- Higher Education
- Independent Schools
- International Schools
You know your school’s mission, story, and successes by heart. You know that giving to the school means maintaining a healthy environment for living and learning, and allows faculty and students to reach their fullest potential. But how do you let prospective donors know how important their donations are? How do you create a desire to donate?
The advancement section of your school’s website, by definition, has a different purpose than an admissions section or an athletics section. Rather than recruiting new families, you’re engaging current and former families. And understanding how these different audiences behave and think is important to making sure your initiatives are successful.
You may already be familiar with the stages of the admissions funnel: awareness, consideration, and decision. What you may not realize, however, is that the advancement funnel follows the same principles - and your advancement site has to nurture a prospective donor through this funnel until a decision to donate is made.
This task is further complicated because of the sheer amount of information that is typically found within an advancement site’s pages: annual fund, events, alumni relations, giving societies, and more.
In order to effectively reach donors, you need to look at this site from their points of view.
Your prospective donor doesn’t necessarily care that the Annual Fund is housed under Development, or if parent associations are in charge of the yearly Christmas drive. What matters most is inspiring donors to give of their time, talent, or treasure.
How can your website convert these prospective donors into actual (and potentially recurring) donors? Here are six best practices for earning more online donations this year.
1. Build a Better Landing Page
Transform your landing page from a plea to give to an inspiration to action by using unique stories that illustrate why giving is essential to the health of the school.
Keep in mind that your giving landing page is actually different than the main page on the giving section of your website. Your giving landing page is the actual page with the form for online donations. The landing page should be a quick glance at the key points that build a case to give. You can use different tools and methods to represent each section.
For example, you could have:
- a video illustrating alumni or parent involvement
- testimonials for alumni relations
- social feeds for events
- infographics for giving
Each section should feel unique, but have the same voice, same message, and same goal: to engage the user. For example, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy does an excellent job selling the importance of giving back to the school. A short form and clear value proposition engage potential donors from the get-go:
Scroll down on their landing page, and you'll find videos and news stories that further engage and compel the visitor to make their donation. (And with the option to use PayPal, really, how much easier could it be?)
2. Make Your Events “Social” By Design
Whether you choose to split up alumni and parent events, or keep them all under one umbrella, the same principles apply. Build enthusiasm for events using footage and visuals from the previous years’ events.
Have a social feed that pulls in posts from select accounts and hashtags. Be sure to use a consistent hashtag for each event to make it easier to pull through. Choate Rosemary Hall uses Finalsite Feeds prominently on their alumni page, reminding graduates to stay connected with their own branded hashtag, #forevertruegoldandblue. This is an easy way for followers to stay connected to the school, and ties in giving with the emotional pull of nostalgia.
3. Put Alumni Relations at the Forefront
The most important way to drive alumni giving is to keep them engaged. This might take more than a social feed scrolling within the alumni section. There are a few different things you could try, including:
- Consistently profile alumni in a “hall of fame” section
- Include a visible and accessible list of class agents and contact information for those who might want to become involved.
- Thank alumni for their continued involvement, and show how much you value their attendance at events and participation in giving campaigns.
Here is an example of Choate's "Alumni Recognition" section on their website. It is simple, but effective.
Another important factor in an alumni section is to provide ways to help alumni connect with others using a directory. Also, include a way for alumni to easily update their contact information by using a short form.
4. Show Your “Why”
The number one question donors ask is: “ Where do my donations go?”. Using infographics or other illustrative ways to show how gifts are distributed answers the question up front and assures your audience that their money is being used wisely. Millennials, in particular, want to know that their money is spent purposefully. Westminster capitalizes on this idea with a video on their giving page featuring students sharing their plans for how they will change the world.
It is a good idea to mix these statistics with the benefits of giving. For example, a gift designation for financial aid can be represented with an infographic of the dollar amount of financial aid awarded annually. Including the percentage of faculty and staff (and seniors, if applicable) who give is also a strong indicator of the health of the school.
The Community School incorporates video testimonials to show their “why,” profiling a donor and the reasons he chose to support the school.
For giving campaigns, such as a one-day giving campaign, Page Pops are a great way to drive conversions. Managed using Composer’s WYSIWYG interface, you can use the rich text editor to easily add photos, videos, and links to a Page Pop. Adding a Page Pop to the homepage reminder users of the important day - or even to internal portals - is a great way to encourage traffic to the giving day section and encourage easy donations. You can also get creative with Page Pops using a delay, so the user sees the notification appear anytime between 7-60 seconds after a page loads.
5. Improve The Giving Form Experience
You did it! You’ve guided your prospect through the funnel and now they want to give. Don’t just give them a form page. Send your donor to an interactive page that includes testimonials, value propositions, or a video.
The form, however, is key. Wherever possible, simplify your forms. Nothing frustrates a user more than a long-scrolling or multi-page form - if a user forgets to fill in a field, if there is a technical error, or if it takes too long - especially on mobile - there is a high chance the page (and the gift) will be abandoned. Take a look at your giving page’s bounce rate - if it’s too high, a few simple fixes to shorten the form may be the key to keeping donors on the page.
Finalsite Payments helps to simplify the online giving experience by offering website visitors 100 different payment options, currencies, and even automatically translates into languages based on the user's set browser language.
And don’t forget about your young alumni - use Venmo as an option for even simpler giving.
6. Focus on Stewardship
Just because you got your donor through the funnel doesn’t mean your work is done. Stewardship creates loyal donors.
When a donor finishes making a gift, it is essential that they are sent to a thank you page that provides the following: a thank you note, tax information, upcoming events, and additional content to share a re-engage, such as a thank you video.
Tackling an advancement site is a huge undertaking, but we can help! By using features such as Page Pops, Feeds, and more, your advancement site will do more than inform - it will inspire!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hadley is Finalsite's Director of Communications and is a former independent school teacher, fundraiser and marketing director with a passion for cooking, travel, and spending time outdoors with her growing family. She founded the FinalsiteFM podcast network and enjoys meeting Finalsite clients from around the world.