Get More Out of Your Fundraising Donation Page by Acting Like an Online Store
Applying basic e-commerce principles to online donation pages may increase your donation page conversion rate. Here is why and how a small to midsize business e-commerce strategy can be applied to a nonprofit's fundraising donation page design for a higher completion rate.
Pictures are worth more than words
E-commerce sites long ago figured out that showing people a picture (or pictures) of what they are buying leads to more sales, but that is not so easily done for nonprofits. Yes, if you are saving elephants, you could show a picture of an elephant. Still, that isn’t exactly what your donor is “buying.” Worse yet, what if your mission is to stop human trafficking? What type of picture should you show then?
Polaris Project came up with a great solution for its #GivingTuesday campaign this past December. See the screenshot of its donation page at right. It brilliantly showed a picture of what each donation level could buy — a coat, backpack, etc. — for the children of victims the organization have saved. That is a very real, tangible item that donors can feel good about “buying.” They see real value for their donations before they even click the donate button.
Other great features of this donation page:
- Not too wordy — it quickly and clearly gets to the point of how the donation will be used.
- Short form arranged in two columns.
- It’s branded — it is not a generic, third-party credit card processing form, but rather a page within Polaris Project's site.
- It is tied back to the specific campaign — #GivingTuesday — with a headline that matches the email, tweets and other promotions it did for the campaign.
People don’t buy yachts or save the world online
While people may research large purchases online, I am unaware of anyone ever laying out large amounts of money online, like buying a yacht. While I don’t have data right now to back it up, I can’t imagine anyone has ever made a large enough donation online to fully fund a nonprofit’s mission like saving the rainforest or ending hunger. I wonder if even Warren Buffett has a high enough limit on his credit card for something like that.
Best practice for fundraising is to clearly communicate how the donor's gift will make a difference — in as tangible, direct way as possible. Again, Polaris Project did a great job with this on its page. It didn’t ask donors to make a donation to stop human trafficking. It asked them to buy a coat for a victim of trafficking — that’s tangible and direct.
Children’s Radio Foundation (CRF) did a great job with this too (images 2 and 3). CRF made a list of what each level of donation would provide, and it offered to send a valentine on behalf of the donor. Each donation level had a link so the donor could preview the valentine, which also had a picture of what the donation provided (Bazinga! See how CRF applied concept No. 1 from above? It's hitting on all cylinders with this donation page — which, by the way, CRF said was a very successful one).
One other thing to note about this page: It takes advantage of a quick-fill for repeat donors. That “QuickFill” button allows donors to complete all the fields with just one click. It is also hooked on the back end to a feature called “QuickDonate” that allows CRF to send an email to repeat donors in which they can make a donation from just one click within the email. Great, right? Online “buying” at its finest! And, all for a good cause.
It's a good idea to have multiple price points
Do you know that no matter which gas station you go to there are always three choices (not including diesel)? It’s not a coincidence; it’s buyer psychology at work. Although not e-commerce, the commercial practice of offering multiple price points most certainly applies to nonprofit online donation pages. Simply put, by offering more than one choice of donation and more importantly high, medium and low choices, you are more likely to get a buyer to choose the middle than the lowest amount possible. There is, of course, a much longer explanation of how it works than that, but for our purposes here, that’s enough to understand that you can encourage your donors to give more by giving them a little nudge through the options you provide.
EngenderedHealth took it a step further on its donation page (image 4). It cleverly prefilled the “middle” donation amount in the field. Of course, the donor can change it easily with the click of a button so no one feels bullied into an amount, but at the same time, EngenderedHealth gives donors that extra little nudge to a three-figure donation.
Three other great things about this donation page:
- It explains what each donation amount achieves.
- The form has multiple steps so donors aren’t overwhelmed by blank fields when they first visit the page (notice as they complete each step, they just click next and the next section pops up while the first collapses).
- The donor is given the option of making the donation “In honor of” or turning it into an automatic monthly donation right there on the page with one click.
The design of your page matters
In the end, the big takeaway here may not be news to you … the design of your online donation page has a big impact on how many online gifts you receive. Still, because our resources are limited, so many of us in the nonprofit space cut corners on the little (but important) things — branding, pictures, demonstrating value, etc. Technology exists to make creating online donation pages easy — really easy. So, why not give it a try? Be an “online retailer,” and give your donors some bang for their buck!
Christine Schaefer is vice president of community and marketing at Salsa Labs.