Design to Donation: Fundraising is an Extension of Your Brand

11 Aug 2016

Let’s talk about fundraising. The bane of existence for some, fundraising shouldn’t be seen as merely a means to an end, but as another arm of your brand and a sustainable cycle.

In attempts to reinvent the wheel every year, non-profits struggle with creating successful fundraising campaign concepts. And in the Post-Ice-Bucket-Challenge Era, the desire to be “modern” and “different” can trump a pretty basic need—your brand.

Most people think of a brand as colors and type and graphic elements, but more importantly, it’s your voice, your personality. It’s who you are, and just as much, who you are not. Your fundraising campaigns need to come from your organization’s voice. You wouldn’t throw a pub crawl for Mothers Against Drunk Driving or a Michael Vick Celebrity auction for ASPCA, so make sure you remain true to your mission. Design for design sake can put a divide between your supporters and the humanity of your cause.

And that logic extends to your visual brand. A good fundraising campaign uses design to tell your story through effective, appropriate use of writing, layout and photography. Write heartwarming dog adoption stories, capture empowering photos of young girls in Africa who can now attend school, or profile a tough kid who beat leukemia.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation invites their supporters to “See the Impact.” They highlight children, doctors, stories and success in one scroll of your mouse. Another great example of using visual elements to share your mission and inspire donations is Charity Water. Their video, “Why Water” takes the supporter on a journey of the impact of their gift.

But this fundraising brand arm doesn’t stop at campaign emails, mailers and events. Non-profits spend great amounts of time and effort getting people to their website, but ignore what happens when they get there. Donors want transparency and information from your organization, not just in content but in the website experience too. Non-profits make this mistake all the time by creating a difficult and confusing donation process for users.

According to Blackbaud, 65% of non-profits require THREE OR MORE CLICKS to get to the donation form. People are literally trying to give you free money and you’re saying “Are you sure?… Are you still sure?… What about now?”

And what’s more, organizations are actually turning down 13-15% of donors by not making their site mobile-friendly responsive. It’s not just about phones anymore, there are tablets, watches, Google glass (that’s still a thing, right?), screens in refrigerators and more that are in development as I write this. Your website needs to be responsive. It needed to be responsive yesterday.

The fundraising process doesn’t even end after your donor hits that beautiful submit button! Wait, whaaaat? Your stock “thank you” message after donation could instead be a branded graphic or link for your donors to share their donation and spread your brand story even further, starting the process over.

Fundraising is a cycle. Start thinking of a campaign as an extension of your brand and an entry point into stewardship—bring them in with your mission and stories, provide them with a clear call to action, rinse and repeat.