Archives for May 2009

23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #6-8

6.    Give your readers multiple paths to the action you want them to take.
Some experts say the typical email should have nearly 20 ways to click through to your landing pages.  I’d shoot for having at least 5-10 for starters. Start by providing at least three ways where people can click to your donate page, and make these online fund raising links (text or graphics) benefit and action oriented (e.g., Click Here to Help Save Lives, Read More Now , Get More Details >>, Go Here to Help).

7.   Develop Dedicated Landing Pages.  
Sometimes I like to think of it this way: If you are trying to get the attention of a kid in a candy shop, most likely you will fail because they are distracted by all the goodies that surround them. Likewise, don’t send email fundraising out that takes people back to your homepage, whereby they can give easily distracted from your primary purpose, which is to get the gift.  Take them instead to a dedicated landing page that includes few, if any, links to the rest of your website – you lose people when you let them browse too much, rabbit-trailing all over the place.  Some folks like to think of building a greased chute that’s keep your online fund raising path speeding people to one destination.

8.   Improve response with well-chosen premiums.
If there is a premium, your email fundraising should clearly describe the value of the item and how the reader can get that premium. If their gift of $50 will get them a book, what will they learn from this book?  What often motivates people is what they will learn, discover, experience, etc. No matter how altruistic and selfless they are, your reader wants to know what’s in it for them. People generally give to your non profit because they want to make a difference, and you need to specifically tell them – in words that address them directly – the difference they’re making. You also need to succinctly assure them that you will use their funds appropriately and efficiently.  Having said that, a well-chosen premium is like a bonus on your offer. It doesn’t hurt to sweeten the deal with something that looks appealing.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #3-5

3.    Write an action-oriented headline that carry through the email fundraising process.
Your headline should lead people toward the action you want them to take but still speak directly to what’s interesting to them. Plus, your email subject line needs to flow onto the email headline which flows onto your email landing pages. They don’t have to be exact, but harmonious enough so that people know they are where they belong when they open the email and click through to any landing pages. This avoids confusion, which can lead to process abandonment, and instead carries your message through to the end objective in online fund raising: a gift.

4.    Create urgency with your email fundraising copy.
What will happen if the reader doesn’t give a donation as a result of this email? Will hurting people continue to suffer? Will dogs like the one described above continue to be abused or homeless? Your reader needs to visualize the results of both helping and not helping.  Appeal to your readers’ senses in our copy if you can: smell, touch, taste, sound, and sight. Be urgent, but don’t cry wolf just to overstate the urgency or consequences; they’ll see right through that ploy after you’ve done it once or twice.

5.    Include clear calls to action in your email fundraising.
Your readers need to know specifically what you want them to do. Should they give $50 now? Should they sign a petition today or take a survey in the next few moments? Use active words to clearly describe the action you want them to take. Tell them exactly what they need to do now (e.g., click here). Include “click here” or “call or click” phrases in your copy, but particularly in your graphics, since words like “click here” can raise your spam score. Put these onine fund raising calls to action in graphic buttons that link to the place where the reader can take the specific action you’re requesting.

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Incorporating eCommerce into Your Non Profit Website Design

If you want to do fund raising online, your non profit website design needs to incorporate eCommerce. That may sound like a term reserved for the for profit world, but your non profit can benefit greatly from not only learning from your for profit colleagues but also taking the concept to new heights in your non profit website design. Here are some tips.

  1. Plan your online store carefully. As with everything else you do – including driving across town – you need to know where you want to go before you understand how to get there.Your eCommerce strategy needs to include traditional products that non profits offer (e.g., books, mugs, pens, t-shirts, hats, etc.) along with “products” that only a non profit could offer. These include sponsorships, memberships, and aspects of your projects (e.g., buy a cow for a family in a third world country, plant a tree in the rainforest, save a whale, etc.).

    Key components of your non profit store design strategy include (1) understanding the resources necessary (people, finances, education, etc.) and (2) getting commitment from the decision makes to provide and maintain these resources.

  2. Set up your store as professionally as the for profits do. The days are gone when you can simply create a static page on your non profit website that tells people to call to make a donation. Your non profit website design needs to include a store with a catalog, search and browsing functions, a shopping cart (and don’t be concerned that people will be offended by putting your virtual products in a shopping cart – if they buy things online, they know what this concept means and are comfortable with it) and an easy checkout process.The search/browse function is vital to making it easy for people to find your products, whether they be t-shirts or trees in the rainforest.

    Checkout is often where non profits lose donors. You need to make the process simple and collect enough information without over doing it. Initially, you may only need the name and email address, but you will be collecting more inforamtion as part of taking a credit card.

