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Lesson #3 from 3 Key Lessons to Maximize your Gift Catalog

Written By: Brian Tucker


Here’s part three of a story outlining how, earlier in my career, I worked to help grow World Vision gift catalog’s revenue by over 300% in a five-year period.

With the luxury of a large budget that comes with a large fundraising organization, we were able to test and learn; to throw things at the wall and see what stuck, so to speak. I’d like to share some of the things we learned from our tests along the way.



Lesson #3: Gift Catalog Digital Experience: Optimize, optimize, optimize!


The online experience is often the most overlooked, yet it’s also the most important. On average, most nonprofits are bringing in at least 65% of their gift catalog program revenue through their website, but they spend the least amount of time optimizing for it.

One of the reasons for this is the limitations of many of the charitable giving platforms. If you want to get serious about gift catalog revenue, you might need to look for a specialized platform or potentially consider have a system custom-developed for your organization. But first you need to know what to look for!


Is your cart really a cart?

When you are browsing an online shopping website, the website’s entire goal is to get you to buy more than one thing. This is the complete opposite of a donation form, which is designed to get you to do one thing and one thing only.

A solid catalog program gets an average of 2.25 items per transaction, which means that your donors are looking to buy multiple items. If the cart process doesn’t make this easy you are missing out on a huge portion of online revenue.


Is your website retail optimized?

An optimized website has the ability to get as many high-value products above the fold as possible while still being visually pleasing and easy to navigate.

This is usually achieved through a grid setup in a hierarchy of one hero product, two high-level products, then rows of three products in diminishing value. The product should match the description and photo from the print catalog to make it easy for the donor to find.

You’ll also want to pay special attention to the product description and photos. You have a little more freedom to include more photos, videos, and stories online than in print so take advantage of it! This can be a daunting task for gift catalogs with hundreds of products, so focus on your top performing products first and work your way through. Take a look at archived videos and photos from your direct mail fundraising because you might already have what you need!


Why physical gift cards are still better

I’ll leave you with one last story from my World Vision days. We were testing out a new microfinance program that had a gift card functionality built into it. For the two years before I started working on the program, the gift cards were only digital (meaning a donor could purchase them digitally and email them to a recipient).

One day when I was in line at the checkout at my local Target store, when I noticed how many fun gift card designs they had. This got me thinking that if one of America’s largest retailers pushed gift cards so much there must be a good reason!

To test this theory, we designed a special gift card that looked like a piggy bank for the microfinance product (get it?!). It even came on a neat card backer that could be hung from a retail display. When we started pushing them during the holidays, I was hoping for a 10% increase in gift card sales. Instead, we ended up increasing revenue by 43% from the previous year!

We live in a digital world, but people still enjoy giving gifts to each other in person. In the end we’re all just trying to facilitate a human connection and to truly make the world better, so keep that in mind before you ditch the analog parts of your catalog program.

I hope you derived some value from these gift catalog lessons. If you missed the first two posts, you can read about Lesson #1 here and Lesson #2 here.


Topics: Annual Giving

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