10 Donation Page Best Practices for Nonprofits

This is the fourth post in a blog and webinar series called 101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits, written and presented by Heather Mansfield. Please sign up for Nonprofit Tech for Good’s email newsletter to be alerted of new posts. Thank you!

Related Webinar: Online Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits
Related Certificate Program: Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising

According to the 2022 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report, online giving grew 9% in 2021 and now accounts for 12% of a nonprofit’s total revenue – and those numbers will continue to grow in coming years. Also important to be aware of is that 28% of online donations made in 2020 occurred on a mobile device. Having a mobile-compatible website is now a standard best practice and that is especially true for your nonprofit’s donation pages.

1) Ensure that your donation page(s) have the same branding as your website.

Sending donors a third-party payment site, such as PayPal, is problematic if that is the only way that donors can give. According to Network for Good, one in six online donors will drop out of the donation process if they are sent to a third-party website. A good example of a donation page with proper branding is the World Wildlife Fund’s primary donation page:

The donation page on the World Wildlife Foundation website showing matching branding to the primary website.

Accepting PayPal in addition to credit cards is a good idea to accommodate those donors that prefer to give through PayPal, but don’t make all donors use PayPal. It’s also worth noting that according to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 10% of donors worldwide prefer to give directly through their bank account. The World Wildlife Fund accepts all three types of payments – credits cards, bank account (ACH), and PayPal:

The World Wildlife Fund accepts credit card, debit, and PayPal for online donations.

2) Add a monthly giving option to your primary donation page and create an additional donation page where monthly giving is the only option.

Monthly donors give $35.46 per month – or $425 a year, according to the Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmarks Report. As a result, securing more monthly donor revenue is a high priority for nonprofits. Most donation pages include a checkbox for the donor to opt-in to upgrade their donation to monthly which is a standard best practice. Some nonprofits even have monthly giving set as the default on their primary donation page which can increase your nonprofit’s number of monthly gifts by as much as 5.5% (also according to Blackbaud). As an example, see the primary donation page for the Humane Society of the United States:

A monthly giving donation page on the Humane Society's website

However, to effectively promote your monthly giving campaign in print, in email, and on social media, you need an additional donation page with a unique URL where monthly giving is the only option. For example, in addition to their primary donation page, Feeding America also has an additional donation page just for monthly giving:

A donation page by Feeding America that only allows donors to sign up as monthly donors.

It’s also worth noting that the “Donate” button on Feeding America’s website functions as a pop-down to “Give Today” or “Give Monthly.” This is a trend seen more often on the websites of large nonprofits:

Feeding America website which features a Donate button pop-down menu for one-time giving or monthly giving

3) Add a monthly giving pop-up to your primary donation page.

According to NextAfter, only 14% of organizations prompt one-time donors to upgrade to a monthly gift (also known as a recurring gift) during the donation process. That’s a missed opportunity because NextAfter also found that a “Give Monthly” pop-up results in a 64% increase in monthly donations.

An example of a monthly giving pop-up on a nonprofit website

4) Experiment with default donation amounts.

Surprisingly, there is little concrete data on which set of donation amounts results in the highest increase in online giving. That’s likely because every nonprofit and their donors are different. As a best practice, study and mimic large nonprofits similar to yours in mission and programs with years of experience.

For example, the Natural Resources Defense Council has $35, $50, $75, $100 and $200 donation amounts listed with $50 set as the default donation amount. NRDC is highlighting a $50 default donation with a $35 donation as the least amount to give which presents a psychological benchmark to potential donors: $35 is a good minimal donation, but $50 is better and only $15 more. Donors that want to give more than $50 will select a higher donation amount. That said, It’s also a best practice to include an empty field where donors can enter any donation amount.

NRDC donation page with multiple donation amounts listed - from $35 to $200

The Rainforest Alliance takes it a step further with $75 set as the default and a message of “Most people are giving $75 right now. Please give what you can.”

A donation page for the Rainforest Alliance where $75 is the default giving amount for a one-time donation.

In contrast, 350.org has a $35 default donation amount with a $10 option as the lowest amount. Smaller amounts are likely going to become more common as our economy adjusts to the COVID-19 crisis.

A default donation amount of $35 on the 350.org primary donation page

Knowing the ideal donation default amount for your nonprofit will require that you analyze your donor data to determine your average online donation and then experiment with default amounts to learn which default donation amount results in more income. To begin, add $10 to your average online donation and set that as your default donation amount.

