How Does Your Camp's Online Giving Compare to Your Peers?

Over the past four years, Jewish Camps have transformed the way they interact with donors online. Not long ago, donating to a Jewish Camp could feel tedious, confusing and transactional. Today, the experience is more likely to be simple, warm and uplifting for the donor. Here at JCamp 180, we have the research to prove it. 

Enhancing the Donor's Online Experience

Four years ago, back in December of 2012, JCamp 180 Mentors sought to evaluate the donor experience of online giving with their affiliated Jewish camps. Each of us gave a small ($18) donation to the camps we work with and we recorded our overall experience. What we found was revealing.

At the time we noted some significant challenges, including the fact that not all camps even had an online giving option on their website. Many websites required multiple clicks to complete an online donation.  Sadly, some camps that had online forms did not send automatic confirmation emails that the donation had been received. Each of these issues had technical solutions.

But our review turned up a significant non-technical problem as well: too often the whole process of donating felt impersonal and coldly transactional, thereby missing the first opportunity to thank and connect emotionally with online donors. We saw it as a huge lost opportunity.

Through follow-up articles, conference workshops, and our JTEC program, we sought to improve the overall donor experience. Then in December 2016, we completed a second evaluation, using the same methods.  Would we find an improved donor experience since our initial research?  The overall evaluation compared 58 camps for which the same data was collected in 2012 and 2016. Below are the results:  

  • ​​98% now have an Online Giving Form (compared to 83% in 2012)
    • It is essential that camps offer an online giving option, otherwise you miss out on both real donation income and initial connection with potential long-term donors. We are happy to report that virtually all of the tested camps now have an online giving form. 
  • 95% of the Online Giving Forms were "Fairly" or "Very Easy" to find; 70% took 2 or Fewer Clicks to Complete the Online Donation Form (both improved from 2012)
    • Equally important to having an online donation option is for this option to be quick and easy to use. When the process is clear and efficient, donors are more likely to come back. Studies have shown that user-friendly online giving forms can increase fundraising success. Ideally all fields appear on one webpage so the donor doesn't have to click multiple times to complete the transaction. There is still room for improvement in this category. If your camp requires more than 2 clicks, streamline the form and consider removing unnecessary fields.
  • 63% had a Confirmation that was "Warm" or "Somewhat Personal" (compared to 37% in 2012)
    • ​The most significant improvement in this study was with how donors felt when they received both the instant online confirmation that the gift was received, and the follow-up email confirmation stating that the gift was processed.  In both categories, there was a respective 26% and 19% improvement since 2012 amongst the 58 camps tested. 
    • While camps are trending in the right direction, there is still more work to be done in this area. Donors expect a confirmation email for online payments. This confirmation should also be warm and personal. A receipt without any connection to the mission of camp misses the mark. This communication should describe how the donor's gift will be used and what its impact will be. There could also be a special 'thank you' photo or video, or something similarly moving. Stewardship for the online gift starts immediately.
  • 15% asked Donors to Share that they Donated on Social Media (compared to only 4% in 2012)
    • Camps can ask every donor to share their donation on social media. The finding from this study show that most camps still do not have this feature. However, there is a great opportunity for camps to make a simple change with the online donation process by adding language to the confirmation email - as well as a hyperlink to social media sites - to share that a donation was made to that camp. Sharing can potentially inspire others to donate as well. 

So What Now?

Your website is the backbone of your business, and critical for camper recruitment, retention, staff recruitment and hiring, and increasingly for philanthropic giving. Updating and improving your website requires attention and ongoing testing and frequent re-investment. Take a minute right now to test your online giving and see if your Jewish Camp's online giving includes these best practices:

  1. Give Now: Is it easy to find where on the website to go to make a donation?
  2. Why Give?: Once I arrive at the online giving page, does it clearly explain why giving to your Camp is important, and what difference it will make? Is the explanation in bullet points and not a long paragraph of text?  (Also, don't start thanking me for giving until I've made the donation.)
  3. Who Else Gives?: Are there short quotes from people like me who have made a donation, and why they made a donation? Is there an attractive picture of the person who made the testimonial?
  4. Show Me: Are there lovely images of camp and kids on the page? Better yet, do you have a story of impact, or a story of need, to illustrate the importance of giving?
  5. Stay Put: Is the online donation form embedded into the page, so I don't have to click once again to make a donation? Research shows that with each additional click, people will change their minds and leave without completing the donation.
  6. Less work: Is there a limited number of required fields to fill out, and a limited number of choices I'm required to make? For example, placing City and State fields side by side instead of on two different lines will visually and psychologically look like less work. Also, many Jewish Camps allow the option of making a gift in honor of someone, but make the mistake of leading with this option at the top of the page, which looks like twice as many fields to fill out to make a simple donation. It looks like too much work. Instead, ask at the end if it is in honor of someone, and only if yes, have more fields become visible.
  7. Your name the way you like it: Have you asked me how I would like to be addressed? (As in please call me "Tom" instead of calling me "Thomas" which is the name required by my credit card.)
  8. What are you saying?: Are you using language I can understand, instead of the jargon you use in your office? For example: "Please apply my gift to where it is most needed" instead of "Give to the Annual Fund," or "Please use my gift to help a camper in need" instead of "Give to Scholarship."
  9. Is it safe?: At the bottom of the online donation page, do you include badges or icons to show that the website and the donation is secure and safe? Please help put my mind at ease.
  10. Thank me: Once I've made a donation, is the automatic confirmation warm and clear? Does it include a photo? Is the email confirmation warm and clear, easy to print, and include images? In addition, camps are increasingly involving Board members in calling or emailing donors and personally thanking them for being so kind and generous. The more warm, connected, and personal the experience is for the donor, the more likely they will give again.
  11. Return the favor: Donating to make a difference feels wonderful and makes me happy. Help me to share my enthusiasm for giving with my fellow Camp friends and community through social media.  Make it easy by providing me with a link back to my favorite social media platforms.
In conclusion, the past four years has seen a steady improvement in the online donor experience, but there is still room for significant improvements. What happens next is up to you. Will you work to retain your donors, and to inspire them to give again? Here at JCamp 180 we are watching and waiting to see how you will steward us year-round and report on the impact of our donations. We will be reading and collecting your next appeal letters. And in doing so, we will continue to provide you with feedback on how you are doing and providing you with tips and best practices to advance your fundraising in the year ahead.