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3 Tips for Getting More Online Donations

This blog post was written by JustGive.

Despite what we all really want, there’s no single magic bullet for raising more money online. It’s finding the right combination of what your organizations says and does to reach out, capture donors’ attention, and be persuasive. There are, however, several best practices for increasing online donations. Here are three of the most effective ones:

  1. Optimize your site and emails for mobile donations, and use responsive design.

Make it easy for donors to give when and wherever they are online. With the ever-increasing use of smart phones, tablets and iPads, you don’t want to miss out on any donations because it’s difficult or impossible to give from a mobile device.

In case you’re skeptical it’s that important, check out some recent Blackbaud studies and stats:

  • Donors were 34% more likely to make a gift after reaching a donation form when the website was responsive. Read details at npENGAGE.
  • After the 2014 Giving Season, a study of nearly 350 small and medium-sized nonprofits found 9.5% of donations came from mobile devices (on average). Results are even higher for emails, with 16.6% mobile giving from an email. The infographic below summarizes survey findings. (You can read more in this article by Brandon Granger.)

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Check your own Google Analytics stats for mobile transactions and see what you find. Your mobile giving could easily be higher than the stats quoted.

  1. Tell donors what their gift can do – communicate impact.

Donors want to know how you’ll use their money and what difference their gift makes. Several surveys, including Cygnus Research 2014 Burk Donor Survey and Money for Good II found that up to 70 percent of donors are looking for this information.

giftOn website pages where you describe programs and services, include results. Pull compelling photos, stats and stories from your annual report or year-end newsletter and weave them into content or graphics. Showcase results in an infographic. Talking about your accomplishments in multiple places on the site helps convince visitors that your organization puts money to good use: it builds your case for support before they reach your Donation Page.

On your Donation Page, list several programs and levels of giving, and be specific about what each donation can do. These impact statements can persuade donors to give more, knowing what a donation accomplishes. And don’t forget to carry that practice through on partner sites where your organization appears, like Great NonProfits.

Are you giving donors the option to automatically donate every month? If you’re not set up for this, it doesn’t take much to do. Providers like JustGive offer free Give Monthly buttons you can easily add to your site to generate a steady stream of support. (They can also process ongoing gifts cost-effectively.)

  1. Say thank you

Immediately sending an email donation receipt makes donors feel appreciated. That starts your relationship on a good foot, paving the way for more communication.

Use your reports and donor data (review what’s provided by any processing partner) for a second follow up. You can do this effectively with an email that talks about a recent/newsworthy accomplishment of your organization and, at the same time, reminds them again about the impact of their gift.

thanksFor donors who give large gifts, consider a handwritten note or call to personally connect – without making another appeal. Just acknowledge what they’ve done and say thanks again. This creates a positive vibe and can take them by surprise when you don’t ask for more money right away, making them more likely to donate again.

– Candy Culver, Director of Marketing for JustGive


What’s the Most Important Question in Your Life?

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Aaron Schwartz, the famous programmer and internet activist who died before his time, said: “You should be asking yourself all the time what is the most important thing in the world I could be working on right now, and if you are not working on that, why aren’t you?”

These days in Silicon Valley, I meet people who are smart and working at a company “changing the world.” I don’t want to rain on their parade, but developing another instant messaging service is not “changing the world.”

It’s not that these people are intentionally neglecting the larger issues in the world, or that they don’t care.

I believe it’s because some people don’t yet know what is important to them and what they can do about it.

How do you move from skimming news headlines to caring about the issue? And then from caring about the issue to wanting to make it what you want to spend your time working on?

How to Find Yourself and Change the World

I encourage people to take this into their own hands. To learn about yourself and what you are capable of. Take the initiative and open yourself up to the broader experiences of the world—to experiences that might be new, exciting, emotional, and sometimes physically uncomfortable.

One of the most meaningful experiences of my life was volunteering at a human rights nonprofit and interviewing refugees in a camp on the Thai-Burma border. There was no running water, no electricity.  We sat on the bare floors of their thatched huts.  I listened to their stories of their lives.  Family members would pick up the guitar and take turns singing traditional folk songs.

