online donations

More donors are giving online donations than ever before.

Were direct mail efforts hampered by the pandemic? Yes, but throughout this crisis smart fundraisers have been launching highly effective email appeals.

We are still recording giving and anticipate the upswing to continue.

Next year when the reports come out totaling online giving, we’ll likely see 2020 numbers double last years. 

With more donors than ever before giving online, how can your charity make the most of it?

In a nutshell, do everything you can to ensure the online giving process is obvious, easy, compelling, and donor-centric.

Despite more donors giving online than ever before we still see on average 60% of donors who land on a donation page abandon the process. Mostly this is due to friction – meaning too many steps, distracting links, requiring too many fields or steps to completion. You have one goal: completion. And it demands your donors’ experience cognitive ease, not strain. The experience needs to feel easy and effortless.   

What can you do to convert more online donations?

1. Make giving easy and obvious on your homepage.

Have a large, easy to read, and well-branded donate button in a bright contrasting color that stands out from the rest of the site on your homepage. The donate button should not blend in with the rest of your site’s color palette – it needs to be a bold color to stand out and grab the reader’s attention. The donate call to action needs to be “above the fold” meaning you should not have to scroll down to see the call to action to give. Your donation page should be one click away from your homepage, not more. 

2. Give donors a compelling reason to give on your donation page. 

Many donation pages are either missing a strong value proposition on why I should give, or they go completely overboard and have a huge wall of text detailing a myriad of ways I could give. Use a headline with a call to action to draw them in, i.e. “You Can Make A Difference Right Now” (UNICEF) or “Invest in Girls, Change the World” (Girl Scouts). In a couple of sentences or bullet points tell the prospect how their gift will help. Fail to do this and you rely on our donor’s own motivation and knowledge of your organization. Confront me with a huge wall of uninspiring text or a myriad of options of how I might choose to make my gift and you could lose me. 

3. Eliminate distractions and only require essential fields for gift completion.

The reason for most online gift abandonment is the entire experience is a minefield of distractions, requirements to complete unnecessary fields, and forcing a donor to make too many decisions. Allow me to rant about just a few. 

The don’ts: 

  • A pop-up box to sign up for your online newsletter? No thank you. 
  • Clickable links away from the page? Don’t do it! Why do you want me to leave? I made it here, keep me here! 
  • Requiring me to create an account to make a gift? No thanks! 
  • Just because your fundraising software allows you to make a one-time gift, a monthly gift, a quarterly gift or a semi-annual gift does NOT mean you need to give me all 4 of those options. Too many choices overwhelm and confuse me. Give me the one-time gift option and monthly option. Give me an incentive to make it monthly by telling me exactly how much more good my gift will accomplish if I do that.

The do’s:

  • Mobile-friendly design. 67% of people read their email on a phone! Goggle chrome has multiple free extensions that allow you to test what your webpage looks like on a mobile device.
  • Suggested giving amounts with one box prefilled.
  • Consistent branding from your organization on your giving form.
  • Incorporate trust seals from third parties such as BBB, Charity Navigator or VeriSign in the payment section. If you do not have those you can use an image of a lock or other trust seal. 

4. Maximize your donation landing page

The thank-you confirmation page is the most underutilized asset in your donor’s online giving experience. If you do this page well you can retain and even upgrade your donor. Use a donor-centric headline to thank them “You just did a great thing!” Tell them how their gift is on its way to have an impact and describe how). Include a beaming happy closeup photo of the beneficiary. Add a simple field they can reply to that asks “Will you share what inspired your gift today?”

5. Thank them properly!

Would you believe that 21% of donors say they were never thanked? I recommend thanking your donor with both an immediate email autoresponder and a thank you letter. These should address the donor by their first name, come from a staff person with a phone number, include the tax ID number in case I print it or keep it for my tax records. Use donor-centered language that sounds like a human wrote it and makes me feel like the generous, incredible person I am for making a gift. During this pandemic, you would be wise to call out how generous and kind your donor is to be giving now. 

Here’s an example in an email autoresponder:

Dear John,

You just did an amazing thing.

Thank you for your generous gift. You are giving Scouts digital scouting adventures during this stay at home order. I am especially thankful you chose to make your gift now. The fact that in a time that is so worrying and stressful for everyone you choose to think about others speaks volumes about who you are.  

Yours truly, 

Randall Smith, CEO      

Bonus points if you include a photo of a beneficiary in your email autoresponder. Need help crafting the perfect thank you? Check out my post on 5 Things That Break My Fundraising Heart.

Wondering how your online donor experience stacks up? Download Rachel’s guide to Converting More Online Gifts to get the do’s and don’ts with plenty of eye candy examples and your very own checklist.

donor loyalty

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.
Rachel Muir