4 Things You Need to Know About Online Giving Platforms

We’ve seen it happen — a great deal of communication planning, online ambassador work, and major donor involvement takes place, but the organization’s online giving day is a struggle due to not having an solid platform in place to host the giving day and manage gift transactions.

We can’t say it enough — without solid tech, you’re sunk. It doesn’t matter how well you do all the other things (of course, the other things matter, too). Simply put, if donors can’t access or navigate the online giving process, they won’t give.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of competent online giving options and platforms to fit just about any budget. But before you latch on to a vendor, there are a few things to consider. So here is what you should be contemplating as you select a vendor or platform to host an online giving event:

Real time updating of donor and dollar activity

Challenges drive online giving days. The ability to structure a challenge around a certain number of gifts, donors, or dollars given creates excitement and gamifies a campaign. The “we just need 27 more gifts this hour and we’ll receive an additional $25,000!” messaging line is a tried and true trick that is familiar to any of us who listen to public radio. And it works wonders for online giving days, as well. Of course, if your online giving site doesn’t provide for real-time updating – in other words, doesn’t accurately reflect the number of donors and dollars given up to the minute – the donor activity tracking that is required for this type of challenge isn’t possible. If your giving day microsite or homepage doesn’t accurately reflect the acitivity around challenges in a dynamic, real-time way, how are your donors supposed to follow the “game?” And if they can’t follow it, they won’t be enticed to give.

In addition to a dynamic challenge environment, real time updating also allows for real-time stewardship. The record breaking Columbia University giving day team monitored real time giving activity for two things – big gifts and big donors making big gifts. This allowed Columbia to connect the donors with gift officers who could provide real-time thank yous to these most important donors.

Finally, real-time updating allows you to know when there’s a lull in giving activity, so you can insert a new Facebook post, email, or challenge to reignite the giving activity.

User-friendly, image-driven design

You’ve probably read some of the absurd statistics that show how important images are in catching someone’s attention. Some studies suggest the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. If that’s even remotely accurate, you should consider an online giving page that is almost entirely image-driven with the bare minimum in text. And don’t forget, according to a recent Google study, 57 percent of those who watch a video from a nonprofit will eventually make a gift to that nonprofit. Images and videos should always take priority over text on your giving pages and microsites.

The University of Sydney's "Pave the Way" campaign was successful in part due to its image and video-drive landing page.

The University of Sydney’s “Pave the Way” campaign was successful in part due to it’s image and video-drive landing page.

An easy path to your donor database

This is probably the toughest obstacle for many organizations. Truth be told, you’re almost always going to have to burden your gift processing team with a little extra work after a successful online giving event. Most of the leading platforms don’t come with their own databases or with turnkey data uploading processes for leading databases (Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge, for example). So, you need to be sure whichever platform you choose is able to cooperate with your database in the best way possible and has staff who are willing to work with your gift processing team to make their lives a little easier.

Verify your gateway

Gateways and vendors don’t always get along. Before signing any contracts, verify – in writing – that the vendor can work with your organization’s chosen payment gateway. Don’t just take the sales rep’s word that their platform plays well with your gateway. Verify it. In writing. (As you can probably tell, we’ve had some fairly negative experience with this…)

Again, there’s a lot that goes into a successful giving day. Before you land on a theme for the day, hash out a communication plan, or start talking with major gift donors about the effort, get your technological house in order to ensure your giving day is built on a solid foundation.

Have other questions about your upcoming giving day? BWF_social has planned more than a dozen six- and seven-figure online giving events. To learn more about our services, contact BWF_social’s Justin Ware.

Best Nonprofit Websites – Children’s National Health System

Children's National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

Children’s National Health System has created a user-friendly website that has led to more and larger online gifts.

The Children’s National Health System website is one of the best I’ve seen. In any nonprofit vertical.

The main homepage and Foundation homepage were redesigned last fall with a focus on simplicity and content. The design is clean and user-friendly, the content is fresh (thanks to being directly fed from institutional blogs), and the online giving form is flawless. Whether you’re in the healthcare, higher education, environmental, social services, arts, community foundation …really just about any type of nonprofit organization, this design and design process (more on that process in the video below) is one worth emulating.

But it’s not just pretty. This online pageant queen would also win most spelling bees. The smart design behind the new Children’s National website has delivered results. Since making the shift from the older design in November 2013, the Children’s National Foundation has seen three times as many online gifts made and the average size of an online gift double to roughly $275 per gift.

So you want to know how to design a website that triples your donor participation and doubles the size of gifts? Then check out the video below featuring Children’s National Foundation AVP for Communications, Mark Miller and Associate Director of Interactive Communications, Jon Thompson.

Justin Ware is director of interactive communications at BWF_social where he helps clients build a digital presence that leads to real fundraising results.

Middlebury’s MiddSTART Puts Donors in the Driver Seat

Thanks to the Internet, donors – just like everybody else – have come to expect a certain degree of control when it comes to how they interact with the organizations they support. So, why not give them as much control as you can? When it comes to the annual fund, that’s what Middlebury College has done with their innovative social giving site, MiddSTART. Check out the video below for more on the program…

For more great ideas from fundraising consultants and experts, check out BWF’s philanthropy news site.