A Better Approach to Monthly Giving | npENGAGE

A Better Approach to Monthly Giving

By on Sep 30, 2010


Recently, some colleagues and I started an email exchange about best practices for monthly giving. The question was whether or not, on a recurring donation form, to ask the user to determine the duration of their gift. The default configuration for a recurring gift form in Convio looks something like this:

The suggestion was to simplify the form, making it look something like this:

Truth be told, I’m a marketer. Approaching this question with a marketer’s hat on, the answer to me was obviously the latter option since it might result in the gift recurring for longer, thus resulting in higher fundraising potential.

Marketer hat aside, I also considered this from a usability perspective. The general principle I use for forms is to ask the least amount of questions possible in the most concise and simple way. The shorter and simpler the form, the more likely a user will be to finish it. Thinking about it that way, the latter option was also preferable to me since it slims down the form and the number of questions included.

You might be surprised though that in a virtual room full of marketers, the very first response was in favor of giving users the option to choose. This response said, “Thinking like a donor; however, I do like the option of deciding how long this monthly gift will last. The simpler solution is clean, but I might not want to commit to forever or until I decide to make this stop. Otherwise, I have to go take some action to stop it instead of deciding up-front that this is going to last one year, for example.”

At this same time this response was sent, I was drafting my own response that quoted a client saying, “Asking me when I want my gift to stop is like asking a bride how long she wants the marriage to last.” My response was also quickly followed by other responses in favor of simplifying the form.

Thanks to my colleague’s comment in favor of the donor, I started to consider this question from a donor perspective and reconsidered it from a usability perspective. While I still don’t think we should ask the donor when they want the marriage to end, I do think that making the recurring gift an explicit choice is important. The checkbox at the bottom of the gift amounts feels a little sneaky to me. Not that we would ever recommend pre-checking this box, but it kind of feels like those pre-checked boxes on a site’s registration form that trick you into signing up to get hundreds of emails from that site and all of their partners. The solution I landed on is a combination of both forms that would look something like this:

Moving forward, our team hopes to do some testing on these form variations to see which one yields the best results. I’ll report back on our findings but in the meantime, I’d love to hear opinions and/or results from you too. Feel free to share in the comments.


Lacey Kruger, principal information architect for Blackbaud, designs online properties for nonprofits that delight and inspire. Whether a full scale website, a campaign site or a peer to peer fundraising site, Lacey guides clients through a research-based and user-centered approach to design. In her 15+ years at Blackbaud, she has developed a deep understanding of nonprofit web presences. That knowledge, along with her years of experience in information design, have established her as an industry expert.

Lacey has written a Blackbaud eBook, “A Guide to the Nonprofit Web Design Process” and her article, “Designing Nonprofit Experiences: Building a UX Toolkit” was published in User Experience magazine. She has presented at industry conferences including bbcon, IA Summit and BIG Design.

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