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8 Lessons From Making 80 Online Donations

8 Lessons From Making 80 Online Donations

We made 80 online donations to write this blog. Here’s what worked, what didn’t and what we learned. 

With the giving season just around the corner, we asked our fundraising experts what advice they would give nonprofits to optimize their online giving experience. To find out, they visited 80 different nonprofit websites, made 80 online donations and documented their experiences — what worked, what didn’t and ultimately, what made them want to donate. 


Written by

Ian Sheffield

Director of Product, Traction Rec
Written by

John McInnes

Solution Engineer, Traction Rec & Traction Gather

The Ultimate Online Donation Experiment

Earlier this summer we asked ourselves, how could we find the best online donation experience in North America? The simple answer, make donations and see which experiences are the most memorable, meaningful and engaging. 

Online Donation Lessons:

Mobile responsive is the default:

All forms tested were mobile-friendly and easy to use. If you aren’t using a mobile-friendly form tool you are a laggard! Remember to ensure your buttons are mobile-friendly (big buttons, not radio buttons). 

Upsell is more common than you think:

You shouldn’t fear incorporating an upsell opportunity into your fundraising strategy. At a minimum, we recommend trying to upsell from a one-time donor to recurring. Try incorporating a pop-up or prompt during the donation process that explains how a monthly donation impacts your mission. We also found that sites using a “Most Donors Gave This Amount” tag was most persuasive. 

Personalized Call to Action and Next Steps:

Overall we found many “thank you” pages and follow up emails to be underwhelming and unpersonalized. This is a huge missed opportunity to engage with your audience when they’re most engaged with you. Other than saying thank you, use this moment to provide a tailored opportunity to encourage giving; what other cause can I help you with? Where can we go to learn more about volunteering? What would a monthly donation help you achieve?

Form Transparency:

While there’s a lot of variation in different user interfaces, one common feature that could be improved was an automatic form default that implied we would cover processing fees. Rather than making this an automatic default, we recommend explaining how this allows our full donation to go to the cause and let the donor make their own decision. Many forms also lacked a proper explanation of donation options and the various aspects of a donation like cover processing fee, honour/memorial, etc.

Employer Matching:

Surprisingly, not one of the 80 sites we visited, promoted employer matching options. We believe this is a huge opportunity and one that you should consider highlighting on your donations page.

Engaging Content:

It was our opinion that sites that communicated the quantifiable impact (i.e. my $20 would pay for x of these and y of those) were more engaging. If you haven’t considered incorporating this type of content into your page, we would highly recommend it.

Google/Apple Pay Integration:

We were surprised to find that only one site supported Google Pay and none supported Apple Pay. As we’re seeing a consistent increase in mobile traffic, incorporating this feature should be at the top of your list.

Consistent User Experience:

We found a real lack of consistency in how organizations are linking from the “Donate” button on the menu bar and other “Donate” calls to action other places on the homepage, creating a confusing user journey. 

BONUS #9 – Crisis Fundraising:

It’s fine to have a COVID-19 Donation Drive but it should not be completely separate from all other fundraising activities. When someone clicks a “Donate” button they should see all the ways they can give. Maybe we can only donate $20 today but we have a car sitting in our driveway we would love to donate, and we’re working on our will and we want to know more about planned giving.

Online Donations: Putting it all Together

While this experiment was highly enjoyable, we also learned some really interesting and unique insights. If you’d like to learn more about how you can incorporate these learnings into your online giving strategy get in touch with one of our nonprofit experts, and we’ll help you get the most out of this giving season.

More Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing Resources

For more nonprofit marketing inspiration, check out our Nonprofit Marketing Ideas for 2020 or Top Five Fundraising Trends for 2020 blogs.

Transform Your Donor Experience

Get in touch with one of our nonprofit experts, and we’ll help you get the most out of this giving season.

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