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Do You Have a Clunky Donation Tool? A Checkout Cart Online Giving Experience? Try This.

Published by Brady Josephson

Adding unnecessary steps to the online giving experience can cost you donors and donations — this organization saw a 175.6% increase by removing a confusing, unnecessary step — which is why a checkout cart style giving experience is generally really bad for one-time and recurring donations. It adds steps that can frustrate donors and often adds confusion which are both types of donation page friction. And they could be killing your donation page conversion rates.

SIDE NOTE: Higher Ed organizations are particularly bad at having multiple steps in their giving experience as we observed that 8 out of 10 Higher Ed’s had 3 or more steps to complete a donation compared to just 3 out of 10 for “Other Nonprofits”. More here:

But sometimes you’re stuck with a clunky tool or checkout experience so if you can’t switch to a better tool or solution (and you should consider it) what can you do?

That’s where this child sponsorship organization found itself where they wondered if they could keep some value-focused messaging more present throughout the steps and giving experience and in turn could increase the conversion rate.

To test this, they put a ‘sticky banner’ at the top of the page and throughout the checkout experience. They tested a few different messages like:

  • Celebrity endorsement—this banner featured an endorsement from a popular worship leader.
  • Sponsor endorsement—this banner featured a personal endorsement from a sponsor from Florida.
  • Time urgency and proximity—this banner reminded the user of the impact of their sponsorship and informed them that the end of the process was near and would only take a short amount of time.
  • Construal level theory—this banner showed users the “club” they were joining by sponsoring a child and reminded them of the shared values of that group.
  • International sponsor endorsement—this banner featured a personal endorsement from a sponsor from Finland, subtlely reminding the user that they were part of a global movement.

They then aggregated the results across all the treatments and here’s what they found:


Treatment #1

13.67% Increase to Conversions

Not only did they see a 13.7% increase in donations overall but every message had at least a 10% lift! The bulk of these transactions were on desktop (as most of online giving is) but there was no decrease on mobile.

Key Takeaway

Why someone should give to your organization and how you communicate that is the biggest factor in getting people to make and complete their donations – no matter how bad your online giving experience is.

And this doesn’t just apply before they get to your page or begin to complete the form/donation, but to the entire process. This is why a few sentences below the donate button at the end of the giving experience can still increase giving 31.3%!

So if you have a clunky donation tool or checkout cart flow, try finding ways where you can keep the reason why people should give more present to increase giving. Heck, even if you have a good online giving experience you should think about how you can add more value language and reinforcement with your copy and messaging throughout the entire giving experience. Good luck!

Be sure to watch Brady’s session on Friction and hear from amazing speakers like Jen Shang, Dan Pallotta and more at the 2020 Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization (Virtual) Summit.

About the author:


Brady Josephson

Brady is a charity nerd. He's an adjunct professor, fundraising writer, speaker, and podcast host and a huge Liverpool FC fan (#YNWA). At NextAfter, he oversees training and research to help nonprofits raise more money online to fund their life-changing work.

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5 Donation Platform Questions to Ask When Choosing a New Tool

Published by Nathan Hill

The solution to your online fundraising growth is never going to be a new tool – like a donation platform.

You have to have the right strategy – and sometimes the right strategy requires a new donation platform.

While we often say we’re “donation platform agnostic”, we’re certainly “donation platform opinionated” based on what we’ve tested and proven to be essential strategies to improve revenue on your donation pages.

As you consider and evaluate what the right donation platform is for your fundraising efforts, there are 5 questions you need to ask about the platform that are deal-breakers for online fundraising growth.

Here are the 5 questions you should be asking.

Click on each one to dive into the details and why it’s important for your online fundraising.

