Wednesday, 17 September 2008

What's missing from charity websites?

Ask any charity fundraiser about whether their charity offers online giving and most of them will proudly tell you that they have a 'Donate Now' facility on their website and that they are using email campaigns, google adwords, adverts, etc to engage with potential donors online. So, how do online giving tools and activities compare to offline ones?

Well, having recently reviewed several charity websites I have come to the conclusion that online giving fundraisers have a great deal to learn from their direct 'snail' mail colleagues.

Here are some of the common weaknesses of charity websites when it comes to online giving that if addressed can help a charity build stronger relationships with online donors:

  • No personalised invitations to give - in direct mail fundraising the invitation to give is issued from one person (e.g. the CEO, the fundraiser or the particular project leader) to another (e.g, the donor). In most websites, with very few exceptions, there is no personalised invitation to give. In other words, online fundraising asks are like 'unsigned' letters issued to a whole crowd. Crazy or what?

  • The online visitor is often invited to relate to Try asking a question to a charity, make an enquiry about their work, or donate and sure enough you will be directed to that infamous online 'person' called 'info' who may or may not reply to your email. Why is that? - I still haven't found a satisfactory answer to this question. But if you are a charity fundraiser reading this blog then go and have a look at your charity's website - pretending for a moment you are an outsider how would you feel if the only contact point with the charity is that dreaded '' ?

  • Generic invitations to give that don't relate to compelling stories. You know what I am talking about - take a look at a charity's homepage and you will find one or two compelling stories of how the charity is making a difference. Then press the 'Donate Now' button and hey presto a page will open up with a donation form and no reasons to give that relate to the story you have just read. Even the most inexperienced fundraiser would not dream of mailing out just a response form to potential donors without connecting the 'ask' to a project or a cause - so why set ourselves up for failing by doing this online?

  • Giving no reasons to motivate donors to become regular givers. Sure, most charities now have a regular giving facility online but, once again when you click on that 'regular giving' button what comes up is a standard form without any inspiring copy to encourage donors to become regular givers. Ah, I almost forgot - some fundraisers hasten to add in the regular giving page a sentence about 'regular giving helps us keep our costs down'. Well good for you - but I don't think that is the number one reason that motivates donors to give. Do you?

  • Too many calls to action - a couple of weeks ago I reviewed a charity website with six calls to action that included donating now, regular giving, sponsorships, prayer, campaigning, carbon footprint reduction tips, volunteering, - you name it they had it. A labyrinth of opportunities that paralysed me completely - so I took a look got confused and well, left! Please understand me that different calls to action are not necessary a bad thing but, next time you add another one please prioritise ... and stay focused otherwise you are likely to overwhelm your potential givers and confuse them too. Once again, you would not ask the donor to do three or four things in one appeal when you send a fundraising letter so why do that online?

The list can go on I suppose but I will stop here and would be very interested to hear your views and opinions on this matter.... so please feel free to comment.

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