Finally, what all three organizations listed above have in common is that they use large buttons for donation amounts rather than radio buttons. NextAfter has also found that using big rectangle buttons rather than small radio buttons results in a 22.9% increase in donations.

5) Add an optional mobile number field.

According to MobileCause, 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being sent while only 24% of emails are being read at all. Nonprofits are missing a big opportunity to stay more connected with their donors by not capturing their mobile phone numbers. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) asserts that if you have a donor’s phone number, or a donor supplies it, it is implied permission to text them any future messages. You can text message donors information about fundraising campaigns, events, emergencies, and volunteer opportunities – just to name a few.

A donation page on the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network website where entering the phone number is not required to make a donation

Customized for small nonprofits on a limited budget, the Online Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits webinar highlights current trends in online fundraising, such as monthly giving, tribute giving, crowdfunding, and donation page best practices.

Promotional graphic for the Online Fundraising Best Practices webinar offered by Nonprofit Tech for Good

6) Add charity rating badges and program vs. operating expense graphics.

If your nonprofit has been reviewed by Charity Navigator, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or GiveWell and your reviews are good, then add your rating badges to your donation page(s). If your nonprofit is too small or does not meet the qualifications to be reviewed by Charity Navigator, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or GiveWell, then create an account on GreatNonprofits and ask for your donors to rate and review your organization. You also want to regularly monitor your ratings and reviews on GuideStar. Once your nonprofit has built up your user-generated ratings and reviews on GreatNonprofits and GuideStar, then add those badges to your donation pages as well. For example, Children International:

The donation page for Children International which prominently features graphic that display program vs. operation expenses, such as fundraising

Also, provided your program vs. operating expense ratio is good (75%/25%), create a simple pie chart graphic that illuminates your program and operating costs. That said, there is a growing movement against low overhead as the primary indicator of a nonprofit’s effectiveness. Overhead Myth advocates assert that nonprofits cannot be successful in achieving their programs if they cannot invest in highly-qualified staff and technology.

7) Add giving impact statements.

Donors respond well to statements that clarify the impact of their donations. For example, a $50 donation provides a spay/neuter surgery or a $10 donation provides five meals at a homeless shelter. Adding impact statements helps donors conceptualize how they are making a difference and can increase their donation amount. For example, BuildOn:

Giving impact statements that detail how much work can be done for a $6, $22, or $144 donation

8) Add a tribute giving option to your primary donation page and create an additional donation page where tribute giving is the only option.

According to the Global Trends in Giving Report, 33% of donors worldwide prefer to give tribute gifts (26% for Millennials, 31% for Gen Xers, and 41% for Baby Boomers). Also known as honor and/or memorial gifts, most nonprofits add the option to their primary donation page, such as the Special Olympics:A donation page on the Special Olympics website that allows donors to give in honor or memory of a person

However, to effectively promote tribute gifts during the holidays or for special occasions in print, in email, and on social media, your nonprofit should also create an additional donation page just for tribute giving:

Tribute giving page on the Special Olympics website that allows donation to select donation amount and card

It’s worth noting that also according to the Global Trends in Giving Report, the most popular tribute gifts with donors are memorial gifts (43%), birthdays (25%), and religious holidays (10%).

9) Create a compelling, action-oriented “Thank You for Your Donation” page.

A “Thank You for Your Donation” landing page is the page that donors land on after their donation has been processed. It’s an important page because it is one of the few times you have the hyper-focused attention of your donors as they wait for their payments to be confirmed. Yet surprisingly it is one of the most overlooked pages on a nonprofit’s website. In addition to thanking your donors, use the page to convert your donors into social media followers and to inspire them to get more involved.

Thank you donation page that ask donors to download the iPad app for the World Wildlife Fund

10) Include a phone number and mailing address.

For those donors that prefer to give offline, they may visit your nonprofit’s website and click the “Donate” button only become frustrated that the primary donation page does not include information on how to give via mail or over the phone. Environmental Defense provides that information (and other ways to give) in the sidebar on their primary donation page:

The nonprofit Environmental Defense provides a phone number and email address on their donation for technical support

101 Digital Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices for Nonprofits is a blog and webinar series (written and presented by Heather Mansfield) on website design, email marketing, online fundraising, and social media best practices for nonprofits, NGOs, and charities worldwide. Those who register and attend all three webinars in the series will earn a Certificate of Completion in Digital Marketing & Fundraising from Nonprofit Tech for Good.

Certificate in Digital Marketing and Fundraising that can be earned by nonprofit professionals

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