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5 Simple Best Practices to Increase Online Donations

Many nonprofit organizations rely heavily on monetary donations from supportive donors. With digital interaction and commerce in full swing, one would expect that an online donation option is a capability even the smallest nonprofit organization would possess. Online donations streamline the donation process allowing donors to pledge their assistance, assuming the process is simple enough, in record time.

What does ‘simple enough’ mean in terms of online donations? And how would a nonprofit organization ensure that it does provide an option that is “simple enough”, yet also elegant and professional? Keeping things simple, clear and uncluttered, while still capturing both the donation and all of the necessary information can be a fine balance to strike, but it is certainly attainable. We’ve compiled a series of best practices to aid nonprofit organizations in streamlining their online donation process.

1) Remove obstacles.

An organization’s donation process or page should serve the sole purpose of securing a donor’s contribution. A donation process should not become encumbered with marketing lingo, excessive data collection for mailing lists, internal research projects, or any other details that are not necessary to the success of securing a contribution. This information is easily summarized as follows:

– Who the donor is. Ask for basic info such as name, address, and email address,

– Donation amount. Include a list of pre-set values, but always add an ‘other’ field,

– Payment method. Default the selection to credit card and add an option to select a different payment type like Paypal.

And you are all set. This is the information you need to successfully secure a donation. To improve the conversion rate, it is vital to remove as many unnecessary steps as possible. Donors want to be helpful, that is why they visit the donation page, to begin with – it is unfair to continually ask them to do more than they need to. Additionally, a donation page or form is NOT marketing material, nor is it a marketing space. If an interested contributor has clicked ‘Donate Now’, whether, in a tweet, the header of a site, or via a Facebook post, chances are they’re just about convinced. Move obstacles out of the way and let them contribute.

Donation pages should also always be device-independent and cross-browser capable. A bit of extra work at the outset will ensure you don’t fail to secure a generous donation simply because the potential donor loves their device and doesn’t care that some sites don’t work properly. One chance is often all that is provided when it comes to converting a curious, well-meaning potential donor. Don’t squander that chance by leaving a procession of roadblocks in their way. They want to help, let them.

2) Donations needed!

Nonprofit organizations rely on good-will and contributions from the community they serve – it’s not a secret. Donations are needed to move forward and continue to provide valuable services. Again, this is not a secret, to anyone, anywhere. The option to donate should be tasteful, creatively, and prominently displayed on all digital marketing materials and spaces. Social media profiles should link to donation forms. All pages on an organization’s website should provide compelling calls to action, and once a potential donor decides, “Hey, I want to support this…”, the next step should always be obvious and accessible.

– Donation buttons/calls-to-action should be persistent across all media

– Social networks should be used as a tool to bring potential supporters to your site

Nonprofit marketing is about spreading your important message, telling your story, and providing your audience with reasons to support your cause – with all that marketing force being put forth, an easily accessible next step should be in place to secure those convinced donors. Don’t hide your donation process within a series of multi-tiered navigation items. When you request donations via social media, don’t just send users to your website’s home page, send them directly to the donation page. People want to help. Help them help you.

3) Add an impressive headline.

Make a clear value proposition. At this point, your potential donors should be convinced to donate but, what if they are not? Remind them why they were inspired to donate in the first place and why their contribution is so necessary to your organization. How? With an exceptional headline on your donation page.

Communicate your visitors the importance of donating by using inspiring words that drive action. Let them know their support can make a huge impact. Donors will be more likely to complete the last step if you motivate them. Give them a good reason to support your organization.

4) One image is enough.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” we’ve said that a million times, but it’s because it is so true. Adding one, and only one image to your donation page is a powerful way to establish a meaningful connection between your potential donors and your cause.

Including more than one image, on the contrary, will distract visitors from your ultimate goal of concluding the donation. Stick to one powerful image that shows them how their contribution can greatly impact your mission.

5) Think of the “Long Term”.

An impulsive, lump-sum donation is always great, always welcome, and always appreciated. Many potential donors fail to convert their compassion and intent to a supporting donation simply because they feel their socioeconomic status renders what they ‘can’ contribute as ineffectual. Well, it never is; every last donation matters and helps. To avoid leaving potential donors feeling unworthy or inconsequential, provide them with an option for lower sum, recurring donations – a one-time $1000 donation is nice, but 5 years worth of $25.00 monthly donations is, well, more. Of course, an affluent donor can opt to provide a higher monthly amount, but it’s important not to set unattainable minimums. People that care about your mission, irrespective of their status, want to assist their community. Assist them in doing so.

6) Manners, manners, manners…

Always say thank you. Always. Vociferously too. Without donors, most nonprofit organizations would cease to exist so, thank them for their donation, immediately, convincingly, and every time. Two simple, yet effective methods of offering thanks, which work best when combined, are:

– After a donation is confirmed, redirect the user to a “Thank You” page that highlights how their donation will be applied. A high-level explanation provides donors with some great insight as to where their donation is being directed and contributes greatly to the personal satisfaction of being a contributing member.

– A “thank you” email (including a tax receipt, if your software allows it) that follows up, giving the donor an independent verification and confirmation of a successful donation and reinforcing the gratitude your organization has for the support provided.

To further express appreciation for a donor’s generosity, NOT adding them to a mailing list unless they specifically requested to be added, goes a long, long way. Don’t repay generosity with unwanted marketing communications or newsletters. Always include an Opt-In/Out link in your emails.

Most donors don’t contribute for the sake of recognition and thanks, but they deserve it, so give it to them.


This is an updated version of a previously published article written by Tony Djukic, Website Developer at C(Group. 


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