I recently received a letter from my alma mater asking for money. They made 3 key mistakes in constructing this donation funnel. I’m going to explain how you can avoid these issues to reduce funnel friction and improve conversion.
I think fondly of my alma mater and I’m predisposed to donate. This is somewhat common for Georgia Tech grads who (last I looked) were the highest per capita donors. The school must do a good job of one of at least one of the following:
- Collecting money from alums
- Producing alums likely to donate money (i.e. fond memories, positive feelings, and have money)
We’re here to analyze this fundraising letter as a funnel and see how they are faring at the first task, but identifying alternative explanations for why a funnel might work for customers can be an important insight!
To the letter. Feel free to read through it (page 1, page 2), but I’ll also highlight the key portions.
There are a lot of facts here, but there isn’t much context in which to place them. I don’t know if all of the facts, awards, and numbers they present are good or bad in relative terms.
The ranking is nice though I’m not familiar with the source. The facts without a story or context are our first key mistake.
Key Mistake 1: Facts without a narrative
It gets said straight out only that “we’re going to carry this forward to the next…”
This really isn’t much of a vision and I have no idea from this letter what the goal of the fundraising is, that they are definitely seeking funds, nor what an appropriate donation would be for me.
The $2 billion dollar campaign that I heard about from the Institute was much more explicit about the vision for the money, the amount they needed, and had some context around what each alum would need to give to make the program work. This met with success and they were able to follow up with a glossy magazine/brochure that detailed all that they could do with the $2.6 billion they received.
I don’t know the Dean and I don’t have any clue what his vision of ‘the next level’ happens to be. I wish I did.
This is the second key mistake. Any campaign, email, page, donation request, or product should be clear about the purpose and benefit for the customer/prospect. I don’t know what I get out of this campaign nor for what purpose the money will be used?
Key Mistake 2: What do I get?
So, what are we doing with the money? What’s the story and emotion behind why I’m giving?
How much is appropriate for me to donate? I don’t know what an appropriate donation is. While you may receive less when you suggest less, you will often receive nothing if you make people stop and think.
Key Mistake 3: Don’t make me think.
I understand that the stamp costs money, but I think it would have been worth spending. Especially so if you included an easy way to donate specific amounts.
Key Mistake 4: Don’t add friction.
Physical friction sometimes costs you twice as much in a digital world.
There was a good opportunity for the College to use a marketing tactic where you have already recruited key donors and peers to show progress (usually 50% is the initial goal), add peer pressure, and add social proof to the campaign. Then you can use a powerful bit of psychology where you tell me what my average peer has donated and invite me to join my peers in powering this campaign to the next level.
I think this funnel probably serves them well enough. I know they have a lot of happy and willing donors that owe a lot to the education they received, but I also know that we have highlighted some missed opportunities that might have raised the bar for this campaign. I bet they left 25% on the table.