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At the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization (NIO) Summit, we have the pleasure of hosting a variety of speakers from across the board of expertise. One of those speakers is Amy Harrison. Amy is a copywriter, content trainer and owner of Write With Influence: an online resource that helps business owners write better marketing content faster and easier. She is also the host (and many of the characters) of AmyTV: an online comedy sketch shows all about writing compelling business copy.

Amy is always a smash hit with our audiences and us, so it’s no secret we love having her at NIO. In this short clip from last year, she talks about how “people aren’t good at listening to good reason.” View the sneak peek below or you can view all last year’s sessions here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

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


Get access to interviews with multicultural marketing experts to see how you can improve your marketing to Hispanics.LEARN MORE

5 Hispanic Marketing Insights for Nonprofits

Published by Ivan Leon

5 Hispanic Marketing Insights for Nonprofits

Cinco de Mayo is just days away! To celebrate, I’ve prepared a spicy plate of data-driven Hispanic marketing and fundraising insights from marketing leaders in companies like Sprint, Nestle, Pepsico and Comcast to help you optimize your fundraising to Hispanic donors.

There’s a huge opportunity for nonprofits to connect with Hispanics and engage them in their missions.

I got to sit down and interview these industry leaders during the Culture Marketing Conference, the premier gathering of Hispanic strategists and creatives.

You can watch each full interview with these multicultural marketing leaders here »

According to these marketing leaders, there are big changes in marketing and fundraising right around the corner. The ethnic diversity in the United States of America increases every day.

And one ethnicity is taking the lead in terms of numbers – Hispanics.

That’s why in the interviews with these successful marketing leaders, we tapped into their wisdom and asked how their strategies and principles apply in the nonprofit sector.

Here are just five of the many recommendations they gave me for nonprofit leaders.

1. Hispanics are changing the face of American society.

It’s been a long time coming, but it is finally here.

Minority populations in America are shifting, and Hispanics are about to take the lead in sheer numbers.

According to the latest Census data, Hispanics will make up over half of U.S. population growth between 2016 and 2020 (and as much as 80% by 2040-2045).

On top of that, Hispanics have a younger median age and longer life expectancy. So as this demographic moves into its prime years of wage earning, it is set to reshape the U.S. market.

In terms of social and political causes, the Pew Research Center released a study earlier this year showing Hispanics will be the largest voting minority in the 2020 election.

The data is clear: Hispanics are and will be a growing force for social change in the U.S.

Vanessa Strain, VP of Multicultural Growth and Strategy at Nielsen, warns against putting this priority off to another time.

The nation’s Hispanic population is projected to double by 2050.

Simply looking at the demographic data, Vanessa urges nonprofits to invest now in multicultural marketing and fundraising while there is time to plan.

The Hispanic market is an expanding population who already values social and community causes.

Just consider how Hispanic buying behavior speaks to their concern for community causes:

  • 57% of U.S. Hispanics agree they are more likely to purchase from brands that support a cause they care about.
  • 43% expect the brands they buy to support social causes (over-indexing non-Hispanic whites by 26%).
  • 58% agree they are willing to pay more for a product that is environmentally safe.
57% of Hispanics are more likely to buy from brands that support a cause they care about.

No matter what experience your nonprofit may have had with Hispanic marketing or fundraising, this growing market cares about community and social causes.

Don’t miss the massive opportunity to get ahead of the curve!

2. Don’t translate. Communicate.

While speaking with José Velez-Silva, VP of Multicultural Marketing Communications at ComCast, he stressed that addressing multicultural audiences doesn’t mean sending the same blanket message to everyone.

Nonprofits should avoid translating their general marketing messages into Spanish.

Instead, they should listen to their Hispanic audience to see the world through their eyes and then craft messaging that will resonate with them… in whatever language makes sense for that particular campaign.

It’s counterintuitive. But your most effective messaging can be in Spanish or English.

Ricardo Aspiazu, Director of Brand Marketing at Verizon, put it this way: “It is less about language and more about culture.”

Today, second and third generation Hispanics live in the US, making up more and more of the market. And they’re bilingual.

In order to reach Hispanics, nonprofits must now engage with culture, not just language.

Marketers have endless options for tuning in to Hispanics’ rich and vibrant culture.

One size does NOT fit all.

Each demographic needs to be engaged on its own terms, while at the same time supporting a unified nonprofit brand.

3. Digital marketing is a MUST.

Although digital marketing has many advantages for reaching all kinds of demographics, Hispanics tend to be overrepresented in digital marketing channel data, especially social media.

