Ep 208 | Designing Your Donation Page For Conversions with Eric Ressler

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Your donation page is critical, but it's only part of the experience your donors should have with you. Setting up your donation page for conversions is great and then it's all important to ensure they are building continued trust with you. This helps with better retention and more financial sustainability for your organization. 

What you'll learn:

→ value of a frictionless donation page
→ power of integrating elements into your webiste.
→ creating a ways to give page.
→ having different donation pages for different campaigns

Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:

[7:36] Before you build your donation page ensure your messaging is pulled together. This will help you connect better with your donation page and prioritize what you really need on that page. That user experience can also help you determine the tech tools you need to be successful. This can also help you build out the actions that hapen once a donation is given.
[15:39] Embed as much as you can on your website. When you have your forms and essential elements on your website, instead of sending them somewhere else, it builds trust and makes a better user experience. It is also easier to control. Put your video on the left and donation form to the right so it catches people's eye right away.
[19:13] Create a Ways to Give page with additional information people may want. Add a button below the donation page for people that might want more information so they can make a donation decision. This page should include contact information and more details about all the options they have like crypto, stocks, mail a check, etc.
[23:29] Give as much attention to your donation page as you do on your follow up. Nurturing is critical and it starts right after they give. Share the latest and greatest in your zone of genius and keep top of mind with your donors.
[30:58] Create different metrics for your online giving. Understanding your goals for online and individual gifts will help you determine your follow up plan and how it fits in with your entire fundraising strategy.

Resources

[quiz] Should You DIY Your Website?

Eric Ressler

Eric Ressler

Founder and Creative Director, Cosmic

Eric is the Founder and Creative Director of Cosmic — a Social Impact Creative Agency. He believes that the social impact sector must change in order to take advantage of the benefits of the information era.

Today’s websites, digital tools, and platforms make it easier for social impact leaders to quickly and efficiently communicate ideas and reach people aligned with their mission across the globe. Yet, many of the strategies and approaches in the social impact space are still based on what worked well in the pre-digital era. This leaves many organizations under-resourced, siloed, and struggling to reach their full impact potential.Today’s social impact organizations have strong missions and inspiring visions. In order to accomplish their goals, they need to update their communications philosophies, focus their digital strategy, and discover how a well-thought-out brand strategy can help them rise above the noise, connect with supporters and advocates, and win in the attention economy.Eric and Cosmic are on a mission to help social impact leaders and organizations develop a digital-first culture that leads to adopting the tools of the information era in order to reach their desired future state and move humanity forward.

Learn more: https://designbycosmic.com/ 

We love creating the podcast. If you like what you learned here please give us a tip and help us offset our production costs.

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Full Transcript

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] We're continuing our month on donation pages. And we talk a lot about messaging. We talk a lot about how we share our story with people. We don't talk a lot about how to craft and design the whole experience. So we're going to talk about that today with my guest, Eric Ressler. I'm very excited for you to kind of hear this holistic picture of what our donors experience when they get to our website, and all the way through, and I hope that it'll give you some ideas about how to craft this journey for yourself when it comes to the visuals and the experience and how they're going to feel when they give to you. And afterward.

Eric is the founder and creative director of cosmic a social impact creative agency. He believes that the social impact sector must change in order to take advantage of the benefits of the information era. Today's websites, digital tools and platforms make it easier for social impact leaders to quickly and efficiently communicate ideas and reach people aligned with our mission across the globe. Yet many of the strategies and approaches in the social impact space are still based on what worked well in the pre digital era. This leaves many organizations under resourced, siloed and struggling to reach their full impact potential. Today's social impact organizations have strong missions and inspiring visions. In order to accomplish their goals. They need to update their communications philosophies, focus their digital strategy and discover how a well thought out brand strategy can help them rise above the noise, connect with supporters and advocates and win in the intention economy. Eric and cosmic are on a mission to help social impact leaders and organizations develop a digital first culture that leads to adopting the tools of the information era in order to reach their desired future state and move humanity forward.