  3. Cross promote. You see it happen on “People who bought this product also liked these.” You can do it too: “People who bought this hat also liked this book” or “People who proudly wear this t-shirt often also like to sponsor this event or provide funding for this project.” You can also offer certificates to people who buy the virtual products.
  4. Build relationships. As you collect information about people, find out what parts of your non profit interest them. Be sure to include a privacy policy on the site to ease people’s concerns about providing their information.Once you’ve gotten their permission, keep them informed about what your non profit is doing and what kinds of funding needs you have. Don’t abuse them by selling their information or sending too many emails, but stay in touch. You’ll want to email them a couple times a month with information that they will find valuable.

    As you craft your relationship-building messages, remember people want to know “what’s in it for me.”

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Good Nonprofit Website Design Principle #4 of 5 (Part 1)

Have you ever gone out with someone who was a knockout in appearance, but 15 minutes later you discovered his or her vocabulary was limited to grunts or giggles? Many non profit website designs are like that too – they look great, but they have no non profit marketing substance. And that’s a major headache!

Principle #4: Develop a hard-working site to avoid the problems of a website that’s all looks and no brains.

Here are some practical suggestions for creating a hard-working website that facilitates online fundraising, non profit marketing, asset accumulation and more:

Practical Tip #1: Develop an incentive-based opt-in landing page to encourage people to sign up for your ministry e-newsletter. For example, a well-crafted non profit website design will take into account the critical functionality needed in order to achieve your original objectives.  It’s not just about looks, but about smarts as well.

When I say smarts, I’m referring in part to how well your site converts your visitors into usable assets, such as lists, leads, gifts, or sales.  These are the names and addresses, both email and snail mail, of people who want to hear from you, buy your products, or support your ministry through gifts, both today and tomorrow.

Believe me, if you send email fundraising letters to people who don’t want to hear from you, you’ve got big headaches in store.  So ideally, everyone you deal with is someone who has opted in to receive something from you online: your e-newsletter, free information, non profit marketing re: your products, etc. 

Practical Tip #2: Develop an electronic welcome series via an auto-responder email system that immediately sends your leads the information they requested.

If your site is intended to generate leads, does it fully function in that capacity? If so, it should allow people to interact with you by signing up for an offer—a newsletter or something else of value to them (not to you, to them). Your well-crafted non profit website design will have easy-to-use and convincing pages that persuade people to give you their contact information and allow them to do it easily. 

Follow up your email reply with a Welcome Kit offer – a packet of information about your ministry sent through snail mail. Typical Pathmaker Marketing clients experience a 63% conversion rate of enrollment into the Welcome Kit offer after just prior having signed up for email offers. Once your welcome Kits are sent out, have someone follow up with a telephone call as the last step of an efficient lead follow-up system.

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23 Best Practice Tips for Successful Email Fundraising #1-2

Email fundraising is a proven internet marketing tool that can help your charitable organization raise substantial online donations.  When properly executed, an email fundraising campaign can provide your ministry with a additional source of ministry revenues, an engaged donor base, a regular branding tool, and in some cases, even improve your offline fundraising efforts.

Email campaigns can be very effective at online fund raising, sometimes providing up to 35% of a ministries total annual fund revenue.  Plus, they are relatively efficient at raising funds because the costs to email can be generally lower.  Of course, it’s a myth to think that email is free, given that there are typically costs associated with writing copy, developing HTML email and landing pages, getting proper rendering in multiple email clients, blasting and beyond.  

There are many important factors and techniques to apply to create effective email fundraising campaigns. You need to do some up-front strategic thinking. What are your campaign needs? What goals do you want to accomplish? Who is your target audience? Who will be receiving this email, and what Is most likely to move them to the action you want them to take?

Once you have a clear strategic outline of what you want to accomplish through email fundraising, here are some practical steps to follow to assist in the over-all effectiveness of your online fund raising campaign.

1.    Make them personal.
Speak directly to your audience using “you” centric statements instead of the less personal “we” or, even worse, “one.” Personalize your email fundraising if possible, inserting First Name data in your Subject lines and body copy.  You are more likely to engage your readers if you speak to them individually, not collectively. This, of course, also means you need to understand who your audience is, what inspires and motivates them, and what causes them to take action.

2.    Engage the reader’s heart.
People often give to causes and non-profits that fulfill an emotional need in their own lives. Your readers gave you their email address because they trusted you…thought your non-profit worthy of their time and attention…believed in your purpose in life…saw how they could make a difference in the world through you, etc. When you ask for their support, you need to tell them through a short, heartfelt, and compelling story how your non profit is making a difference and why you need their support.

