I am speechless!
I decided to see what charities were doing in response to online donations given to help Japan. So I donated a small amount online to several charities, specifically for relief efforts in Japan.
The result? Only one provided a thank you email that was specific to the relief efforts in Japan. The others were all generic: thank you very much and here's your receipt.
Frankly, I think that if you are going to go to the trouble to set up a special web page to encourage and accept donations to aid a specific disaster, you could take the time to prepare a special thank you specific to that cause.
Besides that, I found one donation page that never loaded after my information was entered, thus aborting my donation; another website required me to go through a registration process before sending me to the donation page; and there was one site where I couldn't find a page dedicated to Japan relief even though the home page said I could do so.
Here are some best practices from Convio. These tips would have helped the organizations that I tried to donate to for Japan relief:
- Consider hijacking your homepage. If you want a big impact for your emergency fundraising, then make sure people land on a page specifically dedicated to the disaster. Have your regular homepage redirect people to the special page. If you don't go that far, at least have a clear message on your homepage such as "Click Here to Help Japan."
- Avoid sending people to a general donation form. During a disaster, donors want to know that their money is going to help with that specific need. Do set up choices, however. Make it possible to give an unrestricted gift, since many savvy donors know that is the best choice.
- Make your donation form as easy as possible. It should be short, using the minimum number of fields, and display some third party verification of your legitimacy, such as Verisign, Charity Navigator ratings, or Better Business Bureau status.
- Plan to send follow-up email messages. The first, obviously is a thank you message. Make that message specific to the emergency you're raising funds for. Don't send a blah, generic message. Continue to send messages (carefully spaced) to update donors about the progress your organization is achieving in dealing with the emergency/disaster. These follow-up messages will help build a relationship with the donor, perhaps turning him or her into a longtime donor rather than just a disaster donor. Research has shown that many first time donors give to a disaster response. This creates a great opportunity to grow your donor base if you can turn them into loyal donors.
Curious as to which of the charities I donated to did a great job with its thank you email? It was the American Red Cross, and you can read its email on the next page.