All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

Michelle Hurtado leads the Ad Grants program at Google, which offers $10,000 per month in free advertising to nonprofits around the world. From starting her career supporting nonprofit communication strategies to diving into digital marketing for over twelve years, she’s grateful to bring interests together and serve nonprofits through Ad Grants.  She resides in California with her husband and three children and holds degrees from Duke University and Wharton.

At the 2018 NIO Summit, Michelle Hurtado joined us all the way from Google where she leads the Ad Grants program. Michelle introduced the Ad Grant program and gave 8 key tips to understanding and getting the most out of the program. Below is a preview of her session but you can view the entire session along with all of the 2018 speaker sessions here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

Josh McQueen is the founder of McQueen, Mackin & Associates and the author of “Building Brand Trust: Discovering the Insights Behind Great Brands.” He served as the Executive Vice President and Director of Research and Planning Worldwide for the world’s 3rd largest agency Leo Burnett, and later started his own market research and consulting firm to apply his knowledge in the nonprofit world.

At the 2018 NIO Summit, Josh discussed generational giving patterns and chasing the ever-elusive millennial donor. Below is a snippet from his presentation but you can view all of last year’s sessions in their entirety here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

Published by Adam Weinger

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

How would you like to have donations to your organization doubled? Sounds too good to be true, right? After all, this is the buy-one-get-one-free opportunity of your dreams.

When you are looking for the secret to raising more funds for your nonprofit, you are willing to try any new, promising techniques. The solution is simple: matching gifts.

Matching gifts will revolutionize how you think about fundraising and managing your donor engagements. Utilizing a good matching gifts program is essential to ensure you maximize the impact of each and every eligible donation to your organization.

So, you may want to incorporate matching gifts into your fundraising strategy, but you still have no idea how to take advantage of this sector of corporate philanthropy. You may be asking:

  1. What is a matching gifts program?
  2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?
  3. How do I promote matching gifts?
  4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Don’t worry! This post will answer all of your questions and provide you with the information you need to know to start optimizing your fundraising strategy with matching gifts.

So, let’s dive in and prepare you for an entirely new source of nonprofit revenue!

1. What is a matching gifts program?

Matching gifts programs are, unfortunately, an underutilized source of revenue for nonprofit organizations. The sad truth is that many nonprofit development officers have no idea what they are missing.

Have you ever wondered how to tap into the corporate sphere with your fundraising campaign? Over half of the Fortune 500 companies, along with many other corporations, offer their employees a matching gifts program.

With these programs, a corporation matches its employee’s charitable donation with a 1:1, 2:1, or even 3:1 ratio! Effectively, if an individual employed at an eligible company donates $100 to your organization, their employer would then donate $100, $200, or even $300 to your organization.

So how do corporations know when their employees are donating to charitable causes?

The matching gifts process is easy and simple — for you, your donor, and their employer. The process typically proceeds as follows:  

  1. An individual donates to your organization.
  2. The donor searches a matching gift database to determine if they are eligible for a matching gifts program.
  3. The donor submits the appropriate forms to their company.
  4. The employer matches their donation to your organization.

This program is the best resource to maximize your donor’s giving potential. It will allow you to optimize a gift of average size and help donors make a difference for your organization.

2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?

By now you are probably asking yourself: If matching gifts are as beneficial as they seem, then why don’t more people take advantage of them?

Unfortunately, just like many nonprofits do not know how to take advantage of corporate philanthropy, most people are unaware of their own eligibility for these programs. It’s likely that your donors and prospective donors simply do not know what matching gifts are or if their company offers it.

Just look at this list of top matching gift companies from Re:Charity and you will see that many popular companies offer programs and people don’t even know about it!

Only about 7-9% of donors are taking advantage of a matching gifts program. This means an incredible amount of money that could go to your organization is left untapped. Around $2-3 billion is donated to charities through matching gifts per year, while an estimated $4-7 billion goes unclaimed.

Because most donors don’t know about matching gifts, your nonprofit needs to do everything in its power to encourage donors to use matching gifts.

3. How do I promote matching gifts?

If you are serious about wanting to promote matching gifts to your donors, there are plenty of concrete ways to go about doing so.

You should consider doing the following:

Provide access to an online matching gift tool.

Many of your donors likely use an online method of donation. Donors want easy and they want fast — they want to be able to give from the comfort of their own homes and their own devices. So you should also make it as easy as possible for them to participate in a matching gifts program.

As you read in the first section, part of the matching gifts program requires donors to determine whether or not they are eligible to participate. The best resource you can provide to donors is a matching gifts database search tool.

This tool will provide information such as:

  • Whether a company has a matching gifts program.
  • The minimum and maximum match amounts. These can vary based on the company. Some companies match anything from single digit to four digit donations!  
  • The ratio at which a company will match. While some organizations only contribute at a 1:1 ratio, it is not uncommon to find even more generous ratios that have the potential to quadruple a donor’s contribution.
  • Employee eligibility. Find out if the company will match gifts for full-time, part-time, or retired employees.
  • Volunteer grants. Some corporations are willing to donate on behalf of volunteers. They will likely donate a certain amount for a specific number of volunteer hours. A company might donate $250 for an employee’s 25 volunteer hours, and $500 for 50 hours, etc.
  • Types of nonprofits the corporation will give to. Types of nonprofits that companies generally include in their matching gifts program are educational institutions, health and human services, arts and cultural organizations, civic and community organizations, environmental organizations, and religious institutions.
  • Submission process details. The tool should also provide basic information about the corporation’s submission process and deadline. This could be providing the corporation’s contact information or a link to their giving page.

1 in 3 donors stated that they would be more likely to donate, and donate more, if they knew about matching gifts. They would know that their donation is making a greater impact.

To see how to include a matching gift search tool on your website, check out this site.

Follow up with donors about their matching gift status.

Don’t give up on getting your donors to participate in a matching gifts program simply because they have already finished your donation process. Many corporations allow a window of time — some even offer up to a year — for employees to turn in their forms to receive a matched gift!

Following up with your donors after their donation is the key to informing more people about matching gifts. Email is essential to increasing your matching gift revenue.

People donate to charitable organizations such as yours because they want to make a difference. They will be grateful for the opportunity to maximize their impact and increase your ability to do good.

Consider emailing your donors and asking them to check their eligibility for matching gifts. Use a call-to-action in the subject line to increase the likelihood that they open your email. This can be:

  • Do you want to have your donation to [organization name] doubled?
  • Double your contribution to [organization name] with employer match.
  • Help [organization name] [organization’s immediate goal] by participating in a matching gifts program.

Emails reminding donors about matching gifts that are sent within 24 hours of a donation have an open rate 2-3 times higher than the average nonprofit email! Don’t lose out on this opportunity!

4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Are you still concerned about which matching gift tool you should choose to implement? Don’t worry! There is a database out there that will be perfect for your organization and help you tap into the benefits of corporate revenue.

No matter the size of your organization, matching gift database tools will benefit you greatly.

Double the Donation Matching Gift Tool – for small to medium organizations

Double the Donation’s matching gift database is the perfect industry-leading tool for small and medium-sized organizations. This database provides information on over 20,000 companies and subsidiaries and has the most comprehensive set of matching gift resources!

This tool can be integrated into the company’s website and maintains your organization’s branding creating a seamless experience for the donor.

Double the Donation also provides the option to display your own customizable link on their site. You can raise awareness of your organization and simultaneously gain access to the best matching gifts database for your donors.

360MatchPro – for large organizations

360MatchPro is best for large nonprofits and higher education institutions that already bring in more than $25,000 in matching gifts revenue a year. This platform provides a complete matching gifts marketing automation.

Remember, this platform is most effective when the organization is already taking advantage of matching gifts, not for those organizations just starting out.

This platform can screen donors’ email domains, donation form information, and email responses to identify matching gift opportunities among your donor network. You can ensure that every donor who begins with matching gifts finishes the process by sending automated, customizable messages to them throughout the process.

You can use this platform to analyze your donor data and predict how much you will be able to add with matching gifts. This will allow you to better plan your fundraising strategy and reach your goals for your cause.


Matching gifts are the best way to take advantage of corporate philanthropy and maximize the impact of your existing donors. If you still have questions, find your answers in this guide to matching gifts.

Make sure you don’t let this extra revenue pass you by! Encourage your donors to check their eligibility and do everything in your power to make the process as easy as possible for them.

