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Would you like to donate a dollar to _______?

Is it just me or does that question seem to get asked more and more when you’re checking out at a grocery store, retail location, or restaurant? Well, there’s a good reason why we are getting asked to give this way as over $4.1 Billion (with a B) has been raised with these checkout donation programs in the past 3 decades alone. And $441.6 Million was raised in 2017 according to Engage for Good’s Charity Checkout Champion report:

A few years back, I wrote a piece discussing the need for more transparency for these programs and it seems that these companies and programs are doing a better job as the full report notes that one key trend is that:

Successful charity checkout champions are transparent about impact and dollars raised and say ‘thank you’ in a visible way

So that’s a good example of these ‘corporate’ fundraising programs taking a lesson from ‘good ole fundraising’ to grow and do a better job. But what can you and nonprofits learn from them and these checkout donation programs?

In the full report, Engage for Good notes these…

8 Things Checkout Donation Programs Did To Grow Their Fundraising

  1. Incorporating an automated ask into the credit card terminal
  2. Increasing length of campaigns (e.g. going from 10 to 12 weeks)
  3. Adding additional campaign periods (e.g. spring and fall)
  4. Widening consumer touchpoints to include online and mobile
  5. Encouraging friendly competition among stores
  6. Adopting creative consumer ‘thank you’ strategies
  7. Expanding consumer options at checkout (e.g. including a round-up option in addition to flat dollar options)
  8. Spending additional time educating employees about the cause so they may become authentic front-line ambassadors

But if you put on your fundraiser hat…

and squint a little…

those 8 things can become…

8 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Fundraising

  1. Reduce friction when people are completing their donation
  2. Send more (good) emails in your campaigns
  3. Add an additional campaign or event to your fundraising schedule
  4. Integrate your offline efforts online and ensure they are mobile optimized
  5. Set goals for you, your staff, and maybe even your supporters
  6. Use your thank you and stewardship plans more strategically
  7. Incorporate some other ways to give and get involved
  8. Work hard to get internal buy-in when it comes to fundraising

1. Reduce friction when people are completing their donation

If you’ve done all the hard work of getting people to the point of making a donation, now get out of their way and make it as frictionless as possible for them to give you your money! When it comes to your donation page, look out for these 7 types of friction and please please please make sure it works on a mobile device!

2. Send more (good) emails in your campaigns

Just because you send an email doesn’t mean people are reading it. So while you should be working hard to find good (and accurate) subject lines to boost open rates, optimizing the time of delivery, and looking at the best sender names/emails, just some of the elements of a fundraising email, one of the easiest ways to maximize your campaign is to just send more email.

You might be thinking that you don’t want to annoy your donors with more emails, but as long as your emails don’t suck and you aren’t ONLY asking throughout the year why would your emails be annoying to them? Plus giving is good!

3. Add an additional campaign or event to your fundraising schedule

If you have a Holiday/Year End campaign and Spring on the calendar, consider a Summer or Fall mini-campaign. Tie it to the season, make it more action oriented around sharing or peer fundraising, try to use a new tool, or just focus on a different program.

But adding another campaign gives you and your supporters another time and way to support you and your work.

4. Integrate your offline efforts online and ensure they are mobile optimized

This seems obvious but way too many organizations are still focused on an isolated channel by channel approach. Your donors are multi-channel because their lives, like yours, are multi-channel. So one channel by itself pales in comparison to an integrated campaign.

And with so much of our lives happening on the go and on our mobiles, your website, donation page, emails, etc. all need to be made accordingly.

5. Set goals for you, your staff, and maybe even your supporters

Some competition never hurt anyone so why not set some goals – with bonuses or incentives – for your staff tied to the next campaign? It can be money sure but a party, half day off, or dunk tank for the boss are other ways to unite the team toward a common goal.

And if you are really doing a campaign, maybe set a goal for the community and supporters and challenge them to hit the goal with donations, actions, or fundraising on their own accord. When done well, a little competition can accelerate your fundraising.

6. Use your thank you and stewardship plans more strategically

Your thank you and the first 30 days after a donation is made (first time or not) is your time to shine and set your organization up for another donation and apart from other organizations that person may be giving to.

The confirmation page after a donation, automated email that goes out, thank you letter, and tax receipt are just the beginning. Will you write a personal email? A call? What about a special automated ‘thank you series’? Maybe a quick report back at 3 weeks on how their donation is already making a difference?

7. Incorporate some other ways to give and get involved

For many people, making a financial donation just isn’t exciting. They could legitimately not have money to give but more often when people say that it’s more about them not wanting to give. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t attend an event, host an event, sign a petition, share with friends, speak to their church, run a half marathon, etc.

One reason why people drop off our lists is that the only thing we offer, often, is to give. Think about volunteer opportunities and other ways people can get involved to benefit themselves and you and your cause.

8. Work hard to get internal buy-in when it comes to fundraising

This is one of the most underrated parts of fundraising, particularly with campaigns, is a lack of coordination and buy-in across the organization. Development can’t just spring a great online fundraising campaign idea on communications last minute and expect them to be happy, engaged, and do great work. The campaign should be ‘owned’ by someone or one department but collaboration and buy-in from different people within the organization is imperative or it can fall flat.

So…

There are some less than ideal things about checkout donations, sure, but they raise a bunch of money and we can learn from how they are adapting and growing their fundraising.

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