Five ways to make the most of online giving

From knowing your audience to ensuring your website is smartphone-friendly, John Simcock offers his advice on charity fundraising online

John Simcock
John Simcock

At the end of last year the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for the Philippines Typhoon raised £60m in just two weeks. It was another example of how online donations are transforming the way charities raise money and the speed which they can attract funds. The performance of charity websites is pivotal to the success of these fundraising campaigns, so what should charities be thinking about in order to maximise online fundraising? Here are five lessons we have learnt from working with charities on their IT services:

Get the audience right Outside of mass appeals, charities have to work hard to make the case for people to donate. The first job for your website to deliver the donations you need is to work who you want to donate and why. Work up a detailed picture of the demographic you are targeting, their online behaviour and what you need to do in order to get them to donate. This insight is critical to the structure, design and build of your website.

Focus on the user journey This used to be a question of thinking about the journey from search engine to homepage to donation. Social media has changed all of that. Now people can end up on a donation page for your charity through any number and combination of social media channels. This makes it more important to work out what those channels are, who your donors are, how they got there and what you can do to make the journey from search to donation as straightforward as possible to maximise donations. And don’t forget that not everyone uses paypal, mobiles or text messages. You still need to let people donate by post or phone.

Think about device compatibility By the time DEC had raised £65m last year, £6m of that figure had come from tablets and smartphones. But when you think that more than half of people give up when they are trying to donate via mobile, charities face a huge potential loss of donations. Your website has to be able to give your potential donors the experience they need to donate if you don’t want to lose out.

Make a connection The prime purpose of a charity website which wants to maximise donations should be to make a personal connection with potential donors. This means cutting down on the corporate clutter which detracts from the messages which will appeal to people. Content which best supports donations will talk about the people you help and why the donation will make a difference.

Consistent experience Digital sprawl is an issue for every organisation online. But for charities, a sprawl of mico-sites, campaign sites with different design, navigation and messages will turn potential donors away. It is critical for you to help these people navigate the site and find questions to the answers they need without getting lost. Slimming down your digital footprint, conforming to design norms and providing consistency to the online experience is critical to maximising donations.

John Simcock is director of charity and third sector at Eduserv, a not-for-profit provider of IT services.

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