About the author:

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

5 Ways Charities Can Optimize Their Online Giving Experience

Published by Brady Josephson

Online fundraising can seem complex. You’ve got so many different tools to figure out. All that data you can get and track. Rules, regulations, and ‘best practices’ are often changing. A lot of different people have different ideas on how you can do online fundraising. And, for many of you reading this, online is just one part of what you do, not all that you do.

To help shed some light on this subject as it relates to Canadian charities, last year I signed up to get email updates from 152 Canadian charities and then made $25 donations to all of them. I captured and scored each area — email signup, fundraising emails, and online giving experience — to produce The Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard.

The study is free and in it you’ll find all the stats and key findings but today I want to focus on a simple framework to help with how to think about online fundraising and then provide some ideas to improve your online giving experience based on the research study and some real examples from the world’s largest online fundraising experiment library.

Three strategies to grow online fundraising

When it comes to growing your online fundraising, everything you do should really fit under one of these three main strategies:

  • Get more (quality) visitors to your website.
  • Get more of the people visiting your website to make a donation.
  • Get those making a donation to give more on average.

And the beauty of those simple strategies is that they correspond to the 3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Every Nonprofit Needs to Track:

  • Traffic
  • Conversion Rate
  • Average Gift

If you multiply those three metrics together, you get revenue. So if you increase traffic, and the other two remain the same, you’ll raise more money. And if you can increase traffic and conversion rate, with average gift staying the same, well then you’ll raise even more money.

That’s pretty straightforward — I hope — but understanding how to get started is one of the biggest questions we get asked. So much so, that we recorded a whole podcast episode to answer it, When It Comes to Online Fundraising, Where Do I Start? I’ll spoil part of the podcast and let you know that, often, one of the easiest things you can do to raise more money online is to optimize and improve your donation page so more of your current visitors — as many or as few as you get — are more likely to donate.

So with that here are…

Five ways to optimize your online giving experience

1. Be clear with what their donation will do.

Clarity trumps persuasion. It’s one of my favourite sayings around the office because experience shows it to be true but being clear is something every organization has the capacity and ability to do. It may be hard to be creative, or unique, or have some amazing offer but everyone can be clear. And being clear in terms what someone’s gift will do on your donation page can make a world of difference.

Because why should you give if you end up here:

Unless you’ve 100% made up your mind that you’re going to give your money away, that page could stop you in your tracks (and you may never come back).

But look at this simple experiment where the addition of a few short paragraphs of copy/text helped communicate what a donation would do and increased donations 150%:

In the research study, we saw that 64% of organizations used more than one sentence of copy to share their ‘why’ but if we would’ve looked at how many used more than 3 sentences, that number would drop to 30% or so.

If you want to tell people how their donation will help — and you need to — you have to tell them. Be clear. Be simple. Use copy.

2. Give people a reason to make a monthly donation.

Monthly giving is hugely important to long term success in fundraising but if you only look at the online giving experience you would never guess that to be true. Only 10% of organizations gave us a reason to make a recurring donation (as opposed to a one-time donation). The rest just had something like this:

Does that seem like something incredibly valuable to the organization? Or being positioned in a way where it looks like a valuable way to give for the donor? Not really…

And this isn’t unique to Canadian organizations. We also did a study on recurring giving last year with 115 nonprofits in the United States and found pretty much the same thing where just 9% of organizations had a ‘why’ or value proposition for recurring giving on their main donation page.

We saw some neat recurring giving focused ideas in the study like a pop-up at the time of one-time donation, impact calculator, and special donation anchors, but even doing something more subtle and simple like this can help:

You can see that they first answer why a donation is needed and what it will do before communicating just how valuable a recurring donation is.

If it’s important to you, you need to prioritize it but make sure you communicate the value of it not through your eyes but through theirs. Is it more impactful? More convenient? Do they get any special treatment? Then tell them.

In this example, words like ‘vital funds’ show the importance of the donation, ‘automatically’ gets at convenience, and ‘change or stop’ is empowering to a donor so they don’t fear signing up and never being able to stop.

3. Eliminate unnecessary, distracting, and conflicting links.

One of the easiest ways to optimize your donation page is to do this:

  1. Take your donation page/form out of your website template to get rid of side, top, and footer navigation
  2. Remove all the additional ways and options of giving other than online
  3. Take away any other calls to action and links that don’t help the donor complete the donation process

All those extra and unnecessary links create friction for the donor and when the different types of friction — more on the 7 types of friction here — become too much, people will abandon their donation.

They clearly have some interest in giving otherwise they wouldn’t have clicked something to get to your donation page, so confirm your message and then get out of their way. You don’t want them to sign up for your newsletter or connect with you on social media at this stage, so why have those links and options even available?

Here is a very extreme version of all the friction a donation page can create for a donor:

Look at all the distractions and decisions they are making the donor — me in this case — make. It’s so overwhelming I’d just give up if I wasn’t doing it for this study. If the visitor wasn’t actually looking to make a donation for some reason then they can use the back button or dig a bit for a link to take them away. They don’t need to see all the other things you do or things they can do so just remove them.

4. Build trust where, and when, you need it in the giving process.

It’s an unfortunate reality but many donors, especially high value older donors, are concerned about the trustworthiness of the organization and the security of their information. So why not make it easier for them to trust you and feel that their information is safe.

Add your charitable registration number, privacy policy, and even third party ‘evidentials’ — testimonials, seals, etc. — that let people see why they should trust you more. And when it comes to security, adding a little ‘lock box’ and shading the Credit Card area — where people are most information sensitive — are small things that can be a pretty big difference. Like a 14% increase in donations in this case:

Those are a few things you can do pretty easily to help put your donors at ease (and help you get more donations) but not all organizations are doing that:

  • 39% did not have their charitable registration number present on the page
  • Only 31% of organizations had ‘trust’ marks
  • 33% had no privacy policy available

Remember the monthly giving example from Ducks Unlimited? Here’s what the bottom of their page looks like:

You are a trustworthy organization with good data management and security systems so show your donors that you are when and where it matters.

5. Have a really good, warm, and thankful confirmation page.

You’ve secured the donation, nice. But the work of continuing to build the relationship with the donor is just starting. And that starts with your confirmation or thank you page. Confirming that the donation was successful and thanking them is the bare minimum (something that 12% of organizations didn’t do) but the majority of organizations said something like this:

Makes you feel all warm and tingly inside doesn’t it? Compare that to something like this form UNICEF:

There are some strategic things you can do on the confirmation page like ask for more information (how did you hear about us), give them an action to take (will your employer match your gift?), or even ask them to give again to another project or as a monthly donor but it’s easy to make sure they are thanked in a meaningful, warm, human way.

So…

Those are just a few ideas and examples of how you can improve and optimize your donation page. You can see 19 different areas of your main donation page that you can test and download a guide here, https://www.nextafter.com/interactive-donation/ and get the full Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard here

This post was orginally published on Charity Village and can be read in full here.

About the author:

Avatar

Brady Josephson

Brady Josephson is a charity nerd, entrepreneur, digital marketer, professor, and writer. At NextAfter, he focuses on business development and partnerships, content creation, and marketing. He's also a huge Liverpool FC fan. #YNWA


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

10 Online Fundraising Ideas That Are Proven to Grow Your Revenue

Published by Brady Josephson

10 Online Fundraising Ideas Proven to Grow Revenue - Blog Image

After spending a year observing every online fundraising idea, test, and experiment being run by all the optimizers here at NextAfter, I found 10 online fundraising ideas that you need to be testing and implementing this year.

Let’s get right to it!

1. Focus on the 3 online fundraising metrics that really matter.

There are a ton of shiny objects in digital fundraising and marketing to get you distracted from real goal: increasing revenue.

3 Online Fundraising Metrics

To optimize your online fundraising, you’ve got to get laser-focused on the 3 metrics that we call The Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization.

The three online fundraising metrics that really matter are:

  1. Website Traffic
  2. Donation Conversion Rate
  3. Average Gift Size

Increasing any single one of these metrics is going to lead to more revenue. But increasing 2 or all 3 of these metrics is going to lead to exponentially more revenue.

To learn more about the FCORM metrics and how they relate to online fundraising revenue, read this blog post by Nathan Hill. Here, he breaks down what it is and how nonprofits can leverage it for higher online revenue.

But here’s the basics of what you need to know…

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Use these 3 metrics as your strategic framework. Anytime you and your team make a decision about a new online fundraising idea, activity, or strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will it produce more traffic to my website?
  • Will it drive more of my traffic to donate?
  • Will it encourage donors to make bigger donations?

2. Think of your donor funnel as a donor mountain.

The Donor MountainReally this is more of a way of thinking than a strategy. But changing your perspective on the how your donors interact with you is critical.

