10 tips for great online legacy fundraising

In 2013 I wrote about online legacy fundraising content. Although well written persuasive copy is still key, digital trends move on. So four years later it is time to see whether the web pages about legacy fundraising have improved and what has changed.

I looked at a random sample of over 50 large, medium and small charities. In most cases the pages were pretty dull, especially from smaller charities. It is hard to write warm, engaging copy about legacies as we often fall over ourselves trying to be sensitive. But the charities who get it right have a confidence and a clear sense of themselves and their audience.

collage of various screenshots from sites discussed below

Here are ten ingredients for emotive and effective online legacy fundraising.

Be clear and persuasive

WaterAid’s legacy site stood out as the go-to example of a persuasive and well designed site. The page starts with a clear call to action – leave the world with water – which sets the tone. They use eye catching and engaging links and headings (leave your mark / what would you like to pass on?) which include and challenge the reader. Images are positive and inspiring. They also include a photograph and name of a person to contact as well as a legacy promise which are both reassuring and clear.

WaterAid

Save the Children UK also use clear and inspiring headings (write a child’s smile into your will) and use bold to highlight important words. They use beautiful pictures of smiling children to reinforce their words. Their writing is confident, concise and persuasive (make a lasting difference, your kindness).

Save the Children UK

Use social proofing

Campaigns like Remember a Charity week help to promote legacy fundraising. Many charities reinforce this message in their copy. They show that remembering a charity is something that everyone can do.

The Migraine Trust makes a clear statement which makes leaving a legacy accessible – “a gift of just 1% will make a real difference to supporting our charitable work”. This is a clearer way of what they were saying in 2013.

Migraine Trust

Many charities talk about ‘thousands of people who leave a legacy’ or ‘thanks to people like you’. Use social proofing to validate someone’s decision.

Use video

Since 2013, many more legacy pages include videos. Take a look at this personal message from a supporter on Prisoners Abroad. Or this slick video from ActionAid showing Mrs Harben’s legacy. Or this simple beautiful video from RSPB. Or this speaking from the heart story from Glenys who supports the Alzheimer’s Society.

Alzheimer's Society

Talk about impact

What difference will someone’s gift make? Talk big picture about your vision / mission or about specific services. More charities are making big statements about what a legacy means to them.

RSPB’s opening statement is clear and bold: Your legacy is nature’s future.

RSPB

Refugee Action’s Leave a legacy page goes into more detail. It is beautifully written using storytelling and sense of urgency. It frames the problem and talks about what they can do with a legacy gift. The page is short, concise and powerful. A great example of a small charity getting it right.

East Lancashire Hospice talk about leaving a legacy of love and explain that last year, legacy gifts paid for three months of care.

If your organisation is all about solving a problem or finding a cure, talking about legacies could be difficult. How do you frame the ask when you might not be around or needed in the same way in 20 / 50 years? Don’t avoid the issue – think about how you can present it effectively.

Macmillan Cancer‘s legacy page says: “In the future, doctors and nurses are going to get much better at diagnosing cancer earlier, and treating it.” But stresses that half of us will get cancer at some point so Macmillan will still be needed.

Say please and thank you

Choosing to leave a legacy to a charity is a big deal. The fact that someone is reading your page about this is a good sign. Keep them with you by recognising this. Say please and thank you in the right places. If you come across as kind and thoughtful at the asking stage, it will reassure people that you will behave in the same way when you are processing their gift.

Think about motivation

Why do you think someone might have reached your page? What are they thinking. This page by the Miscarriage Association is written really warmly and in a gentle tone of voice. The quote perfectly positions the ask.

Miscarriage Association

Include appropriate images

Brighten up a serious subject with colourful or inspiring images. Reward visitors to this page and make them want to stay. A collection of several images may work better than a single one. For example, this landing page for the British Heart Foundation includes images of family, medical research as well as a big thank you.

BHF

Many organisations seem to rely on stock images of grey-haired couples on their legacy pages. Remember to use images which reflect the demographics of your readers. Also people often write their will triggered by big life events such as getting married or having children. Your audience isn’t just people in later stages of their lives.

Take a look at NSPCC’s page which includes quotes and images from supporters at different stages of their lives. Their stories may chime with readers, validating their own idea to leave a legacy to NSPCC (see social proofing above).

