Preparing for giving season. Is your organization ready for donors?

two hands making the shape of a heart being used on the giving season blog post

Updated on 3/16/2017

Giving Season. It’s a widely used term in the non-profit world. It’s the last few months of the year. The final push to get those last minute donors to send money your way. Do you have a game plan? I know that you’ve been racking your brain to try and figure out how to grab them but sometimes organizations miss one of the most valuable pieces – their website. While this may not be the most opportune time to do a major overhaul, there are 3 quick things you can do to your existing website that can help.

1. Get a donation button on your site – stat!

Yep, it’s that simple. I harp on this all the time. Probably one of the biggest offenders I see on non-profit websites. So many are missing this key item. EVERY organization should and must have a donation button on their website. Now there are many ways to accomplish this so it’s going to depend on many factors. Here’s some options to consider based on a variety of scenarios.

  1. Use a 3rd party donation vendor (low to mid cost level).
    network for good offers a wide variety of donation tools for non profit organizationsIf you are unsure of how to go about building something within your existing site, there are quite a few vendors out there than can offer help. For example, Network for Good is commonly used as a donation hub for many organizations. They handle all the card processing and tracking of donations. They also offer a variety of tools depending on how indepth you want to get with your donors. You can get as many bells and whistles as you’d like, however, like any other vendor, there is a fee. I’ve had clients who have had much success doing this. Plus it takes much of the donor management out of your hands.
  2. Use a 3rd party donation vendor (mid to high cost level).
    convio is a high end donor management toolThen of course there are the grand dads and monsters of the donation world. If you have a super huge budget, then these might be the options for you. One of the most popular and with the many bells and whistles you could hope for is Convio (now owned a run under the Blackbaud name). When I was working at Susan G. Komen, this was our vendor. We used it primarily on the Race for the Cure items. It is widely used by some of your bigger more well known organizations like the WWF, HRC and so on. Much has changed over the years in the world of donations and these are the guys making that happen. They have a bazillion products and variations of tools to donate. Skys the limit with these guys.
  3. use paypal for a low cost way to accept donations onlineUse PayPal donation buttons.
    Another less expensive option is the simple use of PayPal donation buttons. PayPal is a farely quick and easy set up. They have a button builder that you can use to create the donation button to place on your website. Like any other payment processor out there, there is always a fee but it’s minimal. You’ll of course need to verify your 501(c)(3) status but once that’s done, overall you are only charged 2.2% + $.30 per transaction and no monthly fees. Certainly an easy option for those that are budget conscious and not needing a full blown donor management piece.
  4. gravity forms allows you to creatively create donation forms on your wordpress websiteGravity forms plug-in for WordPress.
    Well of course, you can’t forget about all the awesome plug-ins for WordPress. If you have a WordPress site, you’ll find there are a variety of plug-ins out there that will help you process donations. I’m partial to Gravity Forms for a variety of reasons. Mainly because it’s an awesome all in one forms tool. So getting creative with a donation form is easy with the use of Gravity Forms. The other plus is that there are a variety of add-ons that let you choose from a huge selection of card processors out there PayPal,, Stripe and so on. Again, there are some fees that apply but they are minimal as well.

There are a lot of options out there. Discuss with your development team and find out what you need and what will work for you.

2. Make your website mobile ready.

Now that you’ve got a way for donors to support your organization, you want to help them with their mobile experience. Now more than ever, people are doing everything by phone: shopping, getting a loan, socializing with friends and DONATING! We’ve all been to those websites that once we get there, it’s so small that we have to zoom here and zoom there just to try and figure out what’s on it. By the time a donor does all that, regardless of how much they love the organization, they will get frustrated and not make a donation.

A mobile site = donor conversions

an example of a mobile friendly website using wp touch pro for wordpressThis is a bit of a trickier step because it’s going to take some coding and work from a developer who is familiar with the platform you are using (WordPress, Joomla or Javelin). If it’s in your budget, it’s worth having a developer come in and help make your site mobile friendly. Mobile friendly is different than responsive and can be a huge budget saver.

If you are using a CMS like WordPress or Joomla, there are some great mobile friendly plug-ins you can use fairly easily to get a mobile friendly site. For WordPress, I’ve found a lot of success with WP Touch Pro. It’s pretty flexible and has a lot of options (see the attached Cafe Klatsch image). From a set-up perspective, it has themes already created that you can customize with colors, logo and verbiage to fit your site style. It can help you make your WordPress site mobile friendly in no time. Whatever CMS you are using, if it wasn’t coded mobile responsive, browse their extensions or plug-ins to see what options they have for adding the mobile friendly piece to your site. It may take some time to fine tune but what is great is you don’t need to be technical to work with it. If you have a flat HTML site, there’s not a whole lot out of the box and may require a developer. But there are still options for you.

3. Get to cracking on social media

Most everything people do everything these days online. Not only online but through social media. There are so many great FREE tools out there, that there’s no need to panic. You can start posting today. Think about what can motivate people. TELL YOUR STORY! Move people to make that last minute donation for the year. Social media is a great way to share that information. Got a ton of photos? Instagram is an awesome way to draw people in with the visuals. Learn how to hashtag and you’ll draw even more folks in who may not have been aware of your organization and what it does.

It’s giving season. So give back to your donors by making it easy for them.

Tools from TechSoup to help with Grant Writing

hands typing on a keyboard used in the TechSoup blog post
As a non-profit you can’t forget about the awesome resources available through TechSoup. PathFinder provides a ton of resources from the TechSoup donor partner GrantStation. This website can be helpful for those who are new to grants as well as experienced grantseekers. This short demo walks you through how to get started using this website. They call this “finding your path”. That way you can be pointed in the best direction for your experience or need.