Again, such a holistic approach to this whole experience. And I think you're really going to get some good ideas about how you can think about when a donor lands on your page, what they see how they feel, and then how that carries through in the ways that are going to keep them coming back and giving over and over and sharing with their friends and family to encourage more donations for your organization. It's all about building trust. It's all about building engagement, and making sure that we're doing our absolute best to make our donors feel like they're in safe hands and that they are making an impact on the work that your organization is doing. So give this episode a listen. And let me know what your biggest takeaway is and share your donation pages with me. I'd love to see them so that I can learn more about the incredible work that you're doing.

But before we get into it, this episode is brought to you by our quiz, should you DIY your website, go to https://thefirstclick.net/quiz. Take this free quiz and get some resources to help you make sure that you're on the right path to having a website that is going to work for your organization and help you get more money and more donations in while you sleep. Again, https://thefirstclick.net/quiz Check it out. And let me know too. Are you a DIY er? Or is it time to get somebody on board to help you make sure your website is performing? Okay, that's it. For now, let's get into the episode.

[Intro] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. Each month we dive deep into a digital marketing or fundraising strategy that you can implement in your organization. Each week, you'll hear from guest experts, nonprofits, and myself on best practices, tips and resources to help you raise more money online and reach your organizational goals.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hello, hello, everybody. Join me in welcoming Eric Ressler to the podcast. Eric, thanks so much for joining us.

[Eric Ressler] Thanks for having me on.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] And we're talking design and things and I just have to call out I love your little background, the geometric shapes that you've got going on there. It's a very, very fun.

[Eric Ressler] Thanks. Yeah, they were supposed to help with sound. I think they made a very small amount of difference, but at least they look good.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Well, I'm so glad that you're here today. But before we kind of kick off and start talking about designing donation pages, why don't you just share a little bit about why this is such a passion for you? Sure, yeah.

[Eric Ressler] I you know, in short, I've always grown up being inspired by creative work in various different kinds of formats and mediums. So everything from film photography, to video to traditional art. And at a young age, I actually kind of converged some of that interest into the digital realm using computers and getting into graphic design. And then eventually branding and web design and kind of digital design some of the things that we're doing at cosmic today. So it's just been kind of intrinsic to my, my interests from a very young age, including, you know, music, which I still do today as well. So the thing I love about design is that it's this awesome kind of intersection of art and purpose. And I think when you apply that to social impact, it becomes extremely powerful.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, and this wasn't something that I I prepped you for but my brother is my business partner, and he is our graphic designer and web developer and what I have found to be so fascinating in the digital age. And I'm curious, your thoughts on this is like, typically you think of creatives being just like hyper creative, just, you know, in their art, you know, coming up with amazing things. And now I feel like in the digital age, it's like marrying like, the analytical and like tactical side with the creativity. And it's been amazing to me to kind of watch those things come together, because that's not typically what you would see in somebody that is a designer, has that been a challenge for you? Or is that something that's come naturally to you? Like? How do you kind of navigate through that?

[Eric Ressler] I think it's interesting, because design has changed a lot and kind of creative work, creative, professional work has changed a lot as well. I mean, there's always been a technical aspect to design, whether it was you know, traditional graphic design, or industrial design, especially can be, you know, really have a lot of intersection with engineering even right. So, because design has always been intrinsically purposeful, I feel like there's always been some level of technical and business savvy necessary to be an effective designer, especially in the corporate world. So I think it's changing digitally, especially if you start to look at digital marketing. And that has become a lot more analytical, a lot more scientific. But I do also think that you can go too far in that direction and lose sight of the bigger picture. And what is it that really moves people at the end of the day, is still creative thinking emotionally driven impact storytelling, and human connection over everything else. And if you focus on those things, and then marry them with some of the more technical, analytical, almost scientific aspects of digital marketing, and looking at engagement, then it can be, you know, really effective. But if you go too far in either direction, then you know, you're kind of missing out on the on the golden opportunity.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That is, I couldn't have stated that better myself. That was perfect. I love that. And that's a perfect segue into our topic today all about, you know, your donation page, and how can we get people to take more action and convert? We've talked a lot of on this podcast about messaging and storytelling, and how to share your impact with words. So how do we get started with thinking about taking those words, and you know, knowing who our audience is, and kind of marry that with the way that our donation page looks when people first kind of come across it.

