A big part of nonprofit marketing is the challenge of asking for online donations. Often times, nonprofits do not take the time to optimize their website as a donor-generation tool. This blog covers 10 web design tips that will help nonprofits increase their online donations.

1. Incorporate a Prominent, Site-Wide “Donate Now” Button
The top conversion path on most nonprofit websites is the donation page. According to Online Fundraising Scorecard, 65% of nonprofits make their donors click 3 or more times to donate! We all know from experience that the more we click, the more impatient we get. Placing a large, bright “Donate Now” button in the header of your website ensures that it will be seen on every page and that donors are always just one click away from making a donation.

2. Provide Multiple Paths for Reaching the Donation Page
Encourage donations on your website by making it very easy for visitors to donate. If your visitors have to spend more than two seconds searching for your donation page, you have already lost them. A large “donate now” button is a great start. However, you should implement multiple paths to your donation page. This means a “How to Donate” landing page in your main navigation, a CTA in your homepage content, and a large homepage image with a “Donate Now” overlay. All of this ensures that no matter which page your visitors enter your site through, they will only be one click away from donating.  

Example of donate button in website header.

3. Tailor Your Content for “The Ask”
Google has made it abundantly clear that the content on your site is the most important element when it comes to ranking in search engines, because this is what users find most important. When creating your quality content, make sure to tell your audience why your cause is important and how they can make a difference. Finally, ASK your audience to make a difference by including a strong call to action (CTA). Spend some time creating quality content that persuades for both your homepage and individual landing pages.

4. Speak to the Humanity of Your Audience
As obvious as this suggestion may be, it is often overlooked by nonprofits that are in a hurry or just want to get their site out there. Spend some time thinking about your cause and what it means to current and potential donors. Use this as leverage. Tug at the heart strings of your site visitors with powerful imagery, fascinating facts, and heartfelt stories.

HACAP_Statistics

5. Develop Your Site with Mobile in Mind
A Pew Research study revealed that 34% of internet users go online mostly using their mobile devices. That means 1/3 of your donors are visiting your website on mobile. Yet, 84% of nonprofits’ donation pages are not optimized for mobile (Online Fundraising Scorecard)! Not only does your donation page/form have to be mobile-friendly, your entire site doe as well. The answer is responsive design. A site built in responsive design dynamically resizes to fit the screen of whatever device a user is accessing it from. You can even alter the code so that the “Donate Now” button shows up front and center on a mobile device.

6. Set Up Your Site Analytics
If you do not already have Google Analytics set up for your website, talk to your web developer about getting the code implemented ASAP. Once Google Analytics is up and running, we recommend setting up “goals”. The “Goals” section of Google Analytics allows you to track specific events like link clicks, file downloads, or page visits. Set up goals for your donation page to track how many people visited it AND how many people completed the form.

7. Tell Your Audience What Their Money Can Buy
Another great way to elicit donations on your website is by letting donors know what their money can buy. By associating the dollar amount of their donations with what it is going toward, you are reminding them of the change they can make. If $25 can provide prenatal care for one woman, depict this on your homepage or include it on the donation form.

CHIHaiti_DollarAmounts

8. Optimize Your Content for Search Engines
Search engine optimization (SEO) is just as important in nonprofit marketing as it is in other for-profit industries. SEO is the process of increasing your website’s visibility in a search engines’ organic search results. You can do this by first identifying the keywords that best represent your nonprofit (i.e. Food Drive or Animal Shelter). Once you have identified these keywords, you should create a landing page for each and include them in the page’s content 3-5 times.  This way, donors who are looking for a meaningful nonprofit and do not have one already in mind, can discover yours and donate!

9. Share Powerful Video Testimonials
Testimonials are great, but video testimonials are even better! Ask some of your biggest advocates, greatest donors, or those who have benefited from your nonprofit to film a short video testimonial. Then, create a testimonial video library on your website or feature these videos on your homepage. People will be more inclined to donate if they can hear first-hand how your nonprofit makes a difference. Plus, videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86% (WebDAM)!

10. Feature an e-News Sign-Up to Capture Leads
According to the 2014 M&R Benchmark Study, of the $324 million donated online in 2013, nearly 1/3 of it came from email marketing! An important vertical in nonprofit marketing, email marketing gives you the opportunity to connect with your donors on a more personal level. Incorporating an E-News sign-up button on your website will help you stay in touch with your donors and thus, generate more donations. In order to better capture sign-ups, place your E-News sign-up somewhere that it can be easily accessed like as a button in your header or as part of your mini-navigation.

