Improving online efforts to make up for donations normally from events
The past year has been up and down for fundraising and charitable donations, with some causes enjoying more donations than usual, while others have suffered a decline in giving as a result of the Covid-199 crisis.
Research by Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has shown that the overall proportion of people donating money to charity remained broadly in line with previous years. Donations and sponsorships for hospital and hospices saw a significant growth during Covid’s first wave as people were keen to support the NHS through the crisis. A fifth of people specifically reported donating to charities which support the NHS.
On the other end of the spectrum are charities which largely rely on physical events to fundraise. Medical research charities, for example, saw a significant decline in donations following the cancellation of large scale events, such as the London Marathon, and local fundraising efforts like Macmillan coffee mornings.
Upheaval for fundraising
Physical event cancellation has caused upheaval for fundraising and has forced charities of all categories to look at other ways of generating these vital funds. Virtual events, for example, allow charities to diversify their activities and reach even broader audiences. Pivoting in a pandemic isn’t easy, but more digitally enabled charities are doing this well and those which aren’t are having their eyes opened to why they need to.
Despite the beginning of the Covid vaccine roll out, the virus’s impact in the form of lockdowns on national and local levels is likely to continue well through 2021. This means more cancelled events, longer charity shop closures, and the continued losses in donations that go with this. It is therefore critical that charities which normally rely on these events ensure their online giving platforms are streamlined and optimised to continue to receive vital funding.
Online donation drives have the potential to reach much further than typical campaigns, as Hartlepool’s Giving Tree initiative at Christmas time proved. Middleton Grange Shopping Centre run a gift donation scheme every year and expected to receive 1,500 donated gifts last year, but moving the donation drive online due to the pandemic led to 104,829 donations in just 10 days after being widely shared on social media.
Just a few clicks
Once charities have established an online donations strategy, it is important to ensure donations can be made in just a few clicks so as to streamline the donation process and encourage repeat donations. These are some tips on how to implement online strategies which don’t just facilitate, but also encourage generous online giving.
INTEGRATE THE DONATIONS FLOW WITH THE MAIN WEBSITE. It may seem like a simple starting point, but not all charities accept donations online, which seriously restricts potential donations. The Network for Good Online Giving Index shows that charities achieve, on average, six times higher conversion rates on donations if the platform is fully integrated, maintains the charity branding and does not redirect to a third party site.
Having a fully integrated donations platform is therefore an easy first step for charities to take to maximise online donations.
ESTABLISH A CLEAR CUSTOMER JOURNEY. Once an integrated online giving platform has been set up, charities should establish a clear donation journey for website users. Users should be able to clearly see where to donate at first glance the moment they land on the website.
Clear and visible
An effective way of achieving this is making the “donate” call to action clear and visible. This can be done using web design to make the donate link obvious, such as by putting it in a colour which contrasts with the page’s main colour. Making the donate button stand out will make the donations journey clearer to anyone who lands on the charity’s main page.
MAKE CALLS TO ACTION CONSISTENT. Putting a donation link exclusively on the website’s homepage may harm donations, as the clear journey that has been established on that one page will disappear as soon as the potential donor navigates elsewhere on the site. To combat this, charities should ensure that a call to action is visible throughout the entire website, using a sticky navigation bar containing the call to action, for example.
Not too pushy
Although it is important for charities to highlight the donation journey, it is best practice to steer clear of making it too pushy. An excess of pop-ups or other intrusive design methods will make the charity come across as spammy and could also create accessibility issues for users with disabilities. Charity web designers should look to the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) for further assistance on making their sites accessible for everyone.
By striking the balance between making donation options visible throughout the website without being invasive, charities give themselves a strong chance of increasing online donations.
MAKING DONATING EASY. If charities over complicate their donation processes, they are likely to miss out on donations, as donors may give up or donate to a charity with a simpler platform. Having a good UX (user experience) journey is an important aspect of this.