[Eric Ressler] So I think there's a lot of kind of best practices that we've learned over the years building out various donation pages and membership pages that we can definitely get into. I do want to just kind of backup before we get into those things, though, and start with kind of just talking about how important the foundation is before you're asking for a donation. And, you know, certainly you don't want to do all of this prep work and you know, really nail your impact story. Be really clear with your messaging, like get people excited, nurture donors, and then plop them on a donation page, it looks like it was built in excel in 1988, or something. So and that happens sometimes. And you know, we we know that people expect and frankly, deserve really frictionless easy to use intuitive donation experiences these days. So you know, and there's no reason you can't do that. So I guess what I would say is that, really, when it comes to donation pages, there's a couple key things that we want to think about. One is just user experience, and being as frictionless as possible. So a lot of that can kind of often come down to platform choice. Most nonprofits are not intentionally putting up donation pages that are annoying, or difficult to use. But they may feel constrained by whatever platform they're using, and kind of the donation page that they get or the Embed page that they get. So I think platform choice becomes really important. I think most of the major platforms, donor engagement platforms these days have been a B testing and optimizing their donor forms. And so the good news is that there's a lot of great options to look at there. And we can, you know, get into specific ones, if that would be helpful. But I would just say that some of the things that we'd be looking for would be, you know, as frictionless as experience as possible. So, you know, working well on mobile, of course, you know, working with password managers, so that if people have their credit card information stored there or saved in their browser autofills integrating with things like Google and Apple Pay, Pay Pal, still, you know, is something that especially for international donations can be important. So looking at platforms that kind of support all of those things. That's kind of like the foundation but I think there's also some art and science to the actual experience of the donation page as well. And let's start just by talking about like the page itself, and then we can maybe talk about like how people get there in the first place and what happens after because it is really, you know, a multi step flow and experience that you're creating for people. So, a couple of things that we've learned over the years that just tend to work better. One is having the donation form off to the right of the page in a very clear, colorful column that draws attention right away. So it's very clear where to convert. And this is just kind of best practice conversion form design, in general. And a donation form is just a type of conversion form. We've also learned that having a video on the donation page that is emotionally driven and tells the story in a very succinct way can improve conversion as well. People are more likely to donate after they've engaged with the video. And you know, you don't want to make it so they have to watch the video to donate or anything like that. But rather than only having copy, having some kind of video, especially if it's related to a particular campaign, or like nd your giving campaign or you know, something that's a little bit more timely, but even if it's just kind of your standard donation page, the video can really humanize that and make it feel less transactional. I think one of the things to keep in mind is that, especially for smaller donors, people are giving from their hearts from a space of empathy, and support and emotion more so than their more kind of like analytical brain that starts to change, you know, the larger the gift is. So if we're talking about major donors, or even especially institutional funders, then it becomes much more analytical. But when we're talking about small donations on your website, that are from, you know, everyday citizens, it's really about people having a passion for the work that you're doing. And feeling compelled, and having a spark of generosity and wanting to take action. So you don't want to get in the way of that spark, you want to kind of nurture it, even in the donation page itself. So a video can be a really great way to do that. So I think the other thing to think about outside of the page, I mean, those are really some of the best practices like get donor engagement platform that has a really frictionless donation experience through their embed, we do prefer to have it on your website, not sending people off to a different website, we do want it to look and feel like your site, we don't want people to get confused or concerned that they've been sent off to some other site, or is this the right page. As you know, still people have I think rightfully so some concerns around security and giving money online. And so you want it to feel as seamless and integrated with the rest of your website as possible. So little things like colors, and spacing and fonts, all being you know, basically as close to possible as your main site and ideally hosting that donation page on your site, especially so you can like look at analytics and how people are getting there and what they're doing afterwards. Once people do take action on donating, you want to do a little bit of a better job than just like a thank you page. So it's really nice to really kind of personalize that donation experience and sending a follow up email after a donation. And having that email come from a team member, either the executive director, or the development director or someone who's really kind of front and center as a personality for donors. And really starting to think about that as a deepening of their relationship with your organization and having them feel like they are supporting people, not just a faceless entity. And so making sure that you have that kind of that post donation experience really dialed in is also really important. And making sure that you have your list segmented so that you know if someone in your platform has donated already, when's the last time they donated? So they don't start getting you know, immediately like two days later, another donation request after they just you know, donated, did they donate one time? Did they donate monthly or annually like all those things need to be segmented so that you can follow up with additional communication through email and other channels in a way that is personalized and makes them feel like you're actually listening to them. So those are some of the fundamental things that we think about. And I'd be happy to kind of dig into any details or follow up questions you might have.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I love that. Because you know, that's something that we coach on all the time is that follow up is the piece that most organizations aren't doing and that is such a trust builder to do that, and it helps stand up set you apart because I think the other thing we have to think about with our donation pages on our website is you brought up you know, a good point in that the emotional piece. You know, somebody might come in and give you just a I should say just somebody might come in and give you a $20 gift or become a $10 a month. Donor people aren't typically going to go to your donation page to make those larger. gifts. So our responsibility is then to take them to that next step through our offline communications and or some of those other kinds of ways to tell our story and our impact. So I agree with you 100%, we do need to embed those forms on your page. And again, it just adds with that trust factor. So what might be some questions as we're thinking about what tools we might want to use, like, from a design perspective? Like, what might we want to ask outside of the typical like, like, what customization things might we want to consider in those forms?

