Five star reviews

amazon5starOnce you adopt a mindset of ‘how can we get people to spread our story?‘ obvious ideas seem to drop out.

jg2So how about simply asking your donors to rate and review you and sharing this on your website? So simple yet I can’t find a single charity that does this. Whilst there are third party review sites like GuideStar and Charity Navigator in the US that’s not the same thing. Maybe this is because it needs a bit of effort to add reviews to your website? Star ratings for organisations, including charities, are already there on Facebook profiles, but this doesn’t seem to be used much probably because you don’t tend to go to a charities Facebook page to rate them. JustGiving  enables charities to have a page filled with a selection of comments given by donors and fundraisers on their JustGiving donate page (see the example donor comments from Child Rescue Nepal) although that’s not quite what I mean.  I couldn’t find anyone who actively encouraged and shared reviews by donors via their own website. I did notice Wix (a cloud based platform that enables you to build a decent website using drag and drop options) have an app you can simply drag into your website to start customer reviews. So is it really that difficult?

So let me convince you why it’s worth doing.

fullsizerenderIf you are gong to buy a camera chances are you will do two thing’s – ask a friend do they have a camera they would recommend or look at the Amazon reviews online. Now we don’t totally believe the marketing said directly by the brands like Panasonic or Sony.  So customer reviews count especially from someone who we know. Many retailers now invite you to provide your own customer review online (so it’s not just limited to market places like Amazon). The other week I was in John Lewis buying bedding. And alongside the duvets were customer reviews and ratings. Of course I’m sure they pick the ones that stand out – but it’s an acknowledgment that we can just look on our phone anyway to find reviews.

Of course it’s about putting yourself out there. What if you get bad reviews? Well that’s why you need to give amazing customer service and produce great products! So if this is the way that customer facing businesses now use (have to use) why not for charities with their donors?

Capture that emotional decision

But donating is different to buying goods. With donating we don’t buy the product then get to try it out (maybe with the exception of schemes like child sponsorship). The moment we buy – even before we buy – is part of the experience. So that’s when you need to ask people to give a customer/donor review. At the the moment they give. There was a reason that prompted them to give – that’s what they are buying : the fulfilment of that emotion.

What if people give you bad reviews? Yes that’s possible but unlikely given they have just donated to do you! And if they do then it probably means your donor experience needs sorting out and they are doing you a favour.

And this is the best bit. Give them the option and ask them to share their review. Instead of being a ‘review’, which sounds a bit of an effort, make it a question like – ‘Please tell us why you are donating to our cause? And then add ‘Would you please share this with your network of friends?‘. And a tick box to allow you to share their comment as well. You could say it would be a tremendous help to helping attract attention (it would). You wouldn’t state how much they gave – just the fact someone has supported you (or possibly how e.g. Amanda just started a regular donation).

whyWe started this at SolarAid adding a free text box simply asking donors Why they were donating. We would get emotional responses that we would share with staff and trustees, as well as reassuring ones like “a friend told me about your work“, and occasionally insights too like “I want to offset my carbon and give back to the environment ; give back to the earth not just take!“. As a result of ones like this we changed our SEO so for anyone searching “carbon offset charity” SolarAid comes up. But we didn’t give people the opportunity to rate us and share it (yet).

Another opportunity (but I think in the moment is better) is when you email to say thank you could ask the donor “could you please tell us why you choose to donate to us?” and make the point you can use this to improve your understanding and, if they are willing for you to share it, help attract other people. It’s another way donors can really help you. I’m sure it adds to their donor experience too. I have always found it a great question to ask over the phone when I would call a donor to thank them.

Measure what you value

It’s also something you could ask people to do at anytime. Maybe start by capturing ‘reviews’ when people donate and then you could go that step further. ‘As you’ve supported us for a while please tell us what you think of us’. Or it could be an opportunity you offer regular donors after 12 months. What a great excuse to engage long term donors.  Of course you might get some poor reviews too – at least you can then decide whether to do something about the feedback.

And if a supporter allows you to link with their social media then potentially their friends can see they are advocates for your cause. So I see a future when I could arrive at a place to give online and see positive reviews from people I know (and trust). For example Audible tells me which people in my network use Audible too and what they think of it.

There is also an opportunity you can use to ask people to share with the world that they support your cause, and that’s Giving Tuesday at the start of December. Rather than think how can you use Giving Tuesday to get money out of people, think how can you use it to get them to say “I support <your charity name>” and say ask them to say why. You can repost what they say and give them a public thank you too (and I bet it will prime them to think about a further donation to you too because it will remind them of their why).

Setting up your version of 5 star reviews needs a bit of conscious effort but if it leads to enhancing the donor experience, building your reputation (your reputation is what other people say about you) and convincing new donors it will easily be worth it. The reason I believe we don’t do it is because if the mindset is ‘how to get money out of you’ the whole experience when giving online is very functional and transactional. The focus is how to target people for money so time, effort, budget goes into just that along with the thinking of the fundraiser(s). If I am asked anything its to determine how to target more people like me such as ‘tell us where you heard about us’. Yet if you think ‘how can I inspire you to spread our story?’ then ideas like this seem really obvious. And of course we need to take into account those potential donors we put off and who get a poor experience (is that a bad thing?).  What I found surprising is I couldn’t find one charity that does it when you donate on their website. Not one. But then that’s not surprising if the mindset is not there (and by my own omission we hadn’t gone that extra step at SolarAid – yet).

Of course to ensure you get 5 star reviews you need to give a great donor experience and communicate you do great work. As the saying goes measure what you value!



If anyone knows of a charity that encourages reviews from donors which it shares openly please let me know. 

7 thoughts on “Five star reviews

    • Hi Irene, It probably starts by getting someone to look at your payment provider when people donate on your website online and whether they can enable you to introduce fields that capture information such as a review or why someone gives to you. Many providers don’t seem to offer this for donations (but maybe charities just haven’t asked as it’s clearly a feature used by businesses). There are options out there which might cost a bit to set up but I think would be worth the trouble and very flexible (so Strip is one example I have come across If you wanted to do it in stages the first step would be to collect donor comments that you don’t publish to see for yourself by simply asking people to say why they are donating to you. Then the next step would be allowing and encouraging donors to share this with their network, and finally asking them if you can share their comment/review/reason for giving. That said its probably more cost effective to implement it in one go. Richard


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