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Unlocking Monthly Gifts

By Mark Hrywna - September 13, 2013

Eight animals are trapped in cages but all a donor has to do is make a monthly gift to Humane Society International (HIS) and the gate is unlocked. The higher the monthly gift, more animals or larger ones are set free, not only in RL (real life) but on the Web, too.

It’s a depiction of what exactly a donor’s dollars can do for the organization and its mission, based on rebranding of three online donation forms to energize monthly giving.

With the objective of boosting online monthly giving through a fun, interactive donation page, three online donation forms and campaigns were redesigned with the help of a consultant.

In 2011, HSI began mapping out goals for 2012, with a priority of building strong monthly giving focus, according to Elise Ledsinger, online fundraising manager at HIS. “We had a lot of success with one-time givers but not sustainers,” said Ledsinger, who was a panelist in a session about “risky stunts” during the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Last year, half of HSI’s total year donations were monthly gifts.

The organization, an arm of Humane Society of the United States, sent a three-part appeal series giving constituents the choice of programs to support: Lab Animal Defender, Street Animal Defender, or All Animal Defender. Donors received premiums or rewards for joining, special recognition such as newsletters with conditional content thanking them for their monthly support, as well as quarterly updates on the campaign they supported.

The redesigned pages use a lot of imagery, offered multiple currency options and dynamic content on the page. The cherry on top was a slider that showed how many animals a donor is helping. As a donor increases their monthly donation, depicted as a sliding bar on the online donation page, a cage slides to the right, “freeing” more animals. In the case of the Street Animal Defender program, the page populates with more animal silhouettes as the donation slider increases.

“It’s a factual representation of what you’re saving,” said Ledsinger, adding that it costs more to save a monkey from a lab than it does a mouse. A $10 monthly donation indicated saving one lab mouse while a $50 monthly donation showed more and larger animals saved, such as a guinea pig. A $100 monthly donation “unlocks” the virtual cage altogether, “freeing” all eight animal icons, including a monkey, dog and kitten.

The “gamification” of a recurring gift page produced a higher average recurring gift and a higher number of recurring gifts, Ledsinger said.

The Lab Animal Defender (LAD) page had a more advanced and dynamic design, featuring the interactive slider. Other redesigned forms did not perform nearly as well. The LAD page was almost double the number of monthly gifts than the next highest page, in addition to generating a 22-percent increase in average monthly gift. She presented an analysis of December 2012 recurring donations:

  • General donation: 56 recurring donations; average gift, $18.36;
  • All Animals Defender: 69 recurring; average gift, $19.43;
  • Street Dog Defender: 33 recurring; average gift, $21.39; and,
  • Lab Animal Defender: 122 recurring; average gift, $22.08.

In the longer-term, HSI will look at donor retention from people who donated to the new forms, she said, and also determine the number of new to file monthly donors to the LAD form.

HSI spent about $4,500 per form for the redesign, Ledsinger said, and had a return on investment within 30 days. The page was built by Washington, D.C.-based Engaging Networks and HSI’s consulting team, HJC in Toronto, Canada, helped with the design and wireframe.

Ledsinger suggested that charities do a split test, sending people to the older form and others to the redesigned form. HSI will begin split testing, sending an appeal linking to the old donation form to half its file and the other half getting an appeal linking to the new donation form, which includes the interactive slider.

She also emphasized giving your organization enough time to produce and test — on both mobile and desktop — as well as problem solve, should issues arise.  NPT

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