We can’t pretend that donors are organically falling into a typical “sales funnel.” They’re not falling in at all. In fact, making a donation can be a lot of hard work.

A donor rarely wakes up thinking, “I’m going to donate to ORGANIZATION today.” Something has to prompt them to consider giving. And it’s your job to help them make the journey from being prompted, to actually completing a donation.

Your message is your main tool to help your donor up the mountain.

From the moment a donor is prompted to consider giving, there are distractions and micr-decisions all along the way.

You have to use the copy in your emails, on your landing pages, and on your donation page to explain why someone should keep moving forward to the ultimate goal of donating.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

A donation doesn’t happen in one step. You have to help your donor take a lot of little steps towards the ultimate goal of donating.

3. Your emails and donation pages need to be longer than you might think.

It’s often considered “best practice” to keep your copy (or your message) really short. But over and over again, testing and research shows that almost every organization needs to write longer copy.

Here’s why…

How more copy on an email signup form increased conversions

In this experiment, we wanted to increase email sign ups. The version on the left is what the vast majority of nonprofit email signup forms look like.

Online fundraising idea - Email newsletter signup form test image

The treatment on the right really has one substantial change…there is more copy explaining why you should sign up!

The new version says this: “Get exclusive access to breaking campus reform stories as they happen. Sign up below and we’ll keep you in the loop too.”

Adding two sentences and tweaking a headline increase email signups by 28%.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Use more copy to communicate why someone should sign up, click through, or donate.

Keep in mind, it’s not the length of copy that improves conversion. It’s how well your copy communicates why someone should give, or click, or sign up.

If you want to dig deeper into how you write better copy to increase conversion, you can check out this post on improving your value proposition.

4. Send your fundraising emails from real people to real people.

Almost every single email best practice out there recommends using some form of a designed email template. But here’s something most experts will never tell you (because they don’t dare test it)…

All the hours you spend designing emails are costing you donors and revenue.

“Well, how else are you supposed to do it, Brady?”

Just write an email like an average, everyday human being who doesn’t know how to create a flashy HTML email.

This is how real people write emails to their friends and family — and that there is a multitude of experiments and data to show that sending plain-text style emails is far more effective for raising money.

Here’s just one of numerous experiments that strongly suggest that a personal approach performs better than a heavily designed email.

How a more humanized email increase donations…by a lot!

Online fundraising idea - write a more personal email - imageIn the control on the left, you can see some graphic elements like the corporate logo and the big blue button below. The recipient’s name is personalized with their first name.

In the treatment on the right, we’ve removed these graphical elements and saw 145.5% increase in donations.

With these results in mind, try experimenting with your own email fundraising by:

  • Removing design elements so it looks more like a personal email.
  • Using copy/text that’s more personal and about your donor (like the second-person pronoun “you”).
  • Using a real person’s name and email as your email sender
  • Personalizing the email with the recipient’s name.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

People give to people, not email marketing machines. The more human and believable your email is, the more successful your online fundraising will be.

For more on making your emails more human, you can dive into a free online course on Email Fundraising Optimization here.

5. Send emails when others aren’t.

When I check my email in the morning, I often have 10, 20, 30 or more emails to sift through – depending on the day. But when I check email throughout the day, there’s not nearly as much to sift through all once.

You can stand out in the inbox by sending emails when others aren’t!

So what days are organization sending emails? Well, I’ve got some data for you on that.

In the month of December, we looked at all the emails we received in our aggregate donor inbox from hundreds of organizations and charted them.

Online fundraising idea - send email on the weekend chartWe found that weekends present an opportunity for nonprofits to stand out because they have lower send volumes from “competitor” organizations.

In fact, not only were email open rates optimized, the data shows an increase in average gift size from emails sent on the weekend too.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Try publishing your emails on weekends and during afternoons and evenings, when fewer organizations are sending emails. By sending during relatively quiet times, you’re more likely to be noticed.

6. You don’t always have to send more email to bring in more donations.

You can always send more emails to try and bring in more donations. But you don’t always have to do this to increase donations.

You can increase donations without adding more email sends to your calendar by using content marketing.

This is one of the coolest experiments in our research library. And it’s a perfect mashup of how direct mail and online fundraising come together to make even stronger donors.

Online fundraising idea - uses brand ads with direct mail imageIn this experiment, one half of the donors were sent a direct mail letter with a donation ask.

The other half were sent the same direct mail letter, but they were also targeted with brand ads on Facebook.

The goal wasn’t necessarily to get people to click on the ads. It was to make sure they were continually reminded of the organization.

The group that was targeted with brand ads saw a 25% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Create content (both organic and paid advertising) that reinforces the impact of donating. Use this to cultivate and prime your donors in order to make your direct donation asks even more effective.

Here’s another super cool experiment that shows how a personal post-card (without a donation ask) can lead to greater year-end giving.

7. Throw away your boring confirmation pages, and start using instant donation pages instead.

Last year, I went around and signed to receive emails from 152 organizations. And I made this startling find…

Only 48% of organizations used a confirmation page after an email signup.

You might be saying, “Why does that matter? My form shows a thank you message without using a new page.

Online fundraising idea - use an instant donation pageBut here’s the deal… A real confirmation page will let you:

  • Improve the user experience by letting users be 100% they’re done.
  • Continue the engagement by providing more interesting and useful content.
  • Track completions and conversions easier

Now, for those that are using confirmation pages, only 8% actually asked for a donation right away.

“But Brady…that’s so rude to ask someone who just signed up for an email to donate.”

I prefer to let the donor be the judge of that. And time and time again, we see new contacts becoming new donor instantly when using an instant donation page.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Instead of just showing a thank you message or standard confirmation page after someone signs up for an email, use an instant donation page to start acquiring new donors right away.

You can dig into the ins and outs of instant donation pages here.

8. Stop designing to make things look pretty. Start designing to make things more effective.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not anti-design.

I’m very pro-design. But that design has to be communicating the right message in a way that is empathetic to our donors.

Designing for the sake of being modern or pretty often leads to some pretty negative results. And just because Charity Water has a really cool looking page doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective thing for you.

We need to design with our donors in mind.

Take a look at how redesigning a donation page to make it more personal affected the actual revenue coming in from the page below…

How design impacts conversion on a donation page

Online fundraising idea - design your donation pages for effectiveness imageYou can see the original page here. It’s just one giant form. No value proposition copy. Hardly any personal copy at all. There’s also a load of distracting button links across the page.

Now, here’s the treatment version of that donation page.

You can see quickly how the design changed drastically on this page to be much simpler and have more value proposition copy.

This new layout saw a 340% increase in revenue.

In this experiment, we see how a “pretty” page became a lot less pretty – but it drastically improve donations.

Online fundraising idea - pretty design isn't always effective image

You don’t have to read the copy to see what changed in the design. The treatment opted to use less imagery and more copy to help donors understand why they should give.

The “less pretty” page saw a 134% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

The goal of design isn’t to be the prettiest, or the most modern. The goal is to get more donations.

Here are some of the essential elements we’ve found are proven to increase donations on your page.

9. Get rid of all other links on your landing pages and donation pages.

One of the easiest ways to improve and optimize your donation page performance is to remove all the unnecessary distractions from your donation page.

Every other link on your donation page is an opportunity for a donor to get distracted from the primary goal, and head off down a rabbit trail to something else.

Even something like a link to “login” can actually hurt your donations – primarily because remembering a username and password can be so incredibly frustrating.

Other examples of distracting links include:

  • Share this on social media
  • Follow us on Facebook
  • Look at Planned Giving options
  • Subscribe to our newsletter

The list goes on and on.

All of these options create friction in the process of giving and reduce the likelihood that your page visitor is going to donate.

Online fundraising idea - remove extra links imageRemoving the navigation from the donation page saw a 195% increase in donations!

In this experiment, we went a step further. It’s not just navigation links that can hurt donations. Even the most well intended links can be holding your donations back.

Online fundraising idea - remove other ways to give imageRemoving the “Other Ways to Give” link saw a 5.5% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Reduce friction anywhere you can. In your email marketing, donation pages, and website.

Wondering how much friction is actually on your donation page? Take the Friction Self Assessment and find out how you can optimize your donation pages!

10. Focus on recurring giving.

Recurring donors are worth a lot more in a year — and over their lifetime – than your other donors.

The State of Modern Philanthropy report shows that recurring donors are worth 5.4 times more than one-time donors over their lifetime.

