publication date: Jul 20, 2012
author/source: Ryann Miller, Kori Brus
Each month the Web 2.0 jury has reviewed the
website of a Canadian charity for fundraising effectiveness. Since December,
2010, Fraser Green, Ryann Miller and Kori Brus have helped 20 Canadian
charities sharpen their website-based fundraising through Hilborn's Web 2.0
Jury program. The series concludes with this month's candidate, Seniors
Assisted Transportation Society of Greater Edmonton.
Hi Ryann. This
month we're looking at Seniors Assisted
Transportation Society of Greater Edmonton
(SATS). This is a
straightforward and good cause - a charity offering safe and affordable
transportation to senior citizens 80 years old and up. For just $15, SATS
offers a two-hour round trip in a private vehicle driven by a SATS volunteer.
A lack of mobility, isolation and loneliness are problems no
person should live with, and SATS is providing a clear, concrete way to help at
a lower cost than any other options. And despite a website built on an outdated
platform, they're getting their key messages out. With one look you know who
SATS is and what they do. They're even providing a clear way to donate.
Unfortunately, things start to go off the rails after that.
I have a few concerns about the site, but most are overshadowed by the glaring
and fatal flaw in their fundraising strategy - their predominant use of the
"poor me" card. I'll call out two examples.
The "Appeal from the President"
One of the first things you see is a nice little graphic
featuring a letter and pen alongside an inviting cup of coffee. The text tells
you to click ahead for an "Appeal from the President." I thought they could
have given it a warmer title, but it caught my eye and I was looking forward to
hearing their pitch. I was shocked to see an opening salvo that, after a
rudimentary thank-you, launched into a reprimand of SATS constituents for their
lack of participation. It's worth printing in full:
I would like to start
this letter by thanking you for donations you or any organizations you are
involved with have made in the past. On a very serious note, I am very
concerned with the lack of members that are participating in SATS functions;
such as Board Members, Volunteers, Participants and Supporters at our events.
These are all seriously required!! Who
else but those receiving the services would know what is actually
I don't think they could have done a better job alienating
all of their key constituencies, though I assume this wasn't their goal.
An "Important notice
for SATS members"
Somewhat less egregious is the highlighted notice
rationalizing their decision to hike driver's fees from $10 to $15. In addition
to taking up the entire middle portion of the site in blazing red and yellow,
the notice ominously ends with, "We apologize for the required fee increase but
had no option other than the inevitable."
A greater statement of futility you will not find.
Here's a better idea. How about using current challenges as
a fundraising opportunity? Cost per ride has gone up to $15? The funny thing
about that number is that it perfectly aligns with the average gift for many
charities' monthly donors.
How about asking people to buy one ride per month for a senior
in need? Could we ask people to sponsor a genuine individual? "With a monthly
gift of just $15 (or $180 per year) you can make sure Mary sees her grandchild
Robbie play soccer every month." Or how about, "Your monthly gift will let Tom
continue to volunteer at the First United Church, passing on the generosity
you've given through his work for his church community." There must be a
hundred examples like this.
It sounds like the organization has faced some hard times
financially. If this is the case, they certainly should be communicating their
need to the public and their supporters. But people are going to give out of a
desire to do good, not to save charity employees who are
feeling sorry for themselves.
Their site limits are liveable if they get their messaging
right. Until they do, I give them a C-. Ryann?
Dude, you're pretty harsh. But I basically agree with you.
My advice to SATS is to target their audience and think
through an actual communications strategy. What do they want to say to people
and what do they want them to do? I'm guessing their world is divided into two
camps: those who don't know or care about them, and those who do know them and
specifically found their website in order to support their work. So their site
should speak to those people.
Let's get to some specifics.
What do they want each page to accomplish? Is it
information? Donations? More volunteers? Plus, what other pages might you want?
For example, I think they should have a page with photos and quotes from the
seniors they help and seniors' families who are grateful for SATS because SATS
does what they can't. Nobody will make the case for support better. They need
the best of these photos or quotes on every other page. They should also have a
page for their events, and where people can join and/or volunteer.
Giving page makeover
They do need a bit of a donation page makeover, with less,
but more compelling, copy and images of who they help. Where does $50 go? $150?
I like the Appeal from the President idea, but the appeal
itself, not so much. Kori's tangible monthly ask is brilliant. It promotes
monthly giving, and it connects the donor emotionally with the recipient (or
someone like them).
Why does SATS use both PayPal
? My vote is to lose
PayPal entirely, because CanadaHelps lets people make monthly gifts as well as
single ones. Then lose the Canada Helps paragraph. That will raise the
sponsorship (major giving) opportunities higher up on the page, which is
important. SATS should be promoting that program - in fact, it should have its
Social purpose a
great match with social media
They actually seem to make use of social media, so I'd
encourage some kind of campaign to build awareness and grow their fanbase/Likes/followers.
Since they're always looking for more volunteer drivers, a campaign to find
more people is a great use of social media. It's also a great way to share the
I'm giving them a B-. They fill a real void, have a clear
need, and have a great volunteering opportunity. They just need to look at
their website with a fundraising and communications lens. It's not a brochure;
it's a donation and volunteering appeal. The sooner that becomes the mantra for
the website, the sooner they'll be inspired to make some critical improvements.
Ryann Miller is director of nonprofit services at Care2, where she helps
charities and nonprofits recruit online supporters. She is the former managing
director of DonorTrends and was a senior fundraising consultant at HJC New
Kori Brus is philanthropic counsel and
marketing specialist at Good Works, where he focuses on nonprofit campaign strategy and online
engagement. He's the former communications director of Ecojustice Canada and former community manager for Web of Change.
Their websites are www.Care2.com and www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to pronounce your web jury
judgment on them!