Neil Pauksztello: How to turn first-time visitors into long-term donors

The head of charities at the technology company Ve explains how charities can make the giving experience seamless

Neil Pauksztello
Neil Pauksztello

In the late 1960s, a psychologist called Walter Mischel conducted what later became known as the Stanford marshmallow experiment, a study on delayed gratification. Small children were asked to have one marshmallow now, or wait for a little while and have two later. Instant reward, or double the payoff for a bit of time investment?

For-profit businesses are busy perfecting the quick sell, playing to the public’s tendency for instant gratification with next-day delivery, click and collect and real-time delivery tracking. While this works for businesses, charities cannot be so focused on the short-term: they must concentrate on building one-time givers into long-term donors.

How is this achieved? Here are some techniques to help your charity abandon the short-term, one-off or lapsed giver, and to focus on the long-term regular donation.

Describe your donation properly

No one wants another monthly expense to add to their budget, yet if you’re to secure a long-term donor this is what they’ve got to sign up to. Try alternative ways of describing the financial commitment; test which method works best and roll that out across all your marketing communications.

A donation of £10 a month equates to 30p a day or just over £2 a week – these sums are much easier to digest and can easily be compared to everyday expenses such as a morning coffee or a chocolate bar.

Provide a range of donation options 

Today’s consumer is used to having lots of options for how to pay for and receive their new purchases. Visitors coming to your site have been spoilt for choice by the private sector and, as a charity, you need to understand this to build a site people will be happy returning to.

You need to give your potential donor control. Allow the donor to pay with their preferred method, provide a range of donation amounts and make the process as smooth as possible. Third sector organisations don’t have extras to throw at visitors such as free shipping or discounts, so they must pay extra attention to their existing donation channels, ensure the donation journey is seamless throughout and make sure there are as few points of friction as possible.

Remember to thank your donors

recent study in the US by the online marketing agency Charity Dynamics and the not-for-profit technology network NTEN revealed that a staggering 21 per cent of first-time donors were not thanked for their support. It seems strange that a sizeable minority of charities are ignoring something that makes so much sense. Show gratitude and build trust right from the off and build the foundations of a relationship with your new donor. 

Confirmation page

While a thank-you email is sufficient for a first-time donor, a post-donation confirmation page is even better. As the transaction has already taken place, you can then focus all your energies on this page, which should make your donor feel like a valued contributor to their cause of choice. As well as demonstrating your gratitude, consider including information about how their donation will be used, links to news on your ongoing projects and social media "share-now" buttons so your new donor can show off what she or he has done and committed to.

Offer your donors flexibility, a flawless online experience and express gratitude. Charities that are able to execute their plans according to these principles will be well positioned to turn visitors into long-term donors, not just one-off givers.

For more tips on charity marketing, read the Ve blog or follow us on Twitter

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