From online giving days, to #GivingTuesday, to the launch of a crowdfunding program, a growing number of higher education institutions now have at least one marquee digital event every year. These buzz worthy online events stand in contrast to the day-in, day-out presence of those bright red “Give Now” or “Donate” buttons we all have (or all should have) on our school’s or organization’s homepage. For the large majority of the year, those “Give Now” buttons push Internet users to a static and often drab online form ready to take the credit card information of those who REALLY want to make an online gift during a mostly non-momentous point in time.
Think of it this way – a widely celebrated giving day or well-run crowdfunding program is very much actively involved fundraising, where as the traditional “Give Now” path to a bland giving form is passive, sit-back-and-wait fundraising. And that can no longer be acceptable in development. Consider the following:
- 71 percent of online adults use Facebook. (2013 Pew study)
- 85 percent of millionaires use text messaging, smart phone apps, and social media. (2011 Fidelity study)
- Three out of four donors born from 1979 to 1994—a generation often referred to as “millennials”—said they were turned off when a nonprofit’s Web site had not been updated recently. (2013 Millennial Impact Report)
The bottom line is, lots of people are online every day. Many of them have come to expect dynamic, real-time engagement with online platforms. And the passive fundraising tactic of planting a static a giving form at the backend of a “Give Now” button simply doesn’t match the dynamic, real-time expectation of donors.
This is especially problematic as we approach the end of the calendar year. Many donors will seek out your online giving form as they make their late December gifts. Providing them with a compelling experience is crucial.
So what’s the solution? Simple. Your online giving process should be dynamic and operate in real time. Your giving page – even the standard, daily form – should reflect this dynamic feel. Here are a few tips for how to make this happen:
Focus on real-time current events.
What is happening in your alumni community, region, or the world that has the attention of potential donors? This could be a holiday, a big cultural event like #GivingTuesday, or something seemingly unrelated to the fundraising world such as the Oscars or the Super Bowl. Find creative ways to mesh your fundraising with timely real-world events. This then gives you an excuse to develop content for email and social media that subtly points to fundraising opportunities while distracting the donor with the pop culture theme of the day.
Illustrate the impact of giving on a regular basis.
In crowdfunding, this is easy. Each crowdfunding project clearly states the purpose of the dollars given to that project. But really, this shouldn’t be a tactic set aside solely for crowdfunding. Whether it’s for a specific research project or the general fund, there is always a story to be told that illustrates how donors’ dollars will be used. Produce these stories often and feature them on your online giving form to give it a frequently refreshed appearance.
Use online ambassadors. Always.
Online ambassadors are not just a giving day tactic. In fact, when you think about it, crowdfunding is essentially online-ambassador-led fundraising. Every crowdfunding project leader, to be successful, needs to be an online ambassador for their project. Just like with a crowdfunding project or fund, ambassadors can help drive donors to the funds on your standard online giving form.
For your online giving page, be sure you have an ambassador or several ambassadors driving traffic to that page on a regular basis. Make it relevant to the ambassadors by featuring funds or giving opportunities that matter to them. Consider featuring the ambassadors’ alumni profiles on the giving page to give the process a more tangible, human element. To grab social media users, make your everyday online giving page a more social experience.
Even without these tactics, online giving continues to grow at a double digit pace nearly every year. For a small number of forward-thinking nonprofits, online has grown so quickly email has supplanted direct mail as the top direct fundraiser. By applying a more dynamic, human, and timely approach to your day-to-day online giving, your organization could join that list.