Donation Strategy Best Practices

While asking for donations is sometimes more art that science, we have found there are some recurring best practices that lead to effective donation actions. (See our guide on how to choose which donation type is right for you.)

In this guide we will cover

    • The Ingredients of an Effective Action
    • Theory of Change
    • Choosing the Right Image
    • The Follow-up
    • General Best Practices You Can Implement Today

The Ingredients of an Effective Action

  1. Be Audience-centric – The most important part of creating an action is putting your audience first. Listen to them and get to know them. Think back to previously successful campaigns you have run and look for patterns and clues. Be sure to look at email campaigns and offline campaigns. What is it that made these campaigns successful? Past performance is a great predictor of how your audience will respond in the future. Find out what types of content your audience likes. You can use ActionSprout’s Timeline tool to learn more about your audience and use Inspire to learn about what’s working for similar audiences in your network.
  2. Use Emotion – Your action should evoke an emotional response from your audience and supporters should feel compelled to get involved.
  3. Solvable – Your audience has to believe that taking action will lead to something positive and that real change is possible. It is your job to convince them.
  4. Make it Urgent – You have your supporters’ attention for 10 seconds — make sure they feel like they have to take the action now, or they probably will never do it. Is there a deadline or an impending problem that needs solving right away?
  5. Direct Actions At People, Places or Things – It helps if the action is directed at a noun. Whether that is meeting a goal, pressuring an elected official, or supporting a community, choose a person, place, animal or thing to direct the action at. The action should feel tangible.
  6. Help Your Audience Look Good to Their Friends– Facebook is a highly public form. When your supporters take action on Facebook, they are thinking about how it will reflect on them. Your action should be something they want to be seen doing.
  7. Be as Clear as Possible – Is it possible to explain your action simply and make a clear, single ask? It’s very important that your action is clear about what you’re asking folks to do and how they can help solve the problem. Assume people are distracted while looking at your post, they are!

Theory of Change

As stated above, one of the ingredients your action should have is the ability to solve a problem. Folks are compelled to take action when they believe real change is possible and that their voice will make a difference. The best way to do this is to write your action in the problem, solution, action format.

First clearly state the problem with a powerful, attention grabbing hook: “If we don’t act now….”, “The tiger population is at record low levels….”, “This year 100,000 gallons of oil was spilled….” Be sure to give people enough information to clearly explain why they should care about the problem without overwhelming them with too much information.

Next set up the solution. How will you solve this problem? The solution you present must be realistic and believable to your audience. This is a good place to include a “Hero” if applicable. Can we send a team or person to solve the problem? Is there someone at the governmental level who can help?

Lastly tell people how they can take action to help solve the problem. In the case of a donation action this will be through a financial donation. “We need X amount of money to solve this problem, are you willing to chip in?”

Choosing the Right Image

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. This statement is still as very bit true on Facebook today as it was back then. Facebook is a very visual channel so you want to make sure your action image is powerful and attention grabbing. Images make a post easier to understand and empathize with, as well as, receive more engagement and shares than text only posts.

Make sure the image fits your voice, clearly relates to the action, and is something you believe your audience would want to share with their friends and family members. At the same time, you want it to stand out from the crowd: emotional, vibrant or contrasting colors.  When in doubt, you can reuse a photo that you’ve seen work before on your own page or elsewhere. Remember, the more engagement, the more reach your action receives and the more potential action takers!

Pictures with Text

If you have the resources, add some language – a fact or your call to action – to the image. It makes it more sharable and clickable. But whatever you do, don’t add a button to it as it confuses supporters when they end up at the social action landing page.

Please note: Images in Facebook posts should be 1200 x 1200 and action images should be 1200 x 627. If you plan on promoting your action through Facebook ads no more than 20% of the image can be text.

The Follow-up

How and when you follow-up with folks after they donate to your cause, is as important as the donation ask itself. That’s why it’s important that you put in the same time and effort into your follow-up messages as you do for the initial ask. In a Nonprofit Hub article  Denise McMahan states “the preparation for and conducting the Ask is 25 percent of the process and follow-up is 75 percent!”

Part of this includes crafting a personal message. With smart includes you can effortlessly include the name of the donor in their thank you message. Folks also like to know that their hard-earned money is leading to success and progress. Be sure to share how their money is used and what positive outcome it led to. People will gain confidence in your organization and be more likely to donate again.

ActionSprout has options to customize a post action message that folks see immediately after they take your action and options to send an automatic email to those who have donated. For more information on setting up post action messages and emails visit our how to create a donation action guide.

General Best Practices You Can Implement Today

We leave you with a list of simple tweaks you can make today that will start to increase the success of your donation action.

    • Use inclusive language like “we” and “us”. You’re not asking people to do your organization a favor, instead they are a part of your team working towards a solution.
    • Don’t use the word “donate” anywhere in your action or Facebook post. I know this sounds a bit strange considering we’re creating a donation action but trust me using words like “chip in” will lead to more donations.
    • Ask folks to give to your cause not your organization. If your organization is “People Saving Tigers” you’re not asking folks to donate to you as an organization but to the cause itself, the tigers. Make sure to frame your language in this way.
    • Include the action short link and your call to action towards the beginning of your Facebook post. Providing them early in a post increases the chances of a person seeing and completing it.
    • Experiment with different donation strings. Starting at $3 dollars might be more effective than starting at $20. Or it could be the reverse! Pay attention to this and see what works for you.
    • Experiment with setting a goal amount and a goal date in your action. This could influence more people to donate.
    • The action description should be around three paragraphs in length.

For technical support on creating donation actions and setting up Stripe.

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