1. Can I easily edit all of the copy on my donation page?

  • Headlines
  • Body Copy
  • Form headers

2. Is the design and layout flexible?

  • Remove all links in the navigation
  • Grouping related form fields
  • Trust marks (Charity Navigator, GuideStar, etc.) must go near the donate button

3. Can I create as many donation pages as I need?

  • Unique pages for every campaign
  • Unique pages Instant Donation Pages for donor acquisition

4. Is it a one-step or multi-step process?

  • No shopping cart process
  • No gift verification screens

5. Can I test new ideas?

  • Easy to set up goal tracking in Google Analytics
  • Easy to set up eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics
  • Easy to install Google Optimize to test new growth ideas

1. Can I easily edit all of the copy on my donation page?

There’s no doubt about it – the words on your donation page are the most powerful tool at your disposal to convince someone to donate to you.

And if you can’t edit the copy – and I mean all of the copy – you’re already starting from a disadvantage.

Here are a few key areas you’ll need to be able to edit…


In experiment #4164, we saw that clearly spelling out the specific effect of someone’s donation in the headline led to a 21.2% increase in donations.

Make sure you can edit the headlines on your donation pages to communicate value and align with the motivation of your donation page visitors.

Body Copy

In experiment #4467, we saw a that tweaking the main donation page copy to focus on the general mission of the organization led to a 43.8% increase in donations.

Make sure you can edit your body copy to test your value proposition and see what inspires more donors to generously give to you.

Form Headers

In experiment #4638, we saw that using headers throughout your donation form to group common fields led to a 12.5% increase in donations.

Make sure you can edit the copy within your donation form to add headers like “1. Enter Your Donation Amount” and “2. Enter Your Information.”

2. Is the design and layout flexible?

The design of your page is critical to helping your donor do two things:

  1. Good design helps donors read your copy in the right sequence
  2. Good design helps donors stay focused on the task at hand

On the contrary, poor design creates distractions and keeps donors from fully understanding why they should give to your organization.

Here are a few key areas where you’ll need design flexibility…

Removing all the links in your navigation

In experiment #4903, we saw that removing all the distracting links in the navigation led to a 195% increase in donations.

Make sure you can control what goes in your page navigation – showing links to other pages creates both distractions and confusion for your donor.

Grouping related form fields

In experiment #1007, we saw that grouping similar form fields to reduce the page length led to a 39.4% increase in donations.

Make sure you can put similar fields side-by-side like First Name & Last Name or City & State & Zip. This will help your donor perceive that it takes less work to complete a donation.

Adding trust marks near the donate button

In experiment #4990, we saw that adding trust marks near the donate button led to a 22% increase in donations.

Make sure you can place trust marks (like Charity Navigator and/or GuideStar seals) near the donate button. Trust marks add credibility right when your donor starts to ask, “Can I trust this organization?”

3. Can I create as many donation pages as I need?

If you’re looking for a donation page tool and only thinking about your main donation page, you’re already a step behind.

Fundraisers that are seeing lots of online success are not just creating a high-performing main donation page, they’re also creating unique pages for every campaign.

And most fundraisers that are having major success acquiring new donors online in mass are utilizing instant donation pages.

Here’s what you should know about the 3 main types of donation pages

Main Donation Pages

The main donation page is the most common type of donation page. It’s the one you land on when you click “Donate” from your homepage.

With so many donors coming to this page with varying motivations, it’s best to keep your copy focused on the impact of your organization as a whole – not specific funds or programs.

Campaign Donation Pages

Every email appeal you send should land on a unique campaign donation page. In this case, you know what kind of messaging your donors just clicked through from, so you can tweak your page accordingly.

Make sure your copy is focused on supporting the specific issue, cause, or program that your page visitor has just clicked through from.

Instant Donation Pages

Instant donation pages are the least common type of donation page – but are critical for new donor acquisition.

When someone signs a petition, downloads an eBook, or exchanges their email for any type of free offer, you can replace your normal confirmation page with an Instant Donation Page to start converting new subscribers into new donors right away.

4. Is it a one-step or multi-step process?

One of the most common and detrimental types of donation page friction is something we call “steps friction.” When you have multiple pages in your donation process, it can slow down your donor, make donating feel like a lot more work, and hinder your donation page performance.

