Donors: The Giving Experience

What you can learn from Amazon to boost benevolence

Amazon became one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies by wisely keeping the customer first. Amazon’s deep commitment to customer service has driven innovation in the user experience, social proofing, and more. Nonprofit managers can learn a lot from what Amazon does.

Here are the top four tactics Amazon uses and the ways you can implement them to make your fundraising program more donor-centric.

  1. Reduce Barriers To Completed Donations

From a variety of payment options…to using personal information to tailor-suggested products… pre-populating billing information… and convenient one-click ordering and voice purchasing through their Alexa app, Amazon loves giving its customers personalized options that create a seamless shopping experience for them.

Fundraisers, can reduce barriers that could prevent donors from donating. Be more inclusive of different payment methods. Don’t limit your payment options to just a check or credit/debit. Include Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, and automated clearing house (ACH) as options. Encourage monthly donors, in particular, to give via ACH. It’s safer than credit cards, there are no transaction fees, and you don’t have to ask people to refresh their card when it expires.

Be where your donors are or where they want to be. A donor will often receive a direct mail package but want to make the gift online. Make the online Uniform Resource Locator (URL) easy to find.

Others will want to give to your organization through Facebook. Make sure your profile is set up to accept donations. If you don’t qualify for Facebook’s donate option, pin a post at the top of your account that takes the user to a donation form. Make sure the donate button is big, bold, and one of the first things people see when they visit your site.

In the event they’re not ready to make a donation but would like to hear from you, make your email sign-up form easy to find.

Be flexible about giving options. Is there a particular gift or campaign to which your donor always gives? Encourage them to make an annual gift on that date or during a certain time period every year. Perfect examples of this include tribute gifts, anniversaries, and birthdays because those recur every year, they present the perfect opportunity to ask for an automatic annual gift.

Be prepared on your form. At the very least, allow someone to use Google’s autofill feature to complete as many fields on your form as possible, including the credit card fields.

Some constituent relationship management (CRM) systems let you keep donor information stored on a form for a specified time frame in the event a donor abandons the form but comes back to it. If your CRM can do this, use that feature. The fewer fields a person has to manually fill out, the better because it allows them to complete their donation faster.

  1. Social Proofing

Amazon leverages the power of social proof almost everywhere on its site. In e-commerce, customer reviews can make or break someone’s decision to make a purchase. With nonprofits, potential donors want to know the charity they’re thinking of supporting is a good one. Test donor reviews on your donation form to see if it lifts the number of gifts or page completion rate. You could also include reviews on a “Reasons to Give” type of page for prospective donors.

Amazon also leverages social proof through suggested buys based on other customers’ purchases. On your donation form, ways you can influence your donors include:

• Telling non-donors most people give $X the first time they give;

• Encouraging donors to give monthly by highlighting that most people give $X per month; and,

• Upselling donors by telling them donors typically give $X.

  1. Donation Recovery

Many people browse through items or leave items in their carts while shopping, just as they’ll visit a nonprofit’s website with the intention of donating but then stop and abandon the form. When people don’t complete a purchase on Amazon, Amazon will serve remarketing ads that remind them of items they viewed, or they’ll send a cart abandonment email encouraging them to check out.

You can do the same for donations. Remarketing ads can work. Set your remarketing pixels to fire on certain pages that people visit or, if you have a multi-step donation form, set your pixels to fire when people leave during certain steps. The person will be served a remarketing ad when the pixels fire. For example, if someone begins to fill out a monthly donation form but doesn’t complete it, serve them a remarketing ad that encourages monthly gifts.

Customer First!

Be mindful of how long and how frequently your remarketing ads are served. There are options for timing, from a few days to as long as six months, and for frequency. Test lengths of time and how many times your ad is served to see what is most effective (i.e., can you get someone to convert in one day or does it take 30?).

Cart abandonment is an issue. There are vendors who can send cart abandonment emails when a donor abandons a donation form. In the email, remind people to complete their donation and reiterate the reasons their help is needed. Include a clear call to action.

Timing and frequency matter with cart abandonment emails. Test how quickly or slowly your cart abandonment email is sent and how many are needed to get a donation.

  1. Donor Journey

Amazon creates an exceptional user experience that makes each customer feel as if they’re known and understood by the company on a personal level. By paying attention to a person’s buying history and noting items they love, Amazon is able to suggest other items the buyer may like. This personalized relationship keeps customers invested in the company.

When nonprofits have an exceptional understanding of their donors’ giving and activity history and which programs best motivate them, that data can be used to build a more personal, meaningful relationship.

If you know a donor gives to a particular campaign every year, send them a cultivation package to educate them about other program offerings and services. Doing so could pique their interest in other areas of your organization and compel them to give.

Cultivations are important in fostering a relationship with your donor because they make donors aware of just how impactful their support is.

If a supporter has given multiple times in one year, ask them to become a monthly donor. Recognizing their commitment to your organization can convince them to make the move to sustained giving.

To convert non-donors to donors, it’s important to know how they became involved with your organization. Have they been loyal activists? Do they participate in peer-to-peer events? Send them an email recognizing their commitment to your organization and invite them to make a donation to help further the mission they’ve shown they care about.

Ultimately, be donor-centric. By being customer-centric, Amazon develops a personal relationship with customers without seeming too intrusive or pushy.

When you become more donor-centric, you can foster deeper relationships with your donors that will keep them invested in your organization for years.


Jessica Lee is an account manager with CDR Fundraising Group. Her email is jlee@cdrfg.com