Looking for donors to contribute online? Learn from past mistakes

While online donations have yet to catch up with phone and paper-based contributions in terms of sheer numbers of people contributing, this method is steadily gaining traction. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering a growing number of donors come to the table equipped with access to the Internet, whether it's through a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. People are connected at home and on the go, meaning charitable foundations have a significant opportunity to approach donors essentially at any time. That being said, not all nonprofits have excelled at making online donations as convenient or simplified as it should be.

In fact, recent research conducted by the consulting firm Dunham+Company and fundraising think tank Next After clearly illustrates the fact that charities and other philanthropic groups haven't taken a strategic approach to implementing online fundraising campaigns. What the nine-month study found was many organizations aren't following fundamental principles for effective donor communications.

Email communications fell short:
First, 37 percent of nonprofits didn't send an email within a month after individuals subscribed to the mailing list. After asking to interact with a charitable group, it's crucial for organizations to be responsive and prompt. Donors will likely begin to wonder whether or not the nonprofit is paying attention or cares about their preferences. Speaking to this point, nearly 80 percent also didn't address email subscribers by their first or last name in their messaging. With donor management software or a trustworthy database of contact information, organizations have a variety of resources on hand that make it easy to reach this level of personalization.

What's more, 36 percent of nonprofits lacked focus with their calls-to-action. In other words, emails contained messages or links for donors to follow that didn't maintain a coherent, unified directive. An e-newsletter is a much better resource to use if an organization wants to provide a variety of information or CTAs, but emails should center around a specific project or fundraising goal.

Donation pages don't meet expectations:
According to the report, 65 percent of charitable groups made the contribution process overly convoluted. In short, donors had to navigate at least three online pages to complete their donation. When asking individuals to give, it's important to make sure it's an easy experience, and adding extra pages usually results in confusion or redundancy, which can push people away. Additionally, the majority of nonprofits - 84 percent - don't have an online donation form that's convenient for mobile users. For future online fundraising initiatives, smartphones and tablets will likely change the way nonprofits approach donors.

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