Make It Easy for People to Give You Money

Two different stories this week have inspired me to write this blog post, and provide two pieces of simple, essential advice.

My first tale involves a local charity. While my wife and I have never supported the organization, we do agree with its mission. Earlier this week, the charity hosted a fundraising event with a speaker I wanted to hear. My wife went to the organization’s website to buy tickets. She saw there were two options: 1) general admission tickets, and 2) tickets to both the talk and a pre-talk meet-and-greet reception with the speaker. We opted for the pricier tickets.

That’s when the trouble started.

As my wife began entering her contact information, the website would not allow her to change the town name in the address section. This was a big problem because our hometown is different from the nearby town where the charity is located. Compounding the problem, this was a required field although it did not have to be so.

Unable to buy the event tickets online, my wife called the charity to try to purchase the tickets by phone. No one answered. She left a voice-mail message. No one returned her call.

That was the end of it. My wife could not complete the transaction. We were both annoyed. While our intended contribution would not have been huge, it would have been a significant first-time gift. Unfortunately, for the charity, it lost its chance to engage us. Instead, the charity alienated us. Sadly, we likely weren’t the only people who experienced this problem.

So, what can we learn from this story? The lesson is as simple as it is significant:

Make it easy for people to give you money!

Here are some tips:

  • If you’re having a fundraising event, create a landing page on your website to make registration easy.
  • Make it easy to find the event landing page.
  • Make registering easy by ensuring the registration or donation page is functional.
  • Make it easy for people to donate money online, even when there is no special event, by having a donate button at the top, right corner of every web page on your site.
  • In addition to a donate button, have a donate tab on your website’s menu bar to make giving easy.
  • When seeking donations online or by mail, keep it simple and easy. Ask only for the information you need. The more information you seek (particularly the information you require), the greater the risk that the donor will not complete the contribution.
  • When sending direct-mail appeals, enclose a Business Reply Envelope to make responding easy.
  • Provide your full contact information (name, title, mailing address, phone number, fax number, email address) for donors to reach out to you easily with any questions or issues. Your organization’s general contact information should be on every website page.
  • When a donor or prospective donor calls, answer your phone. If you’re not going to answer your phone, be sure to respond to messages as quickly as possible. This is especially true leading up to an event or at year-end.
  • Accept gifts of cash or donations made through credit card and PayPal. In other words, make giving easy by accepting the donor’s preferred payment method.

The bottom line here is that your organization needs to make it easy for people to give it money. Donors have choices. Your charity is not unique. There are other charities with a similar mission. If you mistreat prospects or donors, or make giving a challenge, they’ll simply support another organization with a similar mission that more effectively engages them.

While making it easy for people to give is important, it’s not enough as the following story from the for-profit sector demonstrates:

On Monday, 17-year-old Cohen Naulty, of Lynchburg, VA, treated his friends to dinner at the Beer 88 restaurant. He paid his $45 check, plus a $10 tip, with a $20 bill and $35 in quarters he had earned from being a waiter at another establishment.

Yes, the restaurant made it easy for Naulty to pay. However, rather than simply thanking him and being grateful for his business, the restaurant posted a picture of the check and the payment along with an insulting message on its Facebook page:

The restaurant posted, “We’ll just caption this … ‘How NOT to pay at a restaurant,’ cause that’s the nicest thing we can think to say about this ridiculousness.”

The message was followed by emojis of a woman making an ‘X’ with her hands and a face rolling its eyes. The restaurant also included the hashtags #nohometraining and #wearebeer88notcoinstar.

That’s no way a business should treat someone who gives them money. After being rudely shamed, Naulty does not plan to return to Beer 88. Here’s the lesson of this story:

Help donors to continue to feel good about supporting your organization.

While I don’t know of any charities that openly ridicule donors, I have heard far too many stories about nonprofit organizations that fail to help donors feel good about their support. Here are just some tips that will help donors keep that warm feeling:

  • Thank them. Shockingly, many nonprofits fail to thank donors and, instead, merely send a gift receipt. Some send nothing!
  • Thank them quickly.
  • After a donor gives through your website, immediately take them to a page that thanks them and shows how their money will be used. Also, send a thank-you letter.
  • Beginning with your highest value donors, send handwritten thank-you notes to all donors that you feasibly can.
  • Call as many of your donors as you can, beginning with your highest value contributors, to thank them and learn more about them and their interest in your organization. Keep the call friendly but brief.
  • Look for opportunities to express gratitude and encourage engagement. At the very least, be sure to periodically tell donors how their gifts have been put to good use.

What I’ve described here is common sense. Unfortunately, both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors do not always embrace common sense. However, smart fundraising professionals make it easy for people to donate and help them to feel good about doing so. Just make sure to keep the outreach appropriate.

Remove obstacles to giving, and you’ll raise more money. Help donors feel good about their support, and they’ll continue giving and, possibly, give more.

I’ve provided a limited number of simple tips to help you enhance the donor experience. You can find more by searching my blog (i.e., donor relations, stewardship, thank you, gratitude).

What tips can you share that have worked well for you?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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8 Responses to “Make It Easy for People to Give You Money”

  1. Hi, Michael, thanks so much for sharing, Both are such important messages but you’re right, let’s get back to basics first! So many are so concerned with the latest next new shiny things that they forget to do these two things right. Especially, the oh, someone made a gift online, why would we need to send a thank you letter? sigh!

    • Erica, thank you for your comment. Lately, I’ve been getting questions from fundraisers about what the charitable implications are of the new tax code. A number of studies have said the reduction of itemizers will result in a reduction in philanthropic giving. When asked about that, I’m always quick to say that charities can more than offset any potential downside of the tax code by simply mastering fundamental fundraising practice.

      • Hi, yes, so far it does seem like spring mailings have been slower than other years so that will be interesting to see what happens in the fall. What a lot of orgs are doing is cut costs where they shouldn’t…

  2. Michael,
    You are so correct when you talk about the need to making it easier for people to give. I also agree whole-heartedly that organizations need to make it easier for prospects (or anyone for that matter) to contact them. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to a website and found no contact information or directory of key employees, ie Directors or Development Directors, just a bland contact us page. Don’t they want to talk to people about their mission or programs?

    • Richard, thank you for commenting. To answer your question, no, many fundraisers do not want to talk with people. I know. I know. It makes no sense at all. But, it is nevertheless the case far more often than it should be. sigh

  3. Totally agree with the main premise: make it easier, not harder, for donors to give to you.
    One of the best tools a nonprofit can have in its marketing mix is texting, actually. Texting and mobile giving are so powerful that it’s amazing these technologies are still so underrated in the nonprofit community. SMS, for example, is truly a cinderella technology for nonprofits and social enterprises.
    Texting is cheap, fast and easy. Has almost zero barrier to entry. And is built into every phone. People in lower-income communities, not just in the U.S. but around the world, have been utilizing SMS to give to charity.

    • Eric, thank you for sharing your tip. Electronic technologies (e.g., websites, social media, texts, etc.) are increasingly important giving channels, according to the latest research. Mastering how to communicate on these channels is essential.

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