[Eric Ressler] I think the baseline things that we look for, well, to be completely transparent, we usually build custom forms when we build websites out and then integrate with API's. So we have more control over these forms. But that's not always going to be feasible for all orgs or necessary even. So if we're looking at a forum, we want to be able to just embed on a site, I mean, baseline things that we would look for would be functionality. So, you know, does it integrate with Google Apple Pay? Can people you know, use their password manager, or browser saved credit card information, especially on mobile? Does it work well on mobile? does it integrate with your CRM or donor engagement platform, if that is different than what you're using to take donations, because sometimes you will have a platform use just for donations online. And then and then that integrates with like, you know, even Salesforce or something that has a more broad use case for your organization. So I'll of course all of those kind of basic fundamental things. And then on top of that, just the user experience, test it out, test it on your phone, especially, can I customize the colors, can I customize the look and feel, those are the kinds of things that we would typically be looking at.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] And the beauty of the look and feel is if you're embedding it on your website, it's going to be a small part of that page, right gives you so much more control over what the overall look is of what it is that you're doing. So if we're thinking, you know, you mentioned having the form on the right side, would you put the video directly to the left or the impact statement, like, you know, we want to have all of that right, where people can see it right where they land. So if we're not doing video, like what other types of graphic elements might we want to include to kind of catch people's eye?

[Eric Ressler] Yeah, so if we are doing video, we will usually put it right directly to the left and at the top of the left column. So it's the first thing you see besides the donation form, and then we might actually typically do have some supporting copy below. A couple other things to keep in mind, we do want these pages to be pretty streamlined, we don't want to distract people with a bunch of other things they can do, if they've landed here, we really want to kind of funnel them into taking action on making a gift and not, you know, also then pulling in blog posts or also then pulling in other things like a video, you know, you can either watch a video or not, it's not going to, you know, if anything, it's going to improve your likelihood of donating, it's not going to send you off somewhere else. I mean, one quick aside is you want to make sure you don't have like links at the end of the video or anything else that might do that. Like if you're using YouTube, you don't want to link off to other videos, or if it's Vimeo, you know, sometimes it'll automatically do that. So watch your embed. If you're doing a video, make sure that none of those things are happening. But we won't, we don't want these pages to be too flashy, or too long, or have too much content less is really more here. You shouldn't be priming people and other areas of the website or other touchpoints. Before they're getting here with all of that background information. A very short amount of copy a very short video is really the only thing that we do want to see on here besides the form.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] So for folks that are like, Well, we still have quite a few donors who don't want to do online giving, they want to mail us a check, or we want to make sure that people are aware of the other ways that they can give to us like legacy gifts or stocks or whatever in kind donations. You know, do you recommend that having a button or something that says here's additional ways to give? Or could you put some of that information farther below that donation form in case people need more information?

