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Navigating a New Era of Giving Experiences: How to Personalize Donors’ Paths to Engagement


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Published October 4, 2023 Reading Time: 8 minutes

 It’s critical to enter the biggest giving season of the year with a donation experience that mobilizes and empowers supporters to get involved. Experience is the bridge that connects your nonprofit story with the donor’s ability to take action and make an impact. 

Here, we’re defining experience in the new era of giving based on conversations from Classy’s Unlock Generosity webinar series. This series is a comprehensive dive into our three primary pillars of nonprofit fundraising to align with the modern donor landscape: storytelling, experience, and connection

Finally, we’ll dive deeper into how the giving experience has evolved and how nonprofits can elevate offerings to align with donor preferences.  

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The Critical Nature of Giving Experiences

The final months of the calendar year are an opportune time for nonprofits to acquire new donors. In fact, our platform data shows that 12x more donors are acquired on Giving Tuesday compared to an average day of the year. 

When you think about shaping your experience, account for that influx of introductions to new people while considering what your existing donors expect in acknowledgment of their established loyalty. An excellent experience may be the differentiator between new and returning donors investing in your cause for the long term.

From the first time someone learns about your organization to the nuances of navigating your nonprofit website, every detail influences their decision on if and how to support you. Analyzing the donor journey from a bird’s-eye view is a great way to begin understanding how to streamline and personalize every process step.

Our donor sentiment report, Why America Gives, explored the return on investment of loyalty last giving season:

  • Loyal donors planned to give 4x the donation amount on average compared to the average passive donor during the 2022 giving season 
  • Loyal donors are twice as likely to keep their donations as-is even if they experience a financial stressor compared to passive donors 

When you build an experience with the intention of fueling donor loyalty, your nonprofit is likely to see more fundraising dollars. This is especially critical during another giving season shaped by inflation.

Experience in the New Era of Giving

It’s not news that giving is changing. While the goals to engage donors and inspire generosity remain the same, and donor behavior and technology evolve, nonprofits must adapt how to achieve those goals. Below, you’ll see how that happens.

Experience Is a Holistic Approach

Experience is a collection of crucial touchpoints that require equal focus. While it’s great to excel in a particular area, like a high-converting donation form, having one subpar element of the experience, like antiquated payment options, can deter someone from giving or returning to give again.

Experience Is a Continuous Flow

It’s essential that nonprofits provide several on-ramps to giving to ensure every potential supporter, despite the platform, event, or marketing message they first engage with, has access to a streamlined route to conversion. 

This giving season may be your launchpad for a reimagined experience, but it doesn’t end there. It’s critical to continue iterating through every season, ensuring you incorporate time-based fundraising campaigns into your always-focused-on-giving strategies to maintain a cohesive flow.

Experience Is a Reflection of Your Innovation

More options exist for people to get involved with nonprofits doing incredible work. Pair that with a new generation of donors who have spent most of their lives engaging with technology, and there’s massive potential for Gen Z and Millennials to collectively reverse the modern downward giving trends. 

That said, there are certain expectations for mobile giving, smooth flows, AI fundraising tools, speed, and access to charity through apps among these generations that didn’t exist before. With such high standards, it’s critical that nonprofits offer the cleanest, safest experience possible or risk losing supporters’ trust. 

5 Ways to Unlock New Experiences

Now, let’s turn that into a comprehensive fundraising strategy. The following principles are a framework to give supporters a modern and compelling experience at all stages of their journey. 

1. Increase Face Time With Supporters at Events

Any time you can bring supporters into an experience that appeals to the five senses, you create memorable impressions. Online interactions are convenient and necessary in many situations but not meant to replace in-person events permanently. 

Seeing people face-to-face, hearing their voices, shaking their hands, and sharing conversations over coffee offers the ability to connect on a personal level not achieved online, no matter how many breakout rooms you host. There’s also the option to bring together the best of both worlds with a hybrid event to unite online and in-person guests in immersive experiences. Hybrid models are often the key to expand your reach and accommodate your donors’ preferences for attendance. 

Areas to Take Action

  • Modernize registration for your virtual, in-person, and hybrid events to encourage more participation. Be sure to present various payment options and capture custom questions like meal preferences or T-shirt sizes where applicable to showcase subtle touches of personalization. You can also encourage guests to host peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns leading into the event to get their communities involved and incorporate easy social media sharing options.
  • Put a deeper focus on the day of your event to identify ways to encourage donors to level up their gifts when inspired or commit to supporting your cause in a new way. You can add a QR code to event materials that allow attendees to access a simple online donation form directly from their phones, build in moments within your agenda to highlight the progress on your fundraising thermometer, sell fixed-priced items, and host a raffle or auction event. Start by sourcing some stellar raffle ideas
  • Continue momentum year-round by thinking about where you can set up mini-hyperlocalized events or promote related appeals that present ongoing giving opportunities past the conclusion of your pillar event. 
  • Let supporters guide your experience with a post-event survey to understand what people want to see from future events and where gaps existed in the past. You may also consider a pre-event survey to tailor your experience around those who plan to attend as you organize speakers, timing, entertainment, silent auction items, and more that make the experience unique.

We want to engage folks with as many ways to support us as possible. Classy Live lets you do that in a way your donors respond to. We held a raffle and sold a variety of fixed-priced items with a simple self-check-out process.

African Community Education

2. Remove Barriers to Give

Seamless digital experiences have become the standard, making clunky, slow, or antiquated experiences the outliers. Capture the most support possible by identifying potential barriers in your giving experience from your website to your campaigns. It’s helpful to put yourself in an individual’s shoes to determine what would make your experience as simple, consistent, and accessible as possible to take the desired action. 

