
  • Brand the letter to your nonprofit so it doesn’t feel generic. 
  • Include the donor’s name. “Thank you, Tim!” or “Dear Virginia,” feels more personal than “Dear Donor.”
  • Focus on communicating impact, emphasizing what the donor has accomplished with their donation rather than what the nonprofit accomplishes with the donation. 

Thank-you notes should be all about the donor. So again, step into your donors’ shoes and ask yourself how you would want to feel after giving to a cause you care about. Let that thinking guide you as you thank your donors. 

As you rely more and more on online giving, a major part of making it work will be thinking about your donors’ journey. As you incorporate these tech tips into your organization’s online donation strategy, we’re confident you’ll be better able to reach and retain donors who care about the work you’re doing. Best of luck! 

About the Author:

Jacob Spencer, Customer Success / Account Manager at Donately

I strive to make every step of our customer journey as enjoyable as possible. My goal is to turn everyone that trusts Donately into a raving fan! Raising funds can be daunting, but we know that with the right tools, it can and should be easy. 

Throughout my career, I’ve been able to help sales and success teams tackle new markets, grow and expand. 

Leading with empathy, listening to actually solve problems, and remembering that we are all human are the key elements to growing any business in a meaningful way.

When I’m not working you can find me spending time with my wife, 2 boys and our Border Collie, Abbie. Family>Everything.

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