Are your donation forms smart? | npENGAGE

Are your donation forms smart?

By on Jul 31, 2009


I thought that I would share a personal experience from the other day that got the wheels churning in my head. Whenever I need to restock on pet supplies, then I make a trip to PetSmart. They have a store not far from the Blackbaud office in Charleston.

At the checkout there is a screen that asks if you would like to make a donation to PetSmart Charities. The screen would ask a simple yes or no question if you wanted to make a $1 donation. It was a simple ask and I never left the store without pressing the "Yes" button.

But during my visit the other day, I noticed that they had updated the screen to ask for a $1, $2, $5, or $10 donation. I immediately pulled out my iPhone to take a quick photo. And then on the drive home I starting thinking about a lot of questions. Why did they make the change? Are people giving more? Less? How much more? How much less? Is there a linkage to store purchases and donations? Do they test different ask amounts in different stores? How did they choose the giving increments? Was it scientific? Was it just some guessing and testing? Am I the only one who gets excited about seeing something like this?

What is clear is that if you only ask for $1, then the most you are going to receive is $1. And if you only ask for $10, then you probably lose a lot of potential donations at a lower amount.

Expand this idea to your online giving ask amounts and how strategic you're being with them. How did you determine the ask amounts? Is it open ended or close ended? Do you always ask the same amounts no matter who is visiting the donation form? Do some donation form and ask amount combinations perform better or worse than others? How do you know? How much testing and experimentation are you doing?

First, if you're still using a single donation form with all the same ask amounts, no matter who visits them or where they visit them from, then you're missing a huge opportunity. Your online donation forms should be smart. They should vary depending on audience, entry point, and adjust over time as you learn more about donor behaviors.

Second, if you're only focused on anonymous visitors to the website, then you're missing an opportunity to specifically target known donors. This includes active email and landing page campaigns for known donor segments. Lapsed donors, multi-year donors, donors that increased giving, donors that decreased giving, donors to specific funds or programs, donors that subscribe to enewsletters, donors that have participated in an event. The list goes on and on. Research shows time and time again that targeted, personalized, and focused giving experiences yield better results. That's the smart way to go about online fundraising.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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