Okay, folks, it’s September. Every day from now until January is a day you should be thinking about how best to maximize your holiday fundraising season. Even though in most places it still feels like full summer (or worse- sorry, Texas), you should already be making serious efforts to get your donation page and process into fighting form. I know I usually save the heavy workouts for my annual post-holiday bloat freak-out, but in this case, I think we should all jump right in. This workout can be done by anyone in your organization, but it would be best suited to someone who isn’t super familiar with your site’s layout and content- an impartial eye, you know? This workout is a starter examination of how your donation form and website functions, so make sure you have someone at least a little objective be part of the process. Suit up and get your butt off the bench!
The Pre-Holiday Donation Page Workout
Warm Up Your Index Page: Start on your website’s index/main page. How easy is it to get to your donation form? Can you immediately see the button that will take you to the page? Are your Donate links and buttons prominently displayed? If you have various fundraising campaigns running, are there links, front and center, that will take the user (who right now is you) directly to a page where you can easily complete whatever conversion your organization wants (whether this is signing up for an email list, making a donation, engaging with the blog content or following your organization on Twitter)? Check the other pages of your site- is the Donation link prominent and easily found? What you’re looking for in the warmup are any stumbling blocks to making a donation or engaging with your organization in the intended way. . . make sure you note any confusing areas or extra steps. From the Donate links on your front page, you should be taken directly to the donation form- every page between a donate button and the actual donation form loses some donors. The idea is to make the process as easy and painless as possible- don’t give your donors any excuse to ‘abandon the shopping cart.’
Exercise # 1: Donation Page Calisthenics
Donation page dress rehearsal- you’ve arrived on the donation page after a brief warm up and review of your site’s pages. Now that you’re here, take a look around. Is your page understandable and easy to use, even for the least tech savvy folks? Make a test donation and see how it feels. Is it easy to enter your billing information, to set up a recurring payment and maybe to enter an honorarium message if you’re donating in someone else’s honor? Does the Thank-You page you land on after you’ve successfully completed a payment acknowledge your contribution and give you an option to return to the home site, sign up for a blog, or share new of your donation with friends through social media? Make sure your donation experience is smooth, quick and makes you feel more deeply engaged with your organization.
Exercise #2: Strength Training For Your Story
What’s the story? It’s tricky to bring a narrative to the forefront of the donation process, but the most successful donation pages do just this. Is it apparent to your donors where their donation will go and how it will be spent? Do they have an idea of what their donation will do? It’s important to keep your donation form clean and user-friendly, but donors also like to see graphics and small text blocks describing what your organization does. Limit long-winded explanations and favor anecdotal evidence of your donors positive effects within your mission. Earthshare’s donation page does a fabulous job of this, as does A Home Within’s- both give great specific examples of what a donation will do and donors can easily visualize where their donation dollars will actually go when they make a donation. Review your page- does it tell or suggest a story that donors are a part of?
Exercise #3: Some Social Media Cardio
Are you linked in to social media? Once you’ve made a donation, can you easily Tweet about it or post to your Facebook page through links on the Thank You page or on your organization’s website? Is it easy to join the conversation? Is your donation page taking advantage of the, essentially, free marketing available through your donors social networks? Make sure that once their donation is completed, your donor can immediately share a link to your donation page or a link to a content page on your site.
Exercise # 4: Stretch To Keep Your Fundraising Limber
What are the suggested donation amounts on your site and donation page? Are you selling yourself short? Donors respond well to suggested donation amounts, but will donate less if given the option. Unless your fundraising plan is specifically based on lots of small donations, your suggested amounts should begin at $20 or over. Of course, donors have the option of donating whatever amount they want, but does your site present a substantial enough example donation and with the example, provide a compelling enough reason for them to make that contribution? Make sure your donation page offers inspiring reasons supporters should make a considerable donation to your organization.
An Analytical Cool Down
Now’s the time for analysis: do you have your analytics program hooked up to your donation page? Is it easy for your organization to track a donors path from site entry to donation completion? Are you set up to do the kind of tracking necessary to make improvements to your site’s funnel and conversion rate? Be sure you’re set up to collect as much data about your donors and your donation process as possible, because even if your fundraising is booming, there is always room for improvement.
Whew, that’s it for now! Pat yourself on the back, take a look at your notes from the workout and get started improving your donation page. We’ll be posting lots of helpful tips and tutorials in the next few months to help get prepared for the upcoming push. The holidays are upon us, folks, let’s get your organization’s donation page tanned, rested and ready to bring in record fundraising dollars this season!