Category Archives for "Relationships"

Donations: Alternative Approaches

In the previous 6 Wednesday posts I have shown you how to make a case for donations to your cause online. This post considers some alternative approaches to designing your site.

This is a standard approach, which may work for many organisations:

This sequence is a model.  How you develop it is up to you.  You could build a website with six pages, each mirroring a step in this sequence.  But the sequence is really a guide and so long as each step is present, how you present them depends upon your creativity.

Purpose of Your Site

Towards the end of the sequence, I considered some issues worthy of further thought.  What is the purpose of your site?  To receive a single donation is not the most effective approach.  Your aim is to build a relationship with your donors.  That way they can offer you more value than a one-off donation.

It may sometimes make sense to ask for a donation immediately, for example if there is a crisis and you need large sums immediately, but building a relationship is a better investment for your effort.

Someone on your email list may donate several times during their relationship with your charity.  They may also offer you other opportunities, for example

  • contact with other potential donors
  • they might take your campaigns to off-line places, eg by presenting your case at meetings
  • feedback about what interests them, and the information they need
  • campaigning, on and off-line

The key to developing a good relationship is to offer good content.  So, offer information about how you use donations and be more ambitious!

You can produce educational material to give away or sell to your donors.  This may equip donors with the knowledge they need to promote your cause more effectively or it could be something of value to the donor personally, eg a charity that promotes health may offer advice about personal health.

Whatever you do, think carefully about the purpose of your site.  It is not always what you might think.  You need to plan for the long haul.  If you make contact with people who are keen supporters, and help them deepen their commitment to your cause, they may be willing supporters of your work for years to come.


Donations Follow Up

When you make donations follow up is important.  So far I’ve reviewed website page content for your charity and it is crucial you work out the best follow-up available to you.

Once your visitor has signed up for your email list and / or donated, they should arrive at a new page.  What’s on it?

First, thank them for signing up and / or donating.

If they have donated, explain you have placed them on your email list and so will keep them up to date with the work of the charity.

Most email services run a double opt-in service and I recommend you do this.  It means that once they’re entered on your list, they receive an email, asking them to confirm their wish to subscribe.  This way you know the people on your list have consented to being on it.  So, tell them there will be an email in their inbox where they can confirm they wish to receive emails from your charity.  Tell them to click on the link.

Why Follow-Up?

They’ve made one donation and so they are likely to make future donations. This is your opportunity to build a relationship with your donors.  They might donate again in the future or help you in other ways.

The big mistake many organisations make is persistent requests for donations.  Obviously you will request donations from time to time but this should happen rarely.  Your aim is to build a relationship with your list.  So, on the page tell them what they will receive from you now they’ve  signed up.  Here are a few ideas:

  • Reports about progress with your cause.  If someone has donated they will appreciate a progress report.  This might be a written report or it could include photos video or audio material.
  • Think about your audience.  They might appreciate a report in a particular format.  So, some people might appreciate information they can share with others at a meeting.  So, a PowerPoint presentation or video with permission to show it in public may be helpful.  Material for public speakers might help supporters who want to promote your cause and could of course drive more traffic to your site.
  • If some of your supporters are religious they might appreciate material in a format that can be used in worship.  So, sermon notes, prayers, recommended readings and songs may be attractive.
  • Or can you offer training?  A series of videos on some topic related to your campaign might be attractive.  There are likely to be several approaches you could use to offer educational material on various aspects of your activities and for various audiences, eg adults and children.
  • Don’t forget, if you are campaigning your supporters might be willing to sign online petitions, write letters, etc.

A lot will depend upon your organisation’s capacity but producing good content is not too difficult.  I will write about this in more detail later.

If you are going to offer something of significance you may want to flag it up earlier than on the thank you page, as a part of your campaign to get site visitors to sign up.  Your main concern here will be explaining how to get access to promised content or when to expect it by email.

Websites enable you to offer your supporters more information and so build relationships with them.  What sort of information would you welcome after you donate to a cause and what would turn you off?

Donations: Your Request for Support

If you’re following this thread about writing copy for seeking donations on your charity website, today we consider your request for support.  You will have read so far about the need to write about your charity’s

and with these your pitch for donations will be ready for a response from your visitors.  In what follows, I shall assume you are not seeking a single donation. If  you have someone’s email address, it means they are interested in your cause and if they don’t pay today, they may be persuaded later if you can keep in touch with them.

