I have a feeling I’m on the cusp of a dreaded parenting rite of passage with my almost 2-year-old: the “why” phase.

(For you seasoned parents mocking me for calling it a phase, please just chuckle to yourselves at my naivete instead of bursting my bubble!)

As a parent, I’m not looking forward to the endless string of “why” questioning I, quite frankly, probably don’t have the answers to. But as a fundraiser, I know how critical it is that we answer this question clearly and repeatedly in our communications – without even being asked!

Answering the all-important “why should I give?” – followed closely by “why should I give to you?” and “why should I give now?”, is (or should be!) a key component in all your fundraising communications.

But the recent 2020 Global Online Fundraising Scorecard from NextAfter suggests that that’s not the case for a shocking number of organizations – not just in Canada, but all around the world.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the report, I highly recommend you do. Their review of playing “mystery shopper/donor” for more than 600 organizations around the globe is chock full of useful information to help you learn from what other charities are doing right and wrong when it comes to the online experience.

Among the findings of the report – a few of which shocked me, like not being able to just get on an organization’s email list almost 30% of the time! – were a few that highlight how that all-important “why” is being overlooked in a few key digital spaces.

Email Capture

As I mentioned, researchers were only successful in signing up for a charity’s email list about 73% of the time. But that appalling statistic aside, only 25% provided a strong reason for web visitors to sign up for the list in the first place. Head to your website now and find your mailing list sign up form. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Now look at your offer. Is it “Sign up to receive our e-newsletter” or something similar? If so, it’s time to get out the virtual big red pen and get editing! Tell people why they should sign up. What will they get in return? What are they gaining by handing over this much-coveted data? Making this case a bit stronger is clearly something many charities could work on!

Email Cultivation

Another key finding of the report was that email cultivation is underused. To be honest, this one shocks me less. I think a lot of organizations, especially smaller, resource-strapped ones with small teams wearing many hats, know they could do better when it comes to digital communications in general and stewardship in particular. But just because you’re not asking for money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t showcase the importance of your work. While the why is of paramount importance in solicitations, it certainly shouldn’t be ignored in stewardship touchpoints. Every communication you send should help build the relationship and make your case, whether your ultimate goal of that particular email is a donation or not.

Donation Pages

Once people land on your donation page your job is done, right? Wrong. Just because donors or prospects have come this far doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve made up their mind to give. It seems counterintuitive that someone would click Donate Now then, you know, not donate now. But a quick look at your email click-through numbers against the number of gifts, or page bounce and abandonment rates show it’s super common. So why would someone not give? Quite simply, we’re not giving them a good reason to. The NextAfter report found that 60% of charities did not provide a compelling reason to give on their donation pages, only 40% included more than 4 sentences about what a gift would achieve, and a shocking 30% had no copy on the page whatsoever!

Don’t assume that a donor has made up their mind just because they’ve come to your donation page. You need to communicate that “why” again and again to make it super clear how much their gifts matter. Any opportunity you can take to reduce or eliminate friction and doubt in the donation process – take it!