Yet when we looked at 150 nonprofits in the U.S., we found that only one out of 11 organizations had a value proposition that explained why a donor should become a recurring giver.  

To increase the number of recurring donors, you need to answer the question: “Why should I give a recurring gift to you rather than a one-time gift… or to another organization… or not at all?”

How a recurring donation prompt increase recurring donor conversions

In this experiment, this organization showed a pop-up right when you clicked the “Donate” button. Before the gift was processed, they asked if you wanted to upgrade to a recurring donation.

It gave some strong reasons why a recurring donation (even with a smaller initial donation) was more effective.

Online fundraising idea - recurring donor popup

Using this recurring donor prompt led to a 64% increase in recurring donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Increasing recurring donations can be transformational for your fundraising, and there are tons of ideas to test to try and grow this essential donor segment. Here are two ideas:

  • Give a reason as to why someone should make a recurring gift on your one-time donation page.
  • Place a recurring donation ask right before someone completes a one-time donation.

And if you want to go really deep on recurring giving, you can check out the free Nonprofit Recurring Donation Benchmark Study and get 30+ new strategies and online fundraising ideas to test based on data and research.

You can get the recurring donor report at recurringgiving.com

Need more ideas to grow your online fundraising?

Email Fundraising Optimization Course imageWe’ve developed (are continuing to develop) a series of online fundraising courses that will show you everything we’ve learned from 1,667 online fundraising experiments. These courses cover proven strategies to help you:

  • Grow your email fundraising
  • Improve conversion and revenue on your donation pages
  • Acquire more emails from your email acquisition landing pages
  • Use Facebook to acquire new donors
  • Set up and run a/b tests to learn what really works to grow
  • Create an effective online year-end fundraising campaign

Every single course is available for free. So if you want to dive deeper and learn proven ways to keep growing, you can activate your free courses at courses.nextafter.com

About the author:

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Brady Josephson

Brady Josephson is a charity nerd, entrepreneur, digital marketer, professor, and writer. At NextAfter, he focuses on business development and partnerships, content creation, and marketing. He's also a huge Liverpool FC fan. #YNWA


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

AB Testing Guide for Nonprofits

A/B testing is something that not a lot of nonprofits are doing well – but those that are running a/b tests are seeing major lifts in donations and revenue. So how exactly do you start setting up and running a/b tests at your nonprofit that lead to major lifts? I’m going to show you how in the A/B testing guide for nonprofits.

In the 8 steps below, you’ll learn exactly how to find where to test, what to test, and how to test. But before we get there, let’s look at why you need to be testing.

Why is a/b testing so important?

The answer here is actually really simple. Relying on your own intuition is no better than flipping a coin to determine which version is better.

But why should you take my word it? Let’s look at an example or two…

Which of these donation pages is going to bring in the most donations? The all text page or the page with a video?

Text vs Video a/b test

 

If you’ve read more of our blogs than just this one, you probably know the answer already. But this is an area we get questioned on more often than almost anything else.

The correct answer?

The all text page saw a 560% increase in donations!

Without testing, we would have no idea. And even if you’re one of the few fundraisers that would have picked an all text page over a page with a video, would you have been willing to risk a 560% change in donations without testing it first? 

Let’s look at one more test that’s a little more nuanced.

Which email below brought in more donations? If you can’t read the text, just click on the image to pull it up full screen.

Email A vs Email B - a/b test

Honestly, I could make an argument for why either of these should win based all the fundraising “best practices” that are circulating out there.

Here’s the answer…

Email B increased donations by 360%!

Did you get that one right? Even if you did, were you 100% confident? Confident enough to risk a 360% change in donations?

Where should you start a/b testing?

The simplest answer is to ask yourself the question, “Where can I get the most return for my effort?”

But I bet if you asked that question even to your closest colleagues, you would get wildly different responses. So here’s what I would suggest…

3 Key Online Fundraising MetricsStart testing areas of your fundraising that influence these 3 key metrics: web traffic, donations, and average gift.

These 3 metrics each have a direct impact on revenue. And if you’re a/b tests start improving revenue, it will be much easier to get others to care about what you’re doing.

If you want some specific test ideas to start with, check out these 5 common fundraising “best practices” that you should stop assuming work, and start testing new, proven strategies.

Ok. I could go on and on about where to start testing, but let’s get into the A/B testing guide. Here are the 8 key steps to launching an effective and valid nonprofit A/B test.

1. Identify Your Conversion Goal

First, you need to define the goal that you’re trying to accomplish. Without a clearly stated goal up front, you will never have a clear understanding of whether or not your test was successful.

Your conversion goal will give you the framework to design your a/b test and craft your hypothesis.

If you want to improve your donation page, your conversion goal might be the “total number of donations.”

If you want to traffic from a banner ad to a landing page, your conversion goal might be “clicks” or “landing page visits.”

If you want to improve your email newsletter form, your conversion goal might be “form submissions.”

Once you’ve identified the specific metric you’re hoping to improve, you can move on to step #2.

2. Make Sure You Can Measure Your Conversion Goal.

If you can’t track it, you can’t A/B test it. And if you can’t A/B test it, you can’t optimize it. And if you can’t optimize it, well…then you’re potentially leaving huge amounts of donations on the table as you saw in the examples above.

Google analytics is your essential tool for measuring your goals.

To measure your conversion goals, there is one thing you need to set up, and one thing you really, really should set up to get the most out of you’re a/b testing.

You need to set up conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Need some helping setting up your Google Analytics goals? There’s a great post from Neil Patel on 4 types of Google Analytics goals. In short, you can set up 4 different types of goals based on:

  • URLs
  • Visit Duration
  • Pages Per Visit
  • Google Analytics Event

For almost all of the a/b testing you’ll start out with, you’re going to either use a URL goal (triggered when someone visits a specific URL like your donation form’s confirmation page) or a Google Analytics Event goal (triggered by an event that fires when a form is submitted).

Google Analytics Goal Types

You really, really should set up eCommerce tracking.

Now, I understand that eCommerce tracking is much harder to set up than a basic conversion goal. So if you can’t get it set up right away, that shouldn’t stop you from testing. But the more you run a/b tests, the more you’re going to want to track the actual revenue that’s resulting from your testing.

Why is eCommerce tracking so important?

eCommerce tracking will let you see exactly what you’re a/b tests are doing to your revenue. In some cases, you might be getting more clicks or visits to a landing page, but actually hurting your revenue. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it happens more often than you might think.

Here’s an a/b test where we an increase in email clicks, but a decrease in donations.

If you don’t measure revenue, your test could appear to be positive, but actually hurt you where it matters most.

3. Craft Your A/B Testing Hypothesis

Once you know exactly what you want to improve, and you know that you can measure your goal, you need to define your hypothesis.

A good hypothesis will address the specific idea that you can think can make an impact on your conversion goal.

Example Hypothesis:Removing friction from the giving process by eliminating unnecessary form fields will increase donations.”

This hypothesis tells you the specific variables that you’re a/b test will look at. It makes it clear that your treatment or challenger page will have fewer form field than your control (original page).

In this example, your treatment might remove fields like “gift designation,” or “Make this gift in honor of…,” or other fields that are not absolutely essential to processing the donation.

Changing multiple variables at once

Some would argue that your hypothesis has to isolate one specific variable. If you change too much, you don’t really know what part of your test actually made an impact.

While this is true, your hypothesis can be crafted in a way that allows you test multiple elements at once – so long as they support the foundation of the hypothesis.

Example: A more personal email will lead to more donations.

This hypothesis addresses a specific idea, but it opens the door to change multiple elements in your email. Your control could be a heavily designed template, and your treatment can be a plain-text email with more personal copy. While multiple elements are changed, it all supports the underlying hypothesis.

Here’s an a/b test where multiple variables changed, yet the experiment remained sound.

Once you have your hypothesis created, write it down! You don’t want to forget why you ran the test, or what the over-arching idea was. You’ll want to keep your hypothesis so you can document what you’ve learned after the a/b test is complete.

4. Calculate Your Estimated Sample Size

Before you run your a/b test, you need to make sure that it’s possible to get a valid result.

To do so, you have to calculate your estimated sample size. All this means is that you need to figure out how many people need to see your a/b test in order to get a reliable result.

For instance, if your test increases donations by 50%, but only 20 people actually visited your donation page, it’s possible that this increase in donations was just the result of random chance.

There are some great tools out there to calculate exactly how many people need to see your a/b test in order to get a valid result. Here are a couple to choose from:

A Quick Walkthrough of Sample Size Calculation

If this is all new to you, here’s a quick explanation of how to use the Optimizely tool I listed above.

