How to Drive Donations with Google Business Reviews

5 min
Laptop computer with Google search on screen
Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan is a guest contributor to the Classy blog. 


What does growing Google business reviews have to do with your nonprofit?

Back in 2014, my wife and I started a 501(c)3 non-profit to provide disaster relief for the people of Chã das Caldeiras, Fogo in the Cape Verde Islands. Just before Thanksgiving that year, the volcano looming above the valley of Chã erupted after 19 years of dormancy. For several days, molten lava slowly destroyed everything in its path—houses, livestock, crops—leaving hundreds of villagers homeless and without means of income.

Through an online fundraiser and red carpet gala event, we were able to raise over $35,000 to distribute to the villagers of Chã. Not bad for a couple with a newborn who had no experience running a nonprofit, right? Well, as the saying goes, “If I had known then what I know now…” we could have raised considerably more money for the cause. One of the big puzzle pieces absent from our strategy was an element of online credibility; that’s where Google reviews comes in.

Why Google Business Reviews Matter

People operate in their daily lives faster than ever. They answer questions, get from point a to b, find what they’re looking for, and shop as needs arise. These reactions are considered “micro-moments,”or instances where consumers need-to-know, need-to-go, need-to-do, and need-to-buy within a split-second.

This “micro-moment mindset” primarily applies to buying decisions, but with the proliferation of digital technology and diminishment of attention spans, a similar paradigm shift holds true for donation decisions. When making these quick decisions, potential donors use indicators like Google business reviews to determine where they should appropriate their donation dollars.

Google Business Reviews Create Social Proof

Recent research has shown that online reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook help to establish social proof with your supporters. In fact, 73 percent of consumers have more trust in a local business or organization with positive reviews because someone outside of the brand is providing an objective account of their experience. Whether a donor, volunteer, or beneficiary, a testimonial paired with a high star rating just may be the social proof you need to attract a new supporter.

Google Business Reviews Are Front and Center

With over two trillion searches per year, Google is the number one search engine in the world. Think about the last time you were with a friend or family member and had a question that stumped you. You likely grabbed the nearest smartphone and entered your search query into Google.

If a potential donor or volunteer wants to give to a specific cause but isn’t familiar with organizations in that space, they’ll likely search online. By having an active Google My Business listing with Google reviews, your organization will increase its chances of engaging and converting that person into an active donor.

Google maps search results for "food donation Boston"


Google Business Reviews Help You Rank Higher

According to a recent study, Google reviews appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search. Google My Business listings with a substantial number of reviews including mention of industry-specific keywords (i.e. “food bank” or “disaster relief”) and/or the name of your city or region within the testimonial were found to have higher rankings in Google’s local pack results.

If you’ve ever performed a search on Google, then you’re familiar with the local pack, which are the first three Google My Business results that appear on the search engine results page. In the below example, The Greater Boston Food Bank, Rosie’s Place, and Boston Rescue Mission display in the local pack when someone types in “food donation Boston.”

Google search results for food donation Boston

Being in the local pack ensures your organization appears above similar organizations, which helps you secure attention from supporters unsure of where to give their support.

How To Drive More Google Business Reviews

Every other week, BJC branding hosts a webinar that covers the four steps to grow online reviews. In the webinar, we outline three methods any organization can use to grow its reviews online:

  • The verbal ask
  • The direct link
  • The review engine

Although verbally asking for reviews is the simplest and most cost-efficient method, it has been shown to be ineffective in driving results. People have great intentions when asked to leave a review, but life happens. The phone rings, a family member or friend needs something, and before you know it, they’ve forgotten to do what they were originally asked.

The direct link is also cost-efficient, but it requires a good bit of technical knowhow. After you’ve built the Google My Business listing for your organization, you’ll need to find the Place ID of your listing, which is a long string of characters that Google uses to internally identify your organization within its Google My Business database. Once you have found your Google Place ID, you would need to append it to a URL to drive people directly to a page where they can leave a review.

The review engine method has a nominal monthly cost, but it provides you with a robust suite of tools to proactively solicit, manage, and promote your Google reviews around the web. While several review engines exist, I recommend using a service like MyReviewDashboard because of its streamlined user experience.

In just a few clicks, you can add your Google My Business listing and begin requesting reviews via email or text message, or send your donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries a custom-branded URL to collect their positive feedback. You can even set up notifications so any of your board members can be notified when new Google reviews come in.

Putting It All Together

Had I known then what I know now, we could have leveraged Google reviews to increase the impact made by Fogo Fund.

Social proof would have boosted our credibility and attracted more supporters to our cause. By being front and center on Google, we could have engaged and converted more prospects into active donors. By increasing our local search ranking and showing up in the local pack, we could have caught those supporters who wanted to help but didn’t know which organization to choose.

In the end, we still improved the situation of hundreds of displaced villagers through our efforts, but these digital tactics are great to know for anyone vying for new supporters.

Bryan Caplan is a national speaker for Google’s Get Your Business Online program and the award-winning CEO of BJC Branding. He travels the country presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics to help small businesses grow and succeed. Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, BlueHost, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.


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