Taking donations online: Making your website do the work for you

If youre a nonprofit organization, you probably already take donations on your website. There are so many payment receiving options: GiftTool, PayPal, Authorize.net, its barely even worth going through them all. Just make sure you arent being charged a fortune per transaction!

Now lets talk about what makes that Donate button work hard for you. The big ideas are: Make it Obvious, Make it Relevant, and Make it Flexible.

Make it Obvious

Were talking about usability and design here. If one of your top three goals on your homepage is to collect donations, make that donation button really obvious. Here are some usability best practices you can use to make some powerful updates that will hopefully result in more donations.


1. Color: Contrast is Best

If your primary color is green, consider making your Donate button a contrasting color like orange. You dont have to go for the exact opposite color, but something different than everything else on the page will help it stand out.

2. Placement: The Top Real Estate

The most valuable real estate on your page is the top left of your page, whats directly below it and the top right area.

3. Redundancy: Redundancy

Redundancy is OK, when used sparingly. If you have a donate button at the top of your page, its definitely allowed to have a callout on your homepage or in a sidebar with another Call to Action (CTA) to donate now.

4. Simplicity: You Have Three Seconds!

Be careful of industry-speak when writing buttons. Ive seen NPOs use Make a Gift or Help Out on Donate buttons. People scan pages they dont always read them and youre not going to get their attention fast with a ton of copy. If youre using Make a Gift, your user will need to think about that for a few seconds to understand that thats the place to make a donation. Keep it short and clear.

Make it Relevant

Landing Pages

Most nonprofits run end-of-year giving campaigns in the third quarter. Many of them have a theme or are branded in some way, based on issue or the fund they support. For the sake of campaign consistency, if you publish a campaign ad on Facebook or send out a campaign-specific email, instead of linking to the same old donate page youve had up all year, consider creating a custom landing page with a donation path just for that campaign. In the design and advertising world, we call that scent: What you read, what you click, and where you end up should all have the same-ish look and feel.

Dynamic Giving

Some Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can do dynamic giving on donate forms. That means: When a user is logged in and its someone who has given before, the dollar amounts associated with that user are displayed based on their previous donation amount. So if Im a user who has donated at a $2000 level in the past, Ill see dollar increments starting at $1500 and up to $5000, depending on what the donation administrator wants to set. Alternately, if Im a new donator I might see dollar amounts starting at $10 or $25.

In any case, make sure you capture the users information in your CRM system with name, address, email, donation amount and date to make future campaigns even more relevant. Theres a lot you can do to customize messages for different kinds of users based on their engagement history.

Personal Details

Lots of NPOs offer gifts made in memory of or in honor of another person. This is a small, easy gesture that goes a long way. People want to participate and be a part of your mission by donating, and they also want a little recognition. If you want to get really fancy, consider creating a donation wall where people can sign in and post comments or send ecards along with their donation.

Make it Flexible

We like to see donations fit a users lifestyle. Personally, in additional to donating cold hard cash, Ive: Bought items off of a schools Amazon wish list, Sent supplies to an animal shelter, and Donated points from my credit card.

We like to see NPOs provide other ways to give. There are so many options for donations and giving online here are just a few more options:

And by all means, dont forget to list your physical mailing address to receive checks in the mail! And publish that phone number on the page, too anything you can do to make it faster and answer any questions a user might have is going to make the process easier and more fun.



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