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We have news for you

20 Mar

Listen up. Barapani is a full service fundraising company now.

We’ve taken the past few months to think hard, work on the numbers, and get this together for you.

Digital. Tele-calling. Events. Major donor fundraising. Media planning and buying. Full on fundraising, as we’d say in Bangalore. And a research lab to back this up.

We’ve been around as Barapani for seven full years now. And there’s one thing we’ve been focused on: How to get you and your not-for-profit to raise more money year after year for your work.

We have been around as the funding environment has evolved in the past couple of decades.  We have seen the rug being pulled from under the feet of some of us all too soon, as priorities of countries and donors have changed.

We’ve walked along with those of you who’ve been truly visionary and recognised that the road to building a committed base of long-term support does not lie in a single viral campaign or a flash mob, but in the often mind-numbing task of filling out donor details on an Excel sheet (or its rich-cousin alternative).

Not all of you have causes immediately attractive to an evolving public. Not all of you have something to offer that can be captured in a soundbite. We’ve walked alongside you as well.

In short, we’ve been around long enough to know a couple of things.

  1. What works very well in fundraising.
  2. Even more important. What doesn’t work in fundraising.

And so, today we’re announcing the start of a new Barapani. One that’s bigger, better and more focused on what you need.

Thank you for walking with us.

Bharati

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Have website, will fundraise? Not necessarily.

21 Feb

Creating a website and waiting for donations to pour in is a bit like buying a car and expecting it to drive itself.

So we put the website URL on visiting cards, brochures, annual reports, and email signatures, and then wait. Those with some resources to spare dabble in social media (read Facebook) and post the website URL on Facebook with an appeal. When that still doesn’t pay, we shrug our shoulders and tell ourselves, “Well, as a small/ medium not-for-profit, we can’t afford to advertise the way these big organisations can, so this is the best we can do.” The enthusiasm for the website wanes, and in no time, the website is dead. But we know that we should be doing more on the web, so every three to five years we fiddle with the website and make cosmetic changes.

This cycle is all too familiar for us who have been working with not-for-profit organisations of all sizes for the past 16 years.

So here it is, in simple, unequivocal terms: Just a website will not raise you money or supporters online.

Simple promotion tactics – while important – are not enough.

  • Putting your URL on print materials is a good start, but people have to key in your URL into a browser, and that calls for serious interest or commitment.
  • Putting your URL on your email signature is slightly better, but most people tune out your email signature, unless you force them to read it in some way.
  • Posting an appeal, even a well-written one, on Facebook is good, but if you haven’t built the relationships, no one is reading.

In last week’s post, we talked about how it’s not what you do with the donate button, but what you do around it. This week, we talk about how it’s not about just having a website, but how you drive donors to visit and give on it.

What you need is a digital pipeline that drives potential donors to your website, engages them in conversation and gets them to give again.

Here are three ways in which you can do this:

  1. Put in place a regular email marketing campaign to build and nurture a list of warm donors. An email newsletter can become your #1 tool in driving online donations. It can get people to give for the first time, and one-time donors to give again and give more.
  2. Get donors who have given even once to engage with you on social media, say Facebook. This gives you a low-cost method of regularly communicating with and retaining donors.
  3. Tie these three channels – the website, Facebook and the email newsletter – into a digital loop that powers your acquisition and retention engine.

Now that your basic loop is in place, you can add elements (such as advertising) according to your budget.

To find out how to put this digital pipeline in place, write in to us.

The #1 tip that makes your donate button click

13 Feb

Ask early, they say. Ask often, they say. The answer, you’d think, lay in a sprinkling of donation buttons on the website: Donate. DONATE NOW. DoNaTe (animated). Not so.

If the mystery of the perfectly positioned donate button has you confused, you’re not alone. Where should you put the donate button on your website? Above the scroll, of course, so that a reader can see it without moving down the page. But what else? While a lot of opinions exist on the colour, shape, size and font of the donate button, these are – while important aspects – not the #1 factor that drives potential donors to click.

The #1 factor to consider is not so much what you do with the donate button – as what you do around it. How do you engage your website visitors in a conversation that leads up to the donate button?

It comes back, as it usually does in fundraising, to storytelling.

The most powerful reason to give that you can offer your donors is a chance to be part of the change your work brings about. Bring that change alive for them on the website. Not in a separate link called “stories of change” or worse, “success stories” or ugh, “case studies.” Tell your story right up on the home page and let it dance.

People give to people, and not to organisations. We’ve heard that often enough. But how often do we find organisations describing themselves on the most prime real estate on the homepage: “We are a charitable trust aimed at xxxxxx,” and plonking the donate button right next to that! No donor will be moved to give by the registration specifics of your organisation. No donor will be moved to give by a jargon-filled statement of work – no matter how impressive or how enduring. No donor will be moved to give by the list of luminaries on your board.