One school of thought says that your heartfelt story needs to be told in no more than one or two short but effective paragraphs in the email, with an option for readers to get more details by clicking through to your landing pages.  Another school of thought says that you can tell your whole story in the email, with the click-through process going straight to your checkout process. I’ve seen both methods be successful.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #3 of 5 (Part 2)

Here are more tips for achieving Principle #3: Develop an attractive appearance so you overcome the “not much to look at” criticism.

Practical Tip #6: Plan for growth and avoid complexity.
If your homepage is overdesigned, you won’t have any place to put important updates – and you should update your homepage regularly if you want people coming back. So, don’t get boxed into a restrictive non profit design or develop endlessly complex sub-pages.

Practical Tip #7: Begin with a clean, professional non profit website design for your home page and develop three to four similar sub-page variations that flow from it. Usually a relatively small amount of investment in this area can give you an enormous lift in appearance and professionalism.

Practical Tip #8: Stay relevant.
Make sure your text and images work together to tell your story succinctly and provide relevance to your reader. Have a reason for all images, and make sure they communicate your message whether they’re viewed with or without the text. Likewise, make sure the text tells the same story as the images. You need both to be in harmony with one another to convey your most central messages.

Now let’s look at some contrasting examples of good non profit website design versus poor design. I did a recent Google search on 5-9-09 for “homeless charities in New York” and here’s a sampling of what I found by browsing the results.

Some of the better Non Profit Website Design Examples:
The Hope Program
Eva’s Village (simple but colorful)
My Friend’s Place (simple, above the fold, pictures say it’s about youth)
Robin Hood (clean, colorful, nice flash)
Coalition for the Homeless

Non Profit Website Design Examples Needing Some Help:
Dackk’s Group (looks homespun)
Common Ground (needs an upgrade)

Another Google search on 5-9-09 for “churches in Dallas” produced the following results.

Good Non Profit Website Design Examples:
Watermark Community Church
Dallas Bible Church
DFW Church

Non Profit Design Examples Needing Some Help:
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church
Lake Dallas Church of Christ
Church of God 

Lastly, here’s a online reference for 25 non profit website design tips for churches:

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #3 of 5 (Part 1)

If you’ve ever gone on a blind date, this worry might be familiar: “What’s this person going to look like?” Someone might sound good on the phone, but it’s a different story if the person shows up looking like he or she just crawled out of a vacuum cleaner! Whether it’s fair or not, first impressions count for a lot—and a non profit website design that looks unprofessional, cluttered, or boring is a tough headache to overcome. It reflects poorly on your entire organization. Hence, our next good website design principle:

Principle #3: Develop an attractive appearance so you overcome the “not much to look at” criticism.

By coordinating the important non profit website design puzzle pieces like copy, graphics, navigation, and organization, you can create a site that is both attractive and memorable.

Example of good first impressions:

Here are some practical non profit website design tips to follow:

Practical Tip #1: Be careful to balance your site ingredients. Too much of any one thing can be bad. Plus, overuse of graphic bells and whistles can cause your site to load slowly if they aren’t optimized and coded appropriately. Speaking of which …

Practical Tip #2: A good rule of thumb to follow is that you have 3 seconds or less to get a visitor’s attention. If your website takes too long to load, people will move on and miss your ministry message.

Practical Tip #3: Stick with what works rather than reinventing the wheel.

Major companies are constantly monitoring the ways people read web pages, go through the checkout process, use site navigation, and so on. You can benefit from this research without having to repeat it yourself. Preview what works for major players like, Google, Yahoo, and others.

One example of this simple principle is that people expect the main site navigation – the area with links to the site’s other major sections – to be located either vertically on the left side or across the top horizontally. Stick with one of these two approaches to site navigation, and visitors will find it easier to interact with your site.

Practical Tip #4: Keep colors to two or three complementary choices.

Too many colors look tacky, and too few look unprofessional. Using varied shades of a limited but appealing color palette will create the appearance of more colors while keeping them from clashing.

Practical Tip #5: Choose fonts carefully.

The range of fonts that will display properly online in text is limited, so stick with the tried-and-true ones like Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, Courier, Geneva and Georgia.

Implement these  practical tips to improve your non profit website design exponentially.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #2 of 5

Like the television commercial where the married couple had to take showers in public water fountains, not having a home is a major headache. Can you imagine the headaches resulting from this crazy scenario?

“What’s your name, sir?” “I don’t know.”
“Where do you live, sir?” “I don’t know.”

This leads us to the next principle of good website design:

Good Non Profit website Design Principle #2: To avoid wandering around nameless and homeless on the Internet, resolve the essentials of selecting your name and address.

