Picture one of your supporters sitting at her computer. She’s
browsing your website. She just finished reading a heart-warming story
of success about someone whose life has been transformed by your
nonprofit’s program, and there’s a tear in her eye.
(There’s also a bit of broccoli between her front teeth, but
don’t focus on that now.)

Now you watch with bated breath:
Will she convert from supporter to donor? What can you say during this
open-minded moment of truth? What should you absolutely avoid saying
during this crucial time?

If you peruse the Learning Center,
you’re bound to find information about effective messaging, good
donor stewardship and tips to get your online fundraising off the
ground (peruse away!). But for all the warm fuzzies and smart messages
you’re sending, consider these five things that you should never
say to your online donors:

  1. “I’m not trustworthy.”
    Obviously you would never have a headline on your nonprofit website:
    “Don’t Trust Us with Your Money.” However, make sure
    that’s not the message folks are reading between the lines. Are
    you set up to receive online donations? Did you hide your
    enigmatically- named “consider giving” page beneath 12
    layers of informational pages? Are your physical address and annual
    report listed and easy to find? Legitimize your online presence,
    validate your online visitors’ preference to donate online and
    show your site visitors you need and appreciate their help.

  2. “I take you for granted.”
    If your website forces supporters to search for a long time to find out
    how to, you know, support you online (or if there’s no way to
    support you at all), it’s frustrating – see point 1. If
    online supporters are not acknowledged, it’s downright
    ungrateful. If your site is set up for online giving, ask yourself,
    “What happens when people donate?” Do they hear from you
    again? Do they get a tax receipt? Is the only thing they get a receipt?
    The quickest way to turn a donor into a one-timer is to neglect the

  3. “I have no idea how much you should give.”
    Of course your donors will give in varying amounts, and you want to
    allow that sort of flexibility to your supporters. However, to say,
    “Give whatever you want” is not a specific, tangible ask.
    Make it easy (and easy-to-picture) to choose a giving level.
    Here’s an example: Recently one of our Network-for-Gooders sent a
    birthday fundraising ask that outlined exactly what a $37 donation
    would buy (“the food for a healthy, homemade breakfast for 15
    homeless men and women”). Set up custom giving levels (like
    Malaria No More’s “$10 buys one bed net!”). Paint the
    picture of how the money will be used.

  4. “What’s your name again?” If
    you met a donor in person, you wouldn’t greet him, “Hi,
    friend.” Why treat your online donors any differently? In your
    email marketing and outreach, be sure to include personalization
    whenever possible. Use whatever data you have to create the most
    engaging messages possible. For example, “Hi, Bob! I wanted to
    reach out and say thank you for your $20 online gift…”
    (This works if his name is Bob, of course.) And here’s a helpful
    hint: If it looks like a form letter, sounds like a form letter and
    quacks like a form letter, it’s a form letter and your donor will
    know it. Although, sending something is better than nothing, which
    brings us to point 5…

  5. *Nothing at all.* And,
    the most important thing to avoid saying to online supporters and
    donors: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Radio silence. If you know nothing else
    about the Internet and all this Web 2.0 business, you should know this:
    The Web is about engagement and building connections. Thank your
    donors. Encourage monthly giving. Offer other opportunities to get
    involved including volunteer openings, signing up for your e-newsletter
    and so on. If you donor came in as anything above and beyond
    “anonymous,” take that opportunity to build a relationship
    and make the most of it.

And, if you’re thinking
to yourself “Gasp! I can’t accept donations online,”
or, “Heavens to Betsy, we’re not sending email
campaigns!” let us help. We’re pleased to offer
easy-to-use, affordable and effective resources for just those