List First,  Donation Second

Most organisations ask visitors to sign up so they can build a long-term relationship with them.   You can ask them to (1) donate (and add them to your list), or (2) join your list, trusting they’ll make donations in the future.  Your list is actually more important than a one-off donation and so you will need to be clear about what you want your visitors to do.  This is where you may need to talk to a consultant.

This type of page is sometimes called a squeeze page and there are a number of things you need on it.  It is essential the page is not cluttered.  You want visitors to sign up to your list and possibly donate.  Their only alternative is to navigate away.  The term ‘squeeze page’ implies you are forcing a decision.

Your Squeeze Page

  • a heading that clearly states what you want them to do.
  • to explain why visitors should leave their email address, show them the benefits of staying in touch and say there will be no spam or  details shared with third parties.
  • to explain how donations can be made (if applicable), perhaps offering alternatives to online donations.  You will need to provide evidence their payment method is secure and you are who you say you are.
  • to add an offer to your request.  So, this might be more information about your cause, photos of projects or a bulletin about progress.  The last is particularly helpful and I will explore it in more detail in my next post.  It’s worth considering an online product with a donation.  People may be more inclined to donate if they get something in return.  This is something you would need to consult about and I’ll discuss it in more detail in another post.
  • a form.  This will include details such as name and email address and then if applicable some means to collect donations online.  You may also need to collect information for gift aid.  Keep the form as short as possible.  Long forms put people off but if they have decided to donate they will expect to provide essential details.  There is always space to explain why you need particular information.
  • to finish with a button that takes them to a new page on your website via their chosen means of payment, if applicable.  I’ll write about the final page next time.

What is about a website that makes you trust it?  What do you find confirms your confidence in their bona fides or makes you suspicious?

Donations: What Still Needs to be Done?

If you have followed this sequence of posts, you will know how your copy should cover your charity’s

so now you need to make the case for your readers’ continued support.

This is the core of your message.  Your next step will be a request for a donation, so you need to make this convincing.

Describe your new initiatives.  Be specific.  Link to what has gone before where it is relevant.  You might ask for more support for a specific project or for a spin-off project by the same people or for support for a similar project elsewhere.

So, be

  • clear about what you are going to do;
  • specific about what needs to be done;
  • sure offer a breakdown of costs if you can; if people can see what their £25 or £100 donation will purchase it can help then see the value of their contribution;
  • sure to outline your projected outputs and outcomes and
  • absolutely clear about the outcomes as these show the transformation you’re aiming for.

Outputs are the specific things you are going to do with the money.  If you say you’re going to build a school in a particular place, then your donors will expect to see a school in that place within your timeframe.  They can be difficult to quantify, eg research might not promise a specific output.  There might be a cure for a specific type of cancer one day but you may not be able to guarantee it will happen this time.  With something like this you can be specific about the research you will carry out – a cure would be a possible outcome.

Your outcomes answer the question, why?  So, what will the school do for the people who use it or work in it?  Outcomes are in their nature not entirely predictable.  So, a school is likely to help people find better jobs.  But the ideas the pupils and staff come up with once they start work will not be predictable.  People donate towards outcomes not outputs; they want to see the difference your outputs will make to real people.

If you are not sure what your outcomes will be, this need not be a disadvantage.  It adds intrigue to what you’re doing.  In the next post I’ll show you how you can use this to your advantage.

So, have you some interesting outcomes to share?  How have you demonstrated outcomes on your website?

Donations: What Have You achieved?

This is part of a sequence about website design to support a campaign for donations.  So far, you have

The next step is to show what your charity has achieved so far.

You will need to think about whether you put these headings on the same page or on a series of linked pages.  There is no final answer to this question.  If you have a lot of material you may find:

  • each step in your argument makes sense on a new page.
  • each step invites links from several parts of your site and so a page per point works
  • you want to present the material from different arguments in different ways.  So, you might have used stories for situation and approach, but now want to use statistics.

On the other hand if your copy is short, it may make sense if it appears on a single page.

If you are a new charity and have little evidence of your track record; say you are a new charity and then seek other evidence of your ability to deliver.  This might be the track record of people on your board or support from partner organisations.

So, what can you present at this stage in the argument?

