How to get more online donations for your charity

How to get more online donations for your charity

These days fundraising is getting increasingly harder for charities and not for profit organisations. There is increased competition with so many charities battling it out for the attention of donors and of course the recession means people are tightening their belts. Yet a recent study by NCVO showed that online donations had increased over 2011/2012 by 7%. That figure alone might not sound like much - but considering £9.3 billion worth of donations were made in that year that works out to be a fair old chunk of change. People’s giving habits are changing and as a result charities and not for profits need to make sure they are staying ahead of the times and making it as easy as possible for their supporters to donate online.

In this blog post we highlight some of the ways you can get more online donations for your charity.

1. How do I donate?

This is not a question you want your supporters to ever ask! You want to make sure people visiting your website know exactly how they can donate to your charity. Your donate button should be highly visible and appear on every page of your website. No matter where your supporters land they should be able to quickly navigate to your donate button and not have to hunt around for it. This is because the more time they have to spend seeking it out, the less likely they are to go through with making a donation.

Placing the donate button above the fold means it is visible without having to scroll.

In part, this is also important because of donor expectations. Visitors to your site will expect the donate button to be prominent - either in the top navigation or at least in the top half of your site.

The Samaritans have a great example of a well-placed, highly visible donate button:

The samaritans donations page

Not only is it positioned high up the page, but it also stands out. Often donate buttons can be crowded with a busy page which means they become less visible to visitors. By keeping the surrounding area of the donate button uncluttered it’s easier for possible donors to navigate to. What’s also great about the Samaritans donate button is the use of illustration. It’s in keeping with the design of the website but because it’s unusual and different it really stands out. The use of the illustrated charity tin also helps to make it very clear that this is where you can make a donation.

Keeping things simple can have the same effect of making the donate button stand out.

Vitalise do this by using a contrasting colour for their button but still use the same principle of keeping the button clear and uncluttered.

Vialise's homepage

2. Provide information on why people should donate

The UK population would give an extra £665 million a year to charities if they were given more information about where their money was going and what impact it would have.

This was one of the main findings in the largest ever UK study into the motivations of donors carried out by NPC earlier this year.

Oxfam do this really well by first of all outlining what is happening e.g. that Syria is in crisis with more than a million refugees fleeing violence and then highlighting what they need e.g. shelter, food and water.

Oxfam's donation page

Most importantly Oxfam then outline what it is they plan to do and how they plan to do it.

Oxfam's details on how they spend the funds they generate

It’s also important to outline exactly how the money raised from donations will be used. This is also a good way to encourage potential donors to make a regular contribution rather than just a one off donation. Great Ormond Street demonstrates this well by showing what different regular donations can buy:

Great ormond street's donations page

The Salvation Army goes one step further and uses dynamic content so when the user changes the amount they’d like to donate, the content changes too showing what that donation could help with.

Salvation army's dynamic donations page: 1 of 2

Salvation army's dynamic donations page: 2 of 2

3. Give people the option to donate to specific causes or projects

Sometimes people can be reluctant to donate to a charity for fear that their money isn’t really going to help anyone but simply fund the admin and running costs of the charity itself. It is of course important that funds are raised to support the running of your charity, but you also don’t want to miss out on potential donors who would potentially donate if they felt their money was being spent directly on a cause. Highlighting individual campaigns can be a great way of targeting this particular type of donor. Smaller campaigns often have more detailed information and as a result can help encourage visitors to support a specific cause.

Save the Children has numerous campaigns running at once with information on each of these campaigns. This means their supporters are given a choice and can help support a cause they feel strongly about.

Save the children's donations page

Tree of Hope, even though a much smaller charity, also do this really well by setting up specific appeal pages for individual children and sharing their stories:

Tree of hope's donations page: 1 of 2

Tree of hope appeal pages

4. Give an option for one off donations and regular giving

Regular donations are the preferred option for charities as it allows you to plan ahead based on revenue.

However some people might just want to give a one off payment and so it’s important to cater for these supporters too. For example at Christmas people might be more likely to make donations to homeless charities but still might not be prepared to commit to a regular payment.

Shelter does this really well by selecting the one off payment as the default option. They also suggest set amounts to donate but also allow supporters to edit this information to change it to a donation that suits them:

Shelter's donations page

In order to encourage people to become a regular donor outline what their donation will help achieve, provide information on why this is so important and show the impact that regular donations has had on your charity. Guide Dogs does this fantastically. On the left hand side of their regular donors’ page they outline what the donation can do:

Guide dogs donations information

In the main section of the screen they’ve embedded a video telling the story of how a small donation of £2 has changed real people’s lives:

Guide dogs donations page

They then detail exactly what they need the money for and how a monthly donation could really help:

Guide dogs appeal information

Guide dogs fundraising infographic

Identify the best tool for taking online donations

Rather than hosting online donations yourself which can be costly in terms of development work it might be more appropriate to use a third party tool such as Just Giving or Virgin Money Giving. These tools are increasingly popular with charities as they provide many benefits over keeping your donation form onsite. Currently over a third of small charities’ total donations are now collected online through a third party tool showing how popular they’ve become.

Benefits include:

  • They are easy to set up and manage
  • The whole transactional process is managed for you
  • There are no hefty upfront costs
  • Most tools integrate with social media to help expand your reach to the friends of your donor

Let's look at two examples of third party tools in more detail:

Just Giving

Just Giving is a popular choice for charities as it is so well known but it also offers some great features that make it very easy for both your charity and your supporters to use.