I came back to my last year of Harvard Law School and felt no temptation to go to the recruiting events of the big law firms.  I was one of the very few who did not have a job upon graduation.   I continued to write and eventually fell into journalism.  I was so grateful that I had found something that was important to me, that I could call my work.

To truly realize what is important to you and what you can do to make a difference—learn by doing. Don’t worry if you don’t know enough yet about the issue—you will learn it by doing it.

Be Curious—Say Yes

If you are invited to visit a low-income neighborhood in Oakland and tour their community garden, do it. Go and don’t be afraid to talk to the people who live there and learn about their community. If the Rainforest Action Network has a public talk about orangutans in the Sumatran rainforest threatened by loggers, go listen and meet the people involved. If there’s a screening of Power of Two, an award-winning movie about cystic fibrosis and discussion with the producers, go to the movie and stay for the discussion. If your local open space preserve has a family day with guided bird-watching tours, go check it out and hear from the guides about how they are building more public access trails.

There are so many public events open to all who are curious to learn more about social causes. Say yes to these invitations.

Volunteer with a Nonprofit 

Do you have an interest in children?  Volunteer with CASA, a national nonprofit, to visit a young child near you who is placed in foster home. Get a huge smile from your foster-child when you offer to take them to see a movie.

Do you want to learn more about health on the frontlines? Volunteer at the local free clinic that serves the poorest of our society—help people get screened for high blood pressure or get training to be a peer counsellor to at-risk young people.

Do you have skills such as writing or design? You’ve got a valuable skill that almost any nonprofit could use. Take action and call them up even if you don’t see a volunteer posting.   Ask them if you could help them with their email newsletter, brochure for an upcoming fundraiser, or their website.

Bono was asked about how he became an activist for Africa.  Once I visited Africa, he said, “I saw it, I heard it and I felt it.”

You will gain knowledge and confidence. By living fully—not turning away from things that are different, complex, messy, intense—you will find how you are capable of doing meaningful work.

Keep asking yourself along the way: “What is the most important thing in the world I could be working on right now, and if I’m not, why aren’t I?”


The Science of Happiness

What does science tell us about happiness?

What does it mean to be happy? This question has occupied humanity at least since we stumbled out the caves, yet it remains difficult to define. The Greek philosophers pondered happiness 2500 years ago, and it was enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776 (history of happiness). Today, entire isles of bookstores are dedicated to the topic. We know through experience that some people are innately happier than others, and that some things promote happiness. But now the nature of happiness isn’t just for the philosophers to debate, it is now a hot area of scientific research. The psychological study of happiness is known as “positive psychology.” The neurologist call their inquiries into pleasure and happiness “hedonics.” (more…)


GreatNonprofits Social Media Kit

To help you field more reviews, GreatNonprofits is publishing this comprehensive Marketing and Social Media slide presentation. Use this resource to get on the list or spread the word of your nonprofit’s stories of impact. If you prefer word documents, check our slideshare account for this guide.


New Text Message Review Feature Offers Nonprofits Instant Feedback

Ninety-eight percent of text messages are read and the majority are opened within three minutes of being sent, according to Techipedia.  In comparison 84% of Facebook news feed stories aren’t viewed, 71% of tweets get ignored and 88% of emails go unopened.  To leverage the power of texting, GreatNonprofits created a new SMS, or “short message service”, review feature. (more…)


Little Kids Rock

Little Kids Rock

It started in 1996 with one teacher in one classroom. Frustrated by lack of music education at his school, David Wish offered an afterschool guitar class and Little Kids Rock was born.

During the past 13 years, Little Kids Rock has donated more than 43,000 free instruments and provided music lessons to over 325,000 underprivileged kids in 12 states and Washington, D.C.

Fast-forward to 2014, when Little Kids Rock partnered with Berklee College of Music to launch a three-year roll out of “Amp Up NYC,” an expansion of Little Kids Rock’s Modern Band program. Its goal is to reach 60,000 kids in an additional 600 schools in New York City, the largest school district in the U.S. (more…)


3 Tips For Responding to Negative Feedback

This article was originally a post published by Cami Bird on LocalVox’s Blog.  View the original post here.