[Eric Ressler] Yeah, that's a good point, we do sometimes link off to a page. That's an other ways to give page that kind of outlines all those different options. Some of the donation forms these days do allow people to donate with, you know, a check or ACH really, by putting in their bank account information. Some people feel comfortable with that some people will not. So, you know, mostly, of course, these donations are going to be happening through credit card or Apple Pay or Pay Pal or some kind of online system. So if your organization has other giving opportunities, like stocks, or you know, you know, even like being able to donate crypto is something that's becoming more popular than we would recommend having an other ways to give page and linking off to that page. Maybe you lists like in a very brief overview of some of the other ways to give, but we wouldn't typically want to see all of that content on the donation page, because it's going to distract people when, you know most people donating online are going to donate through the form.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. Okay, so then this comes to you, you know, there's not a one size fits all donation page for your organization. So most organizations are going to have big events, they're going to have different fundraising campaigns, you might have a capital campaign. So we want to come up with different donation pages for each of these right to keep it simple and specific.

[Eric Ressler] Yeah, so the way we typically approach this is we have a kind of evergreen donate page is the page that, you know, the donate button in the top nav goes to, if you don't have an active campaign going, this page is always up always accessible, like that's just kind of a given. And then if you have additional campaigns running, there's a lot of factors to kind of consider there, do you push people there, instead of this donate page, maybe, does this donation page actually automatically contribute to that campaign while that campaign is running, if it's like a, you know, end to your campaign or something, maybe there's so many factors to consider there. And it's hard to give just, you know, black and white answers to that it's there's so much context to consider. One thing I would say that we haven't really touched on yet is that, especially this comes into play, when we're talking about kind of campaigns and like membership versus just one time donations, you do still want to be careful about having too many form fields in these donation forms, you really want to keep them as as streamlined as possible. So almost all of them kind of follow this, this, the best practice here of starting with the amount starting with whether or not it's you know, a one time gift or a monthly or annual gift, allowing people to, you know, have have some preset options, and also allowing people to choose the option that they want, if none of those preset options are great. And then collecting, you know, bare minimum amount of information. If you want to collect more information about your donors, I would recommend that you do that as a secondary step, either after the donation has cleared, or in a follow up survey, rather than trying to put all that in the form because the longer the form is just statistically speaking, the more drop off you're gonna have, the less conversion you're gonna have. So this comes into play in the main donate form, but especially as we start to talk about different campaigns, you know, where there might be a raffle, or there might be a membership model, you know, and you do need to maybe ask some more information, like what level of membership or like, enter your answer for the raffle or whatever it is like, just keep in mind that, you know, we don't want these forms to be any longer than that need to be.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, well, and I think we tend to want to automate everything. And sometimes not having that information on the form gives you an opportunity to do a personal reach out and have a conversation and say, like, Okay, well, we're so excited that you're going to participate in this program. Like, I'd love to walk through all the options with you. So you can get, you know, make sure you have all the right benefits, or, you know, thanks for signing up for the right, and I get like there's time constraints to that. But I think if we can reframe that as in a way of how can we contact you, sorry, how can we gather this information in a way that allows me to have a more personal conversation with somebody? There can be a lot of missed opportunity there?

