At DigiRaise + Eventraise 2023, Donor Republic will share the next instalment of their Global Online Fundraising Scorecard – a ‘mystery shop’ of online donor experiences, undertaken in partnership with NextAfter. In honour of this, we are re-publishing 2019’s findings and providing a sneak peek of 2022 insights.

What can we see in 2023 (from 2022)

Without giving too much away, here are some of the top findings:

  • We’ve jumped on the RG train – double the number (since the 2019 Mystery Shop) of Australian charities now have a regular giving link on their home page.
  • We’re getting better at donation pages – with a lift in charity-hosted URLs, stronger value propositions, regular giving options, higher pre-selected asks and enticing dollar handles.
  • But we have work to do when it comes to ‘friction’ on our donation pages – when it comes to asking for unnecessary donor information, Australia has got worse (by 13% compared to 2019). New Zealand, however, is doing (fairly) well, with 47% of organisations minimising friction (compared to 17% in Australia).
  • Successful online donations have gone up – in both Australia and New Zealand, with both countries experiencing a 100% donation completion rate across the Mystery Shop.
  • 95% of Australian organisations have an all-important thank you/confirmation page – the same as 2019.
  • But that doesn’t mean confirmation pages are perfect – we are missing some simple tricks.

These are just the top-level insights, the real question is how do you get really good at the tactics discussed above and who is already acing online best practice? To find out, you’ll need to register for Digi.Raise and Eventraise, which will take place in Melbourne on 23 and 24 May. Miss out and miss the (online) mark!

Looking back to 2019

In order to better understand the state of online fundraising across the globe and learn how donors interact with nonprofits online, NextAfter Institute, in partnership with and Donor Republic, conducted a 2019 global mystery shopping exercise to shed light on the online giving and email subscriber experience at more than 630 nonprofits in nine countries.

The multi-agency exercise involved making donations, analysing the online giving experience and tracking the email communications received over a 90-day period.

The purpose of these insights and this study overall was to better understand what organisations were doing (or not doing) when it came to their online fundraising through the perspective of the donor and to establish a user experience ‘benchmark’ that could be used to help organisations see how they compared, and where they could improve.

After analysing 535 email signups, 585 online donations, and 5,976 email communications in the nine countries, the study demonstrated that while progress was being made, there was a continued need to be testing, optimising, and refining practices to provide a better donor experience that could help organisations achieve the impact they want — impact that is much needed in the world today. 

Based on insights from this 2019 study, here were five key takeaways to help nonprofits optimise their digital fundraising efforts:

1. Test your forms, integrations, and systems

In some cases, it was surprisingly hard to take basic, meaningful action like subscribing to an email list or donating. Twenty-seven percent of the time, the mystery donor was unable to sign up for email successfully, and 20% of the time could not complete a donation. Typically, it was because there was no obvious way to sign-up or make a donation. Before you can talk about personalisation, automation, and A/B testing, make sure forms are easy to locate and functional. 

2. Asking for an email address?

Offer something of value in exchange. The study found that 75% of organisations did not provide an ‘average’ or ‘strong’ reason to sign-up, and half the time it wasn’t clear what you were signing up for. If you want people to sign up to receive your emails — and you should — then you need to give them a reason to do so. At the very least, be explicit about what someone is getting when they sign up — less than half the time in the mystery donor exercise, this wasn’t clear.

3. Acknowledge actions with a dedicated confirmation page

Making sure people know that they have successfully donated or signed up for emails is critical. A dedicated confirmation page also presents an opportunity to continue to engage with the site. The study found that 70% of organisations offered no immediate next steps for a new email subscriber to take. 

4. Give donors a reason to give

This might seem fairly obvious, but you might be surprised to learn that 60% of the organisations analysed did not offer a strong reason for why a prospective donor should give to their cause. If you are making an ask, the ask has to give the donor a compelling reason to donate to your work and further your mission. 

5. Personalise emails

The more an email feels genuine and human-centric, the more engagement it receives. In one experiment conducted by NextAfter, just by using the recipient’s name in an email resulted in a 270% increase in email engagement through clicks. Over 50% of the 5,000 plus emails that were received during the study were not personalised — they did not address the recipient by name. Less than half of all emails were sent from a specific person — versus just a generic organisation email address — which has been proven to increase engagement.