2015 Digital Fundraising To Do List #1 Conversion Rate Optimisation

Fundraising Conversion Rate Optimisation

In my first post of the New Year (Why Bitcoin probably shouldn’t be top of your 2015 Digital Fundraising To Do list) I promised to share some thoughts over the next few weeks about what I believe digital fundraisers should be prioritising on their 2015 To Do lists. So, to get started let’s focus on the one thing without which none of your other online activity is likely to deliver good results – namely Website Conversion Rate Optimisation.

Back in January 2012 I wrote about the crucial importance of fundraisers getting serious about how they track and improve the conversion rates of their fundraising pages.

I wrote that post in the same week User Experience specialists Nomensa had released their white paper ‘Creating the Perfect Donation Experience’, which included alarming research findings showing that 47% of donors give-up before they have made the donation because the online journey is not intuitive and engaging. I found this statistic worrying but not especially surprising, given the lack of attention being given to tracking, evaluating, and improving the conversion of traffic to donation websites at that time.

What I find both alarming and surprising is that two years on from that report, so many of the fundraisers that I hear voicing concern over the difficulty they experience growing their online income are still focusing the vast majority of their efforts on traffic generation and next to nothing on conversion rate optimisation.

Assuming the Nomensa finding still applies (and sadly I see little to suggest that the sector has got to grips with conversion optimisation so as to change it) this means that for all the effort and budget being invested in attracting individuals wishing to make a donation, almost half of them will be failing to become donors because of a lack of attention being given to optimising their website experience.

If you were to tear-up half of the donations you receive to a direct mail appeal then you would clearly be a crazily bad fundraiser. Yet failing to pay proper attention to what is happening on your donation pages could well be amounting to the same thing.

So, that’s what I’d say should be top of your 2015 To Do List. Before spending time on new ways to bring more people to your donation pages – work-out just what you need to do to properly measure, evaluate, and optimise the experience they will have when they get there.


When was the last time you actually tried to give yourself a donation?


Network For Good has announced that this Wednesday, October 24th, is its inaugural Be Your Donor Day – when they’re hoping to inspire nonprofits to set aside time to put themselves in their donors’ shoes and test the experience being provided for them. Whether it’s calling your main office phone line to see what they make of new donor questions, or enduring the trial by tick box that far too many online donation experiences turn into, it’s an opportunity to highlight any problems in time to get them sorted before the peak time for donations over Christmas.

Given how much effort and budget is invested in getting people to visit donation pages, I’m amazed by how many organisations still focus minimal effort on ensuring their donation process is as simple as possible for the potential donors who reach them. This explains why 47% of potential online donors in the UK apparently give-up before making a donation because the website journey is not intuitive or engaging.

In the light of this, ‘Be Your Donor Day’ is a great way of bringing the real donor experience to the fore and identifying both quick fixes and areas that might require further thought and investment across all of your donor touchpoints.

In support of the day, Network For Good has created a range of resources including a Be Your Donor Day Checklist, and a simple guide to website donation process testing.

Go on. Give yourself some time to see how it feels from your potential donors’ point of view. It needn’t take-up much of your day, and if you can rope-in some colleagues then you can share the testing around. I have no doubt at all that you’ll discover something that you can fix to help improve your donors’ experience – and your fundraising results.

Don’t forget to test your website on different browsers (not everyone runs the old version of Internet Explorer that your IT department forces you to) and different devices (get those smartphones and tablets out) – and also test-out the donation journeys for any SMS shortcodes you might have live.

Rest assured – whatever issues you discover, it won’t be as bad as the customer experience in the great Google video above! (Or will it?)

Does QR = Quick Response or Quite Ridiculous?

I first posted about the potential for QR Codes to be used by fundraisers back in early 2008 and, while it’s been some time coming, it’s been interesting to see how their use has started to take-off over the last year or so.

However, as explained by Scott Stratten in the fun video clip above, right now QR Codes seem to be coming-out like a rash in a range of places where they make very little if any sense.