First, enter you Baseline Conversion Rate

This is the conversion rate that you would normally expect to see. If it’s a donation page, your conversion rate would be the number of donation divided by the number of visitors.

If your conversion goal is email clicks, your conversion rate would be the number of clicks divided by the number of emails sent.

Second, enter the Minimum Detectable Effect. This is the minimum amount of change you’d like to be able to measure. So if you hope to see a minimum of a 20% increase in donations as a result of your test, enter 20%.

Third, enter your desired level of Statistical Significance. We always recommend using 95% for this number. Statistical Significance is the likelihood that you’ll see this same result in the future.

For example, a 95% statistical significance essential means you’ll see the same result 95 out of 100 times. A 50% statistical significance is basically the equivalent of a coin toss – the result could go either way with equal odds.

After entering these 3 numbers, you’ll receive your Sample Size per Variation. This is the amount of traffic (or people) you need to see each version of your experiment. If you need 1,000 samples per variation, that means 1000 people need to see your control and 1000 people need to see your treatment.

Example A/B Test Sample Size Calculation

Once you’ve calculated your needed sample size, you need to make sure you’re a/b test is actually capable of getting enough traffic.

If your donation page doesn’t get enough traffic, test something earlier in the donation process. Try testing a fundraising email first.

5. Design Your Treatment

Half way there. The planning stage of you’re a/b test is done. Now it’s time for the fun part: designing your treatment.

Your test design is made up of at least 2 variants – your control and your treatment. The control is your original page, email, form, etc. The treatment is your challenger or the new design you want to test.

To design the treatment for your a/b test, you’ll want to keep your hypothesis in mind. If your hypothesis is as simple as “Removing the image in the email will increase clicks,” then your design will be really easy.

All you have to do is get rid of the image.

Designing for a more complex hypothesis gets tricky. If your hypothesis is something like “A more empathetic messaging tone will increase donations from an email fundraising appeal,” you have a little more work to do.

Every element you change has to support your hypothesis. With the example above, you shouldn’t change the color of your call-to-action links, or use a completely different email design. But you would likely have major changes to your email copy throughout.

This can get pretty complicated, so it’s best to have a colleague double check your a/b test design to make sure aligns with your hypothesis.

Our friends at ConversionXL have a great post on how to craft one of these more “radical redesigns.” You can read more about radical treatment designs here.

Once your treatment is designed, you’re ready to set up your experiment.

6. Set Up Your Experiment

You’re getting to the home stretch! Time to set up your well-planned experiment.

Setting up an experiment on your website

It used to be that you had to shell out some cash for a tool like Optimizely in order to run a good a/b test. But with Google Optimize, the vast majority of your testing can be done for free.

So that’s what’s next. If you don’t have a Google Optimize account, you can create one just using your normal Google Analytics login. If you need help getting it set-up, this post from Google has got you covered.

Once your account is all set up, you’ll create a new experiment. In many cases, you can edit the actual page elements right from Google Optimize without having to touch any code.

You can set your URL targeting, change what percentage of your web traffic sees your control and treatment, and set your conversion goal. Remember how we set that up in step 2? This is where all that hard work pays off.

Google will even help you preview your experiment to make sure everything’s being tracked properly. Here’s what your dashboard looks like once your experiment is running.

Google Optimize Screenshot

Once you’ve got everything configured, do one last test to make sure everything’s firing properly. Open the page you’re testing in an “Incognito Window” and see if it gives you the control or treatment. Then close the window and open a new one until you’ve seen and tested both your control and treatment.

Setting up an email experiment

Most email marketing tools will let you run an a/b test without any additional tools, fancy coding, or jerry-rigging of the platform. If you don’t know how to do it with your email tool, contact customer support.

If your email tool can’t run a/b tests, there’s a way to hack it. You can manually divide your email list into 2 parts and send two separate emails. Just make sure your lists are divided randomly, and not between key segments like “donors vs non-donors.”

*If you have to hack it like this, you’re using the wrong email tool. Time to start looking for a new platform.

If you don’t have an email tool, start with Mailchimp. It’s free up to 2,000 contacts and it will let you run a/b tests. It’s by far the best tool to use if you have a small list or are just starting out. Plus, there are tons of integrations to get your data into other common online fundraising tools.

7. Validate Your Results and Document Your Learnings

You’re a/b tests don’t matter if no one learns from them. 

If you don’t document your results, you’ll never remember what you learned. And one day you’ll be sitting in a meeting where someone asks, “Why don’t we have a video on our donation page anymore?”

If you document your experiment, you can easily show that the video on your page was killing donations. If you don’t document your experiment, it’s just their word against yours.

Logging your experiments is super easy and totally free on WinstonKnows.com 

WinstonKnows a/b test tool Screenshot

It has never been easier to document your experiments. We built this slick tool called WinstonKnows.com that will give you your very own research library, allow you to log every experiment you run, and give you an infinite archive to keep track of everything you’re learning.

Plus, there’s a cool dashboard to show all your big wins. You can use that to help get yourself a little promotion when the time is right.

Winston Knows Dashboard and Library

But it gets even better…

You can also connect your Google Optimize account, Mailchimp, Hubspot, Unbounce, and other common testing tools so your a/b test results get pulled in automatically. It’s literally like magic.

When you’re all done logging you’re a/b test, WinstonKnows.com will give you a short little URL that you can use for step 8…

8. Share Your Results and Change the World

If what you learned from you’re a/b test never gets seen by anyone else besides yourself and your closest colleagues, how can you ever hope to see major growth?

If you work at a nonprofit, sharing these learnings can lead to entire organizational culture transformation. And organizational culture change can be one of the biggest factors leading to online fundraising growth.

If you’re a consultant that works with nonprofits, the best way to get more buy-in from those organizations is to share your learnings with them. And by doing so, you empower those nonprofits to apply those learnings in other areas in order to increase their impact.

No problem or challenge is ever solved by withholding data. So if you want to see generosity increase and the causes you care most about have a bigger impact, sharing your learnings is essential.

Need some new ideas to test in your online fundraising?

The Year-End Donation Page imageCheck out our free online courses covering donation pages, landing pages, email fundraising, year-end fundraising, donor acquisition, and more. You’ll find research driven and proven ideas to test in your fundraising in order to grow your revenue and impact.

Learn more and activate a free course at https://courses.nextafter.com

About the author:

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Kevin Peters

Kevin is a proud Fightin' Texas Aggie. Enough said.


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

5 Online Fundraising Habits to Stop in 2019

At the start of a new year, there’s a universal sense of resolve to look at our lives and consider what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. While it’s healthy to do this in our personal lives, it’s also essential to a healthy online fundraising program.

To help you hit the ground running with your online fundraising in 2019, I’ve outlined 5  online fundraising habits that you need to stop doing right now.

But a new year is also a time for new beginnings. So I’ve also included 5 online fundraising habits and strategies that you need start using this year if you haven’t already.

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits You Need to Stop 

1. Stop Using Heavily Designed Email Templates

Time and time again, our ongoing testing and research has shown that personal, humanized emails greatly outperform heavily designed email templates. People give to people, not email machines. So when an email looks like marketing that was sent to thousands of people, donors tend to ignore or delete it.

In experiment 7466, we saw a 19.7% increase in clicks by dropping the heavily designed email template:

How stripping out branding in an offer email affects clickthrough rate (Experiment #7466)

Control

Treatment #1

19.69% Increase to Clicks

2. Stop Using “Donate” Short-cut Buttons on Your Donation Pages

Not every donor visiting your donation page has actually decided to give. This seems like a generally understood idea, but most fundraisers create opportunities to short-cut donors right to the donation form.

The most common example of this is a page with a “Donate Now” button in the navigation that jumps the visitor right to the form. The problem here is that it lets the visitor bypass the reason why they should give, and decrease the likelihood of them actually donating.

In experiment 2107, we saw a 52.6% decrease in revenue when we used the short-cut button:

How creating a "shortcut" to the donation form affects conversion (Experiment #2107)

Control

Treatment #1

28.16% Decrease to Conversions

3. Stop Calling Your Donors “Friend”

The quickest way to let your donor know that you don’t actually know them is by starting your email with “Dear friend.” Nearly every email tool on the market today allows you to insert the recipients first name. And as it turns out, when we call our donors by name, our email performance improves.

In experiment 5707, we tested inserting the recipient’s first name and saw a 270% increase in clicks.

