Clear the “Pathway to Giving”

Clear the PathBy Brendan Kinney, Moderator of #fundchat

Smart nonprofit organizations create as many pathways to giving as possible: mail and phone are obvious, but then there are gifts via the web, mobile, and social networks. And the method of giving that your donors use is just as important as the platform they use to make their gift. Donors should be able to give by cash and check of course, but then there are credit cards, EFT, and PayPal and more.

As you add pathways for donors to support your cause, stick a Post-It note to your forehead with the following letters: “K.I.S.S.” Repeat after me: Keep It Simple Stupid. The worst thing we can do is make gift giving difficult. In our quest to provide as many ways to give as possible, we overlook the donor who just wants to make a gift.

If you are expanding your pathways to giving or simply performing an audit of the monster you created, consider the following:

Customer Service is Key

A great way to surprise your supporters and donors is to take their phone call. When a donor is having difficulty making a gift to your organization, you hope they will pick up the phone or compose an email message. You should be listening! What better time to help a donor than when they are in the moment, trying to make a gift to your organization, but have a question or are having trouble with your website.

Make sure that someone on your staff is responsible for answering these questions by phone, email…and yes, on social networking sites. There is no more basic service that you can provide than to be available for your supporters and donors and to do everything you can to help them make a gift to your organization.

Align Path with Preference

Do you throw the kitchen sink in with your appeals? You know what I mean: you’re adding that crucial “P.S.” to finish up your winter appeal and you feel you just have to list the website, include the phone number, remind them of the courtesy reply envelope, and plug your monthly giving program. Wrong. Instead of making things easier, you’ve created a speed bump in your pathway to giving. Your donor is now faced with a decision, not how much to give to your organization, but how.

Show some respect to your donors by encouraging them to give the same way they did last time. Chances are, you have this information in your database already (and if you don’t…tsk! tsk!). When you send a letter to John and Jane Smith, you know they gave by phone last time, so their letter can be personalized to include this giving path and this giving path only. You can also take a closer look at your database and see who typically gives in response to, say, your spring phonathon. Those folks ought to be the first to get a call come April.

Obviously, you want to give your donors as many chances to support your organization as possible, but go farther by clearing the clutter on their pathway to giving.

Match Giving Path to Method

When you’re preparing an appeal, think carefully about matching the giving method to the pathway to giving. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to send someone an e-blast solicitation and then ask them to call a phone number. Don’t send a direct mail letter and neglect to include a courtesy reply envelope/postcard. And for goodness’ sake, don’t call someone who has asked not to be solicited in that fashion before.

If you send an e-blast, the “Make Your Gift Now” link should take them right to your giving form on your website. Do not, under any circumstances, link them to a special landing page, a flowery page listing all of the great reasons to support your cause, or some fancy video you’ve put together. They are ready to make a gift, otherwise they wouldn’t have followed the link! (The other cardinal sin is to make your online giving process unnecessarily long, but that’s another blog post altogether.)

When a donor or potential donor receives your appeal, your goal is to provide so much grease that their gift giving is effortless.

Connect the Dots for Donors

Our donors are often generous with the wallets. What they are more protective of is their time. So when you are reaching out to donors about methods or paths of giving that take some explanation, realize that it will take more than one letter, email or phone call; it may, in fact, take many conversations.

Whether it’s the complexities of a charitable gift annuity, gift of stock, or your monthly giving program, you job is to connect the dots for donors. That means demonstrating the impact of not only their gift, but their method of giving.

For example, you may want to increase the number of donors who use your monthly giving program by EFT (electronic funds transfer from a checking or savings account). A donor may ask, “Why can’t I just send my check like I do every year?” Take the time to connect the dots. Explain how their using EFT as their method of giving not only saves them time (no writing checks) and is convenient (no need to remember when to send their gift) but it also helps the organization save money (you don’t send a renewal by mail) and helps those that you serve (less time asking for support and more time providing services).

So, take a strategic approach to connecting the dots for those methods or pathways that require a little extra effort. Write an article for your newsletter, include an insert in all acknowledgements about stock gifts, planned giving, etc., and rotate those messages every month or quarter; send a direct mail piece to existing donors (they don’t need to be sold on supporting you) that describes the path in clear and concise language. The possibilities are endless, but the point is to invest your time in connecting the dots.

The Big Picture

The hard part is over; you’ve provided your donors with as many ways to support you as might be convenient for them. Now, don’t blow it by confusing your donors about which option to choose. Remember those donors who just want to make a gift.

They’ll thank you for it.

Brendan Kinney

Brendan Kinney is a fundraising and marketing professional. He has worked in higher education and public media and is the moderator of #fundchat. You can follow him on Twitter at @brendankinney.

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3 Comments on “Clear the “Pathway to Giving””

  1. John Rougeux says:

    Thanks for the post, Brendan. What are your thoughts on how some of the 3rd party charity sites, like Rally.org or Global Giving, fit into this strategy?

  2. Great stuff Brendan – especially in time for holiday appeals. John – we’re building those sites into a ‘get creative’ page on our new website with quick success stories of how people have used them in the past. BUT, we aren’t directly funneling traffic that way b/c we loose track of them and those systems keep a % of the gift. Curious as to Brendan’s thoughts though…

  3. BK says:

    I think the 3rd party sites like Rally.org are great for smaller nonprofits or chapters that don’t have or can’t afford the infrastructure for receiving, processing, acknowledging and stewarding charitable gifts. I also share Nathan’s concerns about not being able to “own” the information on a donor and can explore a deeper relationship, etc. If you already have the ability to receive and process gifts, then it probably doesn’t save any on your existing overhead to use the third party sites.


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