Skip Navigation

[intro]Seven tried and true strategies to keep in mind for your organization’s online donations.[/intro]

Do: Pay attention to the design

The design of your donation form should make giving a joy for donors. In order to create this experience, step into the shoes of your donor and walk through your form with these questions in mind:

First, can they find the donate page? While writing this article I came across a popular nonprofit whose donation form was so buried (I had to click 4 times!) I began to think my donation wasn’t important to them.

Second, look at your form fields. Does the order they appear make sense? Are they helpfully grouped? Can you include logic in your form to only display fields relevant to the choice a donor makes?

Third, examine the layout of the donation page. NextAfter shared a case study where reducing donation form friction1 increased conversion by 39.4%. Reward donors by making the donation form beautiful, intuitive and easy to use.

[info-card]”Friction is ‘anything that causes resistance to the online donation process.’ And friction’s responsible for a majority of online donation abandonment.”2

Humane Society Donate form
Humane Society’s donation form is a great example of good design. The imagery immediately reaches the donor on an emotional level (if you’re not a dog lover there are plenty of other cute animals further down the page). The copy is straightforward and lets the imagery do most of the talking.

Do: Make sure your form is mobile friendly

Even if the rest of your site is not mobile-friendly, make sure that your donation page is. Donors should be able to give wherever they are – whether in conversation with friends, while volunteering for you, at an event – not just sitting comfortably at their computer. As of April 21st of this year, Google starting using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in their search engine. Not having a mobile-friendly form will hurt your site’s SEO. Test your donation form to see how it stacks up. According to research by DonorDrive3 responsive design doubles mobile giving. Also, “57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site”4.

Mobile donation form
We’ve worked hard to help one of our clients, the National Wildlife Federation make all of their forms mobile friendly.

Do: Include information about privacy and security

In today’s world where companies fall prey to digital piracy, it’s imperative that every online transaction processes securely. Not only is it important to make sure your donation processing company is secure, it’s just as important to let the user know that. Inserting badges, icons, and language that accurately communicate how a donor’s information is handled gives them peace of mind and strengthens the trust in their relationship with you. Trust means the difference between a transaction and a bounce. Earning the trust of your donors means handling their private information with the utmost care.

Which donation form puts you more at ease regarding security? The left or the right?
Which donation form puts you more at ease regarding security? The left or the right?

Do: Include suggested donation amounts

While you should always leave a fill-in-your-own-amount option, list specific amounts as well. What amounts should you use? There enlies the million dollar question. The amounts matter less than your ability to tie tangible deliverables to dollar amounts. Someone might balk at $100, but gladly give that amount knowing they are giving clean drinking water for an entire village. A study conducted on giving amounts5 found “A suggested gift amount spurred more people to give, and donors gave what they were asked to give – for better and worse.”

A suggested giving amount can not only increase engagement, but it can spice up your donation form from a list of bland radio boxes to a more compelling story.

Do: Use persuasive language for your call to action

“Donate” or “donate now” are direct and to the point, but why not make your donation form even more impactful by reminding the donor of what they are accomplishing. Use your call to action as an opportunity to cheer for the difference a donor makes. That last nudge could be what tips them over the edge from a user to a donor.

I'm ready to help animals
The Human society’s website is a great example of a persuasive call to action

Do: Show appreciation for your donors

The way to build trust and loyalty among your greatest cheerleaders is to show your appreciation. This can be done in multiple ways including: thank you notes (bonus points for snail mail or handwritten ones), follow up emails that share how their gift made an impact, and tweeting your thanks or somehow publicly acknowledging their gift (as long as they don’t want to remain anonymous). Personal stories from recipients (or even written in the recipient’s voice in the case of animals) go a long way in helping donors feel good and connecting them on an emotional level to the cause. Showing appreciation will help donors know that their gift is important and inspire them to keep investing in your work.

Oxfam thank you page
Oxfam shows appreciation for their donors with a thank you video 6.

Do: Share how their gift is being used

Smart donors don’t give their money away to any organization that comes along. These donors take time to weigh the opportunities against their own personal and ideological goals. They have a vision for what they want their money to do – whether that’s specific like feeding the homeless in DC for $2.09 a meal or funding relief efforts after a natural disaster strikes. The more specific your organization is able to be with how they use their resources, the more real the need becomes. Connect on an emotional level and not just an ideological one. Then follow through with any commitments you’ve made, and let donors know progress updates. Note, word your donation form carefully. If it’s not possible to commit to funds being used for a specific channel within your organization, make sure you don’t promise that. E.g: “Your donation will be used towards projects such as…”

For our client 9Marks, we broke up how funds are distributed into an easy to understand pie chart.

Bonus Tips: Using a 3rd party thrifty donation tool?

If your organization uses a third-party platform and customization options are limited, there are still some things you can do. Keep your brand in tact by customizing the third-party checkout. Even Paypal allows you to customize the header. Talk with the vendor and see what you can customize. Even changing fonts, colors and adding your logo to the page will go a long way in creating a cohesive donation process. Also, if the donation form is on another website, try to be as clear as possible about that. If the user isn’t expecting it and they get redirected to a third-party system that looks nothing like your website, they might get confused and have second thoughts on donating. If the company is well known such as Paypal, using the Paypal button on your site will build trust (the donor knows what to expect) and keep the donations rolling in.

Remind donors of other ways to give such as:

  1. Amazon Smile: let donors give to your organization without costing them a cent. It’s a win-win.
  2. Encourage donors to use their networks to fundraise. The sky is limit: they can throw a party or create a challenge such as a 5K. Crowdfunding platforms such as GoFundMe and Razoo to will help them raise funds for your cause.
  3. Ask donors if their company will match their gift and double their dollars.



Hannah Hudson
With a passion for communicating through design and an OCD level of pixel-perfection, Hannah continually seeks to refine the poetry of her code.