July 16, 2019

Five Simple Ways to Engage & Retain Donors

Nonprofit donations

“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.”

Seth Godin, the former dot-com business executive and author of 18 bestselling books around the world, said this. He is right too, and not just about goods and services, this is true when it comes to anything people spend their money and time on. This includes the charities and organizations they donate to. Want proof? Consider the following quote from a March of Dimes donor:

“I still remember the sick feeling in my stomach when my childhood friend told me that his brother had come down with polio after swimming in Lake Michigan. I swam in the lake, too. After that conversation, I simply could not pass up March of Dimes canisters.”

This story brought the danger close and caused a reaction, and it was in that moment that the donor changed behavior and became an advocate for this cause. Even more so, the donor had a personal connection with the individual in the story. This left the impression that the donation was going to help the person she knew. It gave a destination for her donation that would result in a direct impact. It made her into a hero.

This inspired me to create a list of simple ways to engage with donors.

1. Remember it’s personal.
Talk to your visitors, discover what caused them to seek you out or click on your website link in a sea of so many others. Those conversations are extremely valuable because they not only offer insight into your audience motivations, but give you the opportunity to communicate with your donors in a way that focuses on them, in a language that makes them the hero. Polls, surveys and interviews are a great way of connecting with people and discovering their stories. It opens up the conversation and allows people to talk about the emotions that brought them to you.

2. Walk the journey with them.
Have you ever been to a social event and ended up meeting “that guy”? You know, the one who talks about himself constantly? Who interrupts people when they are talking and even insults people without even realizing it? That guy. He’s the guy that people can’t wait to get away from and who is described as “annoying” and “rude”. That guy has a really low EQ, or Emotional Intelligence. If your website was a person, what kind of EQ would it have? Would people feel like they were empathetically listened to or that they were just talked “at”? Remember, your mission is important – but it’s not more important to your audience than their own personal objective. Show that you care about their needs first before launching into your own story. Only after you’ve demonstrated investment in your audience will they truly invest in a reciprocal relationship with you. They might even begin to trust you. Of course, that depends on if you pay attention to this next engagement tip.

3. Get transparent.
Did you know that 73% of respondents rated the importance of trusting a charity as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale but only 1 out of 5 (that’s only 19%) highly trust charities? Isn’t that sad? Actually, if you think about it, it’s an opportunity. One that Doctors Without Borders recognized and benefits from. They have an entire section on their website, called Accountability & Reporting, where readers can read and know where every cent of their donations go. This level of transparency pays off, as evident in Charity Navigator’s Most Viewed Charities, where they are ranked #4 on the most viewed charities within the past 30 days. Forget the jargon. Remember your EQ and be transparent with your website visitors. Answer the question of why, explain or show where the money goes and what happens next. Your visitors will thank you for it by becoming donors, and more importantly, advocates for your cause. That’s engagement you can’t buy but you can bank on. After all, website visitors are quick to leave your website these days as many other organizations are vying for their affection. In fact, as more people own mobile phones than toothbrushes these days, making your website easy-to-use is essential.

4. Design for different devices.
The number of mobile users across the globe is now estimated at over 3.7 billion and growing. One in four donors use mobile devices to discover nonprofits they were previously unaware of. In the past year, mobile donations have increased by 205%.

I could cite statistics on this all day long, but they all point to the same thing. If your website is not optimized for mobile devices, you are losing out. The online journey is not taken on one device anymore. People are now starting their journey on one device such as their mobile phone and finishing on their desktop. They might even be starting on their desktop, move to their phones and then switch from mobile browsing to a social app such as Instagram. Which means, if you are taking my advice and trying to walk the journey with your visitors, there is going to come a point in the journey where they move on without you. So, no matter the path, ensure your website is readable and usable on all devices as soon as possible. Otherwise you are guaranteed to lose touch. Speaking of which, that brings us to our final engagement tip.

5. Keep in touch!
Your user has visited your site, read the content and made a donation. She might have even become a subscriber or recurring donor. Woo-hoo! On the surface, this looks like the end of the user journey – but really it’s a field of opportunities where you can use your last impression to turn that linear journey into a cycle. Remember all of the above tips! If you did your homework and “talked” to your users through mini-polls, surveys and interviews, you might have uncovered some very important information. Perhaps the majority of donations were made in memory of someone they knew. You just made a generic thank you email personal. You made your audience the hero. Make your last connection a personal one and you increase the odds of that person becoming an advocate and engaging with you again in the future.

If you have a story to share about a personal connection with your users, we would love to hear it!
What inspired donor inspired you in turn? How have you walked the journey with your advocates and donors? Have you made them the hero? We can’t wait to hear your thoughts and stories!