6 easy ways to turn someone into a donor

If only your work was so inspiring, so important, that someone would come upon your website or your mission statement and decide to donate on the spot.

Sorry. That unicorn is fictional.

These days, donors require a courtship. They expect you to pull your weight in what genuinely amounts to a relationship.

Think that sounds nice, but not within your budget?

Here’s the reality check: Most nonprofits struggle to keep even 1 out of every 5 newly acquired donors.

That reality is harsh. Because there’s no celebrating that first donation. Sure, it will help. But acquiring new donors is costly, and keeping them is against the odds.

How can you overcome those odds? Here’s some tips.

# 1. Don’t SHOUT

This common method, especially among those organizations geared towards reacting to a crisis, is grating.

To everybody.

If the majority of your email subject lines are in all caps, or ends with an exclamation point, you’re doing this.

Do you like to be SHOUTED AT? Huh, DO YOU? DO YOU!?

I didn’t think so.

Instead, think of how you would try to convince a good friend over a cup of coffee about a viewpoint you know they’re on the fence about. If you shout, they’re not likely to remain in your life long.

Focus instead on building a deeper, more meaningful relationship.  Like a lot of things, just a change in mindset will dramatically shift the outcome. Think of going into every donor communication as a positive experience, and not one based on interrupting their day so they can “Act Now.” 

#2. Don’t approach donors simply to get their money

This is another method that begins with a simple mindset check.

Think of the people you target as potential friends instead of an open checkbook. Along those same lines, don’t think of yourself as a fundraiser. If you’re working for a nonprofit or an organization you really believe in, this (hopefully) won’t be too hard for you. Employees who believe deeply in the work they’re doing will be able instead to think of themselves as people who are looking for change. And people like that instinctively know that change only works if the masses jump on board.

Approach your donors that way too. Craft your communications so readers feel like they are stepping up to join you. Join you in a good idea, join you for a good cause, join you in making a positive change for the world.

It’s a slight shift in both mindset and approach, but readers will be able to tell the difference.

Don’t believe me? Try just plain asking for their money without any of the subtle, graceful language of persuasion and genuine care. Let me know how that works out for you.

#3. Offer lots of different options for engagement

Today’s communications methods allow you to reach a whole lot of different people. Sure, you still rent your lists and people can self select much easier than pre-social media days. But this doesn’t mean that your list of donors will all respond to the same call to action.

Everyone gets inspired in their own, unique way.

So offer lots of opportunities for someone to be inspired. Tailor your options for engagement to a bunch of different types of people. Some will want to repost, Like, retweet, and pin multiple times a day. Some will want to leave a comment at the end of a story. Some will want to sign an online petition. Some will want to join you in a rally, or call their state representative. Some will want to come to your annual fundraiser, and some will simply want to pull out their checkbook.

Exhaust every possible way you’d like donors to step up and help out, then make sure those options are there.

#4. Put your opt-in form as a widget

This one sounds deceptively simple, and actually, it is.

People will sign up for your newsletter a shocking three times more if your opt-in form is a widget. Honestly, it makes sense. If you have to click over to another page, people lose interest.

(Yes, most of us are that lazy, and have the attention spans of a preschooler.)

Use this little statistic to your advantage and think of other places you could cut corners a bit. Is there somewhere else you’re making people click too often?

Anytime a reader has to click, that’s a place you’ll lose someone.

#5. Engage their minds in the right way

This is where storytelling comes into play. I’ve been over it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Storytelling activates the memory in a way straight facts and impersonal communications never could.

If you can tell a story effectively, you’ll stimulate your readers brain in such a way that you’ll pop into their heads at the oddest times. This is like cultivating an underground relationship. They’ll feel so much more connected the very next time they hear from you, that may be all it takes.

#6. Think like a donor 

There are a lot of things that online donors today like to see. Success, urgency, proof and credibility from your organization, and the feeling that by donating they’re actually doing some good in the world.

But don’t forget the biggest one of them all.

Above all else, donors want to feel a personal connection to your mission.

Notice I didn’t say “your organization.” Never forget that they don’t really care about you… they care about your cause.

How to get people to the Donate Page

Keep in mind these tactics are just part of a whole, not the answer. Social media engagement, online readership, and rally attendances are all really great, but you and I both know engagement doesn’t always equal donations.

Engagement is simply a reflection of inspiration.

If your engagement numbers are high, it means you’re doing something right. It means your cause, and the way you’re portraying it, is inspiring people to take action. It’s up to you to turn engagement, readership, and membership numbers into that last step… a final click to the Donate Page.

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