Recently, Meredith Kaplan and I held a lively webinar in which we put the focus on the philanthropy-related sections of your websites. We spotted some terrific examples of compelling cases for giving, easy-to-use giving forms, and lots of areas for improvement. We're talking low hanging fruit. Plenty of easy potential wins that will make your Head of School consider you a rock star.
The content on most Giving sections falls into two major categories:
- Nuts-and-bolts transactional stuff
- Why-to-give marketing stuff
We want to convince you that you doing both — all the time, on every page — makes the whole experience better. And with some inspiring examples from other schools, you'll see it's not hard.
The sites we reviewed for the webinar were consistently more focused on transactions than on marketing, which in some ways makes sense. Advancement pros know that the most compelling asks happen person-to-person, not website-to-person. Making the case has usually happened before the visitor gets to the site. After all, prospective donors aren't just randomly surfing the web, wondering what's happening on the Giving section of their alma mater or child's school. Personal outreach, great social media content, word of mouth, and compelling marketing is what drives them to the site.
But once we have their attention, let's put our best foot forward and make a fabulous impression, leaving no doubt in their minds that they want to get involved, give, and give BIG!
1. Craft an action-word-packed navigation.
That's right. In this age of Snapchat, pervasive video, and 7 second attention spans, word matter more than ever. You've got only a brief opportunity to grab attention and make the case, so choose those words wisely. Typical navigation we see looks like this:
Do you really only care about money? That's what this navigation conveys. Why not consider this more spirited, compelling, prospect-focused model?
This navigation from Presentation High School in San Jose, CA tells a prospect you care about more than their money, what their gift supports, how to get involved, and genuinely makes it look like getting involved is fun! This navigation sees your school from the constituent's perspective, not from your org chart's perspective. Your constituents don't care if events are handled by different staff members from donations. A simple landing spot for everything they need keeps them moving towards engagement.
2. Make a better first impression.
Presentation High's introductory page covers so much content in a simple, organized, easy-to-digest way. Why give, how to give, ways to give, what to give, who to contact — are all covered. Bye bye, boring navigation.
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3. Remember that words matter.
Annual Report is nuts-and-bolts transactional. Gratitude Report is heart warming marketing.
This fabulous example from Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ gets the required stuff taken care of (gotta have those donors lists), but also tells the story in a visually dynamic and engaging way.
4. Give them what they want, so you can get what you want.
We've talked about this concept in other blog posts, about other areas of your website. For example, on a tuition page, yes, tell them what it costs, but also convey why that huge investment is worth it. That same concept applies to your Giving section.
While that alumna is registering for an event, why doesn't the event registration form prompt her to make her annual fund gift at the same time? While she's making a gift, can she easily see upcoming events in her region or have an opportunity to submit a memory, a class note, or a tribute to a teacher? This giving form from Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School gets more subscribers on the President's newsletter mailing list — love it!
5. Never forget the "why."
Constantly remind the donor why they should give, who the gift benefits, and what the gift accomplishes. Why make a giving form text-only and boring when just one gorgeous photo of students playing on the new playground, a teacher engaged with a student, or students in your new Makerspace studio could liven it up and help the donor dig deeper, give bigger, and feel awesome about their gift?
At the all-boys Haverford School in Haverford, PA, they boil it down to one simple and compelling message:
6. Encourage donors to join a winning team.
We all know people like to be part of something bigger than themselves and on a winning team. If giving is about people, why are so many Giving pages 100% text and %0 people? Consider linking from your giving form to a Meet Our Donors feature, like this example from Winchester Thurston in Pittsburgh, PA. This page features perfectly less-than-perfect images and quotes from real donors, and lets the prospective donor see themselves as part of a real community. That the images are of older alumni, younger alumni, single people, families, parents, people of color, and even a whole class year giving together conveys something important about this school's community and appeal.
This example from the capital campaign pages at St. Anne's-Belfield School in VA prompts engagement with simple, smart calls-to-action such as "Submit Your Story".
Sometimes, focused on one more event to plan or one more email campaign to execute, we Advancement folks lose sight of how special the transformative educational experiences are that are happening right down the hallway, right outside our doors, right across campus.
Most of your prospective donors don't actually see those happening every single day like you do. Let them see it, feel it, be part of it. On every page of your Giving section.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Before joining Finalsite in 2012, Kate was a client for almost a decade, as a content manager for the advancement sections of her school's website. She's worn almost every hat in Advancement over sixteen years — alumni director, database manager, annual fund director, budget and hiring manager, envelope stuffer, party planner, chauffeur, you name it..