At a major conference at which I was speaking, a man interrupted my fundraising session with a confession: “I have a DonateNow button from your organization [Network for Good], but it doesn’t work.”

Very concerned and hoping to reassure him that our service team would make sure his page could receive donations properly, the man clarified his predicament: “No, the page works fine. The problem is that no one is clicking on our donate button.”

That is a problem indeed.

Donate pages and Facebook fan sites don’t work without great messaging, compelling engagement, and marketing savvy. This year, make sure that all the online outreach you are performing has the necessary thinking behind it. To encourage donors to give online – or anywhere for that matter – you need to always answer four questions for them:

Why me? Show your audience why what you’re doing is personally relevant to them. They need to connect with your organization on a human level. Use pictures, tell stories, and do anything else that can help your audience relate.

Why now? Aside from year-end and post-crisis giving, you have to work to impart urgency and immediacy to your donors.

What for? People know you’re a nonprofit organization and you need donations to help your cause, but where exactly is a donor’s money going? Don’t just focus on need; explain the impact a donation will make. (More on this in Part Two of this series.)

Who says? Use trustworthy messengers – people you’ve actually helped or other donors – instead of just your staff and board (more on this in Part Three). In studies people report friends and family are the most influential in determining where they give money.

Nonprofits have been neglecting these key messages for too long online, as if technology can do the hard work of convincing for us. It can’t! The time is now to fix any weak messaging or engagement strategies.

by Katya Andresen