An online donation page probably shouldn’t be your only path to accepting donations, but it is an important part of a holistic fundraising strategy. Getting page right will pay dividends. Last year the number of online donations grew by 13% (1) and are expected to continue to rise.
Allowing people to give online isn’t just about throwing up a payment portal. There is both an art and science to designing a frictionless experience that maximizes conversion rates (% of unique visitors to donation pages that complete the transaction). To demonstrate these best practices we embarked on a study of the websites of top 100 nonprofits and distilled our recommendations into the following guide.
PREFACE: GETTING TO THE DONATION PAGE
Before we jump into the donation page itself, it is important that you make it easy to find and make a compelling case for them to head there.
1. Easy to find Donation button/links.
A user should be able to find your donation button/link within 1 second of the page loading. This button/link needs to be part of the top navigation found in the website’s header. One common best practice is to use a shade of orange or red to highlight this button/link. This choice of color immediately catches the eye.
2. Clear calls to action throughout website
Easily visible donations buttons are perfect for those who already intend to give, but many visitors will require a little persuasion. Strategically place donation calls to action throughout your website. Include a few words or sentences inviting them to join you in making an impact. Tip: Inspire, don’t use guilt.
3. Link Directly to the Donation Process.
When someone clicks a donation buttons or link, they should be taken immediately to the start of that process. A common mistake is to insert an additional page with lots of text about the different ways to give, which then requires the users to click a donate button again. This concept makes sense at first glance (there are more ways to give than just online donations after all), but every extra step in the process will reduce conversion rates which at the end of the day means less money for your cause. Don’t do it. Instead, immediately start them down the path of online giving via a credit card, but include links to other ways to give for those that had another method in mind.
Don’t require people to solve a captcha or to login/register before donating either. These are a big user experience hurdle that will cost you big money.
THE DONATION PAGE ITSELF
4. Mobile Friendly
Your entire site should be mobile friendly, but with more than 14% of online donations coming from mobile devices (1), it is particularly important your donation page is mobile friendly. There are different ways to make a mobile friendly website, but due to the vast number of different screen sizes, the most commonly used approach is responsive design. These websites dynamically resize and reorganize content to fit the size of any screen.
5. Remove Distractions
The more time something takes, and the more distractions present, the lower your conversion rate will be. Keep these tips in mind, and your donation process will be focused exclusively on the one task at hand…converting that visitor into a donor.
- Hide the standard top navigation in header
…becomes the following on the donation page.
- Employ a simple footer design
- Eliminate unnecessary links
- Hide social media icons
- Use text sparingly
6. Include a Brief but Compelling “Why.”
Your job of convincing someone to donate isn’t over once they click the donate button. Not every visitor to your donation page is determined to give today, and even if they are they may be weighing several organizations. Having a short and compelling reason why they should give, requires understanding what motivates your donors and tapping into that without coming across as manipulative or self-serving.
Here are some examples to help get the juices flowing.
Best Friends Animal Society
Your contribution to Best Friends goes straight to work helping tens of thousands of animals—both at the Sanctuary and through outreach and rescue programs all across the country. With a gift of $25 or more, you’ll receive six bimonthly issues of Best Friends magazine.
SHED LIGHT ON INJUSTICE.
Human rights abusers hide in the shadows. They kidnap, imprison, and torture their subjects under the shroud of secrecy. That’s why we work to expose human rights violations whenever and wherever they happen and shine a beacon of hope to everyone still waiting for justice. Together, we can make universal human rights a reality. But we need your support.
Susan G Komen
Your contribution is more than a donation; it is how we will work to end breast cancer forever. You may choose to direct your donation to stage IV/ metastatic breast cancer research, general breast cancer research, or triple negative breast cancer research.
On behalf of everyone impacted by breast cancer, thank you for being More than Pink.
Note: If you offer something in return for a donation, the fair market value of that good or service must be subtracted from the tax deductible portion of the gift. For an example of a disclaimer related to this, check out the bottom of the Humane Society’s donation page.
7. Limit to One Image (or None at All)
Less is better when it comes to imagery as well. The use of a single image that supports the value proposition can be a powerful way to connect the act of giving to the ultimate beneficiary of their support. Anything more than one image begins to distract from the primary objective of successfully completing the donation.
8. Use Suggested Donation Amounts
The vast majority of the top 100 nonprofits used an approach that included 4-5 suggested donations paired with the option to enter a custom amount. Around half of these orgs highlighted a default suggested value (usually the 2nd or 3rd option).
Lowest values: Most commonly $25-50
Highest Values: Most commonly $1000, but ranged from $250 to $5000
The use of a highlighted default suggested value leverages a marketing technique called anchoring. This relies on the brain’s tendency to heavily rely on the first piece of information (such as price) offered when making decisions. In the case of donations, it will cause people to tend to give closer to the anchored value than they otherwise might have. It is important to understand that it can work in both directions, though. Small gifts might come up in average value, but you’ll want to watch to see if your larger donations also tend to move down towards the anchor. Anchor too high and your average online donation might come up, but the number of donations might begin dropping off costing you money in the end. Anchor too low and you might get more donations, but see a drop in average value. In short, skip this unless you are prepared to test multiple iterations (including no suggested donation value) and track not just average donation values, but also total donations and conversion rates.
9. Long Donation Page vs. Multiple Smaller Steps?
There were two standard approaches in page design. The first was to house the entire donation form on a single page. The other breaks the process up via 2-3 small steps and assigns each to its page/window. A typical example of this approach would be first to select the amount, click next and then enter your billing information, click next and then in the last window to enter your payment information. We saw both great and not-so-great examples of both.
For the multiple distinct steps approach
- No more than three steps (including where you landed when you clicked donate button)
- Indicate current step relative to others in the process
We slightly prefer the compact one-pager due to its process transparency (you see everything that is expected of you) and the fact that it eliminates the need for extra “next” button clicks.
Though the following applies to the distinct steps approach, it is particularly the case of with single donation page route.
10. Use the Fewest fields Possible
The following eight”Your Information” fields were required on most forms:
- First Name
- Last Name
- Country (pre-populate with most common or from IP Address)
- Address (many added a second optional address line)
- Postal Code
- Email address (To email a receipt. Most also include an Opt-Out/In option for marketing emails)
- Phone OR Mobile…not Both (Will they receive calls or get texts? If not, don’t add. If so, make sure this is disclosed)
Leave it out:
- Confirm Email (i.e. type it out a second time)
- Salutation/Title. Most big orgs live without it. You should too.
- Middle Initial
- Current Employer (if it is a large donation and you want to follow up after transaction is processed or via email with info about employer matching, that is fine, but don’t ask it up front)
- A second phone number
It isn’t that these fields are bad in and of themselves, it is just that their incremental value is so tiny when compared to the increased chances of missing out on the donation.
11. Default to Credit Card. Offer Paypal or E-Check
The vast majority of donation are paid through a credit (0r debit) card. Rather than add a step asking every single user to select their payment type, default the selection to credit card so that the majority of visitors have one less field to populate. You can and should offer an option to select an alternate payment method like Paypal and/or E-Check (some even had a Bitcoin option).
12. Optional: Monthly Recurring Donation
Though single transactions are great, monthly recurring donations are a pot of gold. A $25 monthly transition has a three-year value of $900. We saw a couple of examples of organizations that defaulted to a monthly donation, but most nonprofits that offered monthly donations did so as an optional step.