Donating to charity online has the key benefit of being quick and convenient, so this should be reflected by online giving platforms. Donor forms should have as few fields as possible and be kept to the truly essential information such as name and email address.
Although encouraging donors to create an account or join a mailing list for the charity is an asset in generating repeat donations, it should by no means be a necessity. There should be a guest checkout option alongside the option to create an account for those who want to make a quick, one-off donation.
CATER FOR ALL DEVICE TYPES. As technology has become more advanced, it is no longer sensible to assume people are only donating from desktops.
Many charities which accept online donations have giving pages which are mobile-scalable, but sometimes this is still not sufficient for easy mobile donations as they are just squashed-down desktop websites.
Responsive for mobile
A site specifically designed to be responsive for mobile, however, ensures that donations are as simple on mobile or tablet as they are on desktop and the journey will feel much slicker and simpler for users than a crowded desktop site rendered to mobile, increasing the chances of higher donations.
USE PRICE ANCHORING. Price anchoring is becoming a popular technique for charities to use on online donation platforms. This is where the donor or potential donor is given a suggested donation amount through a pre-filled box or range of about three options.
This stems from the idea that people will make decisions on how much to donate based on the first piece of information given to them, and therefore price anchoring can influence and potentially increase donations. When presented with three donation options, the donor may not want to feel ungenerous by choosing the lowest option and therefore would make a higher donation.
Charities which do decide to employ price anchoring should ensure that the options or a pre-filled box are a suggestion, rather than a necessity. Donors should not feel like their donation amount has been forced on them, so it is best practice to have a clear choose-your-own donation option alongside price anchoring.
OPTIMISE THE CHECKOUT. Donation checkouts are where charities should be turning to e-commerce for inspiration. While charity websites experience a much better abandonment rate when compared to retail – 62% versus 70% - retail businesses are much more creative at remarketing to those who failed to complete the transaction. The easier a checkout or payment is, the less likely charities are to lose potential donors at the final hurdle.
As with the donation process, it should not take more than a few clicks for the donor to make the payment, so once again only ask for information that is absolutely necessary: card details, name, email address, billing address.
Charities with retail offerings can include a “round up” function for their checkout process, which will round up the purchase price to the nearest pound and donate the round up to the charity.
Alternative payment methods
Additionally, offering alternative payment methods will maximise donations. Of course, the standard debit or credit card options should be available for donors to input their card details, but charities should also consider more convenient online payment facilities. PayPal makes payments incredibly easy for those with an account, and likewise, ApplePay lets users pay in a few seconds through fingerprint or facial recognition technology.
Allowing donors to pay this easily will mean they have donated to charity in just a few minutes and reduce the amount of people abandoning donations because they do not have the necessary details on hand or the time to go through long processes.
OPTIMISE TRAFFIC USING SEO AND SOCIAL MEDIA. Once a charity’s clear, simple, integrated donation journey has been implemented, there needs to be a focus on drawing potential donors to the website. Site traffic can be optimised by making the website easy to find through search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media.
Relevant web content
Charities can boost their search engine rankings by producing web content relevant to what they do. For example, hosting a regularly updated blog around the area the charity works in or project it is undertaking is a great way of making the website more visible in search engine rankings, but the charity should be aware of WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) standards when doing so.
Social media is another really useful tool for getting the word out about a charity as links to donations page can be shared widely and potential donors are just one click away from their Twitter feed. Incorporating a “share my donation” option allows donors to easily alert their network about their donation and encourage friends to do the same.
All things considered, the digital donation landscape is in fact a complex one for those who are unfamiliar with it. By employing some of the tactics discussed, charities can go some way to claiming their share of donations in the digital world, to make up for cancelled events.
Those charities which use the optimisation methods to the fullest will be able to raise more for their charity than was possible physically due to a much wider reach. While it is encouraging to see donations at a comparative level compared to pre-pandemic levels, there is still some way to go for the distribution of donations to equal that of previous years.