To accomplish Principle #2, every non profit website design needs answers to two critical questions: “What’s your address?” and “Who’s your host?”

1. What’s your address? Otherwise known as your domain name or URL, your website name is an essential ingredient. Examples of world-renowned domain names include,,, and

Practical Tip #1: Choose a domain name that is your company name or brand, or default to the closest derivation, and get all the extensions (.com, .org, .net, .info).

First Choice: Pick your company name or brand name as your domain, if possible, e.g., or Or select both, but promote the one you go by publicly. People will attempt to search the name by which they remember you the most.

Second Choice: A derivation of your company or brand name. Pick short domains over long ones, and memorable/pronounceable names over acronyms, unless you go primarily by your acronym. For example, is preferable to, but if you’re widely known as FCC, then get Better yet, get both.

Consider hyphens as a backup option, e.g.,

Avoid plurals unless you can’t obtain the singular derivation. If you select a derivation like or, be sure to advertise your site as such.

Ideally, try to find a domain where you can get all priority extensions. If you’re in charge of non profit marketing, you may want to promote your organization using .org, and then choose .com and .net as your backups.

Alternatively, if you select .com first, then use .org and .net as backups. (These choices may vary in different countries.) Picking up all domain extensions will give people the widest access to your site—in other words, they can type any of the extensions and still get to your site because you have them all. It also serves to stop your competitors from snapping up the closest variation.

Here’s a good online reference for picking domain names:

2. Who’s your host? Your website host will be the entity that stores the files (text, graphics, photos, videos, etc.) that make up your site. When someone views your site on the Internet, the host computer “serves up” your pages, based on the computer code written by whomever programs your website. Because they “serve up” the pages of your website for people to view, your host computer is often called a server.

Here are some online reference sources for finding a good hosting company:

Before deciding on a host, it’s critical to determine the kinds of attributes you want your website to contain. For example, do you need ecommerce, databases, or email fundraising features?

Here’s a good article on the top 9 things to look for in a web host:

Here’s a good article on the most commonly asked questions:

For more help on this subject contact Pathmaker Marketing.

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Good Non Profit Website Design Principle #1 of 5

As promised in my last post, I’ll be giving you a series of five principles that will help you avoid major non profit website design headaches. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Principle #1: Clarify your objectives to avoid conflicting voices.

If you don’t know what you’d like your website to accomplish, it may end up with conflicting messages and voices. These conflicting voices can lead to standstill, gridlock, and internal strife as your ministry strives to fulfill its mission. Webmasters are often pulled in numerous directions for no apparent reason on unreasonable timetables. Clarifying your objectives will eliminate these headaches and enable your team to form a crystal-clear perspective on why you want to have a web site. In order to accomplish Principle #1, you need to be able to answer the question…

What is the Primary Objective of Your Website?

It’s entirely possible that you may have multiple objectives. If that’s the case, rank them in order of priority so that you understand which ones are the most important to achieve.

Practical Tip #1: If you have more than one website objective, reduce your list to your top two to three goals and prioritize them. Focus on accomplishing your top priorities first, then progress to other subordinate objectives.

Practical Tip #2: Record your website objectives on paper so that if there are any changes in your website personnel, your new staffers will know the original thinking behind your site.

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Credit Cards are Essential for Online Fund Raising

Credit cards are an essential tool for online fund raising. You have several options for setting up your site to take credit card donations.

    1. Open your own merchant account. You can do this through your bank or credit card company, and you may want to shop around until you find the one with the best fee. The company will do a credit check, so give yourself plenty of time for this process. Read the fine print in the agreement carefully. The biggest advantages for opening your own merchant account for online fund raising are (1) you can design your site so funds flow directly into your bank account and (2) your non profit’s name shows up on the users statement. The latter helps eliminate confusion and protests to changes.
    2. Choose a third party processor. A well known third party processor is PayPal, which charges your non profit a fee for using their merchant account to take credit card donations for your online fund raising. It’s relatively easy to set up and use an account such as PayPal, and many users trust PayPal. The disadvantage is the confusion that could result when users don’t see your company’s name on their statement and have already forgotten about the donation. Charge backs could result. If you choose to go the third party processor route for your online fund raising, be sure to include a message on your “Thank You” page about what the user will see on their credit card statement.
    3. Spring for the cost of a Credit Card Processing program. This option is most affordable for the online fund raising of larger non profits. The advantage is that the system includes tools to help you efficiently manage customer relationships. Disadvantages are costs and the limited number of companies that offer this service. Smaller non profits will want to stick to one of the first two options.
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