Let’s Go Fishing… 5 Ways to Hook an Online Donor

Online donors are slippery little fish. One misstep on your part, and they slide right off the hook.

Online donors, or donors who have only interacted with your organization electronically, have very specific needs.

If you aren’t aware of those needs, and don’t immediately meet them, you can forget their donation, and they’ll join the ranks of countless others who show up, show an interest, and leave without taking any action.

An online donor is a bit of a white whale… the donor that sweeps in out of the blue to contribute to your great organization.

You’ve never sent them any marketing material, no fundraising letters landed in their mailbox, they never signed up for your newsletter, met you at a job fair, local event, festival, or rally, you didn’t rent their name from another organization…

They found you. A beautiful thing.

How do you hook a white whale?

Well… it takes some thoughtful execution of a few, very simple ideas.

A number of years ago, when surfing the internet was more fluid (and, arguably, more enjoyable) donors might have stumbled upon your website from a natural thread of curiosity.

Now, most internet trawlers get to a website like yours from a social network… not a search engine.

Sure, we all still use search engines, perhaps now more than ever.

It’s the answer to friendly disputes (why trust our friends when we could Google it and find out who’s right instantly), the location of the closest bathroom (because we don’t talk to strangers anymore, that’s dangerous), the answer to finding the perfect couch (because why would you shop at an actual store when you could do it from your own, replaceable couch at home), or who won the latest debate (because, c’mon…).

But, if someone is interested in donating to an environmental organization, it’s likely they already have their favorites.

If by any chance, they don’t, it’s really not likely that someone is simply going to wake up and put on the top of their To-Do list for the day… “Find environmental organization to donate to.”

Not happening.

What’s more likely to happen is that they see your name pop up on their social media feeds.

After all, like-minded people tend to congregate. I have friends who are passionate advocates of a small handful of causes, and when they like, retweet, repost, or comment on something… occasionally it shows up in my feed.

I might find it interesting. If I have nothing else going on, I might click on it myself, and it might…

Take me to your website.

The fish are biting…

So now, a new, very specialized person has arrived at the end of your line.

What does such a person want to see? And, more importantly… how can you make sure they bite? hooked

The page they’ve arrived on is (hopefully) the continuation of the story or anecdote they just partially read on social media.

After they (hopefully) finish reading it, their eye might wander.

Here’s your chance…You only have a few seconds to get more of their attention before they click away to look for cat videos.

What do they need to see?

  1. A Donate button. Above the fold. It’s that simple. Really.
  2. Your success. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but it’s mission critical. No one is going to back you if you can’t prove that you are, in fact, already making a difference in the world.
  3. A sense of urgency. This is necessary every single time we take out our wallets. Whether it’s the approaching holiday season, the fact that the only thing in the pantry is moldy bread, or the rent is due… we, as a human race, only pay up when we have to. Make us feel like we have to. This is one of those reasons why donors give in droves in a crisis – it’s urgent. If your donation request isn’t breaking news… your challenge is to make us feel like it is.
  4. A personal connection. This could be something concrete, like your donor was once poisoned by toxic chemicals too, or they also know what it’s like to go hungry. Or, it could be something more abstract, made personal by a great storyteller. It could also be the offer of something they  would bring into their life, like free trees or a super new tote bag.
  5. Feel they’re making a difference. This is the one that sets donors apart from consumers. Donors want to feel like their money is actually contributing to world peace… we want proof that our contribution will make something, somewhere, better for someone or something.

Don’t let them swim away

The truth is, today, online donors have shorter attention spans than ever. If your online presence isn’t up to snuff, we’ll click away faster than you can say, “Donate now!”

swim away.jpg
See ya.

And don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t important. Online fundraising is growing by 10-20% a year. Your online presence is more than just a storefront for your organization. It’s the beginning of a relationship.

You simply can’t wing it. Our expectations as donors have outpaced your wish to return to simpler times.

Social media is not a risk, nor is it a waste of either staff time or freelance contracts. Social media, and the connection to your website, and ultimately to your online donations, are a complicated, intricate relationship, and path that should be nurtured.

Above all, remember that behind every online interaction, no matter if they donate or simply press the Like button, is someone who was inspired.

Your challenge? Be inspiring.

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