The Secret to Getting People to Give: 15 Reasons Why People Donate

You can email your donor base until you’re blue in the face. You can
make your donate button larger than the vat of coffee sitting
between you and your computer monitor (yes, we can see it from here).
You can share the latest statistics about your cause, and even
make your brochure look flashy while you’re at it.

But, here’s the kicker: People have things to do other than care about your cause.

not necessarily competing with another nonprofit whose mission is
similar to yours; you’re duking it out with soccer practice, Must See
TV (do they still do that, or has that gone the way of TGIF?) and
that all-inviting couch beckoning your supporters to take a load off.

This week we’re going back to basics to remind you of why people convert from supporter (or even skeptic) to donor:

  1. Someone I know asked me to give, and I wanted to help them
  2. I felt emotionally moved by someone’s story
  3. I want to feel I’m not powerless in the face of need and can help (this is especially true during disasters)
  4. I want to feel I’m changing someone’s life
  5. I feel a sense of closeness to a community or group
  6. I need a tax deduction
  7. I want to memorialize someone (who is struggling or died of a disease, for example)
  8. I was raised to give to charity – it’s tradition in my family
  9. I want to be “hip,” and supporting this charity (i.e., wearing a yellow wrist band) is in style
  10. It makes me feel connected to other people and builds my social network
  11. I want to have a good image for myself/my company
  12. I want to leave a legacy that perpetuates me, my ideals or my cause
  13. I feel fortunate (or guilty) and want to give something back to others
  14. I give for religious reasons – God wants me to share my affluence
  15. I want to be seen as a leader/role model

To recap:

  • People act from the heart, not the head. Yes,
    your nonprofit has to show that it’s a good steward of donor money and
    you need to impart where all that generosity is going, but your appeal
    must contain more than numbers and pie charts.
  • Giving is a personal act.
    Notice any common thread in the list of 15? They all contain the
    pronoun “I.” The people you serve are important, but make sure to
    put the “you” and “your” (i.e. the donor and why s/he should care)
    front and center. Read more about crafting your call-to-action on Katya’s blog and in the Learning Center.
  • The act of giving is immediate. Give
    your donors the opportunity to act here and now. Your relationship with
    them will be long-term, but their willingness to give is now–let them
    act on it.

There are many reasons as to why
people give. When you’re crafting your next fundraising appeal, take
this list out and ask yourself if you’ve tapped into these
reasons or not.


Notes from The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach

Think about the last time you did something for a cause. Maybe you gave
them money. Maybe you did a walk. Maybe you signed a petition.

Why did you do it?

That’s the question the Nonprofit Technology Conference
session, “The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha
Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach,” tried to
answer. I thought I’d share some of my notes with you from the session.

Workshop leaders, Katya Andresen of Network for Good and the Non-profit Marketing Blog, and Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies and the Sea Change Strategies Blog believe that there are 7 Deep Human Needs that you need to remember when you are creating nonprofit campaigns.

noted, “No one here said, ‘I gave or volunteered because of a tool,’
like email or Twitter. You supported a cause because of how it made you
feel.” It’s easy for nonprofits to forget who is on the receiving end
of their messages. Effective campaigns always keep their audience’s
needs in mind.

According to Andresen and Rovner, the old
marketing and fundraising playbooks don’t work anymore. It is time to
reinvent marketing and communications for a new era using The Seven
Deep Human Needs.

Need 1: To be SEEN and HEARD

your home page make people feel heard? Not many people give money
because they read a well word-smithed mission statement. Effective
sites and campaigns provide space for people to express themselves.
Nonprofits need to truly listen to their supporters and acknowledge
what they are saying.

Not listening is the root of most problems, personal and professional.

* Teen Health Talk engages youth to talk about health issues rather than lectures at them.
* March for Women’s Lives allowed people who couldn’t march to post messages and stories on the March for Women’s Lives’ web site.
* Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
created a site for young people. As an after thought, they included a
pen pal section where young people could connect with other young
people who have diabetes. It is the most popular part of the site.
* Oxfam has used Flickr petitions
successfully in several campaigns. Two of their staff members recently
returned from Darfur and are putting together a video to raise
awareness about it. They are collecting questions from supporters about Darfur to include in the video.
* The Environmental Defense Fund asked supporters to help them write a Declaration of New Patriotism.

Need 2: To be CONNECTED to someone or something

Engage people by connecting to what they (not you!) care about.