While some tools have a simplified multi-step widget, that safest route to go is having your donation form all on one page.

Here are two key reasons why you should reduce the steps in your donation process…

Verification Pages

Gift verification pages are very common, and for good reason. In theory, they help a donor make sure all their information looks correct before completing their donation.

But they can often be misleading and cause someone to think their donation is already complete.

In experiment #3712, we saw that eliminating these types of verification pages increased donations by 130.6%.

Shopping Cart Process

In experiment #2171, we saw that converting the donation process from a multi-step shopping cart to a single page donation form contributed to a 146.5% increase in donations.

Make sure your donation process doesn’t introduce unnecessary steps or feel overly transactional like you’re making a purchase on an eCommerce site.

5. Can I test new ideas?

It’s impossible to say this too many times…

The only way to know exactly what works to acquire more donors and increase revenue is to test.

What is a test?

It’s not simply implementing a new strategy and watching to see if your key metrics increase over time. There can be 100 other variables that are impacting your performance that are impossible to account for – unless you run an A/B test.

Get a quick guide to running a nonprofit A/B test here »

Here are few key things you’ll need from your donation page in order to test new ideas…

Easily set up Goal Tracking in Google Analytics

You’ll need to set up goals in Google Analytics to know exactly how many people visiting your donation page actually complete a donation.

Your donation page tool should either have an easy way to create an “event” in Google Analytics, or send donors to a dedicated conformation page that you can use to create a goal.

Easily set up eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics

Having a goal set up is not enough – you’ll want to know how much donors are giving as well.

To do so, you will want your donation page tool to make it easy to enable eCommerce tracking in Google Analytics. This will let you see how much your website and page visitors are donating.

Easily install Google Optimize to test new growth ideas

Once you have the tracking set up, you’ll need your donation page tool to make it easy to run an A/B test.

Google Optimize is a free tool you can use to test nearly any element on your donation page – including design, copy, form fields, layout, and more. Make sure your donation page tool makes it easy to install Google Optimize and other a/b testing tools.

Looking for an in-depth guide to Google Analytics? Check out the Google Analytics for Nonprofits certification course »

General Donation Page Template - iPad Image

Want to see everything we’ve learned about donation pages?

You can see all 19 proven elements of an effective main donation page in this free template – all based on real-world testing and experimentation with nonprofit organizations.

Get the free donation page template here »

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.

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7 Donation Page Secrets To Instantly Optimize Your Fundraising!

Published by Cody Foster

Is your donation page suffering? Does it fail to raise the money your nonprofit needs? Learn these 7 SECRETS to create a donate page that’s optimized to work!

If you want your donation pages for fundraising to be more successful, then this powerful guide is for you!

It’s totally stacked top to bottom with tons of valuable info that’ll make your donate page more appealing to donors and increase your donations online.

But we didn’t learn the 7 secrets we’re about to share with you overnight….

Our fundraising optimization team at NextAfter has spent many years performing hundreds of experiments with donation pages!

So everything you’re about to learn is backed by years of real research, data, and proven to work.

It’s why we know you’ll love the actionable advice you’re going to get!

Here’s a preview of what you’ll learn inside this helpful guide:

  • 7 donation page optimization secrets that’ll transform your donation page into a donation magnet
  • Formulas to help you write effective headlines, intro copy, body copy, and call-to-actions
  • Expert insights along with tips, strategies, and ideas to try (that you’ve never thought of)
  • The #1 biggest mistake you must avoid with your donation page
  • 1 extra secret (at the very end of this guide) that’ll change the way you think about donation pages forever

Plus, you’ll also get free access to…

  • 7 donation page examples that’ll ignite your imagination
  • 1 amazing donation page template you can get right here!

By completing this guide…

You’ll finally understand how to create the best donation page for your nonprofit organization and you’ll never wonder “what should a donation page say” ever again.