One of the biggest concerns small businesses have when they start getting reviews online is that they have no control over them. Whether they are negative, positive, indifferent or flat-out incorrect, a small business owner can’t just take them down.

With 79% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations, that concern is quite valid.

But, just because you cannot control what is being written doesn’t mean you can’t control how your business is perceived online.

Don’t be afraid of a negative review; 68% of consumers trust reviews more when there are good and bad ones. People have differing opinions and rating scales. The fact of the matter is your business can never please 100% of your customers and people want to see that, otherwise your reviews seem fake.

Second, when you get a negative review, it’s not the end of the story. The ball is now in your court and you have the opportunity to act.

Responding to Negative Reviews

The key to responding to negative reviews is really just responding. There are ways to effectively respond, but not responding means you aren’t even trying to change your customer’s mind. You’ve worked hard for your business. Don’t let someone tarnish your integrity over something you can fix or reassess.

Additionally, you’ll want to respond quickly and with emotions set aside. This moves into effective responses. While having an ‘epic’ response to a bad review can take your story viral, it doesn’t do much for your actual customers.

3 Steps to Effective Review Responses

Breaking it down to the most basic parts of a response, these three steps keep things terse and on point with the customer’s concern.

1. Acknowledge Their Pain

Start your response by acknowledging your reviewer is upset and apologize for their bad experience.

You want to keep this as short and to the point as possible as to not give your upset customer something else to rage about. Don’t make excuses about their experience, just acknowledge it has happened and you regret it did.

2. Take the Conversation Offline

Before writing anymore in your response, end it by asking them to discuss the matter more in private. Not only does this take the chance of further negativity away from the public eye, but it shows that you care about each customer’s experience.

3. Resolve the Issue

Resolving the issue may not end in both parties walking away happy, but it does mean ending the conversation with an understanding.

After following the first two steps you have done more than what is expected to treat your customers well, even those that don’t want to be customer’s anymore.

If they contact you privately, discuss their experience and possibly offer them a discount (if feasible, but shouldn’t be the answer to every negative review) or ask for a second chance. Whether they take you up on the offer or not is irrelevant, the fact that you are addressing their concerns it what matters.

Facebook Issues

On Facebook and Google My Business you can respond to reviews, which is great for your search results and Page ‘Like’s, but, specifically on Facebook, sometimes you cannot actually see all the reviews.

Some people have certain privacy settings that allow only their Facebook friends to see what they have written, making it even more important to monitor and respond to the reviews you can on the network.

While Facebook will hopefully fix this issue soon, it would be wise to have the Contact Form app added to your Page for disgruntled customers to always be able to get in touch with you. Push for those who are not happy with their experience to contact you directly.

Don’t let digital word of mouth hurt your company by not speaking out! By giving your customers a chance to review you on Google and Facebook you not only get feedback on your business, but have the ability to influence how your company is perceived by prospective customers.

Take back some control of your reviews, first by monitoring for them and second by responding to every negative review, as well as occasionally positive and moderate ones.


Who’s Ready for an Alternative Spring Break?


In the dead of winter, who doesn’t daydream about the upcoming spring break or summer vacation?  Did you ever consider planning an “alternative break,” donating your time and energy to a community needing help while having fun?  To help inspire you we’ve come up with a list of ideas.



How to Get Your Press Release Noticed

Securing media coverage for your nonprofit organization can be frustrating, especially when you take the time to send a press release and never hear anything back.  But journalists are on a tight deadline and don’t have the time to respond to every pitch.  In order to make your press release stand out, follow these three simple strategies:  pitch a relevant story angle, write like a journalist, and add a personal touch.

The number one question newsroom editors ask before covering a story is “why should I care?”  To make your story matter it needs to have a timely angle or tie into a local/national trend.  For example if you are promoting water conservation, lead in with a startling statistic about California’s drought or an upcoming event like Earth Day.  Another strategy is to pitch a follow-up piece on a story the journalist has covered in the past.  If the reporter did a story about overcrowding at an animal shelter, suggest they meet with your no-kill nonprofit about how to get more cats and dogs adopted.

