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  • Writer's pictureMitch Stein

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Donations Happening on your Domain

Breaking down how much value is lost when a major gift is made through a 3rd party platform instead of your own website.

I recently returned from a trip to Spain, making room in my carry-on for a hand-painted sign featuring my best friend Erin’s baby’s name in a custom sea-creature font. A few days later, I biked over to her place and was welcomed inside with a big hug and the staticy sound of her 6-month-old waking up through the baby monitor on the counter.

After some long-overdue catch up talk for the adults and tummy time for the little guy, I got to pull out my present for the two of them.

Erin tore through the wrapping paper with the baby in her lap and let out a squeal of delight when she saw what was inside. She grabbed his tiny fingers and traced each letter with him to spell out his name - calling out each fish & animal the street artist had included.

She tested out a few places the sign could go in the baby’s room, but settled on the perfect spot over his little bookshelf and called downstairs for her husband to come and admire her new favorite addition to the nursery. All the while, I - admittedly not the greatest gift-giver in the world - just stood to the side beaming.

I was thrilled I’d gone to all the extra effort to cart the framed picture across the Atlantic (and then across Brooklyn) to see the joy it generated for this young family.

What if, instead, I’d just bought something on Amazon and had it delivered to Erin’s house?

It’s certainly more common these days, and a gift of similar dollar value may have been received all the same, but just think about all that’s lost from trading a personal interaction with an intermediary like Amazon.

There’s so much the gift-giver and gift-recipient would miss. The amazon package wouldn’t come with nearly as much context, the new mom wouldn’t have been able to share the important updates on her baby and it’d be harder for her to genuinely express her gratitude. In short, a huge relationship building moment is completely lost.

There’s so much the gift-giver and gift-recipient would miss. The amazon package wouldn’t come with nearly as much context, the new mom wouldn’t have been able to share the important updates on her baby and it’d be harder for her to genuinely express her gratitude. In short, a huge relationship building moment is completely lost.

This is exactly the kind of comparison that Salo Serfati, serial entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Chariot, visualizes when he discusses digital giving experiences for Donor-Advised Fund (DAF) donors.

“Every donation is an opportunity for relationship building,” he explains. “The more deeply connected a donor’s giving experience is to the actual organization, the more likely they are to return and the more information the nonprofit can gather to properly steward their supporters.”

Before Chariot existed, the only way to give from a DAF was for a donor to go to their DAF’s platform, look up the nonprofit they wanted to support and the gift would show up days or weeks later, typically without useful contact information. It’s like an anonymous Amazon gift on their doorstep.

Now that Chariot built an embedded DAF payment option directly into donation forms, a DAF donor can give directly on a nonprofit’s website - the digital “front door” to their home. Now the nonprofit gets to be in full control of the information the donor sees while they’re making the donation and gets their email for an immediate thank you and personalized followup. The donor is spending time in the organization’s space, getting a better sense of their impact and will feel their gratitude shortly thereafter.

"There’s literally one million nonprofits that a donor could be supporting. Any chance to put more details about your mission in front of a donor and personalize their interaction with your organization goes such a long way to building deeper relationships."

“In tech, you’re taught to build things that keep users on your platform to both optimize their experience end-to-end and capture data to continually improve. Nonprofits have the exact same opportunity with donors.”

And it’s not just any donors that Salo is referring to, it’s the incredibly high-value and high-potential cohort of donors that have set up a Donor-Advised Fund, which Chariot caters to. DAF holders make 24x larger gifts and donate 6x as often, on average, as the typical donor making online credit card gifts (you can learn more about the latest stats on DAFs here).

While most organizations think about their website and digital giving as something for lower dollar donors, that’s quickly becoming an outdated mindset.

“Despite what people assume based on their average age, DAF donors actually tend to be pretty digitally savvy. Almost all of them use a digital platform to manage their Donor-Advised Fund and, like all of us online these days, expect seamless digital experiences. All of the investment a nonprofit makes into their brand, their website and their messaging should absolutely be put to use in these critical donor experiences and relationships,” shares Salo, who has been regularly interviewing DAF donors and nonprofit leaders for input in Chariot’s product development for the past two years.

He’s heard hundreds of examples about how disconnected DAF giving feels for both parties and has become increasingly passionate about the opportunity to turn those Amazon drop off donations into the heart-warming, hug-filled gift experiences we all cherish.

Salo is also quick to point out that the value of DAF gifts made on a nonprofit’s domain extends far beyond the improved feelings of a personal interaction. There’s clear quantifiable improvements from:

  • Increased web traffic on your donation pages. When you direct people to make DAF gifts on your website, it means more folks searching for and using your donation page, which improves your SEO (search engine optimization). This generates more data on user flows, which can be tested and studied to further optimize conversion. For any organization that’s leveraging online advertising, you can also retarget your web visitors to improve ad conversion.

  • You control the checkout experience of those donors, meaning you can leverage suggested donation amounts or boosts that tap into donor psychology to maximize gifts. DAF platforms don’t have the same incentive to focus on this, but when using Chariot, 22% of donors choose to “boost” their donations because of the built-in prompts, resulting in an average increase of 165% ($1,000 gifts become $2,650)!

  • Most critically, you get quality, actionable and immediate contact information on your donors when you own the gift submission. When you use Chariot, you get a DAF donor’s name, email and gift size immediately so you can better thank, track and steward these donors over the long term.

Much like the special sign from Spain that I brought home for Erin’s baby, gifts made in a thoughtful process can generate tangible and intangible value on both sides. When donations are made with an emotional connection, a personal interaction and a pleasant experience, it leads to more long-term relationships and fewer one-time transactions.


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