Your website plays a huge role in your nonprofit marketing strategy, specifically in eliciting donations. In order to increase donations on your website, you should implement most, if not all, of these tips. Remember, that people are in a hurry and expect things to be quick and easy when they’re on your website.

photo of SaraWritten by Sara Thompson, SEO and Social Media Administrator at Informatics Inc.

About Informatics: Informatics is a full service web agency that provides a wealth of web related services, including digital marketing, web design and development, e-marketing strategies, hosting, custom web applications, mobile applications, social media management, SEO services, photo and video services and multimedia development.

"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur." Red AdairOne of my husband’s favorite quotes is from Red Adair, the famous American oil well firefighter who said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” I would take this quote a step further and say, hiring no one may be the most expensive choice of all because the greatest expense then becomes the “money left on the table;” money you could have raised but didn’t.

There is always room for improvement, so how do you know when you should consider hiring a fundraising consultant?

You know your fundraising efforts could be more effective but aren’t sure how or where to begin. The reality is, even the most successful fundraising operations have room for improvement. One of the best ways to determine how to most efficiently and effectively use the limited resources you have (and to target areas for future growth) is by having an objective outside expert conduct a development audit or fundraising diagnostic. We offer a free fundraising training webinar on this topic entitled How do You Know You’re Healthy if You’ve Never had a Checkup?* 

The majority of your fundraising efforts are focused on donor acquisition. The cost to acquire a new donor is 6 to 7 times that of retaining an existing donor and yet the majority of non-profit organizations lose at least 50% of their newly acquired donors within a year. Because of this, they end up focusing much of their time and resources on acquiring new donors – over and over again. Relational fundraising consultants can guide you on how to organize and operate your fundraising efforts so they are more retention-oriented.

You need or want to dramatically increase your fundraising goals. Non-profit organizations often find themselves either needing or wanting to expand their programs and services. To do so, they should first ascertain whether or not their needed fundraising goal is attainable or what a reasonable goal is. The last thing any non-profit wants is to embark on a campaign and not reach their goal and have the campaign interpreted as a failure. Fundraising consultants can help assess what an optimum attainable goal should be.

You are considering or planning for a capital campaign. Only those non-profits with in-depth expertise in conducting capital campaigns and the ability to enlist and train a cadre of volunteers (and board members) should consider a self-led campaign. Even the most sophisticated and experienced organizations often lack the time and manpower to go it on their own. Fundraising consultants who specialize in capital campaigns and major gift fundraising can help assess internal readiness for a campaign, conduct a planning and fundraising feasibility study, and guide the organization through all the other campaign activities using proven methodologies.

Your development operation lacks the internal expertise or manpower. An obvious example of this kind of situation is a capital campaign but there are many other instances, such as non-profit board fundraising training. Although very few non-profits have a “people investment” mentality, another area where fundraising consultants can be extremely effective is in one-on-one coaching and training. If you are considering this, be sure to use a consulting firm that has extensive fundraising training experience and references.

Your board of directors doesn’t understand their role in fundraising efforts or doesn’t want or believe they have one. A recent survey of nearly 1,000 non-profit CEO’s and 800 board members found that only 16% of respondents gave their board an “A” or “B” in fundraising, while 84% graded their performance as a “C” or below. Often times, successfully getting board members to participate effectively in fundraising is a matter of communicating expectations properly, education and training. A fundraising consultant can help train your board and provide guidance in all of these areas that might be holding your organization back in its fundraising efforts.

Your executive director or board or both aren’t listening to you. Sometimes, you may know what needs to be done but somehow you just aren’t able to convince those around you. A fundraising consultant can act as an objective outsider and help you craft your “case for support” for your development operation or project.  Sadly, recommendations from an “objective outsider” – even if they’re essentially the same as yours – may be needed in order for you to be heard.

*Recorded versions of this and our other free fundraising training webinars are available to non-profit organizations upon request by emailing [email protected]. Visit the fundraising webinars page of our website for a full list of webinar offerings.

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.

Man "driving" a wheel/monowheel

Why reinvent the wheel? Contact us for a sample RFP at [email protected]

One of the main reasons to send a formal request for proposal or RFP for a capital campaign is to allow your organization to employ a structured process to compare potential fundraising consultants on criteria that you have set and do so in an apples-to-apples way that keeps all involved in the selection process on the same page.

In simple terms a capital campaign RFP is a document used to solicit competitive bids that includes basic background information on your organization, details about the project, details on all aspects of the bidding process, the requirements and desired outcomes. 