How to know if your non profit website needs a redesign?

laptop partially closed

It’s that time of year. You’re planning your budget for next year. Many organizations forget what a valueable asset their website is. But if it’s not working, it can be doing more damage than good. Use this mini checklist to determine if your website needs a redesign in the upcoming year.

  1. Your messaging and brand isn’t clear: When potential donors or people just solely interested in your organization goes to your website, what you represent and your brand needs to be RIGHT THERE. If they have to browse around your website to understand your organization, you can lose them. They will “drop off” and move on to an organization that has a clear message and brand they can understand. By having a buttoned up presentation, it shows you know what you’re doing.
  2. They can’t find what they’re looking for: Don’t make people dig. Think about what you are trying to accomplish with your website. Make it easy for them to get where they want to and fast. You’ve heard the old saying “get them where they need to be in 3 clicks or less.” This is still the norm. If you can get them there in less time, then great. This can be accomplished with content that is well organized. A well thought out navigation structure is important. The last thing you want is to frustrate your visitors. Sit down with your team and organize your content. Create the right funnels for visitors.
  3. make sure you have a clear call to action on your websiteNo clear calls to action: You don’t know how many times I’ve seen non-profit websites that don’t have a donation button on their site. Or worse yet, there is one but it’s hidden deep into your content. I recently wrote a blog post on the importance of a donation button and some of the easy ways to accomplish this. Now there are some exceptions to this. There are organizations that are really more education driven or volunteer driven. Take for example the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Although donations are important and they accept them, they are really focused on visitors to their museum. So I worked with them to make sure there were key call to action (CTA) items on every page. Everywhere you go on that website, you are able to donate, visit the museum or volunteer. Whatever your organization is focused on, there needs to be clear actionable items for visitors.
  4. The website is out of date: The message and content on your website should be timely. There are some items that may never change but keeping fresh and up-to-date information lets users know you are on top of your organizations needs. There’s nothing worse than going out to a website that is featuring an event on their homepage banner that’s been over for months. If you are unable to update your website because you don’t have access or there’s no one with the know how to update it, you have to come up with a solution and fast. An out-of-date website can stop people in their tracks. It can cost you a donor or volunteer. Find a reputable web designer/developer or even a volunteer that can help you either figure it or present you with another solution.
  5. The CMS or lack of one is just difficult to work with: This ties in with item #4. There are some CMS tools out there that are just complicated or difficult to use which can hinder the ability to update the site. You need to have something in place that’s easy for even the most technology challenged volunteer to update. I’m a fan of WordPress. It’s so easy to use and update. It’s a great alternative if you’re looking to make a change. My client Respite Care of San Antonio was dealing with this very thing. I recently upgraded them from the Joomla CMS to WordPress. Their site is now more simplified, direct and the WordPress CMS makes it so much easier to keep updated.
  6. It’s all together unappealing: If your website looks like it did 10 years ago, it’s time for a change. People in general are very visual. So when they come to your website you want to wow them not only with the message and brand but with “curb appeal”. Take for example, Positive Tomorrows. Their previous site was pretty plain and dated. But after I got to visit with them a bit, I was able to plan out a visual and bold design that right up front conveyed their message. When a users goes to their website, they know exactly what it’s about.

If you would like to read more articles about engaging websites, NTEN recently published an article in their quarterly magazine entitle “Four Strategic Foundations of Effective Websites” that you might find of interest.

Should you start an email newsletter?

screenshot of a laptop showing someones email
I’m a firm believer that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. But what about collecting email address in order to send out an email newsletter? Some people wonder if this is really valuable or worth the time. So let me ask this:

Are you passionate about your organization or business?

That’s what you have to ask yourself. If you have passion or a love for what you do, then you should have a wealth of information to share. An e-newsletter is a very valuable way to do that. Coming from a non-profit perspective, for sure, the answer is YES and here’s why: Education When people go to your website, they are interested in learning more about your organization. As a non-profit, the core way you connect to people is by educating them on what you do. It generally starts with folks visiting your website and getting a feel for the organization. So a strong, well-designed site is what is going to introduce them to you, it’s going to entice them to learn more. Once they’ve been hooked and connected emotionally, giving them an opportunity to stay informed about what you do and where you’re going is the next step. Setting up an e-newsletter about what’s going on with your organization is an easy and painless step. Fundraising As an organization or even a business owner, raising money is an on-going and long term goal for everyone. Having an e-newsletter will give you a way to reach out to donors in a creative and non-threatening way. E-newsletters are an opt-in choice individuals make which means they want to learn, they want to know. Adding a clear call to action to “get involved” or “donate now” with the creative pieces of content in your email can be done in a way that’s not overbearing. Highlighting an upcoming fundraiser or event is another way you can do that as well. Passion In order to educate and attract donors, you’ve got to create emotional engagement and passion. In the beginning I asked if you were passionate about what you do. In the end, it begins there. You create it by crafting your message in a way that tugs at the heart strings. When you stir the passion within someone about your organization, they’re going to talk about you, they’re going to tell their friends, they’re going to contribute, they’re going to volunteer and so on. The possibilities are endless. So that emotional connection has to be made and when someone signs up, they’re there. It’s up to you to keep the fire and excitement going. In the next blog post I’ll talk about how to strategize your messaging for your e-newsletter.