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Jastine Lumbres
by Jastine Lumbres

7 Most Common Mistakes On Donation Pages

Common mistakes, direct fixes.

Attracting donors to your nonprofit is one thing, compelling them to donate is another; let alone giving them the right directions to your website. After all of that work the last thing your nonprofit needs is for your donors to finally make it to your donation page and find that it’s riddled with errors or some areas that could use a few improvements. In the list below we discuss the kinds of common mistakes that nonprofits come across when putting together their donation pages along with some painless fixes that we think would remedy those mistakes.

1. The problem: Your donors don't have options.

The fix: There are multiple ways to tackle giving donors a choice in their donation. You can create two buttons, one for one-time donation and then another for monthly giving. For nonprofits that offer additional option to the one-time and monthly donation, separate those options into tabs: one for a regular donation (which would include the one-time and the monthly giving options), one for a gift/dedication donation, and a tab to support or give money to specific person in need, a specific program, or a current campaign. 

Implement tier giving as well. Network for Good’s Melissa Raimondi recommends using the average gift (average dollar amount) as your starting point and let your giving amount options reflect that number. You can start with the average gift as the median amount, creating an option that is less than that amount, and then another that is more than that amount. For example, if your average gift comes out to $50, your giving tier could be as follows: $25, $50, $75. 

By using all or a combination of these options, donors will not feel any additional pressure by having to come up with a dollar amount to give all by themselves. By implementing this system of choices, you can ensure a better donation experience for your users, leading to higher conversions rate and a higher chance of engagement with your nonprofit. 

2. The problem: Your donation form is cluttered.

The fix: If your donation form is overwhelmed with an explosion of images, forms, and text, we suggest starting over with a clean slate. Typically, donations forms that are kept crisp, clean, and straightforward draw the most completions of the donation process. Additionally, Melissa Raimondi for Network for Good suggests leading donors to the donation form and excluding or removing additional pages or places that could distract the donor and compel them to click away from your donation page. Everything, all the information that they need to know, and the donation options we discussed above should already be included on that page. 

On the form itself, cut down on how many fields your donor will need to fill out to make a donation. Across the board, it is agreed that the top three pieces of information needed from the donor, and what have to be included on the donation form itself are: name, mailing address, credit card information. If your nonprofit wants to obtain more information, bring donors to another page where they can enter that information after they have made their donation and completed the process. Invite donors who end up on that page to join your emails lists or subscribe to your newsletter so they can keep up to date about where their donation is going and the good that it is doing.

Take charity: water and their donation page as an example of a bare bones donation page. They focus primarily on one-time and monthly giving, implementing the option to give a specific amount for both; they even took the extra step to offer the suggestion of a starting donation of $30, which “can bring clean water to one person every month.” Three buttons, dedicated donation and payment options. After deciding on their dollar amount, a simple form pops up on the screen asking for an email, name, and address, before moving on to the credit card part of the process. Set against the backdrop of vibrant visuals of the people they serve, both happy and sad in tone, balances this donation page.

Or for a denser donation page that still does the job right, look to Oxfam America. Single and monthly donation options are included and they even implement tier giving. It is their use of visuals in their tiers that bumps them up, communicating in words and photos what each giving tier will do for the communities Oxfam serves, which are the impoverished around the world; $320 stands as the current highest tier which can help start a community garden. They give small blurbs with accompanying visuals for their monthly giving, emergency response, and even gift giving options. They even take it further by giving donors a list of ways they can contribute besides a donation and a section at the bottom letting donors know they can take donations additionally by direct mail and over the phone. The donation doesn’t get lost in translation, as it is kept prominently at the top of the page and is the first thing you see. 

3. The problem: Your donation form isn't branded.

The fix: As previously discussed, your nonprofit brand plays a large part in drumming up support for your nonprofit from your online presence all the way down to the way your board, staff, and volunteers conduct themselves at fundraisers or on an everyday basis at work. You donation page should be a reflection of that; make sure that all branding carriers over to your donation page, including color schemes, your nonprofit logo, and taglines or headlines as necessary. Your donor’s move from one page on your website to the donation form should be effortless. You don’t want to make them feel like they have left your website or they will end up clicking the back button or away from the donation page entirely. 

4. The problem: Your donation process is too complicated.

The fix: One way to guarantee losing donor interest and focus is to make the donation process too long and difficult to navigate with multiple steps or intricate forms. We’ve already addressed the issues with the donation form in one of our previous points. When it comes to the process itself, as with everything that we have been saying so far, simplicity is your friend.

To start, get rid of any additional and needless steps, says Andrew Littlefield in his article for WeDidIt. These steps include forcing donors to create a username/log-in and password or clicking on a donation, adding it to a cart, and then opening said cart to continue with the donation. He instead suggests breaking the form up into three parts as it will make it “less intimidating to visitors." Elliot Rysenbry of EveryAction echoes this method in tackling the process in “bite-sized chunks” where donors are first asked for the donation amount, then in the next step for their name and email (or what other secondary information your nonprofit feels it wants to ask for), and then for their credit card information in the last step.