1. Don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel. When it comes to RFPs for capital campaigns, there are plenty of good examples available. This doesn’t mean you may not have something to add that would provide specific insight meaningful to your organization. For example, one RFP we responded to asked about our organization’s core values and mission. But we have also received RFPs that appear to have been written by committee and are unnecessarily convoluted or ask for information that reaches beyond the customary, making it needlessly difficult to respond with the information the organization truly needs to make an informed decision.

2. Ask questions intended to identify differentiators. Just one or two questions in this area can be helpful. For example, one of the values of hiring outside counsel for capital campaigns is experience and the insight that it brings. Every consulting firm has examples of unanticipated campaign challenges or examples where they ended up doing work outside the original contract or scope to help a struggling organization.

3. Don’t extend the RFP to too many firms. This is just my opinion from my own experiences issuing RFPs. It’s better to do some research and vetting up front. I typically limited myself to no more than seven to ten firms and then narrowed down to three. It is also a good idea to talk with the selection committee prior to issuing the RFP to uncover preconceived ideas and determine where, as an organization, you honestly stand. For example, if the majority feels strongly that the firm you work with needs to be local, or national, or small, or large, do not waste everyone’s time talking to fundraising consultants that don’t meet your criteria.

4. Establish and share your timeline as part of the RFP. I am always surprised by the number of organizations that don’t do this. Understand that if you are talking to successful and in-demand fundraising consultants (and not just salespeople), their schedules are often planned out a month or more in advance and are focused on current clients. If it’s a national firm, such as ours, travel logistics also come into play. Developing a schedule up front is not only considerate to vendors, it’s helpful to board members and others on your selection committee as well. A typical schedule might look something like this:

  • 01/05/15 – Distribution of RFP
  • 01/16/15 – Deadline for vendors to submit written questions and/or notice of intent
  • 01/21/16 – Questions with written answers provided to all interested vendors
  • 01/30/15 – 5:00 pm EST – deadline for submitting proposals
  • 02/16/15 – Finalists notified
  • 03/02/15 – Finalist interviews
  • 03/10/15 – Consulting firm selected
  • 03/16/15 – Engagement begins

This sample schedule assumes a formalized question and answer process. You may or may not choose to go this route. Many organizations choose to simply answer questions as they come up with each firm. The biggest advantage of the latter approach is that ultimately, you want to choose a firm you are comfortable working with. This less formal approach allows you to learn more about their style of communicating and to get a better sense of rapport and chemistry; all important considerations in the capital campaign counsel selection process. 

5. Articulate your evaluation process. The biggest reason to do this is to ensure that you and your selection committee are all on the same page and have determined the criteria in advance. It is also good to be as transparent as possible with the consulting firms so they can make sure you have all of the relevant information you need to make an informed decision.

6. Probe references. I am a broken record on this one. All too often, the checking of references is perfunctory. Everyone assumes no one would provide references that are going to do anything but sing their praises and therefore, it’s just a formality. I don’t agree. My experience has been that references won’t volunteer negative information but they will answer direct questions. First and foremost, be sure you are checking references for the individual you will be working with directly, not just the firm. Ask if there is anything they wish the consultant had done differently when working with them. Would hire them again? Also ask about your individual fundraising consultant’s strategic planning abilities, perceptibility, adaptability in challenging situations, and integrity. Ask whether they always met their deadlines.  Always ask if there is anything else they think you should know prior to making a final decision. Believe it or not, I have had negative feedback come out on this last question that had not surfaced before.

7. Don’t be afraid to communicate. As part of the capital campaign RFP process, you will ultimately be letting all the fundraising consultants except for one know that they were not selected. Everyone knows this going into the process. Understand that most firms would consider it remiss not to ask for insights into anything they may have done differently or what another firm may have done particularly well so that they can improve their performance for next time. To not expect and allow for a follow-up conversation ignores the time and energy expended on behalf of your organization. Additionally, always let the firms who did not get your business know first. The last thing you would ever want to happen is for them to hear this from another source.

Are you planning a capital campaign in the near future? We’d be happy to provide you with a sample fundraising RFP. Contact us at [email protected]

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.

Recently I was working with an organization at a crossroads in their strategic direction. Part of the process in helping them determine their future, and the plan to get there, was interviewing each board member. It quickly became clear to me that there was no consensus on the vision for the organization or on the mission to accomplish it. Quite simply, when asked what the organization wanted to be “when it grows up”, board members either had no clear opinion or it was split between expansion and retreat. This is a dangerous place for an organization to be and part of the problem comes from not having a clear understanding of the difference between vision and mission to begin with.

What is the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement? And what are good characteristics of each? These are questions that come up frequently and that we cover in several of our fundraising training sessions. Here are some tips to understand the difference between the two.

