Online Donations: Evaluate and Improve Your Process

Online Donations Grade

Are your supporters refraining from giving online? Did you see little to no growth in online donations last year? Or maybe things have been stagnant the past few years? While there’s a lot that goes into online fundraising, from strategy to execution, it all feeds into the success of your online donation process. New year, new online fundraising process—amirite?!

So, what is your process? Are you taking the necessary steps to make giving online easy and pain-free for your supporters? To start the evaluation process and begin looking for areas of improvement, try walking through it yourself from start to finish.

Evaluate Your Online Donation Process

Start on your homepage, navigate to your Donate page and make a gift — putting yourself in the mindset of your donors and what you know about them. As you move through your online donation process, answer the following questions to pinpoint things you do well and areas to focus on in the coming year.

Does the process occur entirely on your nonprofit’s website?

We’re constantly stressing the benefits of a donation process that’s directly on your organization’s site. In the interest of not sounding like a broken record, this allows you to build trust and customize their experience.

While sending folks away to a third-party platform or website for online donations might seem easier initially, it may mean missing out on opportunities to further build relationships and streamline your process in the long run. Things like seamlessly matching your website design and branding, customizing form fields, directing donors to a customized thank you page and creating an automated follow-up process are much more complicated when working around another system.

Is your Donate page easy to find?

If donors can’t find your online donation form, they can’t give. Where does your Donate page live in your navigation? If it’s not in a Get Involved or Ways to Give section or directly in your main or secondary navigation, you may need to consider re-thinking the structure of your website to make it easier for folks to logically find.

You’ll want to consider the URL for your Donate page here as well. The shorter it is, the easier it is for donors to remember (and for you to include in print and digital marketing campaigns). If your Donate page is more than one level deep, consider creating a vanity URL that’s short and to the point.

What about links and calls to action for supporters to give throughout your site?

Are there opportunities within your existing content to encourage visitors to give? Mission, Impact and Get Involved pages are all prime real estate. Read through your website content to find opportunities to promote online donations.

Is the content on your donation page compelling or distracting?

Before your supporters get to the form, use the content on your Donate page to reinforce their decision to give. Without overwhelming visitors with paragraph after paragraph, use the space above the form or in a sidebar to establish your credibility, maintain the trust you’ve gained and reinforce the urgent need for their support.

Simple is almost always better when it comes to this page. Avoid any unnecessary distractions, like linking to other pages on your site or, even worse, other sites. Keep people on the page and moving through your online donation process. And if possible, keep the donate form above the fold (meaning your supporters won’t need to scroll to see it).

Are there opportunities to simplify your donation form?

Simplifying your donation form simplifies your whole process. If there are form fields that you do not actively need and use at your organization, ditch them now. The longer your form is, the less likely donors are to make it all the way through. Are you actually using donor phone numbers? Do you really need to know where they first heard about your organization or what their connection to the cause is? Cut away!

If possible, suggested donation amounts (as seen below in our online donation system) are one more way to simplify the process. Why think through and type in an amount when there are clickable options to choose from?

Donation form

Do you offer recurring giving options?

Need I explain the benefits of ongoing revenue as opposed to a one-time gift? If you don’t already have a monthly giving program, creating one can help your supporters AND your organization plan for the future with steady monthly donations they won’t need to think twice about.

To incentivize participation and keep monthly donors around, consider offering community- or cause-focused donor incentives and giving this group a little extra TLC when it comes to your donor relationship building.

Do you allow supporters to cover fees?

Including an option to cover any transaction or credit card fees can help supporters ensure that the entirety of their gift makes it to your organization. You might be surprised at how quickly those transaction fees add up!

Is the donation process secure?

Understandably, people are careful about who and where they provide their credit card information. Using a trusted and secure payment processor prevents your nonprofit from the technicalities and responsibilities of handling credit card information in house. We recommend the payment processor Stripe to all of our nonprofit clients.

You’ll also want to secure your website with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate to boost security and trust across your whole site, but especially on pages where users are being asked to submit sensitive or personal information.

What is the giving experience like on mobile devices?

We live in a mobile world, whether you like it or not. According to the 2019 Global NGO Technology Report, 88% of nonprofit websites worldwide are mobile compatible. Don’t let your website fall into that minority.

If your website is not responsive, meaning the content automatically adjusts to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on, you may be missing out on users. Please, please, please don’t make mobile users manually zoom in or squint to complete an unresponsive form. Chances are, they’ll get frustrated, give up and likely won’t remember to circle back once they’re at a desktop computer.

Does your donate form integrate with other tools that you use?

Integrations make your life easier. Aside from being time consuming and unnecessary, relying on manual data entry opens the door to mistakes and missed donors. If your nonprofit uses a donor management system or CRM (customer relationship management) software to nurture donor relationships and keep track of touch points, integrating with your donate form is essential.

What is the post-donation experience like?

Don’t leave your donors hanging. It’s the fastest way to a dismal retention rate. Give them a post-donation experience that makes them feel good about the impact their gift will have and that makes them want to give again. Your Thanks for Donating page, email confirmation and more formal (and timely!) gift acknowledgment should make your donors feel appreciated and drive home the impact of their gift. This is the start of a relationship building process, which can lead to more donations in the future.

Grade Your Process for Online Donations

How does your online donation process hold up? Use our downloadable spreadsheet to grade your nonprofit and pinpoint areas to focus on in the coming months.

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Now that you’ve identified a few problem areas in your organization’s path to online donations, zero in on those pieces and make the necessary improvements to create a donor-friendly process. Some of these updates will be small wins that you can knock out quickly, but others may be bigger tasks and require buy-in from others in your organization. As you’re putting together your online fundraising strategy for next year, make sure you plan accordingly.

What does your nonprofit’s online donation process look like? Do you have questions about improving or optimizing certain pieces? Let’s chat about online donations in the comments.