Are you ready to learn 7 secrets that’ll instantly optimize your donate page?

Here you go…

Secret 1: Optimize The Header

The header of a donation page should help you gain a donor’s trust and make them feel safe about donating online.

It does this by instantly telling people who your organization is and whose website they’re on, so they know exactly who their money is going to!

A quick solution to help donors feel reassured about these things is to make sure your header is optimized.

The best part is you can do this less than two minutes!

How To Optimize The Header Of A Donate Page

To optimize the header of a donation page, we recommend you do 3 things:

  • Keep it simple in appearance
  • Remove all navigation links
  • Remove the donate button

For Example…

In experiment #4903, one of our client’s donation pages used a header with a large navigation menu that included their logo and a bunch of links for people to click on.

In fact, this was the exact same header on every other page of their website.

The Problem

The links in the header made it easy for people to visit other parts of the website, like the blog page, events page, etc.

As a result, people who clicked the links actually left the donation page and didn’t donate.

This was a big bummer for the client!

It’s exactly why links never belong in the header of a donation page.

The Solution

The optimization team at NextAfter removed all of the navigation links from the header.

We also got rid of the Donate link, too (since people were already on the donation page).

Only the logo remained in the header.

After we made this quick and easy fix…

The result for the client was a 195.1% increase in donations!

Impressive stuff, right?

What You Must Know…

The header you use on your website and donation pages should not be the same!

If you want to see a significant increase in your donor conversion rate, simply eliminate all of the navigation links including the donate button from the header of your donation page.

It’s one of the easiest and overall fastest ways to optimize any fundraising page.

So please, try it out and let us know how it works for you.

Now that you know a couple of things to remove from your donation page…

You should also know what to add!

One easy thing we suggest you try is including a background image!

Because as they say…

One picture is worth a thousand words.

The right background image could also be worth thousands of extra donations, too!

Want to know how to find the best one for your donation page?

Keep reading and we’ll satisfy your curiosity….

Secret 2: Optimize The Background Image

The background image of a donation page should communicate your mission to donors and help them feel an emotion that motivates them to give.

Although some donation pages will actually perform better with no background image…

Some perform much better with them!

If you decide to use one…

You should know the most successful background images portray one of the following things:

  • Who or what a donation will benefit
  • The positive results of making a donation
  • The negative results of not making a donation
  • Why donors should urgently give now
  • How generous with money donors should be

The persuasive power a picture can pack is truly unfathomable, but not unpredictable!

You can optimize your background image by choosing one that conveys the right message!

How To Optimize The Background Image Of A Donate Page

To optimize the background image on a donation page, we recommend you try 3 things:

  • An image related to your mission, or…
  • An image related to your value proposition, or…
  • An image related to the people who are directly impacted by donations

For Example…

In experiment #2569, one of our client’s donation pages had a background image which showed a person’s hands raised high in the air.

Their fingers formed the shape of a heart that was superimposed on a visible sunlit sky in a scenic backdrop.

The Problem

The background image didn’t fully resonate with donors.

It failed to depict anything about the nonprofit’s mission.

Nor did it represent the nonprofit’s value proposition (a reason why someone should donate).

The background image was just too vague.

Ultimately, it didn’t convey anything meaningful to potential donors.

This conundrum begged the question…

What image would convey the right message and stimulate donors to give to this nonprofit?

It turns out, we only needed to consider one thing…

The nonprofit’s mission.

The Solution

It was clear.

In order to find the best background image for our client…

All we needed to do was find a picture that portrayed the concept of their mission which is “to connect people during life’s most difficult times.”

So we brainstormed together and finally found something that matched…

A closeup shot of two people holding hands.

Makes perfect sense, right?

The next thing we did was test the photo as the background image on our client’s donation page and wait a few days to see how donors responded.

When the results came back to us, we were all pleasantly surprised.

By only changing the background image…

The donor conversion rate jumped by 19.8%!

So we jumped for joy.

