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Five Steps to Increase Online Giving with Basic Personalization

Ellen Hoffman

Data Analyst, Forum One

Giving is a very personal decision, so why not make it more personal? Today’s supporters see personalization so often on platforms and communications throughout the day, so much so that they come to expect it. It might sound like a lot of work, but small steps could make a big difference in turning website visits into donor conversions, and mission-driven organizations have a lot to gain by spending time on personalizing their fundraising appeals. Here are five simple steps that you can take to increase online giving with some basic personalization.

Step 1: Define your primary goal.

Before we dive into how you can increase online giving, it’s important to define at least one clear goal. The SMART approach is a great way to do this. SMART goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here are some examples to get the ball rolling:

  • Increase overall online giving by 1% over the next six months
  • Raise $75,000 online towards a capital campaign by the end of the fiscal year
  • Get 50 new donors to make a gift online within four months 
  • Increase the percentage of online givers who give monthly by 5% over the next two years

Pick a SMART goal that is relevant to your organization’s strategic plan, will make a clear impact for your operations and/or constituents, and you think you can achieve on time with the resources you have. For our purposes, let’s choose to increase online giving by 1% in six months.

Step 2: Segment your current users.

What data can you review to assess the current state of online giving to your organization? Most nonprofits have access to at least one web analytics platform, like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. If you don’t, we recommend getting that set up as soon as possible. Additionally, you may have reports from social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter, and maybe a third-party fundraising system, like Blackbaud or Classy. 

Start by grouping your web visitors into segments. You could try to improve the online experience for all donors, and you should do this first if you have a technical issue, like a long page load time. However, assuming your site is running smoothly, you’ll be more likely to achieve a revenue goal if you can find a segment of visitors who are donating less dollars or less frequently, and then improve their experience. Consider segmenting visitors by: 

  • Devices: Group web visitors into desktop, mobile, and tablet users.
  • Locations: Divide visitors by their country, state, or city geolocations.
  • Landing pages: Review visitors who entered your site on the same page together.
  • Traffic sources: Sort visitors by how they found your site, like through a search engine, paid advertisement, social media platform, or email campaign.

Step 3: Find a clear opportunity for growth.

After identifying segments that represent significant portions of your web visitors, it’s time to compare their online giving behavior. Pick a date range and explore critical questions, such as:

  • How many donations did they make?
  • What was their average donation amount?
  • What percentage of visitors made a donation?
  • What percentage of visitors viewed a donation page?

The goal here is to identify user segments that are underperforming as donors. Let’s say you found that:

  • Mobile donations are on average $30 less than desktop donations.
  • While 10% of visitors who enter the site on the homepage donate, less than 1% of those who enter on a blog post donate.
  • Visitors in California who view a call-to-action are twice as likely to give as those in Oregon.

With the above findings in hand, do the math. If the average mobile gift increased by $30, would you meet your revenue goal in six months? What about if the average mobile gift increased by $10 and 10 new donors in Oregon made a gift? Specify which underperforming audience segments you can target with a better donation experience to meet your primary goal. If you can’t make the numbers work here, revise your original goal so it’s achievable. 

Let’s say you find that if you maintain your average number of mobile donors and increase their average gift by $10, you can grow your online revenue by 1% over six months— this is an actionable, data-driven insight. In the next step, we’ll consider how you can test possible improvements to your site for mobile donors.

Step 4: Form and test hypotheses for segment personalization.

With basic personalization rules, you can show all mobile visitors a mobile-specific version of your website. Before making any changes, however, it’s good practice to form and test hypotheses to ensure the changes you make will get the results you want. Now, it’s time to brainstorm. How can you improve the online experience for mobile donors and increase their giving? Consider lots of ideas with your team and prepare to test your best hypothesis. 

Let’s say you hypothesize that you can increase the average mobile gift by 10% by showing mobile users new recommended donation amounts. To test your hypothesis, show 50% of mobile users your current donation levels and 50% of your new mobile-specific donation levels over the next week, or until you have big enough samples to draw conclusions at the 95% confidence level. Measure each cohort’s giving behavior. Did your test succeed? If not, it’s time to amend your hypothesis and try again. 

There are a handful of options for easily testing versions of your website across segments. Google Optimize is one. In this YouTube video, the Google team provides a helpful walkthrough of running an experiment on their platform. It will show you how powerful these tools can be. You might also consider using VWO, Crazy Egg, and more. When you perform a test that succeeds in increasing mobile giving, move on to the next step.

Step 5: Implement changes and measure results. 

This is the most exciting part of data-informed decision-making! It’s time to implement the changes that you know are most likely to achieve your goals. When you do, be sure to measure your results, and iterate as needed. When you succeed in achieving your first goal, move onto another. 

By tailoring your online fundraising strategy, your organization has a lot to gain. These simple personalization steps could make a big difference in meeting your fundraising goals and help you learn more about what drive your key audiences to take action.

Written By

Ellen Hoffman

Data Analyst, Forum One

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