Beyond the controversy of whether or not Notre-Dame de Paris deserved all the attention it got, it is inarguably an exceptional fundraising event, particularly rich in lessons for all those involved in charity.

More than a billion euros were raised in a few days, representing nearly 20% of the annual funds collected by French philanthropy. Even though, most of the funds come from major donors and companies, the figures from online donations, which correspond to a very large majority of individual donors, are impressive. 30 million euros were collected online coming from two hundred and fifty thousand donations, ranging from 1 euro to 100,000 euros; the median donation being 100 euros and an average donation of 130 euros. Six main lessons can be drawn from this exceptional event:

1. Be more visible & not be overtaken by others

The first observation is the explosion in the number of actors who collected funds from the general public, and those who neither are legitimate sources nor able to issue a tax receipt. While the monument was still in flames, Internet users soon called on the generosity of the French via one thousand eight hundred campaigns on Leetchi, fifty collections on GoFundme, as well as numerous collection pages on Le Pot Commun or Facebook. Associations were now “in competition” with these personal initiatives, which were being set up very quickly. Even if the associations could recover the collected funds at a later stage, they did not easily and automatically recover the data and were not fully involved in the collection with those donors who had given to personal initiatives.

2. Be reassuring

Journalists’ alerts to the risks of scams and the number of players may have caused confusion among internet users and donors. Proposing a white-label form, on an official and recognized website gives the donor the necessary confidence & reassurance that their donation is going to the right place.

3. Be the first

Four official associations (Fondation du Patrimoine, Fondation Notre-Dame, Centre des Monuments nationaux and Fondation de France) were involved in the national campaign, but it was the Fondation du Patrimoine which collected 60% of donations from individuals. Why? Because it was the very first to launch its fundraising campaign. All the media took over the information and the Fondation du Patrimoine was the first to appear on associated requests on Google or on social networks (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn), which represented up to 30% of traffic. Since 70% of the funds were collected within 48 hours, it’s safe to say it is necessary to move faster and faster. Therefore, it is necessary to think upstream: organize on-call teams all year round that can operate outside working days and hours, have intervention procedures, dedicated budgets that can be immediately invested in media purchases, identified service providers that can be called upon urgently, further promote the agility and autonomy of operational teams and accelerate decision-making to the maximum.

4. Think mobile and a responsive user experience

50% of connections on online donation forms were made via a smartphone. However, smartphone donations accounted for only 21% of the total. How is this possible? Because the mobile user experience was not optimal. Entering all personal information and a credit card is not suitable for a mobile experience. It is therefore important to reduce the number of fields to the minimum necessary, make it easier to enter the same fields through autocompletion, and offer one-click payment methods such as PayPal, Apple Pay, AmazonPay, and GooglePay .

5. Involve companies

French companies very quickly wanted to join this surge of generosity and show their solidarity with their employees, but also with customers, shareholders, partners and suppliers. In order to better involve them, it is relevant to create personalized donation forms for them where they can match their employees’ and clients’ donations and/or possibly cover transaction costs.

6. Be prepared

In an increasingly connected world, where everything is moving faster and faster, where one emergency takes precedence over another, an emergency fundraising campaign should be anticipated and prepared. Thus, having a highly secure donation form, in at least two languages, capable of supporting heavy traffic (more than two million visits) is fundamental. In the case of Notre Dame, all the countries in the world made a donation (except Somalia and North Korea). We saw up to fifteen thousand connections per second, and faced more than a hundred attempted computer attacks in a week! During some television appearances, association sites or dedicated landing pages took up to six seconds to load because they were unable to support traffic. Unfortunately, many donations were lost because of this. Being able to cope with such an influx requires an appropriate infrastructure.

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Antoine Martel – Co-founder & CEO, iRaiser