Communication and Fundraising, the never ending story…

The past 2 ½ years I travelled to different countries and met lots of people engaged in a wide range of fundraising activities and campaigns. Despite the obvious differences in ‘couleur locale’, it always struck me that fundraisers are struggling with the same questions and problems, if it is in Japan, Italy or Brazil.

One of these issues coming up over and over again is the cooperation between Fundraising and Communications. More specific digital communication as communication through the website, webvertising, Twitter, social networking, crowdfunding, etc. The digital area offers great new fundraising opportunities with yet unknown potential. If you visit a doctor, buy a new car or want to know what’s happening in the Middle East, the first thing you do is surfing the web. What do you think a potential donor will do…?

Knowing this, it would seem obvious that every communication department is fully prepared to receive these donor prospects. An effective digital communication strategy is in place aimed at attracting and informing prospects in such a way that they are guided to the appropriate webpage where they are one mouse click away from their so-much-wanted donation.

But guess what…, harsh reality shows that it takes visitors at least three clicks to make a donation or sign a petition. More than half of the prospects leave after the first click and hardly anyone makes a donation. In addition focus groups, research etc. shows that many people do not know exactly what charities do.

So we are actually driving potential donors away from us. A quite remarkable finding given that donors are the lifeline of charities… And it could have something to do with communication, accessibility and navigation. Are we critical enough on the content and structure of our websites? For instance, the INGO homepages try to communicate EVERYTHING we do EVERYWHERE. Quite confusing for someone who wants to contribute here and now, to invest in a specific program or campaign.

As fundraisers we know by fact that one single, clear message with one ask is the best to create response. Why don’t we practise what we know works? Why are we still trying to communicate ‘we do everything’?

Furthermore we know that people only donate to charities if they trust us. And research shows that one of the critical drivers of trust is transparency. Well, how transparent do you think we look like if our web communication is a jumble of messages, overloading our visitors who – by the way – have money burning in their pockets. It looks like charities keep persisting in old fashioned PUSH strategies while going digital is about (creating) PULL; as most other business sectors are already fully aware of.

Communications and Fundraising should together begin to regard our web visitors as true prospects. Communicate to visitors only this one message necessary to emotionally engage and bind them. To take them on a journey, with the sole purpose to move them to action. Sign a petition, make a donation, become a volunteer, anything but leave.

Moreover I would suggest to make Communication shared accountable for fundraising and campaign results. Where Fundraising would be responsible for income targets and  Communications for the number of website visitors per campaign as well as the conversion rates.

This should lead (if done right) to better communications with prospects, more transparency thus more trust, ending up in more donations.

Finally, I would like to propose a call to action myself, a ‘little’ experiment. Remove all your web pages that have not been visited by at least 500 people in the last 21 days. Then measure the effects during a certain period of time on visitor’s behaviour and conversion rate.

I am looking forward to the results! Let me know.

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