A vision statement is aspirational and future-focused. It expresses a non-profit organization’s ultimate goal and reason for existence. A mission statement, on the other hand, succinctly articulates an organization’s plans to achieve its vision.

Characteristics of a Good Vision Statement

  • Presents where we want to go. There is a profound truism for any journey: If you don’t know where you are going, how will you get there? Your vision is the ultimate destination and desired outcome of your success.
  • It captures the spirit of the organization. It reflects your organization’s core values. The Smithsonian Institute’s vision statement, “Shaping the future by preserving our heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing our resources with the world,” is a good example in this respect. As a museum, their vision is very dynamic and has a true understanding of the value they provide our society now and in the future.
  • Vision = the desired futureIt is dynamically incomplete. Your vision should allow space for every person hearing or reading it to see where they fit in to help achieve it and leave them with the desire to be the missing piece of the puzzle.
  • It is compact. The shorter and more concise your vision statement it, the more memorable it is.
  • It describes a preferred and meaningful future state. What would the world look like if your organization was 100% successful? For Feeding America it’s “A hunger-free America.” For the Cleveland Clinic it’s “Striving to be the world’s leader in patient experience, clinical outcomes, research and education.”
  • It gives you goose bumps. (Or if you’re J-Lo, “the goosies.”) At its best, your vision statement should evoke emotion. Charity Water’s vision achieves this: “charity: water believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water.”
  • It is a motivating force. It is, by definition, aspirational yet perceived as achievable. People should be able to read your vision statement and say “this must be achieved” even when the going gets tough. Your vision should stretch you beyond what is comfortable. It’s not easy to change the world, but the benefits of trying are worth the effort.

Characteristics of a Good Mission Statement

  • It’s concise. As with your vision statement, “less is more.” Ideally, your mission statement is one sentence that describes how you will achieve your vision.
  • Mission = Who we are & How we make a differenceIt states your cause. Feeding America’s vision is “A hunger-free America.” Their mission statement is “To feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.”
  • It states how you will do it and for whom. Using the example above, Feeding America is using a “nationwide network of member food banks” to “feed America’s hungry.”
  • It articulates why you are doing what you’re doing. Feeding America exists to “end hunger” in America.
  • It sets forth your distinctive competence. Feeding America’s “nationwide network of member food banks” clearly positions the organization a distinctively qualified to achieve its mission and vision.

In our free fundraising training webinar, Strategic Planning: Developing Your “Plan A,” I give a couple of my favorite examples of a good vision and mission statement from very familiar sources. One of my favorites, the Pledge of Allegiance, provides the perfect road map for defining your vision and meets the criteria outlined above. It is a desired future that gives me goose bumps and makes me want to do my part to achieve it. The Preamble to the Constitution is how and for whom we will achieve the vision, and details our distinct ability to do so. (Request the webinar recording.)

The pledge of allegiance is a vision statement Vision: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Mission: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure Domestic Tranquility, provide for the Common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Do you have a vision and mission statement that you think is good? Share it with us, we’d love to hear from you!

The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.

Quote, "Retention is the new acquisition."There are countless free and inexpensive online tools that are helpful to non-profit marketers. Here are a few that we think you’ll find helpful for social media marketing and also for creating presentations and reports. Do you have a favorite online tool you use? Share your favorites with us!

Videos are the name of the game these days in terms of being the hottest tool in online content creation. Animoto enables you to turn photos, video clips, and music into polished videos. There is a free version that lets you create an unlimited number of 30-second web quality videos with music (one song track) using their video template library (50+ styles). For $60 a year you can create videos up to 10 minutes in length and for $120 a year you can create completely customized HD videos with multiple sound tracks up to 20 minutes in length.

In addition to Pinterest and Instagram, photos are pretty much mandatory for Facebook posts and becoming more prevalent on other social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Pickmonkey is an online photo editing tool that also allows you to add text to your images, which comes in handy for branding and copyrighting images for social media. There are dozens of font options, and you can change the color and size. Overlays are shapes that you can add to your images.

Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool for writers that puts everything you need for structuring, writing and editing long and complex documents at your fingertips. A great tool for research reports or other documents where you need to footnote or quote multiple sources. The cost is a flat $40 and you can try for free before you buy.

Example of a Wordle with a fundraising theme.For just $8 a month Share As Image makes it easy to customize all of your images with text. This is a great tool for branding images with your logo or adding engaging and compelling text that makes your images more sharable. They have over 30 fonts to choose from and also a large library of images if you have a quote or message you want to share but don’t have quite the right image.

Wordle allows you to create “word clouds” from text that you provide. You can either type or cut-and-paste copy into the tool or you can provide a URL for a blog post or web page. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.