Doing it this way increases donation conversion by 15% by increasing commitment because donors have already filled out one section and moved on to the next. They are further encouraged to complete the process in its entirety.

5. The problem: Your messaging is overloaded or confusing.

The fix: For this section, we found based on our own reading that nonprofits have varying opinions in terms of messaging and its place in the donation form. Some believe that messaging should be kept to a minimum or left out entirely to maintain focus on the donation page as the place solely for collecting donations, not another place to bombard donors with your mission statement and other messages. 

We, on the hand, believe that it was your messaging strategy that drew in donors and compelled them to visit your donation page in the first place; why not continue with that message, tell a story, and really drive that donation home? But of course, we’re not saying that you have to put your entire Mission Statement on your donation page. Avoid making it sound like the rest of your website or that you just copied and pasted it from your “About Us” section. Wild Woman Fundraising advises making the messaging on your donation page engaging, conversational, and inviting.

Derrick Feldmann of Philatrophy News Digest gives us a few ways on how to create that kind of messaging by meeting donors with infographics, links to videos, graphs, photos, and other visuals to help communicate what your nonprofit is all about and the part their donations plays. These visuals can show testimonials of donors through quotes and small blurbs and could include a small tidbit about other ways your donors can get involved through volunteering, participation in upcoming events, or monthly giving.

You don’t have to include all of these elements on the donation page; in fact, we propose that you consider implementing maybe one or two of these messaging bits. If you want to expand on these messaging options, you can also work them in with our suggestion above to direct donors to another page after completing the donation process. In addition to allowing your nonprofit another place to ask for more information about your donor, you can include another testimonial, infographic, or photo. The point is to communicate transparency in order to give donors peace of mind that their donation is safe and that it will be used for good.

However, if you are still of the mind that messaging should strictly kept minimal, take a look at Livestrong’s donation page below. Along with the monthly and one-time giving and tiered giving options, Livestrong’s page is branded with its colors and logo and the typical fields that need to be filled out by the donor to complete the donation. Their messaging comes in the form of a simple yet very powerful headline and call to action set at the top of the page “You are donating to help people and families fighting cancer now.” 

6. The problem: Your pages aren't up to date.

The fix: Make sure your nonprofit periodically does some housekeeping with your donation page.  At its most basic level, the information on your page should be up to date. This is one of those instances where you should be dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s. Make sure that the information on your donation page is correct and doesn’t include information from a past campaign or a different campaign entirely. Double check and ensure that your donation page matches what your nonprofit is trying to achieve, whether its overall or if it’s for a specific fundraiser or program. 

In addition, make sure that all privacy certificates are up to date on your donation page (and alternatively, on the rest of the pages on your website as well). Make sure all of your “trust symbols,” as Wild Woman Fundraising calls them, are prominently displayed. These images include pictures of credit cards accepted (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc.) that are verified. As an added step, include contact information of an actual person a donor can talk to at your nonprofit if they are confused or have any additional questions. 

Last but not least in this section: Make sure your donation page is mobile-friendly! We cannot overemphasize how important going mobile is for your nonprofit. With the rise of text-to-give programs and the increasing engagement of Millennials with online giving through social media and crowdfunding, going mobile can only serve to take your donation page further.

7. The problem: You don't run tests.

The fix: All good programs go through a trial and error process.  The fix for this simple: Run your tests! See how the donation process works from the viewpoint of a donor and see where they could potentially get held up or discouraged from moving on to giving. Testing will also show what images, text, forms, giving amounts work and what combination of these things are the most effective and work to your advantage. If you find that your donation page has more hang ups that successes, keep working at it. The better you make your donation page will reflect positively on your nonprofit, making the experience better for your donors and encouraging them to come back and give more to your cause.

In action.

Before moving on to another article or getting back to running your nonprofit, we want to leave you with what we believe is one of the most balanced examples of a good donation page: Doctors Without Borders.

In their donation page, Doctors Without Borders implements all of the fixes that we have discussed here: monthly/one-time/tiered giving options, informational fields, logos and branded colors, “trust symbols,” and contact information at their organization. They were even able to put in small blurb thanking donors for their contribution along with a message that pretty much summarizes what Doctors Without Borders is about and what donations can do to help them fulfill their mission. This was all done in a couple of sentences and given more power by the visual of a doctor in action.

This shows that your donation page can do it all, as long as you’re willing to put in the work and prioritize, like with all things in your nonprofit, the donor experience. A winning donation page will not only help you achieve the goal of collecting money for your nonprofit, but bringing in more people to your cause.   

Side note: Ever heard of Google's nonprofit program?

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Jastine Lumbres

Jastine Lumbres
Jastine is Elevate Click's first content writer. She received her BA in English from UC Riverside and Master's in English degree from Claremont Graduate University. She currently lives in Rosemead, CA with her family.

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