Why I Chose to Give a Toy Lamb (Anatomy of a Giving Campaign)

When you’re designing a gift campaign, sometimes it helps to look at other campaigns from the perspective of a donor. See what makes the campaign appeal to you; suggest improvements; and discover whether the campaign actually prompts you to complete a giving transaction.

Let’s look at a campaign that caught my eye on Thanksgiving Day. In this campaign, led by a nonprofit organizaton, donors could purchase a particular gift to be given to a child or family living in poverty. The campaign focused on how a small purchase price could provide a gift with a much larger impact.

Gift Campaign Attractions

Why did this campaign grab my attention?

Several reasons:

(1) It makes giving affordable. I won’t hesitate to spend under $10 for a good cause. I don’t have to go over my bank records or think whether or not I can afford it. For coffee lovers, giving up two or three seasonal designer coffees at Starbucks would cover the cost.

(2) I could tell visually from the LinkedIn ad photo and from the website landing page that the campaign offered a lot of variety. We all have different preferences, in terms of what we’d like to give. I could tell immediately that this campaign would allow flexibility of choices. That made me feel empowered as a giver. I could connect with an opportunity that spoke to my heart.

(3) The offer was simple: I could choose my donation and the organization would take care of distribution to the people who most needed this gift. I have given to this organization before and am familiar with their work, so I trusted their promise.

Here is where your year-long content creation efforts – blog posts, case studies, newsletters – pay off in year-end giving. Those year-round efforts create and nurture relationships; they help people become familiar with what you do on a daily basis; they build trust.

With this organization, I didn’t have to investigate or think. I just wanted to give. Had I needed more information, I could easily click on the website’s navigation links to experience the organization and learn more about what they do. The risk there, of course, is that I might not have made it back to the donation page. Hence, their year-long efforts to keep me engaged kept me focused on the donation process on the screen in front of me. This was not the time to learn; this was simply the time to give.

(4) The final attraction to this campaign is that the donation was for a specific item. People love to give something tangible where they can imagine their gift being given and used. I could decide if I wanted to pay for chickens for a family; blankets; hot meals; recreational items; food for a baby; and more. These items were $10 and under, and this was a suggested (not required) donation. I could give less, knowing it would still be put to good use in helping children and families.

If I had more to give, I could choose from a different list with items priced above $10. These included house repairs; medical procedures (from a list of even more specific needs); water filters; and more. For high-cost items, like surgery, I was given the option to pay a portion around $25, knowing my gift would be pooled with gifts from other people to make that surgery possible.

In the end, I chose a $10 gift that provides 4 plush lamb toys for children. While this might not sound as helpful as a water filter or feeding a baby, I know from firsthand experience of working with children in trauma how comforting a plush animal can be. I was wanting my gift to provide comfort, and a little toy animal was for me the ideal way to deliver that emotional comfort.

Areas for Gift Campaign Improvements

Having participated as a donor in this gift campaign, I got to experience the process from beginning to end. This is a helpful way to learn how to improve the donor’s experience. Going through several of these campaigns from other organizations, looking closely at the experience, will help you improve your own campaign.

(1) The website was formatted beautifully on my iPhone and easy to navigate. However, I prefer to do financial transactions on my computer. When I opened the website on my computer, the formatting didn’t fit well on my screen. I could never fully read the item description at the bottom of the screen, and I could see only half of the “Add Item” button.

If I hadn’t been familiar with this organization, I would have been tempted to give up. Instead, I pressed through because I knew I wanted to support this campaign. Even so, the formatting caused confusion and I spent more time on the transaction than I might have liked. It’s important to test the layout of your campaign on multiple devices and screen sizes.

Don’t assume donor loyalty will be enough for people to press through. Even the most loyal customers are concerned about online security of financial transactions. If everything doesn’t appear straightforward, they might withhold their donation, simply because the layout makes them uncomfortable.

(2) Because I could not read the full item description on my computer, I wasn’t really sure what my $10 was providing, other than it coincided with the picture of a plush lamb toy. I didn’t know the toy was musical; that $10 was enough to provide toys for 4 children; or that the toys would be given to the children along with their Christmas gift boxes. I had to return to my iPhone and open the item description there to learn more about what I was giving. Not everyone will be that diligent or take that extra time.

Even on my iPhone, when I opened the description, the top line showed over some other text, so it was hard to read. This might seem like a minor detail, but keep this in mind: Formatting errors make the process appear rushed. I know this organization well, and I know how busy they are and how much they are handling this time of year. I’m willing to give them some leeway and understanding.

However, not everyone who visits your campaign knows you. Some might be visiting for the first time and not yet sure if they want to support your efforts. When they see glitches in the formatting, they might wonder if this reflects how well your organization is run, or how much they can trust you with their money. People are very careful where they give their limited funds. They will be overly cautious in looking for telltale signs that cause them not to trust.

(3) My payment transaction linked me with my PayPal account (by choice). However, PayPal (by default) told me the items were being shipped to my address. This caused me to leave my computer screen, go back and look over the information on my iPhone, to be sure I wasn’t getting any items sent to me.

My understanding was that I was simply providing a donation, whereby these items would be sent by the organization to the children in need. That was, in fact, the case. But it took time to make sure, and in the process, I abandoned my computer screen before completing the transaction. We all know that when a person walks away from a transaction screen, that person might get distracted and never return to complete the transaction.

Better messaging along the way would have helped, e.g., the item description might have reassured me that I was donating to provide 4 lamb toys, which the organization would ship to children in need. Those little extra details can make all the difference in helping someone feel secure with an online transaction.

(4) The thank you note that I received online, after my purchase was complete, took time to appear on the screen. I was “told” that if the note did not appear I could refresh my screen; but most people don’t want to hit the refresh button in the midst of a financial transaction. I might have left without reading the note, and it is the thank you note that makes a huge difference in bringing a donor back again.

That thank you note is what helps the donor really feel the difference he or she has made in a person’s life. With an online transaction, you have to work extra hard to give a donor a tangible way to feel what has taken place. The thank you note is one of the most important pieces of your campaign messaging.

As it was, when the note opened, it was in a text-based font and hard to read.  The wording caused confusion, making me think I would not also receive a copy by email. I had to go check my email to be sure a copy was sent before I exited the screen.


On the whole, I appreciated the opportunity to donate plush lambs to 4 children to help them feel comforted and loved. That’s the main reason I gave the donation, and I chose to give through an organization I knew would be faithful to deliver those lambs to the children. I will also return to give again in the future because of my long history of giving with this organization and the trust I have with them.

However, if I were new to this organization or to this campaign, I might not have completed the transaction or returned. Just a few simple tweaks with the layout and messaging would have given me a better experience.

When you set up a giving campaign, I strongly recommend you gather a team of people you trust to test out your process and give feedback before you launch. Test the process from beginning to end. Be sure these are people who can be objective and critical.

It’s the little things that will build trust and assurance; help people complete transactions; and bring them back to support you in the future. It’s also in the details where people will feel empowered by their experience. This helps nurture a desire to keep giving and an interest in learning more about what you do throughout the year.