By: Brady Josephson, Managing Director at the NextAfter Institute
In order to better understand the current state of online fundraising across the globe and learn how donors interact with nonprofits online, we became mystery donors and email subscribers to 630 organizations in nine countries. We analyzed our experiences along the way, tracked the emails we received for 90 days, and captured all the hurdles we faced during our interaction.
From this exercise, we collected some valuable data around how organizations are engaging donors and prospective donors. With this insight, you can benchmark yourself on a country-by-country basis, see examples of donation pages and emails from different organizations, and improve your own donor and subscriber experience.
Based on this new research, here are five key takeaways to help you optimize your digital fundraising efforts:
1. Test your forms, integrations, and systems.
In some cases, it was surprisingly hard to take basic, meaningful action like subscribing to an email list or donating. Twenty-seven percent of the time, we were unable to sign up for email successfully, and 20% of the time we could not complete a donation. Typically, it was because there was no obvious way to sign up or make a donation.
Before you can talk about personalization, automation, and A/B testing, make sure forms are easy to locate and functional.
In 27% of our attempts, we were unable to sign up for email successfully.
2. Asking for an email address? Offer something of value in exchange.
We found that 75% of organizations did not provide an ‘average’ or ‘strong’ reason to sign up, and half the time it wasn’t clear what you were signing up for. If you want people to sign up to receive your emails — and you should — then you need to give them a reason to do so. At the very least, be explicit about what someone is getting when they sign up — less than half the time in our research, this wasn’t clear.
3. Acknowledge actions with a dedicated confirmation page.
Making sure people know that they have successfully donated or signed up for emails is critical. A dedicated confirmation page also presents an opportunity to continue to engage with the site. We found that 70% of organizations offered no immediate next steps for a new email subscriber to take.
4. Give donors a reason to give.
This might seem fairly obvious, but you might be surprised to learn that 60% of the organizations we analyzed did not offer a strong reason for why a prospective donor should give to their cause. If you are making an ask, the ask has to give the donor a compelling reason to donate to your work and further your mission.
We could not complete a donation 20% of the time.
5. Personalize emails.
The more an email feels genuine and human-centric, the more engagement it receives. Using the recipient’s name in an email can result in an average increase of 270% in clicks and engagement. Over 50% of the 5,000+ emails we received were not personalized — they did not address the recipient by name. Emails from a specific person — versus just a generic organization email address — have been proven to increase engagement.
These insights are just scratching the surface of what we found and how organizations can use those insights to improve their online fundraising. To dive deeper into these findings, view specific data points, and see examples of these results, you can download the Global Online Fundraising Scorecard.
Learn more about how you can boost your online fundraising using personal ask ladders and making the right ask at the right time.
About the Author
Managing Director at the NextAfter Institute
Brady is a charity nerd, adjunct professor, and international speaker. As the Managing Director of the NextAfter Institute, he performs original research, develops evidence-based resources, and provides data-driven training to help nonprofits raise more money online. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Liz, son, Hendrix, and dog, Melly.
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