The Art of the Online Fundraising Experience


At BCS Interactive, we work with a lot of passionate and worthy non-profits. Each of these organizations provides an essential service to their community; each has achieved success in one form or another. Those that stand out from the pack, though, have invariably mastered the tenets of online fundraising.

Now, let’s be frank. Raising money for any charity is tough. Raising it online can be downright impossible, begging the question, how does a non-profit deliver a digital experience that engages users to give up their hard-earned dollars – users who know they’ll receive nothing tangible in return?

Having worked alongside foundations and non-profits for years, we’ve noticed that those that provide a simple, structured and transparent online process reap the greatest rewards. Whether via Web site, social media, app or any combination therein, these organizations have mastered the art of the digital fundraising experience, which we’ve distilled here into the following three components:

1. They Establish Trust Through Content

The information that a non-profit shares with its audience should provide a “warts and all” look at what that organization stands for and why a donor should trust that their donation will be put to good use. To this end, the organization should:

  • Define its purpose quickly and concisely. With both dollars and attention spans at a premium, nothing will send a potential donor packing quicker than forcing them to figure out what it is that the non-profit does.
  • Provide a compelling mission and history. Sharing a unique and engaging founding story is crucial to establishing why a cause is worthy of a donation, and can help tip the scales in a non-profit’s favor.
  • Keep their overall content relevant and up-to-date. Events, volunteer opportunities, recent initiatives, etc. should be accessible and updated frequently, underscoring the vibrancy and validity of the organization.

A genuine, well-written founding story – such as this one from The Lainie’s Angels Foundation – can help connect donors to a cause.

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2. They Make Donating Easy

Non-profits that successfully raise funds online see no shame in asking for a donation. To this end, they provide clear and simple navigation, and put the donation process front and center. Specifically, they:

  • Place a “donate” or “give” button prominently on the home page or even within the header itself, as well as throughout the site. Overall access to the donation page is accessible from anywhere within the site, streamlining the process to one or two clicks at most.
  • Limit the donation process to one page, allowing for a simple and friction-free user experience.
  • Emphasize a secure donation process; at the very least, an “https” designation, indicating that the page is secured via an SSL certificate is clearly visible in the page URL. Some sites go a step further and (this is recommended) place a physical security certificate brand icon on the page.

The Cure Breast Cancer Foundation Web site offers a good example of a clear and intuitive online donation process.

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3. They Show Donors the Money

It’s interesting how many foundations and non-profits miss a simple but crucial component of online fundraising; namely, explaining to donors precisely where their donations will go. This can be achieved by:

  • Offering examples, anecdotes and images of donors’ money at work. Incorporating stories and updates of the individuals and endeavors that are benefitting will connect the donor to the organization on an emotional level, helping them feel their money was well spent, and increasing the likelihood that they will donate again in the future.

Through both its Web site and social media platforms, Music Empowers Foundation shares its funding initiatives on a regular basis.

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To Create A Great Digital Experience is to Sell Happiness and Well-Being

Successful online fundraising means giving users a pleasant and accommodating digital experience. The organizations that have succeeded and that continue to raise funds online have mastered the principles I’ve outlined above.

The right digital experience is transparent, allowing donors to focus not on technical aspects, but on the people whose lives were improved by donating to a cause. In the end, this is what a great digital experience facilitates – the happiness and well being of others.

Are you a foundation or non-profit that’s driving donations via your digital channels? What are some of the challenges you see in creating a great on-line donation process?

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