[Eric Ressler] Yeah, absolutely. I think the point about outreach reminds me of, I think, some topics that would be worth discussing around the kind of post donation, nurturing experience, and I think this is you alluded to this as well, I'd be interested to hear your perspectives. But I think that's actually a lot of times where organizations get it wrong. Because I think, and there's good reason for that. But we consider, you know, we see someone donate, and they've been moved up the engagement pyramid. And so we think, okay, these folks care, they've taken enough time to give a gift. And so we want to nurture them. And we want to see if we can get them to give more or to get involved in other ways. And that's a great, a great way to think about it. But you have to be careful, I think where a lot of organizations really screw up is that they just continuously ask and ask and ask and ask from donors, and donors expect a return on their investment of the donation. And what they're looking for are a few key things and different people and different ratios. But essentially, they're looking for proof of impact. They want to know that their donation, and other donations like theirs have led to actual real world impact against the cause that you're working towards. They want to see emotional stories about that impact and see how it's touched people's lives. And they want to be educated on the issue area because as a nonprofit, focusing on you know, whatever you Your niches or whatever your category is, you are this kind of Beacon of expertise around this issue. So if I support, you know, an organization that's about regenerative farming or something, just to pull an example out, I might care about that, I might care deeply about it. But if I'm not doing that work every day like you are, if you're on the nonprofit side, I don't have my finger on the pulse to the same degree that you do. So I want to know, like, what's the latest and greatest? Like, what's the truth in this space? Like? What are the priorities? What are the biggest opportunities? What are the biggest barriers, so as an organization, you have this opportunity to really educate your supporters around not just your progress, but the progress against the issue, even outside of your organization, I bring all this up just to say that you need to be doing more than just asking, you need to be providing more value back to your donors in the form of proof of impact emotional stories in education and inspiration. And the general ratio that we would look for there would be roughly like a three to one for every, especially for someone who's already given, especially for someone who's a member or an existing donor, we want to see at least three pieces of content that are not asking other than maybe a subtle ask at the bottom. But the primary purpose is just to return value to that donor not not to get them to give you more.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, I agree with that. And I think that's the beauty in a consistent email marketing campaign and a consistent content creation on your website, is it allows you Yes, like you said, to have that subtle ask, you can always have a donate button at the bottom of your email newsletters, you can always have a doughnut, don't donate call to action, in your blog post, like, there's ways that you can still make sure that that is there for people to see. But you know, that's where we battle with consistency with clients and getting them to understand that that is what's going to help you generate additional funds. And so to that end, I wanted to ask to your thoughts on, you talked about like an automatic nurture. We've done podcast episodes on welcome sequences, follow up welcome sequences, so I'll make sure to link that up in the show notes. If you're curious about what more detail about what that looks like. But another thought, too, is once somebody's completed the form redirecting them to a separate Thank you landing page on your website that also maybe include some information. So if we wanted to go that route, like what kind of things might we want to include on that immediate thank you page, because then you get that immediate gratification right away, without having to like then check your email or take another step.

[Eric Ressler] I think it's really the same content that we were just talking about, for follow up pieces of communication. So it you know, you'll have to kind of dial in what the right amount of, of the ratio is for your organization. And that might depend on kind of what's been happening recently at your organization. But I would look for things like proof of impact, either statistics, or stories, or a combination of both some of those more emotionally driven stories around how your work has impacted real people. And then some amount of education around you know, the challenges that you're facing, or what you're working towards, or the space in general. And you know, it can be a little bit more timely, it could be a little bit more evergreen, depending on kind of what you're doing. But I think that's a great opportunity to kind of start to plant some seeds. And I think it's also about building credibility for your organization. And, you know, I think one of the things that we've seen, through lived experience and through research is that people are quite skeptical about nonprofits ability to make an impact, I think there's a lot of reasons for that. And some nonprofits don't actually make that big of an impact, some do. And so as a donor, especially if your funds are limited, but even if they're not, donors want to make sure they're investing in nonprofits that are going to actually do good, of course. And so anything that you can do as an organization to educate your donors and your supporters, or potential donors or supporters, around your, your credibility, the impact that you've had your expertise as an organization, your approach, all of that's really just kind of nurturing your donor in a way that is helpful to empower them to become more effective supporters for your organization and ultimately move up the engagement pyramid all the way to being, you know, advocates for your organization and converting other people and spreading the word about your organization through their own networks.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, because what you do in your organization is not necessarily unique, right? If you're, if you're, I mean, I say this and some of my clients look at me, like I'm crazy, but I'm like, you know, it's just like, you can buy shoes anywhere. You choose to buy the shoes, most likely because you liked the way they fit, they feel and you've maybe had a good customer experience, right? It's a whole package and what we know is that people will spend more money on a product or service because they feel a deeper connection than, you know some they could buy Something less expensive, but they're going to buy the one that they feel more emotionally connected to. And I think what you're sharing here is that holistic strategy of like, how can we take care of these donors from making them feel like they can trust us at the onset, go through our content, see that information, feel good about where they're going to invest that money, maybe test us out with that donation page, and then through the rest of the impact storytelling and the nurturing that we do? Continue to build and grow. So I'd love for you to share your thoughts on this. Specifically, organizations tend to be like, well, smaller donors, we don't need to spend as much time and energy on them, because they're smaller donors, we need to focus our efforts on these corporate gifts and these major givers, that's just a better use of our time. What would you say to people that are kind of going through that maybe more traditional fundraising approach?

