December Fundraising Series: Anatomy Of A Donation Form

Always be testing.

It’s a mantra we live by. And with testing comes insights—lots of insights actually, helping us develop smarter programs for all our clients. So as we head into the most critical time of the year for fundraising, we’re sharing some of our findings to help you make the most of your year-end efforts.

First up in our December Fundraising Series: Anatomy of a Donation Form. Below we’ve dissected one of our most winning forms—from Partners In Health (PIH)—which has gone through countless tests and optimizations to deliver 23% growth in year-end fundraising over the past two years and 2x the industry-benchmark completion rate on donation forms.

Keep in mind that what works for PIH today might not work tomorrow, and what works for them, may not work you. This is why we test and keep on testing. With that said, we hope you try out some of these tips and have a generous result!

1. Don’t distract your donors with a big, cluttered header.

Once your potential donor is on your donation page, you don’t want them to get sidetracked by links taking them elsewhere. Use a small header or take it out completely.

2. Don’t sound like a robot or be jargon-y.

Your supporters are people, so talk to them like they’re people. Be direct, but conversational. For example, “Donate now” is more relatable than “Process my contribution.” And while we love our single-click payment Quick Donate tool—as do our clients, especially when one client saw a boost of 1,000% of Quick Donate revenue—choose simple language like “use my saved payment information” instead of “log in to Quick Donate.”

Highlight the work of the organization. Describe your mission and impact, emphasize the urgency of your campaign, and inspire your donors to take action—but be concise and direct about it. If your potential donor was unsure before they got to your donation page, this is your last shot to convince them to donate. You’ll want them to know what their gift will go towards, so in most cases you’ll want to emphasize the cause and the need for support.

3. Try a sequential donation form.

You’re familiar with the classic donation form, but have you considered using a sequential donation page? By making your form sequential, you’re breaking your form into sections, putting the donation ask at the front. Once your donor chooses a gift amount, they get directed to the next page to fill out their personal information. Think of it as a work-around to the common recommendation that fewer form fields is better—get your supporters to make a donation in three easy steps rather than filling out a dozen fields in one long, tedious form.

One client with young and digitally engaged supporters found that changing to a sequential donation form increased their average gift by $18. But at times we have also found the opposite true, and clients with an older audience fared better with the classic form. So always be testing and see what works for you and your supporters.

Pro-tip: Dynamically ask your supporter to become a recurring donor. When a potential supporter selects a low-dollar donation, ask them to make it recurring rather than one-time. One test showed that low-dollar supporters were more likely to change their one-time gifts to monthly gifts when presented with the option up front, rather than right before submitting their donation—14 times more likely, in fact.

4. Provide a wide range of donation amounts.

Don’t think that by removing that small-dollar option (like $5) you’re forcing donors to pick the high-dollar amount—we found that could actually hurt conversions. Tests showed that displaying a $1 gift amount prompted supporters to convert 23.7% more often. On the other hand, you’ll notice that this PIH form doesn’t have a small-dollar choice (and a pretty big ceiling!). After testing different combinations of contribution amounts, this series of amounts worked for their audience. For another client, a higher donation string increased conversion rates by 16.7%. Know your audience!

And let’s break this down even further. Add in some larger gift amounts in your donation strings. You may not have many people clicking on those four-digit donation amounts, but the other potential donors might think everyone else is donating more. So instead of giving $25, they may just drop $35.

Pro tip: You should always have an amount auto-selected by the time a potential donor lands on your page—and it shouldn’t be either the lowest or the highest amount in your string.

5. Invest in the design of the suggested donation amounts on the page.

Making it easy (and even fun) to select the donation amount will result in a higher completion rate.

6. Provide information about the donation.

Be transparent with your donors by letting them know how much of each donation will go directly to the cause rather than overhead.

7. Show your charitable certifications.

Don’t bury that you’re certified by Charity Navigator or BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Highlight it like a badge of honor and make it noticeable. Don’t like the way those icons work into your design? Try dropping them in the footer. Oh, if you’re a 501(c)(3), make sure your tax-deduction language is highlighted and clear—many donors love a reminder that they can deduct.

Stay tuned for more content in the December Fundraising Series. Next up: Anatomy of a Winning Email.

And for more insights, lessons, and tactics that will help you take your fundraising to the next level, download our Year-End Fundraising Report.

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