NSPCC

Think about a hook

What could make your legacy fundraising stand out? What stories do you have to tell? Has a legacy gift allowed you to do something special or unusual? Is there someone you could write about or feature to make your ask come to life?

Mencap’s gifts in wills page is based around the inspiring story of Lord Brian Rix. The page says that he “helped change the future for people with a learning disability. With a gift in your Will to Mencap you can too.” It uses beautiful images from their archive and talks about what he achieved in his lifetime. It says that although lots has changed, people with learning disabilities still face challenges so by leaving a gift in your will, you can help change the future too.

Mencap

Similarly, Leonard Cheshire, marking its centenary say “Leonard’s legacy became our legacy. It could be your legacy too.”

Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity includes information about JM Barrie’s legacy gift in their pages. Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity talks about your final chapter and how to write your own ending.

Include practical information

Make it as easy as possible for someone to actually get the legal stuff right. So include:

  • information about different types of gifts (see this handy guide to the types of legacies by Demelza Hospice)
  • your official name (and any previous names) and charity number
  • suggested wording
  • information to help someone work out the detail of their estate
  • information for executors
  • contact details so a potential donor can get in touch.

A promise can offer reassurance about how a legacy will be dealt with when the time comes. A few charities included these – see WaterAid’s promise, RNLI and Breast Cancer Now.

Be interesting

There were a few examples of charities who’d produced interesting supporting content. For example:

  • Blue Cross reminds readers to think about their digital assets (passwords, data, photos, social media etc)
  • Cancer Research’s campaign with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Two Thirds of a Spring reflects the vital impact that one third of funding has on their life-saving work
  • Alzheimer’s Society has an online book of remembrance
  • visitors are invited to make a personalised video with Unicef UK. (NB Unicef UK have been running a campaign of promoted tweets about this recently, the only social media content I spotted about legacy fundraising during the research for this post.)

Unicef UK promoted tweet

 Get the navigation and terminology right

Think about where your legacy pages sit. How easy are they to find within navigation or search? Be your own mystery customer and check.

Don’t bury your pages – make them prominent, especially if legacies make up a sizeable proportion of your income. Don’t just stick them under ‘Other ways to give’.

Check where they appear in your content rankings on your Google Analytics. Are you using the right terminology for your audience? Test whether the word legacy or will works best. Many charities use both.

See my previous post on legacy fundraising (persuasive and engaging writing in online legacy fundraising) for some tips on terminology and placing of legacy pages. Also how to talk about legacies on social media.

How do you measure up?

Is your online legacy fundraising content strong enough or is it dull and unconvincing? Give your copy a facelift before Remember a Charity week in September. If you are not sure how well it comes across, get your mum to read it or do a page swap with someone else from another charity. Get some feedback and think about how you could bring your content to life.

Share your examples

Have you seen (or written) any good or bad examples of digital legacy fundraising? Please do share them here.

My top five online legacy fundraising sites are listed in a JustGiving blog post. I’d love to hear what yours are.

 

How to make the new Twitter profile work for your charity

The new Twitter layout brings new opportunities for using images. But the size and shape of images required, especially for the header, is tricky to get right. Should you stretch your logo (er, no), use a generic photo library background or search for a single picture which tells your story? There are still lots of organisations and people who haven’t made the switch yet, let’s look at some who have.

Using the profile for an appeal or campaign

This example from @OxfamGB uses one very powerful image (of a person looking directly at us) alongside a red banner about the appeal and JustText Giving details underneath. As Twitter is not traditionally used for fundraising (see previous post on donating in 140 characters), the header presents a brilliant opportunity. Oxfam could reinforce the header by pinning a tweet about the appeal so it appears at the top of the page. This would drive more traffic as nothing in the profile space is clickable.

Oxfam GB: powerful image of a face to support their South Sudan appeal

Child’s i Foundation are using their profile to promote their latest fundraising campaign. The pinned tweet works well here especially as it uses a different but similar picture.

Child's i Foundation - profile promotes their fundraising campaign. Strong picture.

Alzheimer’s Society are using their header to promote their latest campaign, Don’t bottle it up. They have included their #hashtag and link.