In their studies, Nielsen found that “35% agree that they are among the first of their friends and colleagues to try new technology products (over-indexing against non-Hispanic Whites by 36%).”

35% of Hispanics are among the first of their friends and colleagues to try new technology.

That means your Hispanic donor or audience is more likely to try out and own new gadgets and technologies than non-Hispanic whites.

An industry leader in youth Latino entertainment and television, David Chitel is even more enthusiastic about digital marketing to Hispanics saying, “Digital is the great equalizer for Latinos.”

“…digital has special relevance for Hispanics at different levels of acculturation. With the right talent or partners, you could release Spanish language content on any of those platforms. With digital, you have access to all kinds of Latinos, including many bilingual, bicultural millennials. Hispanics with all kinds of desires and passion points are waiting for you to speak to them.”

– David Chitel

Not only do Hispanics consume digital content at higher rates than other ethnicities, they also engage on these digital platforms.

In my interview with Meghann Elrhoul, Head of Global Research for Twitter, she told the story of how Hispanics changed Netflix’s programming decision to cancel the popular show, One Day at a Time.

This show follows the life of a Cuban-American family, and Hispanics loved it.

But when Netflix pulled the show – cast, crew, and fans of the rebooted sitcom took to Twitter, demanding a third season.

And Netflix listened. On March 26, the series was renewed.

To reach out to your Hispanic donors, you’ve got to meet them where they’re at, online.

4. Hispanics are generous.

You might have heard before that Hispanics don’t give.

This myth has been around for some time, claiming that Hispanics either don’t have the means to give, or that philanthropy isn’t as valued in their culture

Multicultural marketing leader Jose Villa says differently.

“Hispanics are a huge opportunity for organizations that depend on donors.”

– Jose Villa

So why the discrepancy in the amount that Hispanics, as a whole, give to charity?

Villa explains in our interview that for centuries, the life of the average Hispanic “centered on the church – and that’s where they’ve directed their giving.”

But now as Hispanics continue to immigrate to the United States, they are growing accustomed to the American society where “the church is a less dominant cultural force. And the alternatives for giving are endless…”

Last year, Telemundo and Univision raised $20 million in 30 hours for victims of Hurricane Maria and the Mexico City earthquake, out of a primarily Spanish-speaking audience!

One of my favorite examples is how St. Jude Children’s Hospital set a record raising $4.6 million in a campaign with Spanish-language channel Univision.

This is a big opportunity for nonprofits like yours to become the charity they give to.

5. Collaboration is critical for Hispanic marketing success.

The idea of working with a marketing agency or fundraising firm isn’t a new one. You’re probably already working with a general marketing agency right now.

Marketing is a specialized field, and it’s a lot cheaper in the long run to hire an agency than to hire a large team in-house.

However, long-time multicultural marketing veteran Aldo Quevedo warns against leaving your Hispanic marketing up to the generalists.

“If your nonprofit recognizes the need for Hispanic marketing, that objective will probably butt heads at some point with general market goals. Plenty of organizations end up working with both a Hispanic marketing agency and a general market agency. This may seem complicated, but successful collaboration is a game-changer.”

– Aldo Quevedo, Principal and Creative Director, Richards/Lerma

Aldo’s not the only one who thinks partnership is essential.

Alberto Lorente, Sprint’s multicultural marketing director, attributes much of Sprint’s success in Hispanic marketing to their Hispanic marketing agency partners.

In 2017, about 34 percent of Sprint’s new customers were Hispanics, — and at the time, they only composed 18 percent of the U.S. population!

34% of Sprint's new customers in 2017 were Hispanic.

Sprint sells more in the Hispanic segment than their competitors, Verizon or AT&T. That’s incredible.

Their success is no coincidence.

Bonus: Commitment is key.

The success of the marketing leaders I interviewed is linked to their commitment to reaching out to the growing Hispanic market.

I’m confident that with the same commitment, your nonprofit can experience the same success in optimizing your fundraising by connecting with the heart of Hispanics.

And if you want to glean even more insights into how your organization can develop relationships with Hispanic donors, you can get all the interviews in full!

Watch the Interviews with Multicultural Marketing Experts

Get free access to each full-length interview with key multi-cultural marketing leaders to see how you can start reaching this key demographic.