I’ve now got used to seeing QR Codes at the end of some emails, linking back to the sender’s website. Clearly offering no advantage at all over a standard clickable link and presumably stuck there in the vain hope that I’ll scan their email on my computer screen with my Smartphone, or scan my Smartphone with a notional ‘other’ Smartphone when I’m reading my email while on the go. That just makes me smile at how daft some people can be.

However, what prompted me to mention this whole subject here is that a week or so ago I saw QR Codes under each of the prompt values on the proposed screen designs for the donation pages of a new charity website. When the client questioned this with their agency, the designer apparently wasn’t sure where these might link to but thought it might be good to offer the option. Good to offer a diversion away from perhaps the most important point in the transaction journey to an unspecified location viewed on another device by scanning the computer screen? No wonder almost half of all potential donors give-up without completing transactions if that’s the sort of thinking going into donation page design these days.

For more such examples of where QR actually stands for ‘Quite Ridiculous’ take a look at this list from eConsultancy (Top ridiculous points go to Bromley Town Football Club for shaving unreadable QR codes onto players’ heads).

The moral of the story – while everyone knows that mobile is becoming increasingly important in our new digital world, there is still a very important place for good old-fashioned common sense when it comes to how you should try to capitalise on the new opportunities on offer.

Also, never be afraid to ask your agency why they are recommending something that seems wrong to you. You never know, it might well be that what they are recommending is simply wrong – and by asking the question you can save yourselves both some embarrassment.

12 digital fundraising trends for 2012 #9 Back To Website Donation Basics

As I’ve been highlighting throughout this series, the wealth of developments in digital commerce and communications emerging at the moment offer a host of potential new opportunities for fundraisers. However, as mentioned in Monday’s post about Email fundraising, in a year when many supporters are likely to be under increasing financial pressure and all fundraisers should be looking for opportunities to increase their effectiveness, I think some of the biggest opportunities will actually come from focusing on getting the fundraising basics right.

When it comes to online fundraising, there’s nothing more basic than your website donation pages. Which makes the introduction to the Creating the perfect donation experience’ report released this week by User Experience Agency Nomensa rather shocking reading – highlighting as it does the stark fact that 47% of donors give-up before they have made the donation because the online journey is not intuitive and engaging.

That’s almost half of the people who make the effort to visit a charity website to donate giving-up because the site just makes it too difficult, or too boring, for them. In the light of this, no wonder research suggests that online giving made-up less than 4% of UK charitable donations in 2010. We’re leaving at least half of what donors want to give us on the table, thanks to a lack of focus on basic website journeys, fundraising messaging, and simple transaction pages.

The Nomensa report is based on research into the websites and social media presences of the three leading cancer charities in the UK, but their findings and very clear recommendations will be of use to online fundraisers in organisations of any size and any country. So, well worth clicking here to download the report and reading it as a spur to review your own website – and to see what can be done to ensure you’re helping far more than half of the potential donors visiting your site make it all the way through to actually giving you their money.

This is the ninth of twelve posts that I’ll be publishing throughout January on trends I think will prove to be important for digital fundraising in 2012. You can find the previous trend post, on Contactless Payments, here.

15 UK organisations competing for 2009 Non Profit Website of the Year

The Twitter feeds are starting to run hot with requests for Followers to vote for the various sites nominated for the 2009 People’s Choice Website of the Year Awards, with the full line-up of shortlisted nonprofits looking like this:

2009 markes the sixth time these awards have been organised by online research agency MetrixLab and they are apparently the  “largest annual ‘people’s choice’ website awards” around, with members of the public ranking the sites based on ‘design’, ‘navigation’, and ‘content’.

Awards aside, it’s also interesting from a general online engagement perspective to browse the shortlisted sites to see just what the different organisations are doing to make their websites especially attractive to online consumers.

Unfortunately, what is most striking is that so many of the landing pages deluge you with so much information and so many calls to action that you end-up with an engagement opportunity overload likely to lead to option paralysis for all but the most focused visitor. I’m not going to name and shame the worst offenders – as I’m sure you’ll spot them if you have a browse.