* BeliefNet has prayer circles
where people can share prayers for specific people. On the example they
showed, people of all religions posted prayers for a sick child.
* March of Dimes’ Share Your Stories allows families of babies in the NICU to share stories.
* CarePages
allow families and friends of people who are sick and hospitalized to
share updates on patients’ conditions and provides a place for people
to send messages of support.
* National Resource Defense Council asked supporters to upload their photo and post about why they care about the environment.
* An Ocean Conservancy member created a Facebook Cause for the organization without telling them. On their own, the member recruited 2500 people to the Cause.

Need 3: To be part of something GREATER THAN THEMSELVES

shows the cumulative effect of everyone changing their light bulbs to
CFLs. It tracks the dollars saved, number of cars off the road, pounds
of coal saved, and pounds of CO2 prevented based on the number of CFLs
purchased at the moment.

Rovner said he has worked with many focus groups who feel like
sends too many emails, and that they ask for money too often, but they
don’t unsubscribe because being a member makes them feel like they are
a part of a larger progressive movement.

Frogs are one of the harbingers of global warming. (I guess that explains why I’ve been hearing frogs at night since February) Frogwatch USA is a monitoring program that facilitates people’s collecting and sharing data about frogs in their area.

Need 4: To have HOPE for the future

Doom and gloom, and finger-wagging messages don’t work.

Example of gloomy messaging
* The Ad Council’s Don’t Almost Give Campaign video on YouTube. One commenter wrote, “I hate these commercials.”

Examples of hopeful messaging
* Earth: The Sequel has been up for 2 weeks and has received 15,000 views.
* Save the Children’s homepage uses mostly photos of healthy, rather than sick, children.
* The Mix It Up campaign encourages young people to cross “social boundaries” and sit with someone new at lunch.
* The Yes We Can Obama video.

Need 5: The security of TRUST

People are starved for a sense of trust in “the messenger.” The book, The Geography of Bliss discovered that one of the common factors among people in “happy countries” is a sense of trust.

76% of givers say they are influenced by friends and family.
SixDegrees allows people to create widgets that feature a photo of themselves and 150 characters of text about why they support a particular cause.

The Packard Kid Connection site helps kids get ready to go to the hospital. It builds trust because it looks like Club Penguin (Club Penguin is a social network for children), and it has videos of children explaining how things work at the hospital.

Need 6: To be of SERVICE

#1 reason people stop giving to a nonprofit is that they feel like they
are being treated like an ATM machine. They want to help, but they want
to be of service, and to have different ways of serving. That need is
not being fulfilled if all they hear is the unimaginative drumbeat of

Need 7: To want HAPPINESS for self and others

core of Buddhism is that everyone wants happiness and to be free from
suffering. The more you want happiness for others, the better it is for
you, and them.

For more information about, “The Seven Things
Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting)
about Online Outreach,” contact Katya Andresen at katya.andresen[at]networkforgood[dot]org and Mark Rovner at mark.rovner[at]seachangestrategies[dot]com


CAPTCHA is Dead, Long Live CAPTCHA!

In November 2007 I called these three CAPTCHA implementations “unbreakable”:


2008 is shaping up to be a very bad year indeed for CAPTCHAs:

Which means I am now 0 for 3. Understand that I am no fan of CAPTCHA. I view them as a necessary and important evil, one of precious few things separating average internet users from a torrential deluge of email, comment, and forum spam.

So reading that the three best CAPTCHA implementations have been
defeated sort of breaks my heart. Even what I consider to be the
strongest, Google’s implementation, fell hard:

On average, only 1 in every 5 CAPTCHA breaking requests are
successfully including both algorithms used by the bot, approximating a
success rate of 20%.

A twenty percent success rate doesn’t sound like much, but these
spammers are harnessing networks of compromised PCs to send out
thousands upon thousands of simultaenous sign-up requests to GMail,
Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail from computers all over the world. Even a five percent
success rate against a particular email service CAPTCHA would be cause
for serious concern; with twenty percent success rate you might as well
put a fork in that thing– it’s done.

In the meantime, CAPTCHA still serves a useful purpose– speed
bumps that prevent evil bots and the nefarious people who run them from
completely overrunning the internet, as Gunter Ollman notes:

CAPTCHAs were a good idea, but frankly, in today’s profit-motivated
attack environment they have largely become irrelevant as a protection
technology. Yes, the CAPTCHAs can be made stronger, but they are
already too advanced for a large percentage of Internet users.
Personally, I don’t think it’s really worth strengthening the
algorithms used to create more complex CAPTCHAs – instead, just
deploy them as a small “speed-bump” to stop the script-kiddies and
their unsophisticated automated attack tools. CAPTCHAs aren’t the right
tool for stopping today’s commercially minded attackers.