What does, will and continue to move a donor is your mission. The reason you exist. The story of how your work helped a woman pull her children out of manual labour and gave them back their childhood, with a full belly and lessons at school. The story of how a village artisan now provides jobs to other artisans in his community.

The story need not be long – indeed, on a website, it can’t be. And resist the temptation to tell the whole story in four lines (Meena was poor. But thanks to us, now she’s working at xx).

How much of the story to tell, and how to tell it, are important judgments to make. A good story, when told well, moves people into clicking. Right then. Right there. And that’s where you need the donate button. Right around the most persuasive copy on your website – the story of change.

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See how the story of David and Dinesh gives you a flavour of the kind of change HOPE foundation has brought about: an incentive for young children to stay in school. The excerpt does not dwell at length on their family background, nor on the long-term changes in the family, but on just their love for dance. While a reader can click on the full story, the excerpt still tugs at the heartstrings. And the donate button is right next to it. Stories like these helped HOPE foundation take their online fundraising through the website up by 700+ per cent.

You can also do all of the above by evoking a picture of the problem that you’re addressing, and how the reader can be part of the solution. More on that, another day.

We’ve got nine more tips like this one to get your website in shape to raise money. Download our cheat-sheet, 10 ways your website can raise more funds, right here.

5 tips to convert web visitors into donors

11 May

Why do you buy books on Flipkart?

For one, the price is just right for an impulse buy. Two, it’s easy, since your preferred addresses are stored and you don’t have to type details in again. Three, you have many payment options, including Net Banking and Cash on Delivery.

In other words, Flipkart makes it easy for you to buy.

The world of non-profits is not that different from the book selling business. Yes, a major difference is that when a person usually visits a Flipkart or an Amazon, it’s with the definite intention of making a purchase. Non-profits on the other hand have to persuade donors to make the “purchase” or the donation.

So what could non-profits learn from the Flipkart experience?

1. Make it affordable

The average online donor has, by and large, stumbled upon your site, and has stayed a bit longer because the story you told caught his attention. Any donation is most likely to be an impulse donation. Impulse purchases (and contributions) are usually small amounts. I would safely assume that anything between Rs 500 (the amount you’d spend at a coffee shop) and Rs 2,000 (the amount you might spend at a fancy meal once a month) is fair game for an online donation.

Online donations can be for higher amounts, of course, but such donations are usually not spontaneous. For example, those who pledge Rs 5,000 or Rs 10,000 to support causes in marathons have been invited by a friend and have most likely made up their minds to donate.

Therefore, keep the amounts relatively low, to get high volumes of online donations.

2. Make it real

Every non-profit website has the ubiquitous story and an appeal to donate. But often, the stories are either on the home page or inner pages, and the donate page just has the dry donation details. Make it real for the donor, by demonstrating the connection between the story and the appeal. In other words, a combination of the story, a photo and an ask works well. I love the way Kiva does it (www.kiva.org) – it gives you a story with a photo, makes an ask of $25, tells you what the money is for, but also tells you how much is needed in all (with a horizontal bar indicating how much has been raised.)

3. Make it easy

Do you have long forms for the donor to fill out (in your eagerness to develop a database)? Chances are the donor will postpone the act of giving to later (which usually means never.) The Population Foundation of India website asks people to enter their details before downloading any of the reports available on the website. You have to enter your details as many times as the number of reports you want to read! (Note: PFI does not seek to convert web visitors to donors, but it would be so much better to store user details in a database and allow users to login at one time and download as many reports as they want. This would help PFI improve user experience, while being able to track and analyse user behavior.)

Keep only the very essential form fields (such as name and address) that will allow you to send a receipt and thank you letter to the donor. And please make sure repeat donors do not have to key in all details all over again.

Allow multiple ways to give. Use bank transfers, credit cards and direct debits, and not so much the usual cheque and dance routine. There’s many a slip between the intent to write a cheque and the actual writing (or posting) of it.

4. Make it quick

Many non-profits ask early, and ask on the homepage. See CRY, Unicef or Greenpeace. This is the result of years of trial-and-testing and research. Don’t wait to tell your donor the history of your organization and the story behind your programmes. Chances are you’ll lose the donor midway through the history. Ask early, and provide short well-written stories and statistics to bolster your case.

5. Make it credible

It’s likely that no one has heard of you, and that when people do hear of you, they wonder if you’re above board. Factor in your audience’s skepticism into your communication, and answer the questions before they ask. Make your annual report downloadable; put the top numbers right where they can see; give your donors the sense that there is real person behind the faceless website.

Image

Comic strip courtesy Carol Weisman’s blog, http://www.boardbuilders.com/node/55

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