Ecommerce case study – How we helped a UK charity achieve 900% increase in online donations
Through a personal referral, I was tasked with helping a small UK charity to develop a new source of online donation. They already receive regular donations for specific campaigns, from members of the general public via Virgin Money Giving. The new stream of an online donation,
I was asked to help with was the fast-growing eCard donations niche. In this niche, supporters of a charity or any member of the general public will send a Birthday, Christmas or any other card, and make a donation to the charity, on whose site/platform the eCard was sent.
The objective was to help Hope Spring, a small UK water poverty alleviation charity, to increase online donations from an eCommerce enabled ecard page. The organization had an existing affiliate type arrangement, with an ecard services platform provider. Our original brief was to help integrate the affiliate code, into appropriate page on their website. This objective was achieved very easily; it was a basic cut and paste job.
During the implementation of the affiliate type, eCard sending arrangement. I noticed several constraints and limitations, the platform imposed on the charity. The partnership was immensely skewed in favor of the platform owner, with very little revenue coming to the charity.
Some of the constraints and limitations include:
- Ownership of donor details brought to the platform by our client is the property of the affiliate platform provider.
- Hope Spring had limited to no access to important statistical information, such as donor demographics, their journey through the checkout system, etc.
- The platform provider unilaterally decides the donation amount, whether it is right for Hope Spring or not.
- The number of available ecards Hope Spring have access to is limited.
- Hundreds of other clients are sending out the exact same eCards Hope Spring visitors are sending out.
What is worth doing at all is worth doing well
Hope Spring was happy with the revenue/donations that started coming in, after the implementation of the affiliate type eCard pages. After giving an exhaustive list of the limitations to their current eCard implementation. I outlined the massive revenue potentials, not to mention the marketing opportunities owning data from their user will give them. Hope Spring was happy to give me a new instruction, with some clear new objectives to develop their own eCard platform for them.
The objectives of the new eCard platform were to:
- Create an own brand eCard website for Hope Spring
- Create an admin interface that makes adding new cards easily
- Integrate a suitable payment gateway
- Implement multiple currency options so that international users can make donations in their local currency
- Use robust and tested technology to create the platform
- Build basic stats information so that the admin knows the most popular card and other useful information
How the objectives were achieved?
Developing an eCard platform
Small charities, like small businesses, have a limited budget for eCommerce website development. That budget factor, coupled with the fact that it does not make sense to reinvent the wheel, made us choose WordPress as the platform to build Hope Spring eCommerce powered eCard web app on. We experimented with using woo-commerce, on WordPress, but woocommerce was too large, clunky and complete overkill for what I was trying to do. I eventually concluded that developing a WordPress plugin is the best way to go, and that is what I did.
There is absolutely no need to introduce WordPress because even if you live under a rock, you would have heard of WordPress by now. Working with a WordPress plugin developer, we created a custom WordPress plugin, that meets all the needs of Hope Spring ecards. Once the plugin was ready, it was just a matter of creating a sub-domain https://ecards.hopespring.org.uk , installing WordPress, installing the plugin into WordPress, adding a payment gateway, and Hope Spring owned platform was ready to start taking donations!
Essential characteristics of the platform
By building on robust, tried and tested open platform like WordPress, Hope Spring removed the need for maintaining and supporting a new, potentially costly system internally. Using a proven technology like WordPress also help to avoid long development time frame and potential system failure at crucial times, such as Christmas, when the system gets the highest traffic.
Google Ad Grants for Charity
Without traffic, It does not matter how responsive, or user-friendly a website is. That is why after developing the new ecard website, we worked on Google Ads to drive traffic to the newly completed site. One of the PPC market places, Google had a generous grant system for called Google Ad Grants.
This gives registered charity about $10,000 to spend on advertising the cause on the Google search platform. Hope Spring is a beneficiary of this grant. After spending up to two days on keyword research, creating and testing ads the advertisement for Hope Spring ecard went live on Google, and within a few hours, they started receiving traffic.
Search Engine Optimisation
Most SEO experts will probably agree with me, that getting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, will be a much easier task these days than to get a new website to rank highly in Google for important keywords. The trick is not to be disillusioned by this herculean task, but to embrace it with all the white hat SEO techniques in the book. We focused on five techniques in particular:
- We enabled all the SEO features of the platform the website was built on. Features such as setting the permalink to the most SEO friendly.
- We devised a naming convention for pages, categories and subcategories that will help with SEO visibility.
- We helped the organizations to claim their Google My Business listing.
- Because images, in the form of ecard is their main product. We started them off with an ecard naming convention, which will help their ecards rank high in Google. For example, a birthday ecard, with the drawing of a cat is named just that. Instead of the default name that came with the image.
- We focused a lot more attention on the birthday ecard section of their site. This is the section that brings them the most revenue, aside from the Christmas ecards
Hope Spring has a limited social media following. The charity also said it does not want to bombard its followers with marketing from their ecard site, so we.
Rested few post costs for their social media platforms announced the arrival of their own ecard platform. There is no evidence that this helped their sales, we are sure it helps send positive ranking signals to their website.
The affiliate marketing pages was taken offline; 501 redirects was used to forward the pages to the new subdomain hosting the WordPress powered ecard platform. So the new site started getting traffic from day one. The minimum donation on the old affiliate powered platform was £1.
This was raised to £3, with the option to select £5, £10, £15 or enter a custom amount. £5 was highlighted as the default amount. If you want to donate a lower of higher than £5, you have to use the custom payment option to select how much you want to donate.
This changes alone, which was made possible by the new system saw a surge in donations value, as most people left the default £5 selection unchanged, as they send their ecard.
Five useful eCommerce tips when working with a Charity/Non Profit
- Most large payment processing companies have more favorable transaction rates for charities and not-for-profit organizations. It is worth investigating to get better ROI for your client when working with charities.
- When taking payments across international boundaries, PayPal can be more favorable than other payment processing companies. For example, with PayPal, you do not pay any additional fee for each international currency you collect payment in.
- Collecting cross border and the international currency is much easier on the web than in and app. There are various restrictions and red tape involved when collecting donations in an app, which does not exist on the web.
- Building a promo code into a shopping cart is an essential part of an eCommerce website. Even it what your client does seem not to need it. If an eCommerce site has a promo code, there is a much better marketing opportunity for the site, than a site with no promo code facility.
Conclusion: Ecommerce Case Study 2020
How aspects Hope Spring online fundraising was transformed, to raise significantly more money than it previously raised, is a very good example of how you can achieve a lot, with very little resources. Sometimes, by joining the dots, that is literally staring you in the face, you can achieve a lot. In the above example, WordPress, the ubiquitous open-source platform, coupled with Google Ad Grants and some search engine optimization technique transformed the fundraising of a small charity for the better.
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