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Why Social Proof Matters for Nonprofits

By Franny Lown
If you’re planning on splurging on a new pair of running sneakers, you will likely begin your research by consulting reviews – either online or through family and friends. You will go to the sources you trust for recommendations to explore first-hand accounts about the product. You want to know that you’re making a smart financial decision, not unlike choosing which nonprofit to support with a donation or volunteering your time. Enter: social proof. Social proof is one way to validate that websites are trusted – from personal testimonials to security validation on your donation page. Social proof comes from the concept of “normative social influence,” which dictates that people are often persuaded and conform to the reactions of others. To put it simply, we care about what other people think and recommend. We have a fundamental human need to be socially connected, something marketers know very well.  To put this in perspective, 92 percent of consumers buy something thanks to word-of-mouth or recommendations from a friend, and brand products with reviews have a 70 percent trust rate. With social proof, first-time visitors can easily digest why your community feels a connection to your organization, which can inspire donations. This can also positively impact your SEO, as Google takes social proof into account when ranking your website. If you’re not familiar with SEO, there’s a blog for that The following options are a few great ways to incorporate social proof.  

1. Make your content easy to share

In order to showcase testimonials and reviews on your website, make it as easy as possible for your supporters to spread the word about your mission by including social sharing buttons. This gives your supporters a chance to showcase their philanthropy to drive more donations.  Having a convenient button to help broadcast your message makes it easy to recommend your organization to the masses through third party sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. In turn, including these sharing buttons can drive more traffic to your website and to your cause, which is a great way to demonstrate trust. You can choose to include social sharing buttons on your homepage, and after a donation has been processed, supporters can share and comment something like, “Hey, I just donated to this nonprofit! And you should, too.” 

causemic social sharing buttons


2. Tell stories

Here at CauseMic, we’re wild about telling stories. Showcase your nonprofit community by highlighting those you serve, those who give to your organization, and how others have benefitted from your services. This is a tactic that for-profit companies use all the time to demonstrate how consumers rate and interact with their products, and nonprofits can take notes! For example, Hubspot highlights customer testimonials on their website that show how different companies leverage their product – which encourages prospective clients to do the same.  social proof blog customer testimonial example Storytelling is the secret sauce to fundraising, and when you weave it into social proof, it both demonstrates your impact and improves SEO. Selamta Family Project does a stellar job of including these stories directly on their homepage to highlight how their work impacts the community, which builds trust at the same time. Win-win. social proof blog example  

3. Let the numbers do the talking

Highlight the community you want others to join. Have a hefty following on Twitter? Showcase that number if you’re hungry for more, “Join our 1M+ Twitter followers”.  Making your impact measureable helps put your community into perspective. Since we’re such big fans of communicating with impact, we’ve gone into more detail here. FriarWorks outlines their progress directly on their homepage, which highlights their impact over the past couple years. Wow, over two million meals served? That seems legit. I’m interested in learning more, and hopefully prospective donors will, too.  social proof blog causemic  

4. Stay secure

A big fear for givers unfamiliar with the online donation process is feeling distrust in security. Let your supporters know their donations will be safely processed by including proof of security to qualm any fears. Add logos of the donation security your nonprofit leverages, or include validation from Charity Navigator or GuideStar that can highlight how your nonprofit is “ranked” according to their standards around transparency and efficiency. In NextAfter’s study on perceived donation page security, they tested two donation pages – one with a lock icon, and one without. Adding this simple lock icon increased conversion by 20%, even though the pages were otherwise identical. Proof of security helped donors know that their donation would be safe and resulted in more money in the door.   

5. Highlight Your Community

Not every nonprofit is going to be able to leverage notable supporters to spread awareness, but showcasing endorsements and support is always a good idea.  United Nations solidarity campaign HeForShe (launched by actress Emma Watson) showcases their community of supportive celebrities that feel equally passionate about their mission for gender equality. Tom Hiddleston, Simon Pegg, Harry Styles and Eddie Redmayne, to name a few. These familiar faces make it easy for a prospective supporter to say, “Wow, all of these different celebrities support this movement? I should, too.”   

6. Share prominent stories from credible news sources

Was your nonprofit recently featured in a story on NPR? Does your mission coincide with a natural disaster that’s publicized on the news?  These stories can be used to your advantage, if you leverage the news cycle to help drive awareness. This doesn’t mean launching a full-fledged flash fundraising campaign every time your nonprofit is featured, but it can help to drive support if you use these opportunities to get your brand out there. As a disaster response organization, Team Rubicon is highlighted in the news surrounding natural disasters (Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Dorian, etc.) on frequent occasion, which is how new supporters can find out about their organization and the work they do to rebuild. By leveraging stories by NBC, CBS and Fox News, it makes it easier for prospective supporters to learn about what they do. social proof blog team rubicon example To recap: make sharing easy, let your stories and impact numbers shine, showcase security on your online donation page to increase conversions, and highlight your community of supporters. All of these factors will demonstrate why a prospective donor should consider giving, and ultimately joining your nonprofit community. With these factors in mind, you’ll be proving your social status in no time. Sorry we had to rhyme.

For more tips on optimizing your donation page, explore these best practices on the blog.