[Eric Ressler] I mean, I think it really kind of depends on your overall revenue strategy as a nonprofit, and how your gifts break down. I mean, we work with nonprofits that are funded, you know, largely by grassroots donations, and you know, 1000s, if not hundreds of 1000s of small gifts nationally or internationally, you know, obviously, then you really need to dial some of these things in, you need to dial in your automations, your segmentation, and all of your digital marketing and technology that powers that, of course. And I think if you're running a campaign, or a movement based campaign, or an organization that is truly large in scope and scale, then it's worth putting a lot of time and energy into that. If you're running a smaller, more regionally focused nonprofit, and you know, 90% of your money is coming through grants or large gifts or investments from, you know, foundations, then you do need to look at, like, what's the ROI on investing in smaller donors and nurturing those relationships? I think it's always worth it in short, at some level, because you never know how your network is connected. And that one small donor, who gives $20 might mention your organization to another donor who's going to turn around in a week, maybe not a week and a month and write you $100,000 Check. Yeah. And I think what we also know is that even with larger kind of major gifts, and even like family offices, and even to some degree, more institutional gifts, having grassroots support, having community support, and momentum, and engagement is a huge factor. Even if they're mostly looking at impact metrics and wanting to be really academic about it. They might not even take a meeting with you, if you don't show some amount of momentum. It's kind of the the chicken and egg problem I think a lot of nonprofits run into, right? It's similar in the startup world, it's like VCs don't want to give you money until you have a certain amount of monthly revenue coming in. So you have to kind of consider I don't think it's a good strategy. With there's maybe some very few exceptions to this. But I don't think it's ever really a good strategy to just completely ignore small donations or small supporters, even if those are, you know, volunteers or subscribers or advocates for the work that you're doing. And I think looking at people and valuing your supporters based on how much they're giving, is an extractive intrinsically wrong way to think about your supporters.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, no, I agree. Um, okay, one last thing I want to touch on is, you know, you've so you've worked on your donation page, it looks and feels like you, the messaging is great, it's clean. It's simple, it's easy to navigate. How important is that branding piece to pull through all the rest of these follow up? Sequences? Like, do we want to make sure that people like how do we make sure that people know like, this is coming from us so that they continue to say, in gauged because, you know, there's a lot of trains of thought with email on plain text versus fully designed? So like, how much do we want to put effort into into that piece?

