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There is no shortage of advice on how to get potential donors to your website, and many nonprofits are very good at this. However, what needs to happen to get that visitor to make a donation through your website once they are there is largely unexplored.

Just prior to Thanksgiving, I decided to make a donation to two charities that had piqued my interest. Both websites did an outstanding job of moving me towards making a donation. Among the key items that led to my confidence and desire to click on the donate button were:

  • A clean and simple homepage
  • An obvious video link to see and hear about their mission
  • Other videos showing case studies with results
  • Videos from the leader of the organization (all were two minutes or less in length)
  • An easy to follow path to their annual report
  • A direct link to their 990 filing
  • A direct link to the leadership team with pictures and full bios
  • A listing of current projects to invest in and why
  • Multiple ways to give or volunteer

The case for information

The above items were what were important to me. Not every donor may want to read the annual report or peruse the 990-tax filing. However, it’s likely that many donors who are just learning about you for the first time will want quick and easy access to this information.

According to Informed Giving (a study by Root Cause), of donors obtaining or looking for information, 51% do so when giving to a nonprofit for the first time, and 14% consistently look for information annually, while 35% have no set time period for reviewing information.

If you have not read the report please find the time to do so. It lends a substantial amount of understanding of donor motivations and actions.

Getting back to the story

Once again, both of the charities did a great job of getting me to their donate page. However, the experiences of donating were radically different.

The first charity had a simple donation form that included multiple giving options (in-kind, monthly, annually, etc.). This page had the exact look and feel as the rest of the website. 30 seconds after making the donation, a thank you receipt hit my email inbox, followed 60 seconds later by a thank you email addressed to me personally with details on what work my gift would be funding at this time!

I am honestly looking forward to what I will see next from this nonprofit.

The second charity would not allow me to make a donation unless I had a member login. Granted, they are a member-oriented organization, however some people may wish to support your mission without becoming a member.

Becoming a member required three separate screens of quite a bit of information to be filled in.

Next, I had to go back and log in as a member to initiate the donation process!

To complete the donation required four more screens to navigated and filled in. The experience was also reduced by the fact that none of these screens had the look or feel of the main website, since it utilized a third-party application.

The donation form itself was also not user-friendly. The phone number field required dashes to work (mine failed three times without pointing out where on the screen I needed to correct).

After all of the above steps, and nearly 8.5 minutes of time, I completed my transaction!

To top off the experience, three minutes later, my thank you was in the form of a brief email notification that not even the IRS would have been proud of!

Afterwards, I remarked to a nearby colleague how alike, but yet so vastly different, these two nonprofits were because of their websites and donation processes.

Your website need only do three things to encourage more online donations:

  1. Make it comfortable to donate
  2. Make it obvious where to donate
  3. Keep it simple to donate

But don’t sleep on step 3 – it just might be the most important!

Perhaps this cautionary tale will help you and your organization increase the amount of online donations you receive.

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.