How first-name personalization affects email engagement (Experiment #5707)

Control

Treatment #1

270.07% Increase to Clicks

4. Stop Using Words That Every Other Organization Uses

If you were to go look at the donation pages of 10 different organizations, chances are that you would see several common phrases across all of them. Give hope. Stand with us. Join the fight.

Phrases like these are generic, and can apply to almost any cause. To improve donations, we need to communicate our message and the reason to donate in a way that is unique. The way that your organization solves a particular problem or fills a specific need is exclusive to you, and your copy should communicate this.

In experiment 5729, we saw a 134% increase in donations by using more exclusive value proposition copy:

How a radical redesign that reduces friction and increases the force of the value proposition affects donor conversion (Experiment #5729)

Control

Treatment #1

134.19% Increase to Conversions

5. Stop Using Donation Confirmation Pages

Once someone fills out your donation form and clicks the “Make my donation” button, that natural assumption is that they’ve completed their donation. Yet, many donation pages include a confirmation or verification page for a donor to review their gift before making it is final.

This extra step creates unnecessary confusion because most donors will click the “X” and assume their donation is complete – causing you to lose a donation without your donor ever knowing it.

In experiment 3712, we removed the verification page and saw a 175% increase in revenue:

How additional friction from a verification screen affects revenue (Experiment #3712)

Control

Treatment #1

175.62% Increase to Donations

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits and Strategies You Need to Start

1. Start Personalizing Your Emails

Personalization is more than just inserting a first name here and there. It’s about making the entire email feel personal to the recipient – as if you sat down and wrote an email specifically to them. This includes personal sender names, subject lines, and copy.

In experiment 4307, we saw a 137% increase in clicks by creating a more personal email:

How subject line personalization affects open rate (Experiment #4307)

Control

Treatment #1

137.19% Increase to Opens

2. Start Writing Emails Like a Human Being

It’s not always just the details of your email appeal that make a difference in donations. The tone of your email has a huge impact on the likelihood that someone will open, clicks, and respond. Use a tone that sounds like a human wrote it, rather than a brand or marketing machine.

In experiment 4171, we used a more personal tone and saw a 145% increase in donations:

How a personal tone affects donations in an email fundraising appeal (Experiment #4171)

Control

Treatment #1

145.5% Increase to Conversions

3. Start Writing More Copy for Your Donation Pages

Most fundraisers want to keep their donation pages short and sweet. Maybe this is because of the common notion that “people don’t read online.” Or maybe this is because some fundraisers just simply don’t know what to write.

Regardless of the reason why, testing says that using copy to thoroughly explain why someone should give to you will increase conversions and revenue.

In experiment 6623, we saw a perfect example of how more copy on a donation page increased donations by 150%:

How the addition of value proposition impacts donor conversion (Experiment #6623)

Control

Treatment #1

150.15% Increase to Conversions

4. Start Tracking Your Campaigns Properly

UTM MakerEvery time we start working with a new nonprofit partner, the first thing we do is look at all of the analytics and donor data to find where the greatest opportunities are. Yet, most organizations aren’t properly tracking their campaigns with consistency or accuracy.

Kevin Peters created this fancy little tool called UTM Maker that will make it super easy to track all of your campaigns back in to Google Analytics. Just enter your URL and a few pieces of info about your campaign, and it will generate a perfectly tracked link to make sure your analytics are clean.

5. Start Optimizing

Every learning in this entire blog post is a result of ongoing optimization. Every day, we’re testing new ideas and hypotheses across donation pages, email, advertising, articles, and more. And every new experiment leads to greater learnings and understandings of what works to raise more money online.

Make a commitment this year to start testing and optimizing your own online fundraising. And if you need help getting started, we’ve got a blog post that will walk through the steps of setting up your first experiment.

About the author:

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Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

4 Reasons Donors Don’t Give to You that You Can Fix with Better Copywriting

Published by Nathan Hill

4 Reasons Donors Don't Give to You that You Can Fix with Copywriting image
 
Amy Harrison pictureGenerating traffic is only half the battle. Amy Harrison of
Write with Influence shares how you can write persuasive marketing copy that will help you get a donor from “No” to “Yes, I’ll give!”

Good copywriting is essential to optimizing conversions on all of your digital marketing campaigns. So today, we’re bringing you an excerpt from Amy Harrison’s 2018 NIO Summit session on “Getting Past No.”

If you’d like, you can actually, watch the entire session in the video below.

And if you want to be there next time for more high-quality, field-tested wisdom like this to optimize your digital fundraising success, sign up for the next Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit!

 

Copywriting: The Marketing Amplifier

People don’t do things because it’s the right thing to do. And they don’t do things just because they’re told to.

You’ve got to persuade them — and copywriting is the language of persuasion.

The rest of this post will look at 4 reasons why your ideal donor often says “no” to donating that can be overcome with better copywriting.

Here we go…

Why is your ideal donor saying “No”?

When you sit down to write copy, you’re probably thinking, “Why should the donor give to my organization?”

But that’s not the right place to start. It’s better to ask, “Why are they not donating?”

This starting question makes you more inquisitive and more critical of your copy. It helps you to eliminate the barriers that stop your donors from giving.

Here are the four most common barriers donors have to giving to you.

They can’t see your offer.

The first reason donors don’t give is because they can’t see the offer clearly. It may sound crazy, but the truth is there are a lot of funny things we do that hide our offer from the donor.

Often we try to be too clever with our words, passionate in our tone, or too emotive in our message. Donors get lost in it and don’t see what you’re asking them to do.

Don’t try to be mysterious or clever in your copy. Tell your donor what’s going on in simple language.

Take this email experiment for example. In the control email subject line, we’re trying to arouse the donor’s curiosity.

Email Subject Line - Control

But in the second email line, we get a little more direct and tell the donor what’s inside the email.

Email Subject Line - Treatment

It’s about the best stuff we’ve read this week. There’s still mystery, but the donor now knows what kind of mystery it is.

The second email saw a 26% increase in traffic.

The Danger of Ambiguity

Another way organizations inadvertently hide their offer is by being ambiguous, or as Amy puts it, “easy oasy.”

“Easy oasy” is the feeling you get when you read fundraising copy and it’s as if the nonprofit really doesn’t have an opinion on whether or not the donor gives. They could donate, or they could go do something else. “I’m easy oasy.”

Easy Oasy Copywriting example

Whatever. Give if you like. Don’t give if you don’t like. Either way, we’re fine. We’re “easy oasy”!

But do you see what happened in this experiment when ambiguity was removed, and the call to action was clearly articulated?

There was a 78% increase in conversions over the “easy oasy” control. Don’t hide your offer in ambiguity.

They have beliefs that make them say “No.”

People use false beliefs all the time to put off doing something. False beliefs include…

“This is impossible. My gift won’t do anything.”

“There’s no real urgent need, so I’ll give later.”

That’s why you’ve got to use your copy to address those false beliefs and show them why they’re wrong.

This is demonstrated in the results of an experiment we conducted with a public policy group that was gathering signatures for a petition.

The objective of the landing page was to thank the petition signer and persuade them to top it all off with a donation to the cause.

Donation Page Headline Control

In the control, the offer is clear, but it doesn’t emphasize just how much the donor’s gift will mean for the cause.

The donor may very well be thinking, “Great, I signed a petition. But what good will this do?”

So in the treatment, we ramped up the idea of what an individual donation can do right now. Instead of a basic “Thank you for joining the fight” headline, the treatment said “Thank you! Your signature at a time like this is critical for three reasons…”

Donation Page Headline Treatment

The new donation page that emphasized how critical the donor’s participation is produced a 125.6% increase in revenue compared to the control.

So tackle the false beliefs your donor might have straight on –and remove them one by one.

They don’t think what you do is important enough.

When a donor hesitates to give because they don’t think your work is important enough, it’s usually because the copy does not articulate the impact of what you do well enough. There are a few levels of showing impact in your copy.

Here’s an example of an organization that provides food to families in areas where disaster has stuck. First, they can show what their organization can do with the gift. For example, a donation of $35 can provide enough food to sustain a hungry family for a month.

Second, there’s the impact level of what the family is able to do when this basic need is met. Having this need met means the family doesn’t have to split up to find food. They can be together, comfort each other, and ensure each other are safe.

And lastly, there’s the final level of impact that shows the ultimate outcome for this family. The donor is providing peace of mind, less stress, and one less difficulty to sort out as they figure out what’s next.

All of this, for $35. And that sounds a whole lot better than just buying some cheap groceries.

Your copy needs to remind donors of the impact their gift can make using examples of each level of impact.

This increases desire in your donor to give.