[Eric Ressler] I think you want to consider it, but I don't think that necessarily means that every piece of communication needs to be this flashy, poster looking thing. We've definitely seen a lot of success with plain text emails, I would argue those are still branded, even if they're not visually branded, right? Because they're branded in terms of the tone and the personality, who it's coming from, what you say you know, what you provide in terms of value. So I think of course, if we look at branding as more than just the colors then every piece of communication you do needs to be very tightly branded, doesn't mean it needs to be you know, your logo and colors and graphics pasted everywhere. I think when you're doing kind of more personalized reach out, I think having emails feel personal is a good strategy. We tend to do things that are lightly branded. Like we don't want to try and trick people into thinking that someone actually like sat down and hand wrote an email, unless they actually did. I think a lot of people kind of do that. And I think we're all starting to be a little smart about that, because you know, everyone's use that strategy. So I don't think we want to do anything that's like inauthentic that makes people feel like, you know, or tries to literally trick someone into thinking that the executive director sat down and wrote them a personal letter. But it should feel way more like that than, you know, a receipt, for example. So I think what we usually do with email marketing is kind of a mix, we may have some digest style, newsletter style emails, and those are a little bit more visual, a little bit more branded. But then we'll also have more targeted outreach that are a little bit more personal, if it's sharing like one story. Or if it's, you know, asking for a very specific ask coming from the executive director that's personalized to you know, what we know about you as a donor, those should feel a little bit more like a regular email.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah, no, I agree with that. Well, so many amazing things. I love this, like holistic look at a donor. Because we talk about that a lot, you know, your donors or your customers, just as if you were a brick and mortar retail store. And so your approach to that is very much in alignment with how can we just treat people, like people and no matter the size of their gift, they're valuable to our organization, because also, you never know, somebody may only give you $20, but that might be a huge thing for them, but they just really love the work that you're doing. And by treating that gift, just as important as everything else, you might have somebody then who donates over and over and over again and over time cumulative, cumulatively makes a big impact. So never judge a book by its cover, right?

[Eric Ressler] Yeah, I think that's really true. And we've seen that play out where a lot of times people will start with a small gift. And as you build the relationship and show your proof of impact, and continue to connect with them at a more emotional level, and they really start to believe in the work that you're doing and see that it has value, then they're much more likely to come back and make a bigger gift or even become a you know, a monthly donor or join a membership program or even join some kind of giving circle. That's a much larger ask, but you have to earn that, right. Whether you're earning that through your digital communications, or you're earning that through personal outreach. It's it's something that you earn, and it should be something that you earn. And I do think that nonprofits need to look at their their overall revenue strategy so that they're diversified that they have the ability to bring in revenue from multiple sources, so that they're not making short term choices that don't actually lead to long term success.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Yeah. That is a great, yeah, go back and listen to that statement again, because that is spot on. Well, Eric, is there any kind of last words of advice or wisdom that you'd like to share with listeners?

[Eric Ressler] I've really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks for having me on. I feel like we covered a lot, it was great to go deep on donation and design and all of that. I guess I would just kind of point people to our website, where we've written about a lot of this, we have a lot of free articles. We also did pin a manifesto, that kind of outlines beyond just donations, but just overall, our thinking and our point of view around how design and communications can kind of intersect with social impact that's on our website, as well as at the top of tab called manifesto. So there's a lot of great free resources on our site that you can dig into if you're interested in kind of taking some of these ideas and applying them to your work.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] That's awesome. Well, Eric, if people want to connect with you outside of your website, or kind of follow along with your organization, how can they do that?

[Eric Ressler] So really, the two places are the website and the URL really quick. I'm sure it'll be in the show notes is designed by cosmic.com. And then also, LinkedIn is a great place to connect with me personally, you can find me on there and follow me and reach out and I'll I'll get back to anyone who reaches out to me there. If anyone's interested. I'm also open to just going back and forth through email. My email is Eric E. Ric at design by cosmic.com.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Awesome. Yeah. And we'll have everything linked up in the show notes at the first click.net/ 208. Eric, thank you so much for being here today.

[Eric Ressler] Thanks for having me on.

[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Big, big thank you to Eric for joining me today. He had such amazing things to share. And I just love the whole thought of how do we go from from beginning before they've even donated to making sure that we get multiple donations out of them over the course of time. measuring impact is always kind of tricky, but we can share those stories consistently and share them regularly. It's going to help our audience stay connected to US and trust us even more trust was a big topic of this episode. I hope that you heard that and I hope that you are going to really think again about your donation page and how it's impacting your organization. For now, make sure you subscribe, wherever you listen, these episodes come out on Tuesdays, and I would hate for you to miss out on one. You can also watch the videos on YouTube after https://thefirstclick.net/youtube or grab the videos in the show notes. At https://thefirstclick.net/208. We'll have all of the links and everything in there for you to check out so you can connect with Eric and his company and learn more from him on design and branding and messaging. I can't wait to see you in the next one.

 

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