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How To Optimize Your Web Form to Increase Enrollment and Donations

Sandy McKee Dec 23, 2014 0 Comments

It is the giving season, the time when people are reflecting on the year and donating to their favorite charity.

Will yours be one of them?

Savvy givers are much more discriminating when selecting a charity to support. They want their charitable dollars to be wisely spent.

So, it’s no surprise that when it comes to choosing between two worthy causes whose missions match their values, people will select the organization that is more efficient with their spending dollars.

As a nonprofit that relies heavily on donations, how can you impress donors by doing more with less?

One organization, the Family Lives On Foundation, dramatically streamlined their business process and as a result has grown over 800% while only increasing their staff by 100%. I want to share some of these tips with you this season so that you too may have a successful new year.

About Family Lives On Foundation

Family Lives On provides support to children and teens who have lost a mother or father.

Their mission is to continue family traditions shared by the deceased family member as a form of grief therapy, which, fosters post traumatic growth. Here is what they have found:

There are more than two million children and teens in the US who are grieving the deaths of their moms or dads. Our groundbreaking Tradition Program helps these young people and their families continue family traditions as a therapy to move beyond the death story and to celebrate the life story of the loved one who has died.
Ongoing support tools such as the Tradition Program are critical because these young people are at much greater risk for psychological and behavioral problems than their non-bereaved peers. Our Tradition Program encourages the healthy emotional development of parentally bereaved children and teens, allowing them to Honor the Past, Celebrate the Present, and Build the Future.

The Challenge

The problem this foundation had is familiar to many nonprofits: their enrollment process and execution of the program was time consuming and resulted in a low enrollment rate.

They knew they needed to embrace new technology to increase their reach and productivity.

Their first step to improve efficiency was to conduct a Lean Six Sigma process on their Tradition Program. They looked at the number of transactions, the risks and expense for each line of service.

According to Christine Cavalieri, Executive Director,

Our approach had to be scalable and remove logistical, cultural and socioeconomic barriers.

While they desired a new CRM, budget and staff constraints were an issue.

Instead, their solution involved implementing two affordable technologies, an online survey tool and a telecommunication application. 

Nonprofit success through surveys  

The Solution

Here's how they approached the problem.

Embedded Web Form

Focusing on the first customer touch point is a smart move since first impressions will greatly influence whether people continue or leave.

Updating the website allowed them to embed the enrollment form so that they could optimize the user experience.

User Experience

Understanding that it is likely a grieving and overwhelmed parent who is completing the enrollment application, they wanted to provide an informative and yet calming experience.

Of course, filling out an application is never considered a ‘fun’ experience, but it doesn’t need to be a dreadful task either.

Rather than a monotonous fill-in-the blank experience, they strived to provide useful information that encouraged the grieving spouse and let them know that help was on the way.

"We try to suppport the grieving caretaker by providing information while simultaneously gathering necessary enrollment data." – Christine Cavalieri, Executive Director, Family Lives On Foundation

Relevant Messaging

One of the biggest challenges marketers face (non-profit as well as for-profit) is relevant messaging. According to a survey conducted by Inbound:
"Most organizations report that their messages suffer from lack of inspiration (70% generate a ‘so what’) and poor targeting to audience wants and needs (70% spur a ‘who cares’). Twenty-six percent of nonprofits describe their messages as confusing.”

Connecting with your audience by sending the right message at the right time is crucial for reaching and keeping your audience.

Interactive web forms are a great opportunity to deliver relevant messaging, but are often overlooked.

According to Nancy Schwarz at Getting Attention:

"If your messages are irrelevant (more than 7 of 10 non-profits describe their messages as off target), your organization will fail to motivate the actions you need to move your mission forward—to give, volunteer, join or advocate."
An online web form gives you the opportunity to provide relevant messaging based on a response. The timeliness of your message makes you a valuable resource.

Engage Users

An interactive web form engages users. The Family Lives On new online enrollment form was interactive. It displayed questions and pages as needed.

For instance, if 3 children were being enrolled it repeated the page for each child so that the respondent could enter each child’s name, age, and interest. If there was only one child it the page was only displayed once.

Reduce Survey Fatigue

Hiding pages that aren’t relevant to the respondent keeps the survey short and reduces survey fatigue. The result is a higher completion rate that in this case means higher enrollment.

Consolidate Data

If you need other applicant material, including a file upload question in your web form is the way to go.

The Family Lives On foundation included this question type in their enrollment form so that necessary documentation to qualify for the program, such as a medical note, death certificate or obituary could be sent.

Keeping a respondent’s information in one place makes it easy to track the applicant’s progress and improves efficiency.

Include A Call To Action

Take advantage of the Thank You page to customize your message and provide additional resource links or a strong call to action.

This foundation included a calendar link in their Thank You message so that the respondent could immediately schedule their phone interview as soon as the enrollment form was submitted.

Asking respondents to schedule their appointment while it is fresh in their mind greatly reduces time gaps and prevents enrollment drop off. In this case it has sped up the entire interview process.

Automate Notification

This foundation also used an email action to trigger once an enrollment form is submitted to notify the Program Manager that an appointment is pending.

You can send a notification to the user as well as other administrators who need to know.

Track Enrollment

One of the many beauties of collecting data online, is the real-time reporting. This foundation can quickly track the number of enrollments in a given time period and filter the data by region, child age, and/or other demographics collected for grants and funding.

Transfer Data

Using an application with an open API allows data collected from the web form to be pushed to a third party database using an Webhook (formerly known as HTTP Connect) action.

This means that when the time is right, this organization will be able to push the data to new so they can track contact and visits through one system.

Telecommunication Application

The second technology this foundation implanted was Skype. Previously, family meetings required in-home visits.

Managing the logistics of scheduling was time-consuming as was the journey itself.

With limited staff covering several regions, they were burning gas as well as time. Skype allowed them to serve more families in less time.

As it turned out there were additional benefits. The children felt more comfortable sharing their feelings behind a big screen rather than in person and the surviving parent appreciated the ease of delivery.

The Result

Turning to technology reduced costs and greatly improved efficiency.

Using SurveyGizmo for their online enrollment has resulted in a 515% increase in family enrollments.

Replacing home visits with Skype family meetings increased the number of families served per month by 190%. They continue to improve efficiency. They have now moved their volunteer application, tradition approval form, as well as their expense receipts online.

The Family Lives On is now in the position to pursue national funding and corporate sponsors.


Donors have many worthy causes to give to. They will choose your organization because their values align with your mission, but they will only give if you can show them you are lean and mean with your charitable spending.

Make this year a success by streamlining your business processes.

Sources: Unique Issues In Nonprofit Marekting Strategies 2014 Nonprofit Marketing Research Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends in North America Getting to Aha!The Nonprofit Marketer’s Top Challenge

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