Areas to Take Action

  • Present the easiest way to give through a donation form pop-up on your website or embedded giving method. Embedded donation forms remove the need to bounce around through several tabs, resulting in higher conversion rates for many Classy customers—a 28% increase in revenue per site visitor.
  • Create consistency across all donation forms and campaigns to help donors establish familiarity with the logistics of the transaction process and nurture trust in your brand. Elements like the number of form fields suggesting gift amounts and the payment options you offer should feel cohesive from one giving opportunity to the next.
  • Build accessibility across any device by optimizing your donation pages and forms for any screen. You can also think about ways to link those forms from social media channels to incite quick action. Round that out with easy payment options through apps people likely already access on their phones, such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, and Apple Pay.

3. Expand the Experience With Technology Donors Know and Love

Personalized, intentional, and connected giving experiences matter more than ever. Modern experiences feel rich because of the many technologies working together to make them current and reliable. Integrating existing apps like Salesforce and the new Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, Facebook, and so many others can level up the impression you leave without complicated customizations or coding. 

Integrations allow you to flow critical data between tools to inform decision-making without juggling multiple logins and dashboards. At Classy, we present our nonprofits with their version of an app store to choose tools within our partnership web and offer ways to plug them into their strategies easily.

Explore Integrations on Classy

Areas to Take Action

  • Boost your events with online charity auction software that can deliver an intuitive attendee experience and transfer donation data directly into your fundraising platform.
  • Get more insight from your existing data with apps like Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics 4, and Meta Pixel that give you a complete picture of how supporters interact with campaigns to make the experience even more tailored.
  • Tailor your experiences through customer relationship management (CRM) integrations that organize new supporter data, tell you more about your existing supporters, create segments for personalized email efforts, and help you stay in touch year-round.

Without Classy and the Classy for Salesforce integration, it would be trickier to act with agility when emergencies happen. The fact that we have our online donation platform integrated directly with our CRM is invaluable.

Concern Worldwide

4. Include More Supporters With Volunteer Opportunities

You may come across year-end supporters who want to get involved directly with your cause but aren’t able to give monetary donations. That’s where volunteering can come into play. Add touchpoints to your experience that are accessible to everyone. That way, you never lose out on someone who may build a relationship with your nonprofit and potentially give in the new year. 

There’s also a lot to say about the impact of volunteer work on relationship building with like-minded advocates, team members, and beneficiaries who need their help. Start by exploring these ideas on how to source and retain consistent volunteers.

Areas to Take Action

  • Build a community with opportunities for volunteers to establish connections, such as a lunch break or post-volunteer dinner that gives them the added value of camaraderie and friendships that deepen their relationship with the organization. 
  • Create a volunteer week or month to meet the heightened demand for help that may accompany year-end tasks. Present the flexibility to sign up for shifts across a given period when everyone comes together for real change. For example, our teams recently volunteered with Feeding America for a nationwide, week-long celebration to sort food and package meal kits.
  • Offer another simple action always, whether starting a campaign on a peer-to-peer fundraising platform to bring in more support, attending an upcoming year-end event to more people, or starting a monthly donation to make a small gift that adds up over a year.

Donor intent and customer experience are at the forefront of Direct Relief’s fundraising activities. We had struggled with outdated software and then realized Classy could do all of the things we were missing—both with peer-to-peer activities and the main donation page. When mobile wallets and honoring donor intent were standard with Classy, that was the clincher.

Direct Relief

5. Bring Charity to the Workplace

People spend more time at work and around their colleagues than in most other places. That’s an opportunity to take your experience directly to supporters with the urge to give back and build a sense of purpose and community with their employer. 

Corporate social responsibility is a growing priority for many companies. As such, corporate partnership opportunities can help companies offer employees more ways to participate in philanthropic activities. Year-end is also when many organizations will look to build employee engagement through volunteer work and generosity, so it’s a great time to pitch new nonprofit corporate sponsorship ideas and initiate new relationships.

Areas to Take Action

  • Offer employee donation-match opportunities on your year-end campaigns as the easiest way to activate employee giving and engage companies that want to show support for their philanthropic employees. Establish this option on donation forms to allow people to search for their employer and see a gift quickly double in impact on your efforts.
  • Pitch creative partnership ideas by staying on top of corporate giving trends and finding opportunities for companies to tie themselves to your year-end campaigns through event sponsorships, in-kind donations for auctions, internal advocacy with employees, and many other creative approaches.
  • Think about longevity by strengthening nonprofit corporate giving programs, starting with year-end and ending with you reaching your goals in the coming year. You can get creative to retain corporate partners by making it as simple as possible to affiliate their organization with yours.

We often limit ourselves to thinking that corporate giving is all about large donations. Sometimes, it’s about securing a brand’s support or their stamp of approval. That’s enough to excite and rally communities around a shared purpose.

Starlight Children’s Foundation

You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Experience comes together seamlessly when each component has an equal focus. Classy and GoFundMe are uniquely positioned to support nonprofits by crafting the experience needed to raise more with expertise in serving the world’s largest online giving community. 

We continue to learn what it takes to build interest from the modern donor and turn that into innovative tools and insights that make it actionable for you. Join us as we enter the most exciting giving season yet with our new webinar series, where you’ll hear directly from thought leaders and industry experts about the blueprint for success as you build your strategies. 

Register for one of our six webinars within the Unlock Generosity: Year-End Giving Series here to take your experience, storytelling, and connections to new levels in 2023.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

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