  1. With statistics there are two issues.  Do you have convincing evidence of your performance?  How are you going to present it?  People tend to scan websites and so your stats need to be easy to pick up at a glance.  A prominent heading summarises the main findings expressed through bold graphics should be easy to pick up.  You can link to detailed information about the stats.  Also ask someone who understands stats to check your figures, to make sure they stand up and say what you claim they are saying.
  2. Social proof.  Stats present quantifiable information whilst social proof presents qualitative.  Are there people who have received help and are willing to provide a testimonial?  Or others who have observed and can verify your work?  Use testimonials with permission and if you use photos or illustrations with text, it’s best to check they’re happy with the pictures as well as the text.

It’s best to mix stats and social proof.  Keep it light and lively, offering a link to more information for those who want it.

Keep your information up to date and date your evidence!  If it is possible to see the evidence is fresh, it will encourage readers to take you seriously.

What evidence would you consider valid for a new charity that can’t present evidence of its work?  What sort of evidence is likely to make you enthusiastic for a cause?

Donations: How You Address the Problem

This is the second of six posts about seeking donations online.  In the first post about your charity’s situation, I outlined some approaches to describing your cause, mindful of your target audience.  In this post about donations how you address the problem I show how you can make a number of responses to the same situation.

After you describe your charity’s situation, the next step is to describe what your charity actually does.  If you want your visitors to leave your site in droves, this is where you place your aims and objectives.  Remember, this is a website, not a funding application.

So, you need to build a relationship with your visitors.  You can do this on your site or there are other options, eg email lists.

If you have a number of landing pages, you can prepare distinct content for visitors with different interests.  After all, you’ve gone to the trouble of identifying them as members of particular groups.

So, if you are a cancer charity, to continue with the hypothetical example in my last post, what do you do for this type of visitor?  Let’s run with just two types of visitor.  They might be (1) a bereaved relative of someone who has died of cancer and (2) someone interested in cancer research who wishes to support it.

Let’s say the charity provides support for families of people with cancer.  A type 1 visitor may be interested in the support the charity offers.  They may be someone who needs support or someone who has had support and wants to show their appreciation.  The type 2 visitor may be more interested in how support functions as a part of treatment for cancer.

Implications for Your Website

Can you see the problem with using a single home page? It either limits you to addressing one type of visitor or else you have to crowd the page with several arguments, not all of which may be compatible.  Extra pages cost next to nothing and they mean your site can offer a range of visitors what they need.

One other point.  You need to be clear in your own mind about the distinction between your situation and how you address the problem.  There may be more than one response possible to a particular situation.  You may be working alongside other charities that offer services complementary to yours.  So you need to be mindful not only of what your visitors need from your site but also that you are clear about what you do and what you don’t do.  Your visitors might appreciate some guidance to an alternative site if yours is not the right one.  Whilst you might lose a visitor to another site, you may also be demonstrating your integrity.

Share in the comments examples of where the same activity can be described in different ways to different audiences.  If your website does this, it would help readers of this blog, if you can add a url.  Can you think of examples of more than one charity offering complementary approaches to the same situation?

Donations: Your Situation

Over the next 6 posts, I shall introduce guidelines for making a case for your charity online.  They build on my post “How to Draw Down Donations”, which summarises the six steps towards making a case for donations. So, when appealing for donations your situation is paramount.

Why charities?  Well, in the UK charitable status is one way organisations demonstrate accountability.  If you’re seeking donations, you need to consider registering as a charity.

Making a case for donations is one approach to generating income online and it might not be right one for your organisation.  My aim is to help you work out your ideal approach.  If you choose to explore donations further you will need professional help.  I may be able to help you find the expertise you need.

Presenting Your Situation

Anyway, on your website the first thing you need to present is your situation and why you need financial help.  Whatever your cause, here are a few things you can consider when presenting your case online:

