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 Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report, online giving 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 are made 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) match the branding of your website and are hosted on your website domain.

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 is the Children’s Defense Fund. In addition to their logo and color scheme, their donation page(s) are hosted on their domain (secure.childrensdefense.org/site/Donation), but do not include the navigation header of their website so the donor’s sole focus is places on completing the donation form. According to NextAfter, removing links in the navigation header on donation pages results in a 195% increase in donations.

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 Children’s Defense Fund accepts all three types of payments – credit cards, bank accounts (ACH), and PayPal.

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 $31 per month – or $372 per year, according to the State of Modern Philanthropy Report. Thus, securing more monthly donors should be a high priority for your nonprofit.

As a best practice, your donation pages should include a checkbox for the donor to upgrade their one-time donation to monthly. Some nonprofits choose to have monthly giving set as the default on their primary donation page, but doing so can result in accidental monthly giving sign-ups, so your nonprofit has to weigh the pros and cons.

For the Humane Society of the United States, setting monthly giving as the default on their primary donation page is standard procedure.

That said, to effectively promote your monthly giving campaign in print, in email, and on social media, your nonprofit needs an additional donation page with a unique URL, such as feedingamerica.org/monthlygiving, where monthly giving is the only option. For example, in addition to its primary donation page, Feeding America also has an additional donation page just for monthly giving.

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.

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

According to the 2023 Nonprofit Tech for Good Report, only 16% of nonprofits have a pop-up on their one-time donation page to inspire one-time donors to become monthly donors. That’s a missed opportunity because a “Donate Monthly” pop-up can result in a 64% increase in monthly donations. For example, UNICEF prompts one-time $10 donors to help save children’s lives by becoming $10/month donors.

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. As a best practice, study and mimic large nonprofits similar to yours in mission and programs that have years of experimenting with default donation amounts.

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 for one-time donors. NRDC is highlighting a $50 default donation with a $35 donation as the least amount to give which communicates to potential donors: $35 is a good minimal donation, but $50 is better and only $15 more.

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

In contrast, 350.org has a $35 default donation amount with a $10 option as the lowest amount. Smaller amounts have become more common in recent years, but A/B testing default donation amounts is the best strategy.

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

What the NRDC and 350.org have in common is that they both use large buttons for donation amounts rather than radio buttons. NextAfter has 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 EZ Texting, 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. You can text message donors information about fundraising campaigns, events, urgent call-to-actions, and volunteer opportunities – just to name a few.

According to Qgiv, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act specifically forbids businesses texting consumers without their consent. However, nonprofits have an advantage in that nonprofit organizations don’t require written consent. Donors consent to texts simply by providing their mobile phone number.

That said, a best practice is to make providing a phone number optional on donation pages. Some donors are turned off by being mandated to provide their phone number when making a donation. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a good example of using a donation page to collect mobile phone numbers.

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 for Nonprofits webinar highlights current trends in online fundraising, such as monthly giving, tribute giving, crowdfunding, and donation page best practices.

The webinar is the second in a series of three to earn a Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising from Nonprofit Tech for Good.

6) Add charity rating badges to your donation page(s).

Seventy-two percent of individuals say that the presence of a charity rating badge increases their likelihood of giving. If your nonprofit does not have charity rating badges on your website, then it’s time to look into getting registered with Charity Navigator, Candid, and GreatNonprofits. All three programs are free to use, accept online donations for your nonprofit, and are nonprofit organizations themselves. A good example of the use of charity badges is Smile Train placing its badges near its “Donate” button on its donation page(s).

It’s worth noting that Charity Navigator, Candid, and GreatNonprofits are only available to nonprofits based in the United States. If your nonprofit is located outside of the US, then Google “charity ratings [your country name]” to find similar programs.

There is also the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, but its price prohibitive for most small nonprofits — and Charity Watch which only reviews very large nonprofits and not by request.

7) Provide the option for donors to pay credit card processing fees.

According to Classy, 50% of online donors will opt-in to pay the credit fees for processing their donations. As a best practice, require that donors opt-in to pay the fees (✔ a box), add a fee of 3% or less, and after opt-in, calculate the new donation amount so donors understand the total amount that will be billed. The International Rescue Committee is a good example to model.

It’s worth noting that 50% of nonprofits offer donors the option to cover processing fees. If your fundraising platform doesn’t offer the ability to add credit card processing fees to your donation pages, then it’s likely time to search for a new platform.

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 American Red Cross.

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 with a unique URL, such as redcross.org/tributegiving.

Finally, 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%). To learn more about tribute gifts, download How to Launch & Grow a Tribute Giving Program for Your Nonprofit.

9) Create an action-oriented “Thank You for Your Donation” landing 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 donation to be confirmed.

Surprisingly, “Thank You for Your Donation” pages are one of the most overlooked pages on a nonprofit’s website. Most look and function like relics from the early 2000s. Follow the lead of the World Wildlife Fund and design your “Thank you for Your Donation” landing page to grow your social media following and to inspire your donors to get more involved.

10) Include a mailing address and phone number on your donation page(s).

Donors that prefer to give offline will likely visit your nonprofit’s website and click the “Donate” button only to become frustrated that your primary donation page does not include information on how to give via mail or over the phone. The Nature Conservancy lists its mailing address and phone number in the right bar of its donation page(s) in a way that does not distract online donors from completing their donation.

Post Updated: March 25, 2023

Our Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising program covers the fundamentals of website design, email marketing, online fundraising, and social media for nonprofits.

The program requires the completion of three webinars and costs a total of $100 USD. To earn the certificate, you can attend the webinars live or view the recordings – or a combination of both. Learn more & register!

A screenshot of the "Certificate in Digital Marketing & Fundraising" offered by Nonprofit Tech for Good.