Alzheimer's Society: Don't bottle it up campaign text and image

Other examples organisations using the header for fundraising or to give information:

One strong image

It can be difficult to find one strong image, especially one which tells a story, is easy for everyone to understand and works in the letterbox shape (1500 x 500 pixels).

Mencap use one strong positive image of a man and boy, both smiling. This complements their friendly bio (‘Hi, we are Mencap. Everything we do is about valuing & supporting people with a learning disability, their family and carers’).

Mencap: strong image of boy and man smiling

What does your picture say about you? A photo of a single person works well as a fundraising persuasion tool but this is social media so maybe your image should be a reflection of your inclusion? There are a few examples of this such as this one from Parkinson’s UK and The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Parkinson's UK: big happy group wearing branded t-shirts

Play to your strengths. What images do you have which you know work well? For example Guide Dogs use puppies.

Guide Dogs: three black labrador puppies

Other examples of one strong image:

But what if you don’t have a stock of strong pictures or your cause doesn’t lend itself to a photo? A graphic can work. Refuge here uses a repeated image from their logo. Lighthouse, a suicide prevention charity in Belfast use a google map showing their location. Headway East London use a painting.

Refuge : tiled graphic

Your strong image doesn’t have to be serious, it can be cheeky like Beating Bowel Cancer‘s.

Beating Bowel Cancer: group posing with plastic bottoms

Finally, museums, galleries and heritage organisations have an amazing opportunity to showcase their collections as this example from the Imperial War Museum shows.

IWM - using a painting of WW1

If you are using one strong picture, think about how often you will change it and where else it appears. Will people get tired of it after a while? How many other places it is appearing? It may be useful to use one image across your social media channels and change them to something else all at the same time. Or have one strong image per channel and use this permanently.

Checklist

  • Check that your header image works well at 1500×500 pixels. Does it tell a story? Is it cropped in the right way and uncluttered?
  • Make sure that the image and / or text is not blurry or pixelated. Start with a big picture and reduce. You can’t make small pictures bigger – you’ll lose definition.
  • Check that your logo / profile photo doesn’t obscure anything important in the header. (For example in the Guide Dogs example above, the logo slightly obscures a puppy’s nose.)
  • Is your logo / avatar clear at 400 x 400? Does it still work when reduced to tweet size?
  • Check how your image appears using different browsers / devices etc. You don’t want to do a Good Morning Britain. Images can look subtly different but enough to stop them making sense / working as well. For example, look at Samaritans’ profile – in the web version, the woman’s eyes are oddly cropped out but in a list of profiles, they appear!

Samaritan's - image cropped too close

List view - Samaritans picture is bigger revealing the woman's face

Useful links

Share your favourite examples

What examples have you come across which have inspired you (in a good or bad way?) What have you learnt about using the new-look Twitter? Please share your comments here.

Can I help you?

Please also get in touch if you’d like me to help you with social media. I am a freelance web editor and trainer and can help give your digital communications a healthcheck and ideas injection.

 

 

Optimise your donation forms

Your donation forms should be the most thought about and tweaked pages on your site. If they are not working well for you now, take some time to review their effectiveness using these top tips. A few small changes to usability and presentation could increase donations.

This post focuses on single donations rather than regular giving.

Lots of donate buttons

Barnardo’s / Nomensa

Yesterday, brilliant web agency Nomensa shared news about work they have done with Barnardo’s leading to a 17% increase in donations. Analysis showed that people were ‘not completing their online donation journey’. They researched audience types and made changes to functionality, language and a simplified the donation journey. In the case study on Netimperative (which sadly doesn’t include screenshots to see the before and after) they say:

“The language used was adapted to include all target audiences, using a genuine emotive tone, supported with specific information to explain how donations are used. The donation journey was simplified, making it easier for the visitor to reach a gift point and rather than free form value boxes, amount guides were provided that offered a choice of donation levels.

“Instead of simply allowing potential donors to key in the amount they want to give, we suggested a series of amounts that they could donate, from a choice of £25, £50 and £100. We used emotive language for the content on the giving page and included additional information to explain in detail what each of the amounts will be used for, and by doing this, we found that there was in increase average donation values.”

Online donations – benchmarking

Last year I did some work for a big charity, benchmarking their online donation process against 13 other highstreet-name charities. It looked at design and functionality of donating online. It was fascinating to see the standardised prominence and design of the donation process but also to see that some charities were doing it more smartly than others. Here are some of my findings.

