Home Fundraising How to Provide an Excellent Donor Experience (From a Donor)

How to Provide an Excellent Donor Experience (From a Donor)

by Janie Richmond
Positive donation experience

It’s a joy for a donor to support an organization they believe in, and having a positive experience when giving can make someone want to donate again in the future. My husband and I recently decided to donate to some organizations in our local area. After a short discussion, we narrowed it down to two nonprofits that are working toward causes we care about. Then I navigated to each website to find their donation pages.

What happened next should matter to every nonprofit because that experience could be the difference between donor retention and a donor who will not choose to give again. While we are ultimately glad we gave to both organizations, one donor experience was much more enjoyable than the other.

Organization A

Organization A focuses on helping victims of domestic violence. Their Donate button is clearly displayed at the top right corner of their homepage. Clicking that led to their Donate page, which gave options for donating online, by mail, or by text. I chose to donate online.

Their online form was clean, simple, and powered by a company I recognized. From the form, I was able to select a purpose. I chose to leave the purpose as the default, “Area of Greatest Need.” I entered an amount, confirmed that I was giving a one-time gift rather than a recurring one, and clicked “Submit.”

Organization A Donation Form

That led me to a secondary donation page with additional fields to fill out. I entered my contact information as well as my billing info. There was an option to cover the transaction fees, which I chose to do. At the bottom of the page was a message from the organization expressing thanks and appreciation for the soon-to-be donation. Part of that message included a line that said, “An email receipt will be sent to your email address.” I clicked “Submit” again and was immediately rerouted to a page prompting me to create an account.

What I did not see, however, was what raised concern. There was no confirmation message that the transaction went through. I checked my email and there was also nothing from the organization. I checked my Spam folder. Nothing. Wondering if perhaps their emails were not scheduled to be sent immediately, I checked back a few hours later. Still nothing. Perhaps they will send one next January for tax purposes. We’ll see.

Eventually, I checked our credit card statement and saw a charge that confirmed the transaction. Two months later, we still have not seen a confirmation email from the organization, although we still regularly receive their newsletter, which also tells me we have not accidentally been unsubscribed.

UPDATE: Ten weeks after giving to Organization A, we received a form letter by mail acknowledging the donation.

Organization B

Organization B focuses on elementary school education, childhood health, and community development. Like Organization A, their Donate button is clearly displayed at the top of their homepage. Clicking that leads to their online donation form, which happens to be powered by Aplos, although that did not factor into our decision to give to this particular nonprofit.

The form itself is largely similar to the one from Organization A. The primary difference was the Aplos form was a single page, so I did not have to click “Submit” twice. Below a graphic saying “Thank You” at the top of the page, I entered the amount we had decided to donate, chose the purpose “Give To Where Needed Most,” and filled out my contact info. Then I entered my billing information, checked the box to cover the transaction fee, and clicked “Donate.”

Organization B Donation Form

I immediately got a confirmation message thanking me for the donation, and there was also an immediate email confirmation in my inbox. A few weeks later, we received a handwritten card in the mail, thanking us for supporting the organization. Being fully transparent, we have known the executive director of this organization for years, but we are by no means major donors. The card was a bonus that made us feel appreciated, and I’m sure that would be the case for others who support them as well.

Organization chart of the donor experience

The Donor Experience Makes a Difference

One of these experiences as a donor clearly surpassed the other, and that will likely influence our decision to donate to these organizations in the future. However, implementing a few minor adjustments could significantly improve the donor experience, and those adjustments could make a big difference when it comes to donor retention.

Here are some tips and best practices to help your donors have a positive experience when giving to your nonprofit:

  1. Make sure your online donation form is clear and easy to use.
    In this case, both organizations did this well, although, from a donor’s perspective, only having to click a Submit or Donate button once is preferable.
  1. Set up an automated confirmation message.
    Don’t frustrate your donors or make them wonder whether their transaction went through. If the online form you use doesn’t offer this option, you may want to consider using a different one.
  1. Send a confirmation email.
    This step is not redundant. Even if you send a contribution statement at the end of the year, many people file this initial email in a folder for tax purposes to make sure nothing gets missed later.
  1. Check your donation form regularly.
    Giving Organization A the benefit of the doubt, it’s possible they have set up a confirmation message and email, but maybe something wasn’t working properly. Test your giving systems on a regular basis to make sure everything is working as it should.
  1. Bonus: Send a handwritten thank you card.
    This obviously requires time, but it may require less than you think. The message in the card we received was short, to the point, and sincere. It was only about 30 words, including our names, but we felt like our donation mattered. A card also does not have to be written by the director. Board members, other staff members, or volunteers can easily help.
  1. Email or mail a contribution statement.
    Even if the amount a donor gave is less than what is required for your organization to send a contribution statement, it’s worth it. It can serve as a simple reminder to someone that they previously gave to your organization, and that may prompt them to give again. Also, including a quick note thanking the donor can’t hurt.

Not only are these suggestions good practices for every nonprofit organization, but they could also be the difference between keeping or losing a donor. Your mission matters, and people want to participate in the cause, so give your donors a positive giving experience by making sure it’s as simple as possible for people to donate and continue to support your organization.

Free Recorded Webinar: The Science and Art of Donor Retention

Fundraising is an interesting mix of science and art, metrics and creativity. So what can you do to develop a successful donor relations program? What works and what doesn’t? How can you improve your donor retention rate? During this webinar, you will learn:

  • What donor retention is and why it matters
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  • Stewardship as a strategy
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  • Why all levels of donors are critical for success

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