There are many tools in a good fundraising toolbox such as consistent branding, smart solicitation letters, creative direct mail pieces, and a smart website to name a few. Of all the tools in your fundraising toolbox, your online donation form is an easy one to overlook. After all, it’s just backend technology, right? But there’s more to it than that.
According to Blackbaud, a leading technology provider for social good, online donations in 2016 represented only 7.2 percent of all charitable giving across the United States. Offline giving still surpasses online giving by a lot. You might be thinking, “So why bother with online giving?” You need to bother because this percentage is growing year by year. And online giving is proven to be one of the best ways to capture those end-of-the-year donations.
Who’s giving online? A study completed by US Dunham & Company found that 60 percent of donors under 65 years old give online. A surprising discovery from the study is that donors over 65 are giving online at the same rate, too. Young and old, the trend to click and give is heading up.
Online giving has to be quick, easy, and secure. Site visitors want to get on, donate, and get off fast. They want a simple interface. And they want their information to be secure. These days that’s no small task. According to research by RKD, a digital strategy firm, 20 to 50 percent of individuals who reach the donation form do not complete the transaction. Something about the form may be actually pushing the donor away.
Here are 20 tips to make sure your donation form encourages people to give and leaves them satisfied.
1. Make your website mobile-friendly.Your donation form will be opened on a variety of devices, so your website needs to be read easily on phones, laptops, and notepads as well as computers. Almost half of online donors are going to be on a mobile device.
2. Guard your donor information. Keeping donor data secure is essential. As recent events in the news have highlighted, mitigation of risk cannot be ignored. By working closely with your development or IT team, security best practices need not be intimidating. Check out this security-related blog post. It’s a good one that’s written in “plain English.”
3. Keep branding consistent. The look and feel of your donation form needs to match the branding of the rest of your website. If the form looks generic, your visitors may become wary and click out.
4. Create a custom donation experience for each segment of your donor list. Segments could include recent donors, lapsed donors, repeat donors, or donors by giving levels. Send an email campaign to each group with a custom link to a different version of the donation form and a message that is specific to that donor segment. This strategy makes your donor feel part of an inner circle and makes it easier to upgrade them or convert them to a monthly donor.
5. Place your “donate” button in a prominent place on every web page. Make sure site visitors can find this button easily.
6. Simplify your donation process. Limit the items required for submission. The more steps you require and the more information you ask for, the more likely a potential donor is going to lose patience and leave.
7. Use plain language. Keep your instructions simple, brief, and clear.
8. Avoid white type on a dark background. It might look nice, but it’s hard to read.Since older donors are donating online as much as younger donors, focus on legibility and readability for all ages.
9. Inspire with a warm, engaging photo. A photo can remind donors why they give and that their gift will make a difference.
10. Offer four to five suggested donation amounts, ranging from low to high. Amounts should relate to donors’ average giving levels. This makes it easier for the donor to select an amount and then move quickly through the rest of the process, especially on mobile devices.
11. Tie the donation amounts to how money will make an impact. This is another option for clicking choices. For example, “$25 will provide a week of breakfasts for one child.”
12. Limit the donation process to one page. Only include the essentials on the form. If the form looks cumbersome, then visitors will leave. You don’t want your process to look like too much work.
13. Use warm action verbs. Words like “give,” or “change a life” work better than “submit.” Research shows donation amounts increase 15 percent when the forms command words are warm and human.
14. Don't require a minimum donation amount. This sends the wrong signal that small donations are not valued.
15. Offer a monthly giving option. Some donors might be interested in making their gift an automatic recurring gift instead of a one-time donation. Make the selection of monthly giving obvious and inviting.
16. Don’t overlook an “employer matching gift” choice. You never know who has this benefit that doubles a charitable contribution.
17. Make the receipt a personal word of thanks. Include your branding, a photo, and inspiring copy. The receipt can be more important than the solicitation. Donors keep these receipts for tax records. It’s another opportunity to remind the donor why they chose to give and to feel good about the decision they made.
18. Don’t ask to donors to give again on the receipt. Just say thank you. It’s too soon to ask for another donation.
19. Start with the mobile design first. Because of space, mobile makes you focus on how the form works on a small screen. The mobile design makes you simplify the content and then simplify again.
20. Last, but not least, be sure to thank your donors. An automated email should come immediately after the transaction. A more formal thank you should come within 48 hours and may be printed or emailed. Donors want to know that an actual human is behind these expressions of gratitude.
Bottom line—make your donor’s online giving experience straightforward, personable, and quick. It’s a powerful way to keep them in the spirit of giving.