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The 3 Types of Online Donation Pages

Published by Nathan Hill

Any fundraiser who has spent time searching for recommendations on what works to improve a donation page has come across countless “best practices” that claim to be the key to growing online revenue.

Often times, these “best practices” contradict those of other blog posts and articles. They’re rarely based on real data or research. And they always operate on the core assumption that there is some sort of ultimate donation page template.

And truthfully, when we first started conducting experiments and tests on nonprofit donation pages, we were testing a lot of these “best practice” ideas. We were testing things like:

  • Videos
  • Copy length
  • Images
  • Design
  • Form fields

While testing these elements helped us learn a lot about the obstacles that can keep someone from donating, these learnings didn’t answer our ultimate question:

What makes donors give?

Now, after running over 300 donation page experiments, we’ve discovered a foundational breakthrough in how nonprofit fundraisers should think about their donation pages.

There are 3 distinct types of donation pages, and they each address donors with different motivations.

There’s a lot more data, research, and learnings about donation pages than could ever fit into a single blog post. But I’ll give you an overview of the 3 main types and a few experiment examples to help you see the key differences.

General Donation Pages

If you have a donation page at all, you have a general donation page. This is the most common type of donation page. If someone clicks on the “Donate” button on your website, this is where they land.

The most important thing to remember about a general donation page is that the motivation of the donors visiting this page is going to vary significantly. As a result, these pages can’t be too focused on a specific offer or aspect of your organization.

The copy on these pages should focus on your organization’s overarching value proposition. It should answer questions like:

  • What is the main problem your organization is trying to solve?
  • How do you accomplish your mission in a broad sense?

And since the potential donors on your page have intentionally sought out your organization and navigated directly to this page – their motivation is high. With a high motivation, we don’t want to bog them down in paragraph after paragraph of details, numbers, and figures. We want to be clear and to the point.

One experiment that helped us learn this lesson is a donation page copy test with Harvest Ministries. In this experiment, we saw a 30% drop in conversion rate when using narrative based copy.

So rather than writing long and detailed paragraphs, be sure to write the copy on your general donation page clearly and articulately – making use of bullets to outline your key points.

For more on General Donation Pages, you can get the free General Donation Page guide here.

Campaign Donation Pages

This type of donation page is the second most common. If your organization does any form of email fundraising, you more than likely have created a page like this. A campaign donation page is used in conjunction with email appeals, high urgency campaigns like calendar year-end, and other fundraising initiatives that have a specific goal or deadline.

The visitors to this page have been primed by a specific campaign message – whether that be from an email, an ad, a URL in a direct mail appeal, etc. Since the motivation is more specific, craft the copy on your page to match the specific reason a potential donor is visiting your page.

But it’s not just your message that needs to change on these pages. The format by which you convey your message needs to change.

The donors visiting your campaign page don’t have as high of a motivation as someone on your general donation page. And as a result, we want them to slow down and understand exactly why they should give to you.

Using incohesive messaging and branding will allow these donors to glance through your page without fully understand the value of donation, decreasing their likelihood to give.

But by creating consistent messaging and branding, we can help the donor get a fuller picture of both the problem your organization is trying to solve and why a gift to you will help solve it.

Take experiment #7176 with The Heritage Foundation for example. This campaign page experiment helped us confirm this lesson. A page with consistent messaging and branding has a greater likelihood of getting the donation on a campaign page.

Campaign Donation Page Template

As you can see, the copy on your campaign page needs to take on a very different form than the copy on your general donation page. We’ve put a quick guide together to help you craft effective copy, and give you new ideas to test in order to increase conversion in your campaigns.

Download the free campaign donation page guide here.

Instant Donation Pages

This third type of donation page is the least commonly used by online fundraisers, although, it is the most essential type of page for acquiring a brand-new donor.

The idea for the instant donation page was formed along with our 4-step strategy for turning Facebook likes into donors. But it has use well outside of just Facebook fundraising campaigns.

This page is used any time you have some sort of free offer or download. In most cases, when a website visitor fills out a form, we send them to thank you or confirmation page. But we can actually tap into the momentum that has been created by someone accepting one of our free offers, and use it to acquire a donation.

Use an instant donation page instead of a traditional confirmation page when someone:

  • Signs up for a newsletter
  • Downloads an eBook
  • Registers for an online course
  • Signs their name to a pledge or petition

The way you create an instant donation page is very similar to a campaign page since you have a specific motivation to tap into. Let’s look at experiment #2646 as an example:

This page came after someone signed up for a new resource center for biblical perspectives on today’s issues. In this experiment, we learned that the central value proposition – or reason someone should give – should be related to the offer they’ve just received.

The original page was focused on investing in a student to equip them to proclaim the gospel. And when we tried to broaden the message, we actually saw no significant change in donations.

A broad message on an instant donation page could decrease your donations, so be sure to write these pages in way that relates to the specific offer it follows. Avoid excess copy, use short paragraphs, and bold key points.

You can learn how to create your own instant donation page with the free instant donation page guide.

A Quick Donation Page Comparison Guide

Now, we’ve only just scratched the surface of these different types of pages. So I’ve created a guide that will help you quickly compare these 3 pages to see the essential differences.

Donation Page Comparison

And if you take away just one lesson, let it be this:

There is not just one single donation page template that will magically lift your revenue. You must consider the perspective of the donor and how they will perceive your donation page. By tapping into this donor-centric mindset, we can more accurately convey our message and inspire greater generosity.

Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President, NextAfter Institute.