Wouldn’t you, too, if you could get more donations this easily?

What You Must Know…

A background image that can impact your donors’ imagination will help them empathize with your organization’s cause in fractions of a second.

This happens because images have the power to stir up people’s emotions in ways that words can’t!

So be mindful of this if you use a background image for your donation page.

If you do use one, choose a background image that portrays the people (or thing) your nonprofit serves, and make sure it helps donors visualize the positive outcome of a donation (or the negative outcome of not donating).

When you finally do discover the perfect background image that has a natural and strong emotional appeal…

It’ll seem like magic when more donations suddenly begin to appear, as if they came out of nowhere!


Do you know what else works like magic to increase donations?

Optimizing the design of your donation page.

However, you should know that not every section of it needs a pretty makeover.

To know which design changes will work to increase your donations…

Read onward…

You’re just a few seconds away from finding out!

Secret 3: Optimize The Design

The design of a donation page should make things easy to read for donors, show them where or where not to look, and be used strategically so people aren’t distracted from giving a donation.

The elements of design can include:

  • Images
  • Size and color of text
  • Space between text (line height)
  • Special font
  • Background color
  • Bullet points
  • White space (space around the elements)

…and more!

All of these design elements have an affect on your donor’s ability to reach the donation form and can impact their motivation to give.

In order for your donation page to present a wonderful aesthetic appeal…

You need to consider how to optimize the design of (1) the header and (2) everything below it.

How To Optimize The Design Of A Donate Page

To optimize the design of a donation page, we recommend you do 2 things:

  • Avoid over-investing in the header’s design and K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, silly!)
  • Ensure everything below the header is easy to read and visualize

How do we know these are good suggestions that’ll improve your donation page?

We’ve tested the design of multiple donation pages to uncover the truth and find what does work and what doesn’t work!

For Example…

In experiment #5641, a nonprofit client of ours was using donate page with a very simple blue header with a plain white logo positioned on the middle-left side.

See there?

We told you the design was simple.

The Problem

We weren’t sure if there was an issue with the header’s design.

However, our client gave us permission to perform a quick experiment, so we could determine if changing its design had any major impact on donations.

We wondered…

Could an updated header with a sleek design entice people to read more of the donation page, or somehow evoke more generosity and donations?

This question shaped our hypothesis:

Perhaps donors could indeed be dazzled with a better header design.

Testing this idea was the only way to find out!

The Solution

We swapped the old logo for one that was deemed to be more eye catching.

Then, we repositioned this new logo to the top-left corner of the header (away from the center).

Finally, we added a teal-colored transparent background image in the header that was representative of the client’s nonprofit organization.


The newly designed header looked much prettier now!

However, we received some surprising results about this donation page we’d given a facelift.

Compared to the original donation page, the donor conversion rate of this one stayed the same.

Thus, we concluded that donors aren’t influenced by the design of a beautiful header…

However, the design of everything below the header absolutely does impact donations!

You’re about to find out why….

For experiment #1469

We tested the design of a different donation page for the same client.

(Because we’re always testing to see what works best!)

But this time around, the majority of the design changes we made were below the header.

Here’s a few examples of the changes we made:

Original design of headline
New design of headline

Original design of testimonials

New design of testimonials

Original design of bullet points
New design of bullet points (red check marks)

We compared the newly designed donation page to the older version, and looked at the results.

We had a clear winner!

The donation page with the superior new design received a whopping 85.1% rise in revenue (due to a 67.7% increase in donor conversion rate and a 54.1% lift in average gift amount!).

We also had a clear answer to the question:

“Did a better design (below the header) have a major impact on donations?”

It totally does!

Here are some of the design changes we made to improve the donation page: 

  • The headline and subheading text was emboldened and its text was enlarged in size
  • The donor testimonials were given a bold typeface and a bluish text color
  • We replaced bullet points with red checkmarks

As you can see, it’s often several little things in design that can make the biggest difference in the performance of your donation pages.

