What’s In It For Me: What NGOs should know about their donors

Most successful non-profits excel at anticipating field work realities and challenges. But are we able to read people’s minds? Can we understand what motivates a donor to give? Often, the answer to these questions is ‘no’. We present key donor-relations concepts fundraisers can benefit from. Here are excerpts from Sameer Bhakhri’s informative session on Fundraising hosted by our Knowledge Centre.

What’s In It For Me?: A phrase commonly used by marketers. Its most important function: teaching you to think from the perspective of the donor. We sometimes assume that we know what donors are thinking, or that they share our opinions about the organisation. This may not be so. As Mr. Bhakhri discussed, donors could donate out of a sense of guilt, obligation, convenience or necessity. It’s up to you as a fundraiser to understand the motives as closely as possible.
Segmentation: In a nutshell, dividing your potential market or audience into segments, and then deciding which segment you would focus your energies on. Sameer Bhakhri led participants through identifying potential corporates for CSR funding. Yes, the world is your oyster, but that isn’t going to guarantee you results. Start by making a list of potential leads, then shortlist that list into groups based on who you are likely to experience the most success with. This section would be the segment you focus your efforts on.
Branding: If marketing is what you say about your organisation, then branding is what people say about you. Let your branding flow from your organisation’s USP, and have it describe what your organisation does better than competitors. A strong brand means people already have a memory of your organisation without you having to introduce it to them.
Acquire, Retain, Grow: It can cost up to 7 times more to acquire a new donor as compared to retaining an old one. Set targets at the beginning of the year as to how many donors you hope to retain at the end of the year, and what you have to do to hit that number. Planned and continuous efforts like a newsletter, thank you letter and non-donation related interactions are likely to keep donors supporting you.

Website analytics: The numbers don’t lie!

Everyone loves the sweet smell of higher recognition. Marketing and fundraising activities are recommended strategies to achieve this goal. But not every NGO has a clear idea of how much bang you can get for your buck. How much money could you earn from a well-designed website? Here’s some data that could help you calculate how much time and money to invest on the web.

US-based group M+R has released their 2014 Benchmark Report that analyses NGOs’ marketing activities. An exhaustive study of over 2 billion emails, 5.6 million donations and 7.5 million actions online[1] by U.S. based NGOs shows how much effort it takes to convert users into donors and keep them coming back. We’ve presented key factors that may be of interest to NGOs. Don’t let the data paralyse you! Use this report as a benchmark to measure expectations for your own campaigns. The NGOs they surveyed have a much larger reach than most Indian NGOs, so do keep that factor in mind as well.

  • Website traffic: Website traffic for NGOs increased overall by 16% from 2012[2], as did social media reach. Medium-sized NGOs reported the highest increase in traffic

Remember: Make sure to have a responsive website. People accessing your website are not necessarily going to be sitting at home in front of a computer. Make sure your site and newsletter are easily viewable on a smartphone or tablet.

  • Online Giving: Online giving had increased, with nearly all sectors they viewed reporting an increase in online revenue between 2012 and 2013[3]. Small NGOs saw a    drop of 3% in their online revenue, so if you’re a small NGO make sure that’s not you!

Remember: A donation page is a great way to accomplish fundraising goals for your organization. The page gives donors the satisfaction of having supported your NGO. Donation pages in the sectors they surveyed had more than 12% conversion rates. Look to have a payment gateway on your website, and direct traffic from your newsletters/emailers and social media campaigns towards it whenever relevant.


[1] Pg 2, The Big Picture, M+R Benchmarks, http://www.mrbenchmarks.com/, accessed on 19th November 2014

[2] Pg 36, http://www.mrbenchmarks.com/, accessed on 19th November 2014

[3] Website revenue per visitor, Pg 38, http://www.mrbenchmarks.com/,accessed on 19th November 2014

Has your NGO mastered Google Analytics yet?

Digital measurement tools are not exclusive to for-profit marketing managers! With online fundraising on the rise, a sharply designed website is a great tool to showcase work and encourage donations. However, NGOs often adapt web strategies in a haphazard manner, and find it difficult to measure the outcome of their online work.

