Fundraising with Web Chat: Turning Visitors into Donors

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Gathering funds for charities via web chat

There’s room for improvement in online fundraising communication.

That was the overall conclusion from a recent study that analyzed online fundraising efforts of over 100 of the top national charities. In fact, according to the study, no single organization adopted more than 83% of online fundraising best practices.

The Online Fundraising Scorecard analyzed everything from uninspiring email subject lines to conflicting landing page call-to-actions. But the big picture boiled down to this simple conclusion: fundraisers must improve their online communication strategy in order to secure more donations.

After all, online fundraisers are truly only as effective as their communication is. Or, as the study authors observed, donors don’t give until they’ve received a compelling answer to each of three key questions:

  • Why should I give?
  • Why should I give now?
  • Why should I trust you?

Exploring the Web Chat Opportunity

So let me ask the obvious question: Given that online fundraising relies on the ability of websites to quickly and powerfully communicate, isn’t web chat a technology that’s worth considering for the task?

That was one of the questions on my mind when I recently reached out to 13 different experts to get their opinions on the most effective technologies to help fundraisers. As part of the project, I was keen to connect with an expert on web chat tools to better understand their unique value.

Blackbaud Index

Online giving is now outpacing overall giving, making communication via tools like web chat even more important.
Graph via The Blackbaud Index.

Mariusz Cieply, CEO of LiveChat, Inc., helped boil down the real value of web chat technology for fundraisers:

“Chat benefits non-profit organizations in a similar way to how it helps classic businesses. Firstly, the chat can be used to replace phone or email communication with real-time conversations and instant answers directly on the website. Secondly, live chat provides the ability to target potential donors who are browsing the website and to address them by name with tailored messages. Providing the ability to start a chat with a real person validates the entire experience and improves credibility of the organization. It’s important to utilize all chances for contact as each and every person browsing the website can be a potential donor.”

Mariusz’s idea that every site visitor can be a potential donor is an attractive proposition for non-profits. But a visitor doesn’t become a donor unless they’re inspired. As Mariusz points out, chat provides an opportunity to deliver that inspiration because it balances personalization and a human touch with responsiveness and ease-of-use.

Web Chat: A Growing Trend

One of the technologies that the research company Forrester paid special attention to in their Top 15 Trends or Customer Service in 2013 article was web chat. The article documented an eye-catching 24% rise in web chat and attributed the growth to a larger trend towards an inclination for self-service. The numbers show that customers don’t always pursue the more direct interaction of a phone conversation, but that they are still attracted to communication channels offering a dynamic, personalized response. Charitable donors are no different.

Chat on IIUSA marketplace

Chat on IIUSA marketplace, US-based non-profit trade association.

While the adoption of web chat has a ways to go before it is a universal part of a complete online fundraising strategy, many forward-thinking non-profits are catching on to the opportunity. Examples of creative chat adoption can be found among NGO’s (Volunteer Uganda), trade associations (Association to Invest in USA), and mission-based non-profits (Children’s Services Support Unit).

Is chat right for your online fundraising campaign? Here’s something to think about. A study by non-profit provider Blackbaud found that the national average one-time donation is just over $136. The question becomes: How many more donations would you expect to receive monthly when you’ve provided a new way for your site visitors to communicate in real-time with a real person?

Adam Bluemner

About the author:

Adam Bluemner is the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a service providing free software selection assistance. Over the last decade Adam has spoken with thousands of companies and non-profits, helping them achieve business success through intelligent software investment.

Photo courtesy of Yukiko Matsuoka via Creative Commons.

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