My wife turned to me and said “How do we defeat these assholes?”
(Yes, perhaps there should be a content warning on this post. But this was about white supremacist Neo-Nazis. DonorVoice has proudly worked for conservative, moderate, liberal, and nonpartisan groups and organizations from several different religions. When I asked whether I could use “assholes” in the blog to describe Nazis and white supremacists, the answer was “they are assholes.”)
She was angry. And ready to rage-donate. Ready, as in credit-card-out-point-me-in-the-right-direction ready. She wanted to support a group looking to stamp out hate, to prevent the next Charlottesville attack.
She was also not alone. Among the top trending searches from this weekend were Charlottesville, neo-Nazis, Charlottesville attack, racism, Trump Charlottesville, and Game of Thrones. (This last one is probably par because of last week’s blog post and part because it trends every weekend.)
(Google Trends for “Charlottesville”)
For those working to end racism and anti-Semitism in the United States, the spotlight is on. People are searching and willing to be persuaded to donate. Huffington Post and Medium both created “where to donate” articles.
But it was crickets on Google ads. Even now, if you search “donate Charlottesville,” you get general donation advertisements like Red Cross and Women for Women. “Oppose KKK” brings up organic content from the Southern Poverty Law Center, but no ads. “Oppose racism” brings up the first ad to mention Charlottesville, from a nonprofit newspaper running ads.
This is hardly unique. Google has given advertising grants to nonprofits for well over a decade — $10,000 per month to spend spreading your message. But these are underutilized as a way of attracting donors. So, some tips:
- Get Google Grants if you don’t have them. It’s here, easy, and quick to set up.
- Make sure you are maxing out your ad spend… An iterative process of adding content and keywords to your AdWords account and accepting Google’s recommendations for additional keywords should get you to your maximum rather quickly. (If not, writing more content is not a bad idea.)
- …but don’t put up stupid stuff. An AdWords account we recently audited had “jobs in Hyderabad” as their number one search term by a huge margin. They were not a jobs organization. They did not work in India. Their agency had simply taken the previous bullet point to its illogical extreme by sending them worthless traffic.
- Prepare for news events. Because it takes a small amount of time for Google to approve new ads, a disaster charity had a general “hurricane” ad group. They could turn this ad group on instantly when disaster struck, add keywords to this, and run it while they were waiting for the version with the specific hurricane name in it to be approved.
- Empower the person doing your ads. Charlottesville was on a weekend. Someone who managed the Google Ad Words account would have to feel empowered to create an ad and a donation form specific to the circumstances. No – one step beyond that: they would have to feel like it was their responsibility. This is rare. But if you are going to compete on rapid response to issues in the news, you must have people who know what is and isn’t allowed and have to act on that.
If you need help, email me here. We can help you get set up free of charge. We have also managed Google Ad Grants for some organizations.
So, now you have these donors. Now what?
First, you immediately want to play back to them why they gave. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s post-donation email highlights exactly why you gave:
“Your gift will have a profound impact in our fight against hate groups and support our work in classrooms and courtrooms across the nation. The events of the last several months have troubled m and, as the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, I wanted to explain why I’m so determined to keep fighting…”
Contrast this with the organizations that use the same autoresponder for all their donations. We frequently see feedback from donors wondering if they donated for the thing they were told they were donating for, given the disparity between front and back end.
Yes, restricted funds are anathema to many organizations (although IMHO and in many donors’ opinions, unjustly so). But you can talk about the reason that someone gave in the follow-up with appropriate “and other good works” language.
You should also learn as much as you can about the donor. Post-donation is the perfect time to learn a donor’s identity, how committed they are to your organization, what their contact preferences are, and so on. As we’ve highlighted, these factors are critical to increasing your retention and donor value (even more so when they are non-traditional donors).
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