  • A Just Giving page can be branded to look like your website or you can embed a "giving" widget on your website so your supporters don't even need to leave your website to donate.Bipolar UK use this feature on their website:

Just giving interface

Just giving widget: 2 of 2

  • Just Giving can be integrated with a CRM solution making it easier to access all of your supporter data.
  • The tool allows social sharing meaning donors can share with their friends on Twitter and Facebook that they have just made a donation to your charity.
  • The costs of using Just Giving is £15 a month plus commission of 5% and they take a fee on gift aid donations

Virgin Money Giving

  • Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation
  • They charge £100 plus VAT set up fee plus 2% on all donations but don’t take a fee on gift aid or have monthly fees. They are one of the cheapest third party tools available.
  • You are able to brand your page to look like your website - including uploading your logo, change font size, change colour or text, upload photos and can add extra pages. Oxfam is a great example of a charity who have done this:

Virgin money giving

  • Virgin Money Giving offers reporting including customisable reports
  • You aren’t able to embed a donate form directly on your website

There are many third party tools available and the best way to choose the one that is right for your charity is to make a list of your priorities and what you need the tool to do and then compare each tool against this list. You can see a detailed comparison list here.

6. Clearly define a visitor’s journey

Because people don’t get anything in return when making a donation, they are more likely to abandon the donation process if issues occur than they would if they were simply making a purchase for themselves. This means the donation process needs to be seamless, making it as easy and pain free for the donor as possible.

Make sure to keep the donation form minimal and only include fields you really need rather than asking for lots of information that might be ‘nice to have’.

It’s also worth avoiding having a review and confirm step as often people think this is the confirmation page and therefore abandon the process at this stage.

If possible, try and capture all the information you require on one page or at least show a progress indicator so people know how many pages of the form they have left. Just Giving does this well by showing which step a donor is on in the process:

User journey

Even if you are using a third party tool, it is important to consider the user journey. This can also help you decide which is the most appropriate tool to use for your charity.

7. Gift Aid made easy

One of the great bonuses of using a third party tool is that it makes Gift Aid much easier to process and manage. If you are hosting your online donation page then you need to get the details of each donor and pass on this information to HMRC. By using a third party solution they do a lot of the hard work for you.

Tools like Just Giving reclaim Gift Aid on eligible donations for you and pay it directly to you each month. All you need to do is give them your gift aid number from HMRC.

Not only do third party tools automatically claim Gift Aid for you but they are quick to process it and ensure it reaches your bank account as quickly as possible. Just Giving for example have a turnaround time of 25 days. You can also easily access reporting information on all of your gift aid payments.

8. Security

Security is a worry for many people making transactions online especially where credit card fraud and identify theft is such a big problem. This means that when your supporters want to make a donation to your charity you need to be sure you can safely and securely take their money. If security was compromised during a donation to your site this could cause you huge problems down the line. Not only would your supporters be reluctant to donate but it could destroy your reputation and brand.

Security risks can be avoided and worry eased by using third party tools as this is an issue they take very seriously. Many tools implement key international standards of best practice such as using Mastercard SecureCode, Verified by Visa and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

All transactions are encrypted using 128 bit SSL certificates from VeriSign and no personal data is ever passed unencrypted through a web browser. As well as this all of the data is stored on dedicated servers that are encrypted and secure.

9. Say thank you!

A recent study showed that by engaging with your donors you are more likely to get more donations. Something as simple as a well thought out thank you page can make a massive difference. You want to encourage donors to become repeat donors. By showing your gratitude and making the donor feel good about their donation they are more likely to donate again and more motivated to help spread the word and encourage other people to donate to your charity.

Reassure the donor that the transaction was successful with a clear statement that their donation was successful on the thank you page. You might also want to consider sending a thank you email or even a thank you video like this one by Operation Smile:

10. Use social networks to promote further giving

The Donor Survey, a recent UK survey that researched the views of 8000 British charity backers, revealed that 30% of UK charity supporters said social media campaigns inspired them to give. This means it’s really important to use social networks to promote further giving.

Many third party tools integrate with social media platforms allowing donors to share to their Facebook and Twitter that they have just donated. Make it easy for your supporters to do this to help them promote you.

Use social media in your fundraising activity

Currently 1 in 10 donors on Just Giving share their donation on Facebook and in 2012, post-donation sharing on Facebook led to a further £1.4million donated to charities. Even if you don’t increase your donations through this extra promotion, it will undoubtedly help raise awareness about your charity and open up your brand to a wider audience.

You can also use social networks like Facebook to embed your donation page. This means users can make a donation without even having to leave Facebook. The Dogs Trust is a great example of a charity using this piece of functionality:

Donations via facebook pages

Donations via facebook pages

Many charities are seeing real results by embedding this widget such as Rett Syndrome Research Trust UK - who had great engagement with their users but struggled to turn that engagement into donations. However, when they embedded a donate widget on their Facebook page they saw an increase in donations and in people sharing those donations on their own Facebook accounts.

Start getting more online donations!

As the many examples in this blog post show, there is a lot of scope for charities to increase their donations online - mainly by embracing new technologies and applying them to their own sites. What’s more lots of the advice we’ve outlined in this post for increasing online donations isn’t massively time consuming nor does it need large budgets. These are simple, easy to implement actions that could lead to substantial increases in online donations.

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Here at Electric Putty we work with charities like you every day.Give us a call now to find out how we can help you increase your online donations.