3 Donation Form Tweaks that will Quickly Improve Online Fundraising | npENGAGE

Donor Acquisition: 3 Donation Form Tweaks that will Quickly Improve Online Fundraising

By on May 28, 2013


Guest post by Amy Bills, Blackbaud’s director of customer marketing. Get ready to hear some great insights from an experienced marketing pro that has a passion for serving the nonprofit community and Blackbaud customers.

It’s very easy to become paralyzed by the variety of opinions about how to optimize donation forms for the purpose of improving online giving and donor acquisition.

There’s no magic answer to the ideal calibration of layout, copy, images, fields, offer and headline that drive the highest possible levels of donor acquisition.

Here are three things you can do today, without reworking your entire online strategy, to have an impact in acquiring new donors. Take a look at your website (go ahead, right now!) and see if any of these areas is a place for a change.

1.     Ask only for what you need

A lot of work has been done around the “optimal” number of fields for an online form … and it all applies to your donation form. You want to get enough information to meet your objectives, but have minimal friction for donors. Some nice research here from marketing automation company Eloqua on optimal number of fields.

Take a look at your donation forms and have an honest conversation about whether you’re really using every piece of data you ask for. For each field, ask the questions:

  • Are we using the data? Or just collecting it because we’ve always done so. Is it WORN? Write Once, Read Never.
  • Are there fields we can do without in the short term, with a plan to capture additional pieces later (via follow-up email, for example)? Can we build a progressive profile of a donor rather than learn everything at once?
  • If we remove this field for 6 months, would anyone notice? Make donor acquisition more important than legacy fields!

2.     Don’t distract from the act of donating

UUSCA person who has made it to your online donation form has already had a conversation with themselves about the desire to donate. Don’t distract them! Ensure that the primary call to action is the only one that matters on the donation form.

Some hints from Mark Montenero, Lead Client Success Manager at Blackbaud. 

  • Look at your form and imagine a donor opening the page then getting distracted by a child, a pet, a work issue. If they return 20 minutes later, will it be clear exactly what they were doing before they walked away?
  • Remove the top navigation, which is full of additional distractions. Note the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee’s example: They leave the header on the donation page, but remove the navigation elements at the top.
  • Videos, large blocks of explanatory text and huge photos that push the donation form far down on the page don’t belong. The form should be as close to the top as possible (again, see UUSC for a great example).
  • Take ‘donate by mail or phone’ options out of the body of the donation page. If a potential donor is already on your online form, they’ve made that decision. Mail and phone options can be placed elsewhere.

3.     Be sure it’s secure

“People are knowledgeable about the basics of online security, and it’s important for them to feel comfortable that the transaction is secure,” Montenero notes.

Secure“Pushing a donation form through an iFrame for convenience has a negative impact on your ability to raise money.”

Want to maximize donor acquisition? Be sure you have what donors are looking for: The “https” in the URL and the visible lock (see Children Now example at right). And the VeriSign logo on the page.

Want to see how your fundraising measures up and where to focus on improving donor acquisition? Grab the Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits.



Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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