About the author:

Ivan Leon

Ivan Leon

Ivan – the founder of Kerux Group – is an accomplished communications strategist, specializing in the Hispanic market. With more than 10 years of experience as a publicist, television producer, and marketing executive, he is passionate about offering solutions that overcome cultural barriers and build an authentic customer experience.


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Establishing an Award-Winning Campaign

Published by Allan Torres

Soncee Partida is the Director of Development at Maranatha Christian Schools and in this episode of Optimization Insider, she sits down with Nathan Hill (NextAfter) and speaks about her award-winning campaign: “Finish-the-Fields.”

Join them as they take a look at what the campaign consisted of, how it performed, and how “teamwork makes the dream work.”

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out all of the NIO Summit sessions for free.

About the author:

Allan Torres

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


Register now for The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages Webinar sponsored by Raise DonorsLearn More »

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 1,533 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:

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


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Conversing with Donors and Listening to the Data

Published by Allan Torres

Gina Gallutia is the Manager of Direct Response at Hillsdale College and decided to flip the script on Tim Kachuriak Chief Innovation and Optimization officer at NextAfter in this episode of Optimization Insider, filmed at the 2018 NIO Summit.

Tim and Gina discuss listening to the donors, engaging them in conversations, and asking the right questions while listening to the data. They also take a look at alternatives to a basic marketing piece and where the value of that comes into play.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out all of the NIO Summit sessions for free.

About the author:

Allan Torres

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


Register now for The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages Webinar sponsored by Raise DonorsLearn More »

Search Trends, Key Words, and more with Google’s Jamie Blomquist

Published by Allan Torres

Jamie Blomquist is an Agency Lead at Google Marketing Solutions who joined us the 2018 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit to discuss how you can get more people visiting your site and engaging with the content you are creating as well as navigating the plethora of nonprofits and organizations out there for people to decide who to support.

Jamie also talks about how at Google they dissected search trends comparing branded and nonbranded key terms and explains why that is important for nonprofit fundraisers to know and understand.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out her entire NIO Summit session for free.

About the author:

Allan Torres

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


Register now for The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages Webinar sponsored by Raise DonorsLearn More »

Data Science and Technology for Nonprofits with Steve MacLaughlin

Published by Nathan Hill

Not all of your data is important. So how do you determine what’s helpful, what’s not, and make decisions with the right data?

Steve MacLaughlin has been analyzing data and helping nonprofits make data-driven decisions for many years, and shares some of his insights in an interview on the Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit live stream. He also discusses how we should view new and emerging technology in relation to fundraising and nonprofit marketing.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out his entire NIO Summit session for free.

About the author:

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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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:

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.


Register now for The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages Webinar sponsored by Raise DonorsLearn More »

Is your online fundraising turning away donors?

Published by Mike Tobias

Mystery Donor Study blog image

If you want to find out what really works in online fundraising, there’s only one expert whose opinion really matters: your donor.

Experts suffer from something called the curse of knowledge. They literally know too much to be able to see the issues facing a novice. And when it comes to online fundraising, this curse is costing you donors and dollars.

The problem we face as marketers and business leaders is the more we work on the business side of things, the further we get from our donor’s perspective. As we add employees and expertise inside the organization, our level of sophistication increases. Greater sophistication is good, but sophistication can cause our empathy to decrease, which can be counterproductive.

I’m a huge fan of the television show Undercover Boss. If you haven’t seen it or heard of it before, it’s a reality television show that deals with this very topic. High-level corporate execs leave the comfort of their offices and secretly take low-level jobs within their companies to find out how things really work and what their employees truly think of them.

This Emmy-winning reality series utilizes hidden cameras to provide an authentic view of executives’ journeys as they are immersed in the day-to-day operations of their organizations. In the process of this undercover mission, they learn of the perceptions about their companies, the spirit of their work forces and — maybe — something about themselves as well.

The Undercover Donor

What would happen if you created an Undercover Donor scenario so you could experience what your donor experiences when they give to you?

The Online Fundraising ScorecardWe asked ourselves this for the first time about 5 years ago. And this question was the catalyst for our very first Mystery Donor Study called The Online Fundraising Scorecard.

In this mystery donor study, we signed up for email lists of top nonprofits, tracking every step along the way. Then, watching our inbox closely, we gave a donation at the first moment we were prompted. Again, we tracked every click, every form field, and every line of copy.

This first study helped uncover the basis for much of our original online fundraising testing and experimentation, now numbering 1,533 experiments – all openly published in our online fundraising research library.

But all this research is worthless if it’s done in isolation or kept in a box. It’s only effective if you can apply it to your own fundraising program.

