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Average Gift Size Optimization: Three Strategies

Published by Nathan Hill

Each variable in our Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM) has equal impact on revenue: Traffic, Conversion, and Average Gift. Improving performance across all three variables can dramatically increase your revenue. In this post, we will explore ways to optimize your average gift to improve your overall online fundraising revenue.

FCORM - Average Gift Optimization
Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization – Average Gift

Optimizing Average Gift – From ‘Yes’ to ‘Heck Yes’

Average Gift is one of the most widely tracked nonprofit fundraising metrics even by organizations who are not actively working to optimize their online fundraising. Just because it is widely tracked does not mean that organizations are optimizing it effectively.

In the donation process, most optimization efforts are focused around getting more people to say “yes.” This is one very important aspect of online fundraising optimization, and it has a drastic effect of overall revenue. But getting people to go from saying “yes” to saying “heck yes” can have just as drastic of an impact. That’s what average gift optimization is all about – communicating the value of donating to your organization in a way that inspires your donors to give at a higher level.

1. Offering a premium of incentive for higher giving levels.

The first strategy is offering a premium or incentive for high-end giving levels. This is a pretty standard technique that’s used a lot in many different kinds of direct response initiatives. “If you want to get the goody that’s being offered, you’ve got to give at a higher level.” You can test different ways of using premiums or incentives to get people to give at higher levels.

Here’s one example with the incentive offer listed directly on the form:

Incentive - Example 1


2. Preselecting and highlighting recommended giving levels in a gift array.

The second strategy is altering the presentation of the donation form. We did some testing around preselecting and highlighting recommended giving levels in a giving array. Let me give you an example:


Preselecting Gift Amount - Example 1


This is a two-part test we ran on a donation page for The Heritage Foundation. In the control, the initial $25 gift level is preselected. We wondered if pre-selecting the $50 level could increase the average gift size. So, that’s what we did in treatment 1. This was the only difference on the page.

What we found is that by preselecting that $50 level instead of $25, it produced a 44% increase in the number of people giving at the $50 level. That’s a pretty big change, and it wasn’t very hard to do.

Then we said, “What if we didn’t just preselect it? What if we highlighted something?” For treatment 2, we put a box around the $50 giving level and set up an A/B split test. Compared to the control, the box produced a 64% increase in $50 gifts. Not only did it increase the number of people giving $50, but we also saw more people giving even higher levels as well.

Preselecting Gift Amount - Results


By highlighting the higher giving level, it created a migration effect where people are going to a new giving ceiling. These simple changes on your giving form can have a drastic impact on your average gift size and overall revenue.

3. Increase the force with which you communicate your value proposition.

Through hundreds and hundreds of tests, we’ve discovered that value proposition has a multiplying effect—not only can it affect conversion, but it also affects average gift.

Value Proposition - Example 1

In the test above, we created a long-form donation page and tested it against the control on the left. This treatment saw a 74% increase in donor conversion. We also experienced a 189% increase in average gift. These two things, combined in our Flux Capacitor, produced a 274% increase in revenue.

Why did this long-form page outperform this much more beautiful design on the left? There are a few reasons:

To become a member, they have to give a financial gift. So on the long-form page, we used the geography of the page to map to the chronology of the mind. Each portion of the copy walked the reader through a series of “micro-yeses” that led up to the eventual donation ask.

We started with very compelling argument: You should join because of this, because of this, because of this. We then inserted a 3rd part endorsement saying, “But don’t take our word for it; here is what the experts have to say…” We laced in different testimonials and endorsements from people we knew our core audience admires and trusts.

After the endorsements, we brought in additional appeal saying, “When you become a member, here is what you can expect: you’ll get this and this and this.” Finally, we made the ask and introduced the donation form at the end of the experience. By conveying an appealing, clear, and credible value proposition, we got more people to say “yes.”.

Not only did we get more people to say “yes,” we also got more people to say “heck yes” and give a larger gift. But why did our average gift go up by so much? When we communicated our value proposition with tremendous force, it helped people have a clearer understanding and stronger passion for the cause they were donating to. This increased motivation leads to a larger donation.

That’s one advantage we have of being a nonprofit: Our price is determined by our customer. Since the donation amount is determined in the mind of the donor, we have the opportunity to generate more revenue when we effectively communicate the value of making a donation.

When we communicate our value proposition with tremendous force, we build up velocity in the mind of the donor: “Not only are we going to give, but we’re going to give more because we really believe in what you’re doing. We want to be a part of it, and we want to be a part of it in a bigger way.”


Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization

NextAfter - FCORM ReportLooking for other ways to help grow your online revenue? Our Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization (FCORM) makes it easy to identify your key areas of growth.

We will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in the 3 key metrics of online revenue optimization: traffic, conversion, and average gift. Start optimizing your online fundraising by getting your free FCORM report today.


Published by Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill is Vice President, NextAfter Institute.