There are lots of articles, reports, and conference sessions about online giving and donation form best practices. This isn’t one of them. Instead, I want to focus on some of the most common bad practices being done by nonprofits.
1. Using Only One Donation Form
If you only have a single donation form, then you’re doing it wrong. Use a combination of a general donation form along with other forms for more specific giving options. Email messages should route donations to a specific form for tracking purposes. And keep testing to see which forms perform best.
2. Using Only an Empty Box for Giving Amounts
If you don’t give donors suggested gift amounts, then you’re doing it wrong. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask for an “Other” amount on the form, but there should always be a clearly displayed minimum gift amount. Testing has shown that donation forms with clear ask strings perform better than those without any.
3. Requiring All Donors to Register to Donate
If you force all donors to register with your website to donate, then you’re doing it wrong. Every time that I see this it just leaves me shaking my head. Every time an organization explains why they do this — I’m still left shaking my head. Using targeted donation forms for returning donors is one thing, but requiring registration can be a big turn off to first time or episodic donors.
4. Using a Donation Form that Scrolls and Scrolls and Scrolls and Scrolls
If you overload the donation form with lots and lots and lots and lots of options, then you’re doing it wrong. You do not have to pile fields upon fields, recurring gifts, and everything else on the page. Testing shows that the more complex the form the higher the abandonment rate. Start with the minimum viable fields and carefully add things. Also remove clutter from the rest of the page that only causes distractions.
5. Not having a Mobile Friendly Donation Form
If you don’t have a donation form that works on a mobile device, then you’re doing it wrong. Check your website stats and you’ll find out just how many people already visit using a mobile device. By 2014, it is predicted that more web browsing will happen on mobile devices versus desktops. Mobile friendly forms should be optimized for size and speed. Use less page clutter and eliminate unnecessary extra fields.