Deciding to donate to your nonprofit isn’t as spontaneous as it might seem—website donations are part of a journey. And the path to giving, and giving again, shouldn’t send up red flags that give your supporters pause.
If you’re wondering why you’re not getting enough donors and what it takes to get more online donations, learn to identify common frustration points before people reach your Donate page. (We also have advice if you’re wondering why donors stop giving after the first donation.)
Don’t let these warning signs derail your relationship-building efforts, leading to far less giving.
The Path to Website Donations
Donating through a nonprofit website requires a combined sense of inspiration, security, anticipated impact and appreciation. Those are a lot of feelings to take into account, and only some of them are in your control.
As you start to evaluate the donor journey on your website, it’s important to consider the path that someone is already on when they land on your site. A potential donor is already carrying some “baggage” and expectations, including:
- They want to find a way to give. Recent research tells us that donors consider websites to be a preferred vehicle for giving and that they want to make a gift with a credit or debit card. You don’t have a lot of convincing to do about the process itself—but it needs to be straightforward and secure.
- They need clear (not pushy) calls to action. Among the many reasons that someone chooses not to give is a mismatch between the way you deliver your message and the way a donor wants to feel while making a website donation. Consider the tone and calls to action that your ideal donor will respond positively to as they navigate your site.
- They want to make sure that you’re legitimate. There’s a lot of advice out there for things that people need to watch for before giving to a charity and questions to ask before donating. While not every donor is going to do a deep dive into your organization, assume that new donors are looking to see if you’re credible by the looks of your website and third-party reviews.
- They’re looking for reassurance about the impact. In addition to demonstrating your legitimacy, it’s also important to showcase the difference you’re able to make with donations. Talking about your organization’s impact can help motivate someone before they give as well as keep them giving in the future.
Red Flags Before Donating Online
Unless a potential donor is landing directly on your Donate page and giving immediately (which is rare), the rest of your website is a critical part of the process of moving them from browsing to giving. Don’t let these red flags stop them on their path to making website donations.
Potential donors have a frustrating website experience.
Do you meet the criteria for a user-friendly nonprofit website? If pages don’t load quickly or correctly on mobile devices, your content is littered with hard-to-see or broken links, and navigating your site is confusing, you’re already planting seeds of doubt.
Potential donors are confused by how to pay.
While a typical online donor expects to be able to give using a credit or debit card, that doesn’t mean they’ll hand over their payment information no matter what. If someone clicks a donate button and is sent away from your website to make a gift, especially to a page that doesn’t look like your organization or to a form that doesn’t look secure, the red flags start flying.
Prioritize creating a donation process that happens directly on your website—which comes with some additional perks for data collection and controlling the overall look and feel.
Potential donors find a lack of credibility-building information.
Saying that you’re a legitimate nonprofit doesn’t make it so, especially in the eyes of visitors who are undecided about making a gift. There are lots of opportunities to reinforce your trustworthiness across your website, starting with a Financials page and contact information.
Take the time to do an audit of your pages and identify areas where you can work in credibility-building content such as the expertise of your leadership team, testimonials, real photos of your programs or services, a list of partners and recent media coverage.
There’s no clear story to build a case for support.
When talking with nonprofits about building a new website, one of the challenges that I often hear is along the lines of, “We need to do a better job of telling our story.” This can happen for many different reasons, but some of the most common scenarios include:
- An organization offers so many programs, events or resources that the website no longer provides the big picture in a way that helps donors feel confident about what they are actually giving to.
- A nonprofit has grown or pivoted over the years, and it’s become too difficult to describe the transition to people who supported it in the early years vs. today’s crowd.
- A start-up nonprofit is in the early stages of defining what it does and how it differs from other charities, resulting in vague descriptions of the purpose and impact that concern potential donors.
Some folks solve this problem by reworking the content on their About Us and History pages, as well as the homepage, to hone their messaging and offer clarity about the organization’s founding and current trajectory.
I’d also suggest weaving in references to your mission and goals within other content about your work to help visitors make the connection (which is something that case stories do really well).
Potential donors are turned off by your tone.
How well do you know your donor audience? Have you identified their different motivations and interests? Or heard them talk personally about why they give? It would be a shame if your website comes across as cold, boastful or too academic if they respond well to warm, feel-good and conversational.
Your website shouldn’t be solely designed and written for donors, but having at least one ideal donor persona in mind helps you create a tone of voice for your pages that is geared toward that audience. You’ll also want to be consistent with this tone in other parts of the site, like fundraising calls to action, campaign landing pages and value propositions.
Grade Your Online Donation Process
See how your site measures up to best practices for fundraising and donor cultivation. Download the free Donor Flow Optimizer to discover where you’re doing well and which improvements you should prioritize.
Once you put yourself in the shoes of online donors, especially your newest supporters, it’s easier to see the red flags in your donation process and address them head on. Eliminating common frustrations and warning signs not only helps you demonstrate your credibility and trustworthiness, but your organization can also speed up the donor journey so that website visitors turn into donors at a faster pace.
What changes have you made (or would like to make) to your nonprofit’s online donation process to encourage gifts? If you give to other organizations, what red flags have you encountered that make you think twice? Join the conversation in the comments section.