Why Your Non-Profit Isn’t Getting Online Donations

I was reading a statistic that there are 1,409,430 non-profits in the US and 817,379 of them have an operating budget of less than $100,000.

I’m guessing this means that most of them don’t have fundraising committees, an on staff donor relations coordinator, rich benefactors throwing money at them, or fancy software that helps them optimize their relationships. So they probably need help.

Here’s us helping.

Here are several reasons your online donation form is not getting much in the way of online donations.

1) You don’t have an online donation form.

Sure, you did your part two years ago. You signed up for a Paypal account, took the embed code Paypal gave you, and stuck the donation button on your website. But how’s that working out?

eNkaW0o

I didn’t want to single out anyone so I got this picture off the internet to show what I mean by this donate button.

Here is the thing, the cold hard truth. Many people don’t use Paypal regularly and don’t entirely understand it. Power users of Paypal are 1) Nerds selling to other nerds. (I often pay for software with Paypal.) or 2) eBay people. So unless you are selling your cool Google App integration program or your Elvis collector’s edition hulu doll, you need to use something that isn’t Paypal.

Now you may say, “But Nicole, you can pay with a credit card with Paypal.”

Here is an exchange I had with my mom, almost word for word.

Me: Hi Mom, I sent you the link.
(Mom presumably clicks link)
Mom: Thanks honey, but I don’t have a Paypal account.
Me: You don’t need one, Mom, you can use a credit card.
Mom: But I don’t want to sign up for a Paypal account with my card.
Me: Mom, you can check out without signing up.
Mom: Really? How?

(Full disclosure, I also had this conversation with Kassie about a week ago. And she is a 24 year old smart person as you all know… so this isn’t just a ‘people over 50’ thing.)

Now imagine trying to have that conversation with every potential donor who visits your website. Most people won’t stick around to have it. They’ll just mentally note to mail you a check… then forget.

You know what everyone does have? A credit or debit card. Giving people an easy way to donate on your site with one of those without having to link to Paypal takes down a lot of barriers.

2) People don’t know you have a donation form.

You can have an awesome, fast loading, mobile friendly online donation form (and congratulations, you are in the top  20% of online donation forms) but guess what? What if no one knows you just added online donation capabilities on your site? Unless they just stumble upon your form (which, let’s face it, some people may), you won’t get an uptick.

So remind regularly your Facebook fans, your Twitter followers, visitors to your online location that you have a form to donate online. Obvious poster or step by step instructions very helpful. Here’s an example: http://www.sycamorereview.com/donate/ 

I know this seems obvious but remember, it’s only obvious because you know how it works. 🙂

3) You don’t regularly use social media.

Do you have a regular conversation with your supporters beyond the annual appeal letter? You do if you regularly use social media, an email newsletter, or a blog to talk to them.

So you may have noticed if you follow us online that we’ve use the blog, email newsletter, and social media to talk about donation forms… all in preparing a special offer to be released Monday about this very thing!

Being mid conversation with people already means you can also relay your donation message to them. We even made donation forms a subject of our weekly video series Tech Thursdays this week!

4) Donors aren’t clear with where the money goes (and feel little personal connection with the cause because of this). 

I don’t know about you but when a 60 employee non-profit (with employees who I know are making almost double what I make) sends my four person business a letter asking me for a donation, I may snicker.

OK I do snicker.

Here’s the thing though, I’d be a lot more likely to give to a certain program or department if that was an option.

Having fields in your online donation form that allow you to specify a program or otherwise personalize a donation help more people (and different people) connect with different parts of your message.

Our local library's online donation form lets you donate in a certain person's memory (yes, we made this form).

Our local library’s online donation form lets you donate in a certain person’s memory (yes, we made this form).

5) You sound sad.

No one wants to get on a sinking ship. If you organization seems like it’s struggling, unorganized, or otherwise ‘sad’, your potential donors will pick up on it and steer clear.

Have someone really honest look at your website copy. Do you seem ungrateful, terse, sad, angry, etc. in your writing? Or do you seem grateful, fun, inspirational?

If you want to see what I mean, here’s a video making fun of the ‘sad African’ stereotype in fundraising. (Warning, there is one curse word but it wasn’t enough for me to think it was worth not posting):

 Here’s hoping some of these tips increase your online donation amounts and donors… just in time for giving season!

What’s that? You don’t have an online donation form for your website? We can totally fix that for you.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
Nicole Ouellette
Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she's not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.