How to Make Your Nonprofit Donation Pages Work for You

All the great marketing copy, email solicitations, and earnest pleadings can and do fail once a donor gets to the donation page on your website.

It happens to all of us all the time. Just think of the times you've abandoned your shopping cart at your favorite online shopping sites. Somehow, we don't convert to being an actual buyer. The same thing happens with your donation page. It might not get the would-be donor over that leap of faith to the actual donation.

Small Changes Add Up to Stronger Donation Pages

Computer pointer hand pointing to written word DONATE
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Convio, a leading supplier of donor software to nonprofits, and Donordigital, a consultancy specializing in online fundraising, recently explored the factors that might influence a would-be donor to become an actual donor once he or she lands on your web donation form.

In "Beyond Best Practices," a study of the donation pages of seven large nonprofits, the two companies tweaked and tested a number of donor page elements. The goal was to determine how to improve the user experience for existing audiences on donation landing pages to increase conversion.

According to the researchers, "...a typical web donation page that has never been tested converts less than 15 percent of the visitors that reach it." Just think of the money your organization might be leaving on the table by not testing your donation page.

The Convio/Donordigital study found that there was no "single set of changes to a donation form...that's guaranteed to work for every organization." However it did reveal the elements on those forms that most influence conversion. Just knowing that could make your own testing easier.

The elements tested were confined to the gift string layout - horizontal vs vertical; column layout - one column vs two; form length - one page vs two; field group order - changing around contact info, payment info, gift string field groups; and the placement on the page of trust seals such as the BBB, Charity Navigator and Verisign seals. Marketing copy and design elements such as color, photos, premiums etc were not tested.

The elements that seemed to effect conversion one way or the other were:

  • Form length. A one-page form did better than a two-pager.
  • Column layout. One or two columns worked best. Test to see what your audience prefers.
  • Trust seals. They work best when placed above the fold and having more than one worked better. Furthermore, pages with the Verisign security logo placed near the payment field information or the donate button performed better than other placements.

Ask These Questions of Your Donor Landing Page

Close up of couple shopping online on digital tablet
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The study researchers also suggest that organizations evaluate how well their donation landing page answers these questions:

  1. Where am I?
  2. What can I do here?
  3. Why should I do it?

The study found that high conversion donation pages answer the first of those two questions in seven seconds or less, which is the attention span of the average web user. The researchers caution that a visitor should never have to scroll down the page to answer these questions.

The third question is the biggest optimization challenge since it is about communicating your organization's unique value proposition. That can be accomplished through better marketing copy, effective photos, trust seals, the mission statement, or testimonials, among other elements. Nonprofits must try to step into the donor's shoes and adjust these elements to present a persuasive case.

Study the screenshots above for examples of donation pages that converted well in this study, visit these organization's websites as well, and go over the findings of this study. It's clear that paying attention to your donor page can pay off in better conversions of those would-be donors that you have wooed to your website. Don't let small obstacles get in their way. Don't create any reason for them to abandon their "shopping cart."