Connections for Success



Taking Donations Online: Making Your Website Do the Work for You
Emily Lonigro

If you’re a nonprofit organization, you probably already take donations on your website. There are many payment receiving options — GiftTool, PayPal, — too many choices to list them all.  What is worth mentioning is the difference that it’s important to be aware of the transaction fees that they charge.  

Once you’ve cleared that hurdle, let’s talk about what makes that donate button work hard for you.  The big ideas are:  Make it Obvious, Make it Relevant and Make it Flexible.

Make it Obvious

We’re talking about usability and design here.  If one of your top three goals on your home page is to collect donations, make sure that the Donate button placement is clearly visible.  Here are some usability best practices you can use to make some powerful updates that will hopefully result in more donations.

Color: Contrast is Best
If your primary color is green, consider making your Donate button a contrasting color like orange.  You don’t have to go for the exact opposite color, but something different than everything else on the page will help it stand out.

Placement: The Top Real Estate
The most valuable real estate on your home page is the top left of your page, what’s directly below it and the top right area.

Redundancy: Redundancy
Redundancy is okay when used sparingly. If you have a donate button at the top of your page, it’s definitely allowed to have a callout on your homepage or in a sidebar with another Call to Action (CTA) to donate now.

Simplicity: You Have Three Seconds!
Be mindful of industry-speak when naming buttons.  I’ve seen NPOs use “Make a Gift” or “Help Out” on Donate buttons.  People scan pages — they don’t always read them — and you’re not going to get their attention with lengthy copy.  If you’re using “Make a Gift,” your user will need to think about it for a few seconds to understand that is the place to make a donation.  Keep it short and simple.

Make it Relevant

Landing Pages
Most NPOs run end-of-year giving campaigns in the third quarter.  Many of them have a theme or are branded in some way based on issue or the fund they support.  For the sake of campaign consistency, if you publish a campaign ad on Facebook or send out a campaign-specific email, instead of linking to the same old Donate page you’ve had up all year, consider creating a custom landing page with a donation path just for that campaign.  In the design and advertising world, we call that scent:  What you read, what you click and where you end up should all have a similar look and feel.

Dynamic Giving
Some Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software incorporates dynamic giving on donation forms.  That means that when a user is logged in and it’s someone who has given before, the dollar amounts associated with that user are displayed based on their previous donation amount.  For example, if I’m a user who has donated at a $2,000 level in the past, I’ll see dollar increments starting at $1,500 and increasing incrementally up to $5,000, depending on what the donation administrator sets as a target.  Alternately, if I’m a new donor, I might see dollar amounts starting at $10 or $25.

In any case, make sure you capture the user’s information in your CRM system with name, address, email, donation amount and date to make future campaigns even more relevant.  There’s a lot you can do to customize messages for different kinds of users based on their engagement history.

Personal Details
Lots of NPOs offer gifts made “in memory of” or “in honor of” another person.  This is a small, easy gesture that goes a long way.  People want to participate and be a part of your mission by donating while receiving some recognition.  If you want to be really creative, consider creating a donation wall where people can sign in and post comments or send e-cards along with their donation.

Make it Flexible

We like to see donations fit a user’s lifestyle.  Personally, in addition to donating cold, hard cash, I’ve:  Purchased items from a school’s wish list, sent supplies to an animal shelter and donated points from my credit card.

We like to see NPOs with creative options for giving.  Here are just a few more options:

  • Paid e-cards
  • Matching gifts through employers
  • Gifts of stock
  • Estate or planned giving
  • Payroll giving programs
  • Amazon affiliate giving program
  • Amazon Wish Lists
  • EBay Giving Works

And by all means, don’t forget to list your NPO’s mailing address to receive checks in the mail. And publish that phone number on the website too! Anything you can do to answer questions and make donating simple and quick is going to make the process more enjoyable for donors.

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