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3 Ways to Grow Your Online Supporter Base

By Andrea Goezinne January 19, 2022

If you’re working for a nonprofit organisation, put yourself in the position of one of your supporters for a moment.

Imagine that you made the decision to give, but your online donation failed. What would you do? Would you try again, or quickly get distracted and forget as soon as something else on your phone caught your attention?

Our research with NextAfter found that many donors experience difficulties when trying to make a donation to their preferred nonprofit or when engaging with an organisation after making a donation:

  • At least one in five of the organisations involved in the study did not have a process in place to check that their donation pages were working correctly, and 20% of the time we could not actually make a donation.
  • Many organisations invest in creating compelling content to inspire supporters to give. Unfortunately, 27% of our attempts to sign up for email were unsuccessful, resulting in lost opportunities to engage.
  • Retention of online donors is low in the sector. However, retention requires communication. In our study, only 28% of organisations sent online donors a cultivation communication beyond 60 days.

So how can your organisation avoid these pitfalls? Let’s look at three simple actions every organisation can take to maximise online giving, boost subscriber numbers, and enhance the supporter experience.

Young woman making an online donation on her smartphone.
More and more donors prefer to give online and expect a frictionless giving experience.

Action 1: Get the Basics Right and Test, Test, Test

Nearly eight in 10 people globally use contactless payment methods for everyday purchases. People are busy and expect to be able to swiftly complete actions online — and donations are no exception. According to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 55% of donors worldwide prefer to give online using a credit or debit card. This means it is critical that donation and email subscription forms work smoothly and are simple and easy to follow. Yet the research found that 95% of nonprofits have some element of friction in their online donation process.

What can you do?

  • Make sure your donation page and email subscription form are well-indicated and prominent on your website. You can copy the mystery donor process to test how easy it is to donate.
  • Simplify the donation process by keeping it on one page, using as few steps as possible.
  • Have a process in place that regularly tests if everything works as it should. Check your online donation and email signup processes once a quarter, including page load times, how it looks on different devices, and what happens after donating or signing up.

Action 2: Give People Reason to Subscribe to Your Content

With so much information being sent via email, people’s inboxes can quickly become cluttered. So if you want them to hand over their email address or other contact details, you’ll need to give them a good reason to do so. Make it clear what they are signing up for and what they will get in return — relevant and personalised content.

However, our research indicates that the vast majority of nonprofits simply offer to send news or updates. Rarely is there a strong incentive for donors to subscribe. Seventy-five percent of organizations did not provide an “average” or “strong” reason to sign up, and half the time it wasn’t clear what the donor was signing up for.

What can you do?

  • Be clear and specific about what you are asking people to do and how they will benefit from signing up. For example, a nature conservation charity might promote their newsletter by letting donors know it provides information about walking routes and conservation events near them.
  • Switch the content format of what you’re offering in exchange for a sign-up. Offering something with perceived value, such as a resource kit, petition, online course, or email series can significantly increase uptake.
  • People are likely to interact with you before signing up and to share similarities with your existing supporters. Using audience segmentation to identify these traits and create content that appeals to them can increase sign-ups.

Infographic of an email welcome journey
Source: NextAfter

Action 3: Build Engagement From the First Interaction

When you’ve worked so hard to bring supporters on board, you’ll want to do all you can to make every donor feel valued and encourage them to stay with you for the long-term. Most organisations communicate actively by email with both online donors and subscribers in the first 14 days after an initial donation or signup. While this is vital, communication often drops substantially as time goes on.

The first interaction after a donation or email signup is key, but our study indicates that one in 10 organisations fail to send any confirmation at all, and of those organisations that do confirm the email signup, less than half (45%) use a dedicated thank you/confirmation page.

A long-term committed supporter relationship requires a sustained and tailored stewardship programme, but 70% of nonprofits offer no immediate next step for a new email subscriber to take, and communication drops significantly thereafter. Only 28% of organisations send online donors a cultivation communication beyond 60 days.

What can you do?

  • Make sure people know that they have successfully donated or subscribed to emails with a simple confirmation page and automated email.
  • Recognise that this confirmation message is your opportunity not only to say thank you, but to inspire their passion — make it clear what more they can do to support the cause and what you’d like them to do next.
  • Set up a simple series of automated email messages that change based on the supporter’s behaviour to welcome new subscribers and cultivate that relationship.

The change from paper to digital has meant that nonprofits depend heavily on platforms with embedded payment. These platforms attract because they offer a frictionless experience that is unparalleled on any nonprofit website, as we saw in our experience as a mystery donor.

Dependency on these platforms has been highly discussed in the sector, because in order to reach new and existing supporters, nonprofits need to meet them where they are. But meeting them is not enough if nonprofits don’t cultivate data-rich, durable relationships and become more supporter-centric through owned channels.

Did you find these tips helpful? Want to learn more about how to set yourself up for digital fundraising growth? Download the 8 Simple Steps to Digital Fundraising Success and learn how to inspire website visitors to give and cultivate supporters for life.

Andrea Goezinne, Product Marketing Manager EMEA,
Andrea Goezinne
Product Marketing Manager EMEA,
Andrea Goezinne is an EMEA product marketing manager at and has spent the last 10 years working with hundreds of nonprofits to grow their fundraising. She started in the sector at NPQ and then continued a career in individual giving innovation, working for nonprofits, agencies, and several peer-to-peer and online platforms in Europe.