There’s simply too much money to be made in email spam for the
commercial CAPTCHA algorithms, regardless of how good they may be, to
survive forever. How old is Google’s CAPTCHA now? Two to three years
old? In the short term, perhaps proliferation and evolution of many different CAPTCHA techniques is the most effective prevention. You should emulate
the techniques from the most effective and human-readable industrial
grade commercial CAPTCHA, but avoid copying them outright. Otherwise,
when they’re inevitably broken, you’re broken too. CAPTCHA defeating
tools are tailored to very specific inputs; if there’s little to no
monetary incentive, odds are nobody will bother to customize one for
yours. My ridiculously simple “orange” comment form protection is ample
evidence of that.

Beyond diversification, the deeper question remains: how do we tell automated bots from people– without alienating our users in the process? How can we build a next generation CAPTCHA that’s less vulnerable to attack?

Here’s some food for thought:

At some point, unfortunately, CAPTCHA devolves from a simple human
reading test into an intelligence test or an acuity test. Depending on
how invasive you want to be, you’ll eventually be forced to move to two-factor authentication, like sending a text message to someone’s cell phone with a temporary key.

I don’t have the all answers, but one thing is for sure: I hate
spammers. As fellow spam-hating internet users we all have a vested
interest in seeing CAPTCHA techniques evolve to defeat spammers.


Microsites = waste

By Sean X Cummings

do not even know where to start with my rant on microsites. They are
the bane of the online space, produced by those who do not comprehend
the implications of launching them and do not understand the underbelly
that they leave behind. They are expensive, they use up agency
resources, they become orphans almost overnight, and they are only
useful in providing traditional agencies with fodder for winning more

So, the agency is personally incentivized to use them. They are
containable for the agency, the agency does not have to deal with many
of your internal resources beyond marketing, the costs are
controllable, and more importantly to them, profitable. But you are not
in business to make the agency rich. You are in business to make your
company rich on the back of that poor agency. Microsites are one of the
few online vehicles where the agency and the client have different

Most microsites are usually advanced brochureware
by clients trying to get around their internal process, and the
hallmark of an agency that does not get it — or worse — a client that
doesn’t. The results are usually paltry, at best, in moving your brand,
and the level of development time and money required for the payoff is
almost never worth it.

How many can you actually name? BMW Films, Subservient Chicken,
Shave Everywhere? Is a microsite going to move your brand forward? No.
Why? Because the only reason you are probably creating one is that your
main website sucks. They sit there from almost the moment they launch
— dying. With the advances in rich media ad serving, you do not have
to create a microsite. You can take your proposed microsite to them.
Are there exceptions? Of course there are. There are always exceptions.
However, almost everyone will sit there and justify that their
microsite is an exception, and 99 percent of you are wrong.

I am on a crusade, a jihad, a walkabout to corral microsites into
the online netherworld. Why do traditional agencies have to couch
everything in “immersively aesthetic” environments? It’s a hold over
from traditional creative thinking. Consumers do not care. They want to
get in, get what they want, and get out. This is the internet. Let’s
act like it.

Don’t believe me? Here are some basic reasons why microsites suck, and why you shouldn’t.

I most commonly see
microsites produced by large companies that should know better. They
manage their brands so well. They massage every form of PR and
corporate communication, and they spend countless hours molding the
consumer’s perception of their brand. But go to their corporate website
and it’s a disaster. Why? Because usually those websites are controlled
by an internal group that morphed out of the IT department into an
interactive department, which keeps re-morphing.

That department is not an extension to the marketing department of
consumer insights. It does not care about the consumer. It is trying to
put puzzle pieces that don’t fit into a picture that doesn’t match.
They are more a reflection of a company’s internal structure than they
are communication vehicles for the brand.

And that’s when you get stuck.

You become sick of railing against internal politics and decide that
if the company cannot get its act together, then you are going to help
solve the problem by creating what? A microsite, of course, where you
can control the messaging. I understand your grief. I have been there
countless times, and yes, I have given in to temptation before. Before
you go off on a crusade against your own internal systems, think about
why are you creating that microsite.

I find that most microsites are just an extension of another program.