So, how do you turn on the hidden cameras, put on the disguise, and run your own Undercover Donor study?

8 Steps to Running Your Own Mystery Donor Study

There are 8 things that need to happen in order for you to become a mystery donor and get the real, undercover look at what your donor experiences.

  1. Make up a name, and create a new email address. Take on your role as a mystery donor – unknown to the organization. A cold prospect that has an affinity for your cause.
  2. Ask questions. Why should you donate to this organization rather than another organization doing similar work?
  3. Engage on all communications channels – website, contact forms, phone numbers, social media and find out how your organization responds.
  4. Make a donation online – click the buttons, fill out the forms, feel the friction, the confusion, the number of steps, the micro decisions and document every step along the way.
  5. Discover the gaps between what you think you’re telling donors and what they are really
  6. Measure your findings against the benchmark reports we’ve created.
  7. Determine which gaps are creating the biggest area of improvement.
  8. Put together an action plan to work on the easiest things that will make the biggest impact first so your most effectively using the resources you do have.

Step 1 – Create a new online persona

Create an online persona – name, address, phone number, and email that nobody has ever heard of before.

Step 2 – Search for relevant keywords

Google search the keywords that represent what your organization does, not your name but your end result. Examples could be something like “water wells”, “international disaster relief”, “child literacy”, “forest protection”, etc. Does your organization show up in relevant search results?

Step 3 – Visit your website

Visit your organization’s website using an Incognito Window. What’s the first thing you see? Remember you’re a donor. Fill out the contact form. Give your new name and email address, asking “I’m thinking of donating, but why should I give to [Organization] rather than some other organization, or not at all?

What responses do you receive?

Call the organization, and ask the same question. Then go to their Facebook page and ask the same question through Messenger. Record all the responses so that your team can hear the actual words used.

Step 4 – Donate

Decide to donate. Was it an email that lead you to this decision? Where do you go to donate? What questions do you still have? What specific information are you having to give?

Is the information asked for really needed (remember to think like a donor, not a fundraiser)? Screen capture and record every step of the donation process.

Step 5 – Review your donation process

Review everything with respect to what you believe should be happening. Discover the gaps between what you thought you were saying and what people are really saying. Listen for the critical elements – is it clear? Is it credible? Is it compelling? Is it unique to you?

Step 6 – Measure and benchmark

Measure and rate your organizations communications against the Value Proposition Index report. Which areas need the most work? Which channels are communicating well, and which channels are falling short?

Step 7 – Review your key fundraising metrics

There are 3 key metrics that influence your online revenue and indicate the overall health of your online fundraising: web traffic, donation conversion rate, and average gift.

Take these 3 metrics, and plug them into this free online fundraising benchmark tool to see what areas are strong, and what areas have opportunity for growth.

Are you lacking traffic to your pages? Do you need to work on conversion? Do you need to work more on increasing your average gift?

Step 8 – Make a Plan

What’s going to make the biggest difference in the next 3 months that you can tackle first? Of all the things you should be working on where do you start? The best place to start are the areas that are easy to fix and are high-impact.

Create an action plan for your team to execute so they can stop guessing and start fixing those things that will have the greatest impact on gaining donors and dollars.

Great. What’s the easiest way to get started?

Mystery Donor Study Checklist

The first thing I would do is download the mystery donor study checklist. This checklist will be a guide, outlining each step you need to take to get a full understanding of how your donor sees your online fundraising.

From there, you can start conducting your own study, developing your own action plan, and optimizing your program.

You can download the free mystery donor checklist using the form below.


About the author:

Mike Tobias

Mike Tobias

As Director of Strategic Partnerships, Mike looks for ways to serve our community of non-profit organizations in an effort to help them raise more money and acquire more donors. Mike works with clients and strategic partners to develop and implement programs that maximize donor giving.


Register now for The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages Webinar sponsored by Raise DonorsLearn More »

Utilizing Your Donors to Tell Your Story with Lee MJ Elias

Published by Nathan Hill

Lee MJ Elias is a hockey coach, an entrepreneur, an author, and was the closing key note speaker at the 2018 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit. And in this special Optimization Insider episode, Lee shares some insights on how we should be utilizing our donors to tell your story.

He also spends some time talking about what he has learned about how to build a culture of trust on any kind of team, whether that’s a hockey team or a nonprofit fundraising team.

Watch the full episode below. Or, you can check out his entire NIO Summit session for free.

About the author:

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.