  1. An account of your cause is likely to be on the first page your visitor encounters.  This is often called a landing page and it should be designed as your visitors’ first encounter with your site.  First impressions are important and the page will need to be search engine optimised.  I shall explain these terms in future posts.
  2. You may need more than one landing page.  Depending upon the nature of your cause, you may need to present it in different ways for different audiences.  So, a charity supporting research into cancer might appeal to people who have cancer, people bereaved because of cancer, people interested in research into cancer, medical professionals and so on.  Each of these may need to arrive at a different landing page.  They will have access to the same site but they need to know the site is for them.
  3. Stories are immensely powerful and you may find you need a different story on each landing page.  Getting this right is important.
  4. Broadly there are two types of story.  You may want to tell a story about your cause so, continuing with my example, it might be a story about someone’s battle with cancer or about a research project.  The other type of story is about your organisation.  Why this charity started, the issues and problems it has faced.  Don’t underestimate the value of the second type.  Often people value insight into what’s behind the scenes and it is likely to build trust with your site visitors.  Sometimes these two stories can be combined.
  5. Be clear about the overall purpose of your charity and what it does for the target visitors to this particular landing page.  You don’t need lots of statistics and evidence at this stage.
  6. Every page should have one clear action step for its reader.  They read the story, what do you want them to do next?  Most likely to read on by clicking through to another page.  You can lead your visitors through a series of pages that will eventually arrive at your target action step.  I shall show you how to test your website about its effectiveness in moving visitors to the point when they must choose to take your desired action (or not).
  7. But what is your target action step?  Are you going to rely on visitors spending enough time on your site to persuade them to donate?  Or do you see more value in building a long-term relationship?  So for a major crisis in the news, you might ask for a donation on the landing page with a small amount of copy.  Otherwise, you may wish to build a long-term relationship with people who will donate several times.  These two are not mutually exclusive.  Someone who donates to a crisis appeal may also make a good long-term supporter.  If you are seeking long-term support, the best way is through email lists, something else I’ll discuss in more detail later.

Have you used landing pages, and action steps on your site?  If you already have a landing page, I offer a free review here.  Or write a comment about your thoughts or experience.

How to draw down donations

How might a charity build relationships online?  The charity’s first priority is to find its market.  It might seek to tell the public about an issue or concern.  Or seek to build relationships with its beneficiaries, perhaps by encouraging them to join online (or real life) mutual support groups.  One significant aim is likely to be fund-raising through donations.

To draw down donations you must build relationships with visitors that make a compelling case.  It is never easy to build a relationship of trust with people you don’t know, possibly all over the world.

A Model Relationship Building Approach

  1. What is the situation?  Why do you need financial help?
  2. What this charity does to address the problem.
  3. What have you achieved?  How many people have you helped?  What difference does the charity make?
  4. Outline work that still needs to be done.
  5. The generous support of people like you makes possible the work of this charity.  Please donate today, every little helps, so please give whatever you can.
  6. Thank you for reading this far and giving us your consideration.

This model shows you how you can structure your pitch for donations.  By using information about your charity, this model can be re-shaped into copy that works.  Follow the link for further posts, where I returned to this model, examined each stage in detail and showed how you can structure your site to best present your case.


Purpose: Why do you have a website?

When I ask people why their organisation has a website, they are often lost for words!  Is it really the first time they’ve been asked?  They’ve paid for it and possibly invested hours of work into it but don’t know why!

Sometimes it seems the site offers a web presence or ‘improves our image’.  What does this mean?  How do you know whether you’re getting your moneys worth?

Or perhaps it’s so that the public can download information.   Sometimes sites accumulate pictures of meetings from long ago.  It’s hard to see why anyone would spend time there, let alone visit for a second time.  Take a hard look at your site and ask why any visitor might return!

I can only conclude some sites exist because someone was told they should have a website.

Websites are powerful tools and if yours isn’t working for you perhaps you shouldn’t have one.  It would at least save you some money.  Alternatively, the task is to get your online presence working for you.


Why do organisations have websites with no purpose?  I’m sure the problem lies in the relationship between organisations and their website designers.  They need to guide each other into understanding the emerging purpose of the site.  At the beginning of their relationship, neither  knows the purpose of the site and design should not start until they understand and agree the site’s purpose.

So, I will explore the nature of non-directive consultancy as it relates to web design.  I will cover the roles of consultant (designer) and consultor (you) so that both get the most from the relationship.

A consultancy relationship might result in a range of online approaches, possibly not including a website.  Various uses of social media may be all an organisation needs.


Raising finance in various ways is important for many organisations and it is important to understand the relationship between finance and the social aims of third sector organisations.

Building relationships with your visitors is essential whether or not your purpose is financial.  You need a clear grasp of how you want your visitors to respond to your site and then to design your site to meet your purpose.

This category covers a sequence about websites and donations only.


An effective web presence implies a conversation between your visitor and your organisation. This may be implicit as the visitor follows a route through your site, clicking in your links and finally reaching a destination, if their interest carries them that far.  Or else it may be more explicit, such as where the visitor responds to comments and debates the issues your site raises.

However you approach this conversation, you need to understand in any conversation both parties transform.  Exploration of this will lead us into some interesting philosophical and spiritual by-ways because if we’re serious about our online presence, we need to appreciate its impact upon real life.

Core to this is the role of conversation as an encounter with the other.  It is through developed conversation that real change happens.