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December 3, 2021
Online Year-End Fundraising Is Actually a Year-Round Activity
The tactics that make for successful year-end online fundraising are things nonprofits need to do all the time since, according to a recent study, “the majority of would-be web donors never complete their gifts. In many cases, as many as 98 percent of visitors to an organization’s donate page leave before making a donation.”

The study, completed by Sea Change Strategies and Care 2, and written by Mark Rovner and Sarah Haugh of Sea Change, noted that online giving is more than online transactions. It said that “the vast majority of fundraising-related visits to your website are for research purposes. That is, many of your offline donors will have looked over your web presence as part of their personal due diligence in deciding whether to become a donor.”

Inspire Donors, Build Passion

To build an effective, year-round fundraising operation, nonprofits need to inspire their donors every day and build passion, according to the authors.

“Chances are you’ll do well even if your website breaks every usability rule,” they wrote. “People give in large measure because it feels good. Recent neurobiology studies show that the act of giving actually generates endorphins in the brain—the same happy-making chemicals responsible for post-exercise “highs.”

They add, “Online Fundraising 1.0—which is where we are today—looks a lot like direct mail. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Every communication is an ask. Every ask is an emergency. Email lists are black boxes, into which we pour email appeals, and from which we extract money and data. This is not a sustainable model.”

To help remedy the situation, the authors suggest the following:

Tell your organization’s founding story once a year.

Communications guru Andy Goodman calls this one of the “sacred bundle” of stories—a profound reminder of the deep values and moral struggle that gave rise to your organization’s existence.

Have a genuine acquisition and cultivation strategy and calendar.

Send emails to donors that thank them, that report back on how you’ve spent their money, and that offer an inspiring anecdote or factoid. You can’t thank donors enough, and chances are, you don’t. Make it a point not to ask for donations in these communications.

Ask your donors for their feedback and opinions on a regular basis.

Use their advice when appropriate; it shows them that you know there are people behind those email addresses and that you’re not only asking, but also listening.

Offer periodic live chats or phone-in briefings with your CEO.

This is a staple of major donor fundraising, inexplicably absent from the online giving scene.

Offer real-life glimpses into the life of your organization.

We are entering an era when authenticity is arguably the paramount value in marketing communications— a potentially massive shift from the fakey-fake formula that still guides most direct mail.

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