It is also important to make the information in your release easy to find.  “Put the contact information right up top followed by a sentence or two summarizing what it’s about,” recommends Danny Willis with the Bay Area News Group.  Business jargon or over-the-top statements are red flags for media professionals.  The easier you make it for journalists to cover a story, the more likely your story will be picked up.

Finally when you are ready to submit your release, send it to reporters or producers personally.  Journalists rely on a handful of interview contacts for most stories, so the goal is to get on their short list.  Reporters are always looking for passionate experts locally, who are willing to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.  Build relationships with journalists in your city and then follow-up with them personally after sending a press release.  If a media organization does reach out, never turn down an interview request because as the old adage goes “any publicity is good publicity”.

For other ideas about how to get press coverage visit GreatNonprofits’ Social Media and Marketing Kit at

Brittany Freitas is a media professional, with 5+ years of experience producing and reporting local television news.  You can reach her at



A Day in the Life of an Everyday Hero at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue

Muttville Founder Sherri Franklin

At the crack of dawn, Sherri Franklin awakens to a household full of old dogs. Franklin is the founder and CEO of San Francisco based Muttville Senior Dog Rescue.   On any given day, she has a dozen grey muzzles of all sizes camping out at her Potrero Hill home. Franklin had always had a passion for animals, dogs in particular, and more specifically, senior dogs.  As a volunteer for the SF/SPCA, she saw too many older dogs get passed over for adoption. One day, she rescued one—saving it from certain euthanasia and finding it a new home. Her ad-hoc rescue work grew, and in 2007 she founded Muttville. (more…)


GreatNonprofits: 2014 Review and What’s in Store for 2015

Find out what we've built and what's in store.

Thank you for using GreatNonprofits. This past year we experienced tremendous traffic growth that allowed us to increase visibility for nonprofits. Here’s a quick overview of what people are saying, new features, and what’s in store for 2015.


80% of Donors Said Reviews Influence Donations

“GreatNonprofits is a valuable tool in helping decide what organizations to donate to.”
GreatNonprofits user

Computer with GreatNonprofits Logo

Reviews Engage Volunteers

“GreatNonprofits is another source of validation that really engages volunteers in sharing their experiences about a nonprofit that they care about.”
First Graduate

2014 at a Glance

This year was a year of growth and increased visibility for nonprofits. With this growth, GreatNonprofits is now the largest source of community information about nonprofits.  Here are some facts at a glance, plus new tools we’ve built (see infographic):

  • GreatNonprofits pages were viewed 13 million times (up 50% from 2013!)
  • More than 40,000 reviews were added to bring reviews to more than 200,000
  • 1,700 nonprofits were voted Top-Rated
  • We extended reach by growing social media: We now have more than 55,000 followers on Twitter and more than 36,000 likes on Facebook
  • We launched a new mobile-friendly website
  • We introduced new donation functionality for all U.S. nonprofits
  • We launched SMS reviews. Now users can submit reviews by text. No Internet required.
  • We syndicated reviews to more partner sites, such as Foundant
  • We were gifted a new video website for nonprofits, the (more…)

Unleashing Cascades of Generosity

A book excerpt from Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media by Allison Fine:

Karen Klein was riding a school bus filled with middle-school children in Greece, NY, on June 19, 2012. Karen had been safely delivering children to and from school for twenty-three years, but as much as that Tuesday was like any other day on the bus, it was also profoundly different. The yelling and taunting that routinely occurs on school buses across the country spiraled out of control that day, and rather than aiming their cruel verbal fusillades at one another, three seventh-grade boys aimed it at Karen — and a fourth videotaped it on his cell phone. (more…)


Is Your Cause Ready To Matter More To People This Year?

For an excerpt of, "Matterness" click on the image.