“Well, we have to create a microsite for that TV promotion we are
doing.” Uh, why? Because when you were brainstorming with the 20 people
on the account and they asked for ideas, that one n00b
said, “We can do a microsite.” And the team leader wrote it down as one
of the extension ideas. Wow, you have no idea how many times that

Online marketers, who in order to get budget, have to make sure it
is glommed onto a traditional program. You go off and create a custom
URL and name, half the time buying out the name from some domain park
that already owns it, or worse, creating a bastardization of it that no
one will remember. It gets printed on every ad, every TV commercial,
every piece of collateral. And no one comes. Well, you did get those
20,000 people to register; and it cost you what, with all of the fees,
not to mention the costs of your agency resources being used up on it?
$80,000. You’re better off going out and handing $4 to 20,000 people
and spending five minutes telling them about it. “But Sean! They were
‘engaged’ with our brand.” Nope. Probably not. They were engaged with
some stupid game your agency created as the extension with your logo in
the corner.

So next time the noob raises their hand, use a stun gun, walk over
to the internal group that handles your main site and ask them if you
can put up something on the homepage that alerts people and drives them
to a single internal page discussing the program. And then give the
money back to a program that will do your brand some good.

“Please, sir, can I have some more?”

long is the program running that the microsite is based on? If it’s
less than a year, don’t do it. Worse, I see programs that are only
really active for weeks or a month, while agencies spent four months
building the microsite.

From almost the moment a microsite launches, it is dying, unless
it’s one of those rare sites that gets viral traction. Even then, that
site will never be an ongoing destination. It will reach its buzz
factor, get forwarded by everyone, have a huge spike, everyone will be
talking about it, and then, like Oliver asking for another bowl of
porridge, it will beg for life support. Microsites are orphans. The
URLs are orphans. You have to keep feeding them, housing them and
clothing them, even though no one really wants them anymore. How long
do you have to keep that URL active? And what is the post-consumer
experience if you don’t?

If you are not ready to have a kid, care for it and nurture it until it is able to live on its own, then don’t give birth.

It costs what to get what?

remember sitting in this marketing presentation by an auto company
touting this amazing microsite they did. They had full video of the
product, a message board, a contest, and of course their “viral”
component — “Email a friend.” They walked us through the entire site,
its promotion, the various funnels through SEM and email. When all was
said and done, it cost them $1.2M. And then, the other shoe dropped.
When someone asked how many cars it sold, the response was enthusiastic
and excited. “We got more than 6,000 email addresses.”

Bear with me here: 1,200,000 / 6,000 = $200 an email address. An
email address does not translate into a car sale. You know how many
cars they did sell? 14, for about $400,000 total, to people that were
probably already predisposed to buy the car anyway from TV.

If you realize that the profit margin is probably only 10 percent on
those vehicles, they spent $1.2M all outbound, for about $40,000 in
profit. Of course, the poor man at this point was being ripped to

“It’s not about that! It’s mainly branding!” OK, we’ll go with you there.

“How many people — uniques — went to the site?” 57,000. So, they
spent $21 per person just to take a look. When we dug deeper, only
9,000 spent more than three minutes on the site — 9,000 people.
Basically, you can make numbers look like whatever you want them to
look like, but the truth of the matter is that immersion sites are
often way more costly than the results that can be obtained by
integrating that content into your main site.

The immersion everyone talks about online is extremely hard to
obtain in a lean-forward, active medium like the internet, and it’s
much more prevalent in TV where the lean-back environment makes you
receptive to it. You do not have to create a separate website. Eye
focus, even on an ad, or a smaller page, tunes out the periphery.


only reason to have a destination URL is if that URL is going to get
into the public consciousness. I do not know how many companies have
created microsites in the past year, but I can tell you that those that
have penetrated my consciousness can be counted on one hand.

I know there are exceptions, but most of those exceptions, like a
“downloadable piece of software” where you want to drive people
directly to the download page, usually just require a single landing
page, not a microsite.

Simplicity rules. Look, the technologies exist — Pointroll,
Eyeblaster, etc. — that allow you to integrate the microsite concept
into an actual ad. There are several advantages to that approach. The
development time is much shorter. It is much more cost efficient. There
are no associated hosting fees or maintenance fees. You get a much
bigger bang for your buck with your consumer, and when the program is
over, you just pull the ad. You are left with no orphans, whereas
microsites take too long to develop, are usually managed by committee,
have a relatively short lifespan, cost too much, use up agency
resources, use up client resources, use up money and become orphans
almost the day they launch.

Look — do what you want, waste your money, but if you are going to
do it, do it fast and cheap and don’t try to bolt on every feature.
Streamline your construction and develop a microsite strategy. As long
as you look at them on a project basis, all you are doing is making
your agency rich.