Earth Day Green Practice: Coupon Codes to Enhance Online Giving

Chris Hughes

April 22, 2015

go_green_smallToday is the 45th Anniversary of the first “Earth Day.” This is a day when significant attention is paid to ways to improve the global environment. In the fundraising world, one of the “greenest” practices is to enhance your online giving program. One way to do that is to consider using coupon codes.

Tracking the Solicitation Channel that Drives Online Gifts

Articles are published all the time talking about the rise of online giving. However, it is important to recognize that online giving is not a solicitation channel. Rather, it is a transaction channel. Knowing what solicitation channel resulted in the donor going online to make a gift will help you make better data-driven decisions in the future.

We all have undoubtedly seen, heard and possibly used a digital coupon, or what’s better known as a “coupon code” when making a purchase online. Traditional marketers are increasingly using coupon codes to increased revenue as well as tracking.

Thus, how can the concept of a coupon code apply to fundraising?

Coupon Code Stats

Here are some interesting coupon code facts according to Forrester Research:

  • 65% of consumers have used at least 3 digital coupons in the last 3 months
  • Only 1% of consumers reported never having used a digital coupon
  • 55% of consumers said they definitely spent more money on their total purchases when they were able to use a coupon code
  • 63% of consumers said that a promotion via a coupon code helped “close the sale” if they were wavering on a purchase

Those statistics reveal not only an extreme popularity of these codes, but also a significant impact on people completing (and upgrading) how much they spend.

Possible Fundraising Impact

When translating the traditional consumer coupon code approach to your annual giving plan, here are some potential benefits:

  • Better tracking of donors who respond to various channels by making their gift online. This includes phonathon, direct mail, social media, broadcast voice messaging, text messaging, and even email. Roughly 2/3 of Americans have made a transaction online in immediate response to a direct mailer.
  • Create incentive to give during a short time frame. Maybe every gift during a specific time period is entered to win a prize. It should be noted that “giving days” have also taken great advantage of this short time frame concept.
  • Use it in tandem with corporate sponsorship activation, possibly even in conjunction with special events. For example, maybe donors using a specific coupon code can receive a discount coupon for merchandise at the campus bookstore. Offering some form of coupon has been known to increase open rates by 14%!
  • Use these incentives for additional gifts within a fiscal year. Not only can it drive additional revenue, but you can also target additional gifts designed to move donors into new or higher giving society levels. Remember, 55% of people in the above study noted they spent more money overall when these codes were involved.

donate_onlineDon’t expect a long life cycle for each code, especially via email or social media. Just over 50% of consumers used a coupon code within a few hours of receiving it via those accounts.

You can implement a coupon code by promoting it through each solicitation channel alongside a link to your giving form. To be even more donor-centric, make your coupon code fun and light-hearted; don’t make it an obvious tracking code. If possible, try to include a dedicated field in your giving form for the coupon code. If your form starts looking a little more like the last time you made an online purchase, you’re doing it right.

What if my online giving form doesn’t handle coupon codes?

Don’t fret if your current giving form doesn’t have an automatic spot for a code.  That’s OK.  Instead, use the comments section of your form, or anywhere else a donor can input free-form text.  But make sure your gift processing team knows to look for that response!

Two important things to remember are (a) make the transaction as easy as possible for the donor while creating a direct response to a specific solicitation and (b) make sure you can track responses back to that specific solicitation for future analysis and follow-ups.

One final statistic…

Here’s one more statistic from that same research study that will be of interest to all fundraisers:  68% of respondents indicated that a coupon code increased both brand awareness and loyalty.  If a coupon code can increase brand awareness and loyalty for a consumer product, it should be able to do the same for your organization’s annual giving program.

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