Prominence of ‘Donate’

All of the charities had a very clear and simple link to a donate section on their homepages. Often the Donate tabs were a different colour from the other navigation buttons or highlighted with a graphic (as seen in these examples from Sightsavers, Macmillan, Marie Curie and Oxfam). These were generally the last item (left to right) on the navigation bar.

How donate appears in navigation

Three charities also included a prominent space for a donation form on their homepages, all in the top third of the page (see examples from NSPCC and Mencap). These enabled a quick gateway to the process for making a single or regular donation (although Mencap only allowed a one-off donation this way) and made ‘the ask’ of soliciting a donation significantly more prominent than on other sites.

Quick donations on homepages

100% of the charities surveyed had the capacity to accept single donations via their website. For most this was the top option in the navigation of their Donate sections. All called it ‘Single donation’ with the exception of BHF, RNLI and Macmillan (Make a one-off donation), Guide Dogs (Donate via PayPal), Mencap (Make a donation).

Donation amounts

Half of all of organisations had radio buttons giving between three and five amount options and a free box for other. Bottom of the ranges were £2, £5, £10, £15, £18. Top amounts ranged from £20, £25, £50, £100, £250. Five organisations had a set default donation amount. This ranged from £5-£50, average was £19.

In terms of persuasive design this is effective as it sets a precedent for an expected amount. Donors are more likely to accept a default or increase the amount they had intended to give close to these amounts if an expectation is set.

Oxfam's single donation options

The form

Of the 11 organisations who solicited donations through an online form, five had a long one-page form. Other forms ranged from 2-5 screens, average 4. Good practice included ‘step 3 of 5’ type information showing progress through the donation process.

Gold star good practice went to Oxfam who’s single donation form is very clear. It matches the donation amounts in radio buttons with ‘this money will buy’ information in the right-hand column. The gift aid information is clear with an example of what £50 turns into with gift aid. The form is uncluttered and easy to use. The submit button at the end is clearly labelled ‘Donate’.

How errors are communicated is important. If your abandon rate is high, it may be that your form doesn’t work properly or is confusing. Have a go at filling in the form wrongly and see what the experience is. Does your error page or message reassure people or shout at them (as in this scary red example below). No one likes being shouted at, especially when they are trying to do something good. Every stage of your process should be recognising that they are doing something special.

Angry looking error message

Top tips for online donations

  • Make donating as quick and simple as possible.  Is the donation button / page easy to find? Is it a different colour and in an obvious place? Is it on every page and repeated next to content which is likely to inspire a donation? Is it simple to donate? Do you really need a telephone number and date of birth?
  • Include suggested amounts, use radio buttons. Set the lowest amount higher than your average donation for a month to see what difference it makes.
  • Check that your online donations form is optimised for mobile giving. More and more people will donate using their mobile. Try Google’s HowToGetMo site and read this useful article on designing a better mobile checkout process.
  • Include a quick donation option on your homepage and a prominent link from every page on the site
  • Give the same prominence to donating on your social media channels.
  • Check your error messages – think about how to encourage people to go and fix problems if they have missed fields or filled them in wrong. They are likely to abandon a donation if they don’t get it right first time.
  • How do you say thank you after a donation? Do you follow up the form with an email? How quickly? Do you give donors other ways to get involved or words (such as a tweet) to help them share what they have just done? Can you thank them in creative and memorable ways? Keep your donors warm and make it easy for them to get involved.

Analyse what works for you

What works will be different from charity to charity but good design, usability, accessibility and persuasiveness should be key to online donations.

Find out what works for you by using all the data available. Analyse your web stats, donation patterns, abandoned transactions and feedback. Be your own mystery shopper and see what the donation experience is like on your site (or get your friends and family to donate and watch how they get on). You could also try donating to some of the highstreet-name charities and see what that experience is like. What can you learn from them?

Make changes and see what the impact is by comparing the data. You can always change anything back.

Your views

If you have examples or insights into good practice, please do share them here. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Can I help you?

Please also get in touch if you’d like me to help you review your donation processes or think about how to make your asks more persuasive. I am a freelance web editor and trainer and can help you give your communications a healthcheck and ideas injection.