They don’t trust you.

We live in a broken world with many nonprofits that mishandle donor gifts or simply aren’t able to make a significant impact with the funds they’re given.

Understandably, many donors don’t blindly trust the claims of organizations or businesses for that matter.

To get around this barrier, write copy that shows how you’re different than all those other organizations without calling them out or criticizing them.

Identify potential frustrations your donors might have with other organizations (that shall remain nameless) and show them why they can trust you to be different. We call this exclusivity, and you can read more about it in our research study on nonprofit value proposition.

One frustration many donors have is that organizations can be impersonal and corporate-like.

So in the experiment below, we took a standard email appeal and stripped away all the corporate branding and imagery. You can see in the test email that without all the corporate brand elements, the email looks more personal, like it came from a friend.

Email Template Example

Friends don’t use logos when they send emails. They just type.

The more personal email saw an 80.3% increase in traffic by addressing a common donor frustration.

You don’t have to go head to head with “competitors” and explain why your organization is better. You just have to identify frustrations and then show how your organization is uniquely equipped to serve your cause well.

There’s so much more! But I can’t fit it all into a single blog post.

Every speaker session from the 2018 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit is available to you watch for free. These 16 speakers have tips and ideas related to search, analytics, data, copywriting, recurring giving, advertising, and much more.

About the author:

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Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.


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Gift Arrays: When to use them, and how to optimize them.

Published by Jon Powell

Gift Arrays

If there is one thing that is almost entirely unique to the world of nonprofit websites (compared to the for-profit companies I have assisted for the past 10 years), it is the part of the donation form we call the gift array.

This is also referred to as an ask array, an ask ladder, or suggested gift amounts. This assembling of giving options (or buttons, depending on the site) seems to be a common staple on just about everybody’s main online donation form.

In the for-profit world, we really only see this in buying gift cards. And though a gift is about to happen, the situation is different as it is expected that there will be some sort of product/service that comes with that. So here’s my question:

Has anyone really asked why we use gift arrays in the first place?

Why not just let donors tell us what they want to give? Chances are, we put them there because someone once said that they inspire people to be more generous, or to give when they wouldn’t have. And actually, that may well have been true for a given situation and time.

Does a gift array, and its presentation, really have any impact on generosity RIGHT NOW?  Is it OK that fundraisers default to using gift arrays? And is it OK that gift arrays start with a higher amount rather than a lower amount?

Why do many gift arrays go from high to low?

While working on a recent online fundraising research study, we noticed that a) organizations are all about using the classic gift array and b) a LOT of organizations like to start with HIGHER amounts first in the eye-path.

Here is an example (left to right):

website donation form

Or a mobile example (top to bottom):

Mobile donation form

Why would you start with a higher amount? What is the logic?

“Well, it’s going to encourage people to give more,” someone thought, “because higher amounts are presented first as their options…and by emphasizing giving more we will convince them to give more!”

Is that how we really think of our donors?

The real question we need to ask is this: what effect does the gift array’s presentation truly have on individuals who are contemplating a donation? Does it really affect them?

Obviously some people will not care and make their donations regardless. But if there is a large enough group of people that DO care, I wouldn’t want to lose them at this donation opportunity (and possibly forever) because of my array presentation.

Testing the Order of the Gift Array

We wanted clear answers, so we put it to the test.

One of our partners, CaringBridge, offers free personal, protected websites for people to easily share updates and receive support and encouragement from their community during a health journey. Here is what their gift array on most of their donation pages looks like:

The Control (original)

The control (original) uses a rising suggested amount approach, starting with $50 on the left (assuming visitors in this case naturally read left to right) and ending with $250 on the right. On mobile, it stacks on top of each other with the lower amount first.

The Treatment (test version)

donation gift array

For the treatment (or the test version), we switched the $50 and $250 options, so that people reading left to right would see the HIGHER option FIRST. And the same in mobile… the higher amount was stacked first.

The Results

So what was the result?

The treatment’s high-to-low emphasis approach achieved a whopping 15.7% DECREASE in donations, and an 11.3% DECREASE in Average Gift size, resulting in a total 25.2% statistically significant DECREASE in revenue. You can see the full results and write-up here.

By showing the larger amount first, many visitors were LESS likely to donate, and LESS likely to give in larger amounts.

And that was the ONLY change. Nothing else. But why?

Why does the gift array order affect donations?

“We have found that people give to not-for-profits not as faceless organizations, but humanize them as people…”  -Josh McQueen

It is possible that people see your gift array as more than just a gift options. They also see the way in which you present the array as a point of communication from you, much like how body language communicates in real life. If this is the case, then let’s examine what this high-to-low approach subtly communicates to someone:

  • Lower amounts are less acceptable.
  • “Sure, we’ll TAKE your donation, but we might not appear as happy about it, or, we really don’t prefer the lower amounts… that’s why they’re last… duh.”

This would explain the drop in completed gifts altogether. Some people (to the tune of 15.7%) probably felt that their small gift wouldn’t be appreciated, simply because it was at the bottom of the list. It would be no different if the gift array started at $500 and moved its way up the ladder to $5,000.

“Anything less than $500 isn’t significant,” the array says. Even though any gift is better than zero, that is not communicated here. When the gift array is ordered from high to low, the lower gifts are devalued psychologically.

But wait… shouldn’t the average gift amount have at least gone up??? After all, we are emphasizing larger gifts, so even if we lose some donations, the larger gifts should have made up for it. That’s the fundraiser’s mindset, not the donor’s. To that stereotypical fundraiser, it’s money-ball, statistics, number crunching… winning the game. To the actual person giving the gift, it’s something entirely different.

Gift arrays from the donor’s perspective

Let’s think about the donor that wants to give $50.

When the array is presented high to low, a $50 donation ALREADY looks bad. If the donor upgrades to $60 or $75, what difference does that make?

According to the high-to-low gift array, the organization doesn’t really notice. They notice the big gifts, so there is no additional benefit to the donor to give a little more because it seems like the organization doesn’t want it or care.

What about the low-to-high gift array?

So back to the $50 giver. The first option they see is the lowest – $50. And they are thinking… “You know, I really appreciate this organization so much… how about I give a little more?” And all the sudden that increase in giving becomes an UPGRADE.

Now the donor feels like their slight donation increase just morphed into a mid-tier gift, instead of being an “unappreciated low tier gift.” The gift rose above what appears to be what the organization deems as desirable. (We often interpret the first option as what is considered desirable and acceptable, similar to how we interpret a body that leans into a conversation as interested).

The big takeaway

“Users [of digital experiences] will infer a psychology whether or not the designers intended this. For this reason, I believe designers must embed appropriate psychological cues.”  -Dr. B.J. Fogg

Your donation page carries a conversation with the person whether you like it or not. People read into this stuff!

It is our responsibility to make sure our digital experiences communicate how we truly feel about our donors: deep appreciation. And if we truly don’t want to accept someone’s lower donation amount and only want donors willing to give a minimum large amount, then we get what we deserve.

This was originally published on npENGAGE and can be found here.

About the author:

Jon Powell

Jon Powell

As Senior Director of Research and Education, Jon Powell is wholly focused on taking everything the NextAfter team is learning and transforming it into insightful, practical and immediately actionable advice for marketers and fundraisers, regardless of their organization size. Jon knows firsthand the challenges marketers face: he has experience building an entire digital marketing department from scratch as Director of Digital Marketing at B+B SmartWorx and has more than eight years of hands-on marketing optimization experience gained through managing hundreds of A/B and multivariate tests at the MECLABS Institute. In addition, Jon has already conducted multiple in-depth meta-analyses of the thousands of case studies that are held in the research library of MECLABS Institute, one of the largest independent databases of experiments for marketing and sales in the world.


All the year-end online fundraising resources — webinars, eBooks and more — in one place.Access the Year-End Resources »

10 Year-End Fundraising Ideas to Actually Grow Your Revenue

Published by Nathan Hill

10 Year-End Fundraising Ideas to Grow Revenue - image
Almost every fundraiser or marketer I’ve talked to has a similar story about year-end fundraising: they spend hours and hours coming up with new ideas and new strategies, only to end up doing the same thing they did the year before.

Doing the same thing over and over again will never help you grow your year-end fundraising revenue. You have to try something new.

Here are 10 simple year-end fundraising ideas that you can easily apply to your campaign this year to help grow results – all based on data and results from over 2000 online fundraising experiments.

Idea #1 – Don’t be afraid to write a long year-end fundraising email (or a really, really long email).