However, there are some noteable exceptions. British Heart Foundation goes for a cleaner approach, with clear integration with its current advertising campaign and iPhone-like buttons for “quick links”. Likewise, WWF’s homepage goes for simple clarity from the outset – with a wonderfully striking close-up of a Tiger staring out at me and then two columns entitled “We do…” and “You can…”, alongside four clear engagement buttons.

Greenpeace’s blog-style landing page with calls to action in the sidebar also works for me, helping me focus on the key things they want to tell me about the UN Climate Summit (including a great embedded YouTube video) while still making clear the range of personal responses I can make.

Voting in the awards is open until 8th December and the winners will be announced on 15th December.



Don’t let Twitter anxiety cloud your focus on key online priorities


If you’re feeling lost or left behind in the whirl of hype that has grown-up around the micro-blogging service Twitter over the last few months then don’t worry – you’re not alone.

In the same week that internet traffic monitor Hitwise announced that UK Internet visits to Twitter are up 6-fold since January (making it the 5th most popular social networking site in the UK), analytics firm Webtrends just released results of research confirming that most marketers remain reluctant to use the service.

Based on interviews with 300 online marketing managers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Australia, Webtrends reports that so far just 2% of businesses have adopted Twitter as a means of communicating with customers. No surprise that email remains far and away the most popular means of engaging with customers online, while 6% are apparently now using blogs and podcasts.

The majority of respondents to the survey said of Twitter that they are simply “not sure how to use it, and even if they could they wouldn’t be sure of what to say, and who exactly they would be saying it to” – which seem to me like very good reasons to hold-off on adding it to their digital marketing mix.

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve mentioned previously I do believe that Twitter has the potential to be a useful addition to the range of ways charities can engage with certain groups of consumers. However, in the light of another recent research report by website usability expert Jakob Nielsen, highlighting basic shortfalls in charity websites that directly impact on donations received, I also believe that most should have a lot of things higher-up on their digital ‘to do’ list.

My advice would be that you do keep an eye on Twitter, because it’s not going to go away. But don’t worry that you must get out there and start Tweeting immediately – especially if such Twitter anxiety clouds your thinking in terms of what your main online priorities should be.

It’s no use bringing people to your website, through whatever means, if you know that the vast majority don’t engage the way you want them to – with a donation or some other action. So, your first priority must be to optimise your site to ensure that your conversion rates are as good as you can make them. Simple improvements to things like site signposting and the all important donation page itself can make double digit improvements in conversion figures – so that has to be where you start.

And if you don’t actually know your current conversion figures, then you’ve got another top priority action – sorting-out your site analytics and reporting.

When you really understand the basics of what people are doing on your site and you have a plan for improving their experience – and thereby your results – then you can widen your thinking to consider new ways to get people to come to you. First-off, how well are your ‘traditional’ online activities working – email, natural search and online advertising?

Then, once you feel you understand these and have a plan for each, you can safely start to think more widely – into the Web 2.0 world of blogging, micro-blogging, online communities and the like.

Such prioritisation doesn’t necessarily mean a long delaying in thinking about what opportunities Web 2.0 approaches like Twitter might offer you  – but it will help ensure that when you start testing them you’re far more likely to be successful.

What characterises a strong ‘digital’ charity brand?

I spotted an interesting post by Shiv Singh at interactive agency Avenue A|Razorfish the other day, about the seven key attributes they have defined as characterising ‘digital brands’ (meaning brands best equipped for our new digital consumer world), and it occurred to me that the same criteria could be handy when examining charity brands and the way they engage online:

FRESH – does it inspire a feeling or emotion?

ADAPTIVE – does it respond to your involvement?

RELEVANT – Is it useful or appealing to you, specifically?

TRANSFORMATIVE – Does it raise expectations of the brand or the web?

SOCIAL – Is it worth borrowing, sharing, or contributing to?

IMMERSIVE – Do you lose track of time?

AUTHENTIC – Does it seem genuine?

The presentation above provides some examples of this as well as comparing top scoring ‘digital brands’ to Interbrand’s traditional top brands list. While in Shiv’s post he provides a handy interactive Excel ‘Brand Gene Scorecard’ with which you can have a go at comparing how your own online brand presence rates against your competitors in terms of digital engagement.