I’ve built my business on the proposition that organisations should promote their values through stories that demonstrate their work and what they stand for. By doing this we match the organisation’s values to people who are inspired by it and whose values are in line. And I stand by this strategy for building a membership of donors who really care about your cause and will maintain their support over time.
HOWEVER, when it comes to the actual point of acquisition of a regular monthly donor – it really does come down to the human connection. Of course it’s still important to inspire and find a values match or sympathy to get the right person to convert, but the human contact on the phone or in person on the street still gets the lions share of the sign ups for monthly donations.
The human element isn’t important for all industries. In fact for some; like consumer electronics based where a decision is often based on the specifications meeting the users needs criteria. And for travel, the decision is often driven by reviews (Trip Advisor), recommendations and media.
Both travel and retail often have the opposite experience to charities, where online is truly the preferred purchase channel and people are just a clarification point.
In my experience, charities aren’t doing a good enough job at packaging their cause into a “product” that the donor desperately wants or needs. For instance, climate change. It’s a big global problem that is affecting people in other places far more than it affects us here in Australia. 70+% of Aussies believe in global warming and say the environment is an important issue to them – but they’re not suffering a lot of pain yet – so intellectually they know we need it, and they say they want it, but not enough to pull out their credit card and donate to the cause. Because we haven’t packaged it up in a bundle deal that says that if you want X, then you pay Y and you get Z for free.
As people committed to the cause, we KNOW they do need it, but we’re not doing a good enough job at convincing people they want it.
We’re selling “do the right thing”. We’re promoting “giveback to the society that you get so much from”. We’re asking people to “give money to a stranger in need” AND we want you to do it every month.
It’s a much harder sell, and online – when you don’t have the physical proximity to someone to let the other person feel your energy, your compassion and sincerity – it’s tough. But doable.
In the online space, we’re starting to see some charities improve their ability to convert a person to monthly giving via the website, but neither the raw numbers of new donors, nor the percentage who are contacted and convert are impressive enough to really scare competitive offline channels.
At Parachute Digital the team and I are working hard to do better in this space. We are testing more and it is true that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Often because we can’t always be sure exactly why one Appeal or campaign was a success!
This is important news for ROI fundraisers, because when you DO convert a web visitor into a regular monthly donor, the cost per acquisition tantalisingly low. And the super exciting thing is, from our small analysis and from conversations with other fundraisers testing similar things (the wise Jonathan Storey and the clever Cath Hoban), these organic digital donors are far more loyal. They cost less to acquire, they stick around for long and that makes them very attractive.
But the numbers are still too small to satisfy any aggressive growth strategy.
We’ve spent 9 months researching website donation pages across Australia to try and find who is doing it best and learn from them.
We’re creating checklists and guides to help charities improve their online donation conversion rate.
We do this because when we DO convert a web visitor into a regular monthly donor, the cost per acquisition is so low and our small analysis shows that they’re far more loyal. And that is very attractive. But the numbers are still too small to satisfy growth strategies.
Clients using online lead generation and telephone conversion for regular giving usually see a cost per acquisition of $280-350.
Whereas the cost per acquisition for a new Regular donor acquired via facebook/ remarketing banner ad/ search text and the website can be lower than $134 (depending on the channel and cause).
But then you must be aware that we’re comparing conversion numbers of 100+ new regular Givers per month on the phone versus less than 10 via the website.
So what we say is, do BOTH.
Online is climbing. We’re getting better at connecting and interrupting people in a way that gets their attention. But we’re not yet proving that website conversion can replace other channels – and nor should it.
• Get leads for regular donor conversion
• Build an ACTIVE email database
• Generate cash revenue
• Build trust and a relationship through automated donor journeys
• Create an environment with multiple touch-points in a variety of channels for the donor to see your message frequently
• Have a customised destination point for your offline communications (dedicated experience for each channel and message).
• Over the phone
• At events
• In person with face to face or door knocking.
Digital must be one part of the donor acquisition fundraising mix. And as we get better, we’ll see digital providing the conversion for offline channels (as we already do with DRTV).