Mapping the Donor Journey

Online Fundraising Academy

Posted on Thursday, July 30, 2020

Is your online fundraiser also shooting in the dark?


"Well, as a donor, I wouldn't do that." "Our donors will not worry about it." "I know what donors think." "All donors have a phone and will be excited to give by text message."


Fundraisers often face challenging situations where stakeholders make assumptions and give their own opinions and feelings while forgetting the intended target audience. Not long ago during a meeting about planning for a virtual fundraising event, I found myself wondering why the organizers focused almost exclusively on the event's program and not on the main objective of the event, which was to raise funds.


As creative donor experience designers, I believe that these personal considerations can be helpful in mapping empathy, better understanding the donor journey, and considering the context of use in order to be successful in raising funds through virtual events.


The meeting started with exciting news. The organization had 50 hosts willing to be part of the virtual party. I felt much existed with this fact since in my mind I visualized many opportunities. The 50 hosts would be the emotional and personal connection to motivate their friends to donate. It would be an incredible occasion to show the work of the organization to a new social network. I quickly calculated an achievable goal: if each host invited 10 people to their virtual table, the potential audience would be 500 people. And if the average donation were $ 25, you could easily raise $ 10,000 in two hours. Not bad, right, considering that the expenses of the event could be much less than a live event! But suddenly the direction of the meeting turned to the program of the event igniting in my mind a number of voices of alert. Something like I'm going to prepare a typical Egyptian dish but I have no idea of ​​cooking or the ingredients I need. Organizing meaningful experiences for virtual donors is not as simple as many believe. The audience, their journey and the context of use of technology must be understood.


Wildly I began to ask myself questions and give recommendations born from my own experience. Are the hosts going to invite people to their houses? Or are you going to gather your guests virtually? If so, will they have separate virtual rooms? What demographic group do most of the hosts and their guests belong to? If the host plans to host an event in person, are donors willing to attend amid a pandemic? And if so, do you know if they will all be sitting in front of a television to watch the live broadcast? Is the donation by text the one indicated for this audience? When and how will the host request a donation and how can they receive money? Will it be in checks, text messages, credit cards, personal transfers, in advance, during the event? Conversely, if the host plans to offer a virtual event to their friends, how will they get together to socially interact and maintain group energy? If the platforms contemplated are Facebook, Zoom or YouTube, how do you think the hosts share the content: sharing their screens within the virtual room, a link to access from individual computers or on smartphones? Would it be in this context of use the donation by text the most indicated? How can the theme of the event be linked to a call to action by the guests? Less than three weeks before the event, none of these questions had an answer.


An effective way to keep a virtual fundraising event on track is to tell stories that guide thoughts through all the steps of a giving experience. Storyboarding, a technique derived from the film industry, allows you to visualize the donor's journey from start to finish and the complete experience you want to provide. Surely if someone asks you to tell a movie you will not start with a scene from the middle. Try to imagine the entire donor experience and then capture it in a series of sketches or bullet points to develop an empathic understanding of donors, their motivations, and their context of use.


As an experienced fundraiser you know that fundraising is built on emotions. Bringing those emotions to online audiences is a task with a different degree of complexity than a live event. You have people scattered in cyberspace and with little personal interaction. If the people in charge of organizing an online fundraising event are inexperienced in this type of event, they will most likely overlook how to make meaningful connections to inspire donors. They will end with a perhaps successful program but with little revenue on hand. What defines a good movie is the script, the viewer's journey, and the context where they can watch the movie. A virtual fundraiser is not much different. You have to understand the audience, their journey step by step and the context of use for it to happen.


Sometimes an external donor experience evaluation can take you that extra mile. At PixGift, we have consultants who specialize in designing online donor experiences and tests from real-user to provide you feedback so you can chart a clearer path and avoid shooting in the dark.



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The idea for PixGift all started in the heart of North Carolina while orchestrating a fundraising project for two college students on a mission to see the world.  To our surprise, the first giving board fundraiser not only was successful at raising the money, but it also engaged emotions and created a strong community.  Seeing this success and the tremendous potential of the idea, PixGift was officially born!  Since then, PixGift has grown, helping people and organizations create collective visual experiences that inspire communities to work together and achieve shared goals.
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