Here Are Five Steps to Get You Moving in the Right Direction from Allison Fine, author of “Matterness, what fearless leaders know about the power and promise of social media.” For an excerpt of Allison’s book, click here.

  1. Think Abundance. Do you spend more time in meetings discussing what could go wrong or what could go right? Is your organization afraid of what people out there could do to harm your organization, or are you excited about engaging in their natural creativity and enthusiasm? Are critics treated as whackadoodles intending to do harm or as friends who are frustrated and want you to do better?
  2. Start Speaking With Not At Your Constituents. Stop using social media to just broadcast messages at people and start using them to ask real questions the answers to which are important to your efforts.
  3. Work with Your Crowds. Get in conversation with your crowds wherever they are. Ask them to do something creative with you, learn something together, gather information and intelligence, co-create an event together – before your ask them to buy a ticket!
  4. Gather Your People On Land. Gather ten or so donors together in someone’s home and talk about your cause with them. Discuss whether and how you make them feel like they matter. Do your communications feel personal? Does it feel like you only communicate with them to ask for money? Are they learning more about the cause?
  5. Figure Out What Scares You Most About Social Media– And Do It. Find a friend to teach you how to tweet, and spend a half an hour a day on Twitter. Talk to a critic on your blog, directly, like a human being, for the world to see. Encourage your younger staffers to use social media to talk about the organization (with some ground rules and talking points) and let them make mistakes. The sky won’t fall – I promise.
    Allison Fine is among the pre-eminent guides to the social media revolution. Her new book is Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media. Matterness explains how and why people and organizations are better together with social media. It implores organizational leaders to stop focusing in the mythical fears keeping them locked behind their walls and to start working with rather than at people. In the end, the book explains that we don’t need better people; we need better leaders

10 Tips for Effective Video Storytelling

Creating a video for your nonprofit organization can be a daunting task.  But the benefits of getting behind the camera, or in front of it, are worth it.  “1.8 million words is the value of one minute of video,” according to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research.  Videos inspire people to get involved or donate to a cause.  It is estimated that 100 million internet users watch online video everyday.  If you’re ready to get started, here are some simple guidelines for creating a video narrative: (more…)


Keeping Warm from Head to Toe

The holidays may be over, but the good will and spirit of sharing doesn’t have to stop.  In fact, the winter weather continues for at least a couple of months and we have far too many neighbors and residents in our cities spending frigid nights outside, with no shelter. If you were overcome by activities over the holidays, maybe now, in the new year, you’ll have a chance to help those in need.  Here are some organizations that work year round, collecting warm coats, shoes, and blankets. Hopefully you will be moved and encouraged by their stories to help those in your own community who are in need.

A “bag of love” filled with a handmade blanket, a stuffed animal, and a few of life’s necessities give a child a sense of security in uncertain times. Top-rated by GreatNonprofits in 2014, Bags of Love, based in Eugene, OR, has distributed over 5,000 bags to children in crisis since 2008. As one volunteer states: “…each person plays an important role in making Bags of Love reach as many children in our community as possible, whether it is sewing bags and quilts, filling bags or delivering bags, serving on the Board, or helping with fundraising events.”

In partnership with firefighters, Rotary and other civic clubs, local

businesses, and community agencies, Operation Warm provides brand new winter coats to at-risk children who live in need. The gift of a brand new winter coat brings a child happiness and warmth and empowers her to attend school and play outside on cold winter days. Located in Chadds Ford, PA, Operation Warm helps kids across the US.  “Working with this organization has opened my eyes not only to the problems facing the underprivileged in our country, but that there are thousands of volunteers and campaigns to do something to stop it.” (more…)


Busting the Myth of Overhead: What Really Matters in Charitable Giving

Image courtesy of Charity Defense Council

It’s the home stretch for donors to make tax deductible charitable gifts in 2014.  To help donors choose wisely during this season of giving, some websites focus on overhead costs to judge a nonprofits’ effectiveness. But contrary to popular belief, overhead costs don’t tell the whole story. “Don’t ask if a charity has low overhead.  Ask if it has big impact,” according to entrepreneur and author Dan Pallota. (more…)