The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Acquiring New Donors Online

Many organizations are reporting that the majority of their online donations are from new donors. The keys to acquiring new donors on your site are:

1. Bringing potential donors to your site.

The first thing to do to increase the number of people clicking on your DonateNow button is to attract new visitors and encourage repeat visits to your site. While certain people will come to your site because they are looking for you specifically, many people will need to be made aware of your existence, the work you do and the issues you deal with. You’ll need a strategy for getting the word out about your web site – online and offline.

2. Make your site donor-friendly.

If somebody is on your site, she’s already taken the first step for getting involved – she came to you. To convert her into a donor, you must not only make her experience on your site a good one, you must also build her trust and give her opportunities to get involved. (The basic rules of fundraising don’t change online – people who are involved are more likely to give. The beauty is that it’s easier for people to be involved online.)

It’s critical to remember that your site is more than a brochure. You don’t want someone coming to your site and leaving, never to return, thinking they’ve learned all they can. There are several things you can include on your site to ensure it is donor friendly:

• A short, crisp version of what you do. Clearly convey on your home page what you do, how you do it, and why. Keep it short, including a link to more details for those who are interested.

• Your privacy, security, and financial statements. People will make donations only if they trust your organization. If you’re asking people to provide you with personal information of any kind, be sure to display your privacy policy – your pledge about how you will use the information you are collecting. Some visitors will want reassurance that a page is on a secure server – so that information is encrypted before transmission over the Internet – before inputting their credit card information. Finally, visitors want to know that your organization is financially responsible. At a minimum, post your Annual Report on your site. Many organizations are also starting to post their 990 forms on their sites. 990s for all nonprofits are already available online through Guidestar (, so you may as well make yours easy to access for those who are interested. Posting your 990 also helps fulfill the IRS’s requirement that you make the 990 available to the public.

• Your successes and progress, i.e. how donations make a difference. This will build confidence in and respect for your organization, and the likelihood that someone will give.

• Contact information. You want to be accessible to your donors, particularly those who may be interested in making a large gift and those who aren’t yet comfortable giving online. Adding your name, address, phone, and fax numbers – plus a copyright notice – on every page is one effective solution.

3. Make the ask!

Again, the basic rules of fundraising apply online – it can take frequent “asks” in order to receive a gift. Most successful organizations put attractive membership offers or compelling appeals on their home page as well as including a Donate or Join link in the navigation on every page. For appeals throughout the site, it’s easy and logical to tie the “ask” to the page content. If someone is on a page about saving the tigers, your appeal can say “Help us save the tigers! Make a donation today!” You can also incorporate asks into your content. At the end of an informative piece of copy, explain in one or two sentences how your organization is making a difference and invite the reader’s support, with a link to the giving page.

When someone clicks on your donation button, she should be taken immediately to a page where she can make her gift, not a page that distracts her with many options or further reasons why she should contribute. Include on your online donation pages a link to a form that people can fax or mail in if they don’t want to use their credit cards online.

4. Collect email addresses on your site – then use them!

Most people probably won’t make a donation on their first visit to your site, but if you get their email addresses you can start building your relationship via email and invite them back to your site.

The best way to collect email addresses is to offer an e-newsletter subscription on your site. Make the subscription quick and easy – ideally a visitor types her email address into a box and clicks submit. Depending on your email messaging system, you can then ask for additional, optional information (such as name, zip code, or interests) that you can use later to personalize the messages and send targeted information. In your e-newsletter, in addition to news and calls to action, you can invite people to join your organization or make a contribution. You can also send a special stand-alone email solicitation periodically. The key is to remember that without that email address, a potential supporter may be lost forever.

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About This Blog

Lisa Bonanno
Vice President of Digital Marketing

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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