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How CXO Helps Charities Get More Online Donations

Online donations are becoming an increasingly important fundraising source for charities – but when is the best time to ask for a donation? Should there be a recommended donation amount? And with so many different reasons for visiting a charity’s website, how can a charity determine the best engagement triggers for each user journey?

One of our Digital Optimization Analysts, Bethany Spencer, wants to explain the value of optimization when it comes to getting the timing right. The ways in which individuals can donate to charities continues to expand; yet to date, very few charities have applied sophisticated optimization techniques to improve the value and volume of online donations. There is no simple, one-size-fits-all approach; from those looking for vital information or signing up for a fundraising event, to receivers of support or advice and those who have their work funded by the charity, very few visitors are actually coming to the site simply to donate. Most charities present a donation button in the landing page header, but with so many different user journeys there are many ways of presenting an additional request for a one-off donation.

When & When to Ask

Timing is everything – ask for a donation too soon and the individual is likely to be disengaged; wait too long and he or she may have already found the required information or pledged support for an event before the call-to-action is delivered. Optimization plays an essential role in refining the messaging and determining the best timing.

Here are two strategies we’ve seen work for non-profit clients:

  1. Specifying a recommended donation amount has proved to increase the average value of donations.
  2. An engagement trigger is also a great way of encouraging donations. We have seen charities tailor their messaging to those looking for specific information. After a certain number of pages, the charity can then present a widget with a message that explains the importance of online donations and ask if individuals would like to donate to enable the charity to continue to provide this information.

Presenting Informational Content

Optimization can also play a key role in achieving other performance indicators, such as ensuring the site meets the information needs of different content users. Of course some charities are very protective of their valuable content, opting to retain information behind a log-in barrier. The problem with this model is that casual users have no incentive to donate. Organizations must optimize the balance between safeguarding information and demonstrating the charity’s value without requiring log-in, thereby improving user engagement and encouraging more ad hoc donations.

Personalizing the Experience

While the timing and content of the message will vary depending on the user journey, combining information about existing donors with the online optimization process also ensures a far more personalized experience. Similarly those who have already made a one-off donation can be asked if they would be willing to become a regular donor.

Right now there is no clear best practice across the charity sector – and given the diversity of user journeys, which varies from charity to charity, there will never be a simple one size fits all approach. However, there is huge untapped potential, and those charities that are beginning to explore optimization to improve the relevance and timing of content are reaping the rewards of both greater donations and more engaged visitors.

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