Okay I will admit it… I find myself on Wikipedia fairly often. (And I bet if you’re being honest… you do too.)
When I was on there a couple weeks back (probably looking up the name of the actor from some nostalgic 90’s movie or something equally important), their annual donation campaign popped up.
Bright purple, top of my page.
And as I skimmed it, I realized – there is actually A LOT we can all take away from Wikipedia’s digital fundraising campaign.
Nonprofits do not have an easy job in finding consistent, effective ways to support their causes. It can feel never-ending, overwhelming, and demoralizing. But it is my belief that studying others’ work can help each of us in finding what works best for the circumstances from which we are fundraising.
So going forward, every so often I’ll take a specific nonprofit’s fundraising campaign and break it down to highlight different perspectives, what works well and what could be improved, in the hopes you might be able to take these practices back to your day-to-day and run with it at your organization.
So let’s dig into Wikipedia’s fundraising campaign. What can we learn?
Does that seem simple? It is. Wikipedia will never get donations if they don’t ask. And this is where so many organizations falter or hesitate. I often hear “I feel like I’m tapping from the same well every time” or variations of the same. But donors give because they believe in you, and if you continue to accomplish excellent work, they will most often happily continue that support.
You will never know if your donor is interested in supporting your cause if you do not ask!
“If Wikipedia has given you $2.75 worth of knowledge this year, take a minute to donate.”
This is especially clever, as how do we even quantify the “price” of knowledge?
But more to the point, $2.75 is an extremely small amount, that nearly anyone could at least consider donating. While an amount this small can be really powerful for an organization with an audience as large as Wikipedia, it likely wouldn’t work as well for a more niche-audience nonprofit because you’d be missing out on additional dollars from your smaller audience.
But all the same, it is a good reminder that the more you can show how cost-effective your impact is, the more your audience is going to think to themselves “well, DUH, that is worth $2.75 a year” and consider moving forward with the donation.
“If you donate just $2.75, Wikipedia could keep thriving for years.”
$2.75 of your money doesn’t just equal one more article written or a few more sources added.
$2.75 means years of free Wikipedia to come.
So, not only are you already primed to feel that $2.75 is an extremely reasonable amount to ask for all that Wikipedia provides for you, now they are saying that $2.75 will help sustain Wikipedia for years ahead. Again, they are priming their audience to make the donation a no-brainer.
“Show the volunteers who bring you reliable, neutral information that their work matters.”
In this single sentence, Wikipedia has:
Reminded us all of its content is volunteer-run
Reminded us its system of content moderation is meant to keep information reliable and neutral
Reminded us of their mission, and
Got our wheels spinning on how that mission has impacted our own lives (by thinking about the range of articles we’ve read in the past and how handy that information has come to lead to further research, or – let’s be real – to resolve a very important debate with friends or family around the dinner table.)
Right at the top of the page, in purple no less.
And addressed to “all our readers in the US” – so they are speaking (as personally as they can!) directly to YOU.
A key here is that, as unavoidable as it is not to see, it is equally as easy to move past it and it does not impede my viewing of the Wikipedia article once I move on. Wikipedia isn’t trying to force or annoy people into donating – they are just making sure that those that are interested in donating are sure to see it right when they come to the page.
There is not a sentence in that block that is wasted. They get to the point quickly, and ask with confidence. Wikipedia knows its service is well worth the $2.75 it is asking for. They make their ask without wasting the reader’s time, and if the request doesn’t land, they let the reader move on.
The donation and payment options are right there on the top of the screen alongside the request for support. With multiple levels of giving amount included. AND – several easy, trusted payment options to make it so that no matter what type of payment the individual might use, they have no excuse not to complete the payment!
Another point here: they include a monthly giving option. This is an area where so many nonprofits miss out. A smaller gift given 12 times over the course of the year often equals out to a larger donation per donor than any individual might give in a single gift. Offer your audience a monthly option and you may just surprise yourself with how much it amplifies your giving!
“It might be awkward, but please don’t scroll past this.”
Not only does this play into the readers’ emotions, it has the added benefit of speaking to the reader like a human being. It sounds like a friend talking to you, not some robot that is just pushing you to hand over your credit card number!
“98% of our readers don’t give.”
Don’t you want to be that 2% that shows up for Wikipedia? It is important with guilt and emotion to have balance – do not lay it on too thick. But engaging readers emotionally is well proven to result in better fundraising returns. Use emotions sparingly, but use them!
This is a big part of the reason many of us fear asking… the dreaded “no”. But that is just a part of the game. For most smaller, local organizations, they have the advantage of being able to build relationships and better understand their donors, so they are already a step ahead of Wikipedia in being equipped to up their “yes” percentage. But no one is ever going to get it exactly right 100% of the time. You have to show up and do the work anyway.
You can set your annual calendar by Wikipedia’s donation request. Once a year, every year.
While this may not be the schedule most nonprofits can sustainably use, it is an important thing to consider. Wikipedia asks in a way that ensures their audience isn’t bombarded by continuous requests for support. If someone visits Wikipedia roughly once per week, that is 52 Wikipedia visits per year. That means, someone will get FIFTY examples of how Wikipedia positively impacts their life before being asked to support.
The more you can show your mission and impact in between asks for support, the better.
Showing your gratitude is vital. Whether to a donor or potential donor – taking the time to thank them just for considering the gift will leave them feeling appreciated and recognized. And if they don’t give this time, if they walk away feeling good about their interaction with your organization – and they may just give the next time. The more positive interactions an individual has with your organization, especially in regards to fundraising, the more likely they will be to choose to support you and your cause.
Did I miss anything? What did you learn from Wikipedia’s donation campaign?
Connect below so we can chat about it more! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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