One of the most common questions about email fundraising is, “How long should my emails be?” Here’s the short answer:

“Your emails should be as long as it takes to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization.”

The hard part is understanding exactly how much information is needed for your donor to trust that investing their money with your organization is the right decision.

For example, in this experiment, we started with a really, really long email appeal. We thought that we could condense the same information down into an email appeal that was half the size (maybe even shorter).

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Write a longer email

The results? The shortened email got more clicks, but it saw a 57% decrease in donations. This contradicts every best practice out there.

Here’s the main takeaway: It often takes much more copy than you think to thoroughly explain why someone should give to your organization. Don’t be afraid to write long emails for your year-end fundraising appeals.

Idea #2 – Ask donors for a phone number, and send a thank-you voicemail afterwards.

Generally speaking, adding more fields to your donation form is a bad idea – especially if you’re asking for excessive or too personal of information.

But if you don’t ask for a phone number, you can make phone calls or send voicemails to cultivate your donors. And according to a study from GuideStar, donors may give up to 42% more after 14 months if they receive a thank you call from a board member (more on how to make this super easy and scalable in a second).

How do you ask for phone number without asking for too much information? Make your phone number field optional.

According to our testing, using an optional phone number field doesn’t affect donations. But requiring a phone number can decrease donations by 42.6%.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Ask for an optional phone number

Once you have the phone number, you need to be able to make some thank you calls. But depending on the size of your organization, that may seem impossible.

The good news – there are services popping up left and right that will let you send voicemails in bulk to your donors without having to even ring their phone. Obviously it’s better if you can make a personal phone call, but here are some tools to make it easier:

Idea #3 – Use content as a bridge to ask for a donation; especially for new donors.

It’s tempting to flip all of your communication channels to ask directly for donations during year-end fundraising. But not everyone is going to be ready to give, especially those that have never donated before.

Here’s what I’d recommend…

If you have any acquisition campaigns (free downloads, online courses, email sign-ups, quizzes, petitions, etc), keep them running. But try using what we call an instant donation page as your confirmation page.

In short, the instant donation page becomes your confirmation page after someone submits a form. This page briefly thanks them for downloading your ebook, opting in to your email series, or whatever the offer was. But it then pivots into a donation ask, making an appeal related to the original acquisition offer.

The key here is to make sure your donation form is on this page – don’t make people have click again to get there.

Here’s an experiment that illustrates the model, and shows its effectiveness:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use an instant donation page

The direct donation ask resulted in zero donations. The content offer to instant donation page resulted in a 209% increase in clicks, and a 1.18% donation conversion rate.

Want to learn more about how to use the instant donation page? You can read a quick blog post about it here. You can download a free template here. Or you can take the free online course (it’s covered in session 7).

Idea #4 – Don’t use videos to make your year-end fundraising appeal; use them to prime donors for your appeal.

People get angry when they hear this, but videos are not the most effective way to ask for a donation. At least not directly. Here’s an example:

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Don't use a video on your donation page

In this case, replacing the video with text that explained the same message led to a 560% increase in donations.

Let me say that again…Removing the video led to a 560% increase in donations!

If you think this is just a one-off example, check out these other experiments showing the same type of result:

If you want to (or have to) use a video in your year-end fundraising, use it as a primer to show your potential donors the value of your organization before you make your appeal like this:

  1. Send it in an email towards the start of your campaign without any sort of donation ask.
  2. Then send a direct ask donation appeal without a video within 2 weeks. 

Idea #5 – Ask donors to upgrade to a recurring donation when they click to submit their gift.

Recurring donors can be up to 4x more valuable than a one-time donor. And with year-end fundraising being the biggest giving season of the year, increasing the rate that donors become recurring donors could make an enormous impact on revenue.

One way we’ve found to help boost recurring giving numbers is to use a pop-up prompt on your one-time donation form. It works like this:

  1. Donors come to your donation page.
  2. They put in all their info for a one-time gift.
  3. They click the button to submit the donation form.
  4. A pop-up appears that asks the donor to upgrade their gift to recurring.

We tested this model and saw a 64% increase in recurring donations – all without affecting the overall donation conversion rate. In other words, we had the same total number of donors, but a larger percentage were recurring donors.

Year-End Fundraising Ideas - Use a recurring gift pop-up prompt

#6. Use a match to incentivize donors to give now.

Your value proposition is the primary way to help a donor know why they should give to you. But we also want to make sure donors know why they should give to you now instead of later.

One way you can incentivize someone to give now is by using a matching challenge. Now, I know this takes some additional work to get a board member or a know major donor on board, but letting a donor know their gift can be matched can go a long way towards increasing donations.

Just look at the experiment below.

Year-end Fundraising Idea - Matching Gift image

In this experiment, this organization tested using a matching opportunity in their email. The copy spent a little more time emphasizing the financial need, and then offered the match as a means of helping meet that need.

This organization saw a 50% increase in donations by using a match in their email copy.

Consider how you can use a match during your year-end fundraising campaign – both in your year-end emails and on your donation page.

#7. Use a countdown clock to convey urgency in your year-end fundraising.

Another tool we have to convey urgency is a countdown clock. Now, there is some research to suggest that introducing a countdown clock too early in your campaign doesn’t make much of a difference.

But using a countdown clock in the last week of your year-end fundraising campaign could increase donations.

In this experiment, the original donation page had no countdown clock. In the treatment, this organization added a countdown clock at the very top of the page.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Countdown Clock image

It’s clear what kind of impact something as simple as a countdown clock can have. In this case, the countdown clock led to a 61% increase in donations.

Now if you’re worried about how to actually implement this, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. There’s a really simple tool called MotionMailApp.com can that has come in clutch for us on many occasions.

Just generate your clock, copy the embed code, and then place it either in your email or on your year-end donation page.

#8. Be careful of using a progress bar and a countdown clock together.

Progress bars are another great tool to use to convey a sense of urgency, as well as tap into the “bandwagon effect.” But using a progress bar and a countdown clock together could have an unintended effect.

In the experiment below, this organization placed a progress bar and countdown clock together at the top of their donation page.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Progress Bars and Countdowns image

Using progress bar and countdown clock together actually led to a 29% decrease in donations.

One reason this might be is that the progress bar and clock were implemented too early in the year-end fundraising campaign.

It’s possible that the countdown in tandem with the minimal progress towards the goal actually made people think, “Well, my gift is never going to help that meet the goal in that short of time.”

As a result, this combination of tactics may have demotivated people to give.

#9. Visually emphasize your desired gift amount.

Social proof can be a very strong factor in influencing your donors to give. And one simple way to utilize social proof on your year-end donation page is emphasizing a “most popular” donation option.

One organization put this strategy to the test with a very simple design. They took the default gift option on their gift array put text above it saying “most popular”.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Social Proof image

Emphasizing the desired gift amount led to a 23% increase in revenue per visitor, and it actually increased mobile conversion by 44%.

*Note: Make sure that you emphasize a gift amount that is slightly higher than your average gift size. If you emphasize a lower amount, you may actually drive down your average gift size.

#10. Make sure your donors know their gift is secure.

The last tip I’ll leave you with today is this… make sure you donors know their gift is secure.

In all likelihood, you already have a secure donation page. But just having a secure donation page doesn’t mean your donors know and feel that their information is secure.

One way to emphasize that your donors information is secure is to visually set apart their most sensitive information (i.e. credit card fields).

In the experiment below (and many others like it), this organization wrapped their credit card fields in a little gray box. They even placed a padlock icon near the fields to communicate that it was safe to provide the credit card details.

Year-End Fundraising Idea - Security image

Visually emphasizing that the donation was secure led to a 14.4% increase in donations.

Take note…these design changes didn’t make the page any more secure. They simply reminded the donor know that it was safe to provide their sensitive data.

Need more year-end fundraising ideas?

Cut Through the Clutter With Your Year-End Fundraising 2019 - book imageWe have a whole eBook called Cut Through the Clutter that is devoted to year-end fundraising. You’ll find 5 year-end fundraising insights from an analysis of 7000+ year-end emails, and 10 tested and proven ideas to help your year-end fundraising cut through the noise of the year-end season.

Get your free copy of Cut Through the Clutter here.

Have other ideas you’d like to share? Just drop them in the comments below.

Planning a year-end fundraising campaign can be a huge stressor – in particularly if you’re caught in a rut of running the same campaigns over and over again, hoping it brings in as many donations as last year (or more).

That’s why we’ve put all of our data-driven and research-backed year-end fundraising resources together in one place for you to use this season as you create your campaign.

About the author:

Avatar

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.