While there is a whole world of paid media and services, we’ll focus on two free tools that NGOs can use to analyse their online reach and performance – Google Analytics and Page Insights on Facebook (covered in the next piece).

Google has provided a free, easy-to-use analytics service that helps measure how users are interacting with your website. Google analytics provides tools to see if more people are visiting the website, trying to donate or discovering your organisation online. While there is a paid version, NGOs can benefit with the free version which provides sufficiently deep insights. Caveat: Procuring an analytics id provides Google with access to your website performance data. If this is an issue, a private service provider could be considered.

Here are five simple steps to get a better understanding of your website performance:

  • Ensure that your site has a Google Analytics ID: The ID is a unique 8-digit number generated by Google on which data for your website is stored. Getting and placing an ID on all your web pages requires some amount of technical expertise. If you’re not comfortable trying it out yourself, ask someone with a tech background to do it for you.
  • Block your own IP addresses from Analytics: Once set up, Google Analytics will record each visitor to your website and add the numbers up for you. Make sure you block your own IP (internet protocol) address as it will count the number of times you visit your own website, skewing your numbers. If there is a shared connection in office, you could block that as well.
  • Measure, measure, measure: Now that your data is clear, you can start overviewing it. How many visitors do you have a day, where are they from and what pages are they viewing most? Do a lot of people click on the donate button but not complete a transaction? Your analytics numbers give you a tentative idea about what interests people most and is a cue for the kind of content you should promote through your newsletters and other social media channels.
  • URL Builder: The URL builder feature allows you to mark website links that you send other people. This feature allows you track how many people have clicked on links in your email signature, donation emails and more. Using the URL builder is an indirect way of measuring donor interest.
  • Align your content with your website: Once you’ve set up Analytics and learnt how to tag your links, you can mark content from your social media channels, blog or newsletter when it is redirected to your website. Google Analytics will measure this as well.

Remember: Tag all your content with utm links so that you can track what kind of content is most likely to get people back to your site.

Content management secret all NGOs should know

NGOs are always pressed for time and find content creation and distribution daunting tasks.  How do you manage to put out entertaining and informative content month after month? Information dissemination need not be a black hole which sucks up all your time. A well-planned editorial calendar helps! We share some tips:

  • Define your goals: What is the objective of the communication? Getting donors to connect with your NGO is an ambiguous plan. Do you want donors to donate after reading one of your articles or posts – lead them there! Pre-empt a donor’s needs by using your content to communicate impact visually, numerically or in words. This is a great way to provide donors with a sense of satisfaction about their contribution to the NGO. A newsletter or a Facebook page are effective ways to keep media contacts updated about your work.

          Remember: Match your content creation goals with your fundraising or donor communication ones. It creates a sense of continuity.

  • Define your channels: The number of social media and outreach channels available can be overwhelming. Don’t let it get you down! We’ve found that our own website is the most useful channel followed by an in-house newsletter and Facebook posts. Choose channels that are familiar to your donors and regularly measure readership/click metrics.
  • Schedule your annual calendar: This can be in the form of a rough sketch. Choose a time of the year that is a slack period for you, rather than being bound by the calendar year. Brainstorm about a plan for the next 12 months. Don’t despair at the thought of generating vast amounts of content. A newsletter could be monthly or bi-monthly. You can schedule a newsletter summarizing the contents of your annual report, killing two birds with one stone.

         Remember: It’s better to put out quality content on one or two channels than to put out generic content on many.

  • Plan your content: If you’re an NGO running a school, you can schedule a lot of content around the beginning of the school year. Encourage students to share their work or manage parts of the newsletter. Facebook pages like Humans of New York that tell the stories of ordinary people are extraordinarily successful on social media. Plan a series on your beneficiaries, human or otherwise! Remember to create content that goes out during the festive seasons, New Year’s, tax-planning season.

          Remember: All content does not have to be proprietary. Do share others’ relevant content (with due credit of course!).       Positive, upbeat messaging works well, do thank donors for their support.

Having a preplanned calendar will help you slot time needed to spend on content dissemination each month. Clearly defined goals help in creating content that is relevant and interesting to readers. Keep your readers coming back for more!