We proved it!

What You Must Know…

Donors don’t care about extra design elements in the header of your donation page.

And if they don’t care…

You shouldn’t either.

So you can stop wasting time trying to make your header look amazing.

However, donors do care about how easy it is to read and scan your donation page, so…

You should optimize its design for legibility!

This will reduce the reading friction for donors…

Which makes it much easier for them to reach the donation form (and give to your nonprofit)!

Now, since we’re on the topic of reading…

You should focus on creating a powerful headline and subheading for your donation page, too!

Secret 4: Optimize The Headline & Subheading

The headline and subheading of a donation page should capture a donor’s eyes and pull on their heartstrings, so the first things they read immediately capture their attention and make them feel an urge to donate.

This will make your donors want to stick around to read the other info on your donation page.

By optimizing your heading and subheading, you can achieve this desired outcome!

Here, we’ll show you!

How To Optimize The Headline & Subheading Of A Donate Page

To optimize the headline and subheading of a donation page, we recommend you do 2 things:

  • Clearly and briefly describe the effect of someone’s donation
  • Make an emotional connection with your donors using imagery or personalization

For Example…

In experiment #4164, one of our clients donation pages was personalizing them by automatically adding the first names of its beneficiaries to the headline.

So if someone’s name was Kelly, then the headline on the donation page would simply read, “You Make Kelly’s Website Possible.”

The Problem

The headline was too generic, misleading, and it was unclear how donations would impact Kelly.

As a result…

Donors were led to believe their money was helping the organization’s website remain online…

Instead of assisting Kelly’s journey to better health and giving her access to community support.

Since Kelly’s real cause wasn’t clarified in the headline, people weren’t interested in donating.

The only thing clear was that the donate page was underperforming and failing to raise money.

So here at NextAfter, we formed a hypothesis that helped us fix the issue fast.

The Solution

The NextAfter optimization team proposed a new headline, “This Website Helps Kelly Stay Connected To Family & Friends.”

This would certainly make it clear how donations would impact Kelly’s life and well-being.

But that’s not all we changed…

We moved the original headline, “You Make Kelly’s Website Possible”, to the subheading.

Then, we tweaked the wording so it addressed every potential donor by their first name.

So if someone named Jeff visited the donation page, the subheading would read, “Jeff, You Make This Website Possible.”

Now potential donors, like Jeff, would become emotionally connected to Kelly’s cause.

Take a look for yourself!

By making these couple of changes to the donation page…

The donor conversion rate went up by 21.2%!

Overall, the new headline and subheading were a big success.

We were thrilled about it — and so was our client!

Formulas To Write Your Headline Copy

Formula 1:

“This Website Helps [who or what is helped by donations] [benefit #1]”

(Note: You can replace “This Website” with the name of your organization if it makes sense.)

Formula 2:

“Providing [benefit #1], [benefit #2], and [benefit #3]”

Formula 3:

“You can make sure that [who or what is helped by donations] does not [negative outcome]”

Formula 4:

“You can save” [who or what is helped by donations] from [negative outcome] 365 Days a Year!”

Formulas To Write Your Subheading Copy

Formula 1:

“[Name of donor], You Make [effect of donation] Possible.”

Formula 2:

“A [$ amount] donation to [name of organization] supports [who or what is helped by donations] for [number of days, month, years]. Will you make a gift to ensure that [benefit #1]?”

What You Must Know…

Too often, a donation page will ask people to donate without mentioning the impact of the gift!

The words people read on a donation page may also not provide enough imagery or personalization to pull on the heartstrings of donors…

So they won’t be able to make an emotional connection when it comes to the idea of donating.

Unfortunately, these silly mistakes will cause even the most generous donors to keep their wallets in their pockets and resist being charitable.

So don’t be shy!

Be upfront about the effect a donation will have at the very beginning of your donation page, right there in the headline and subheading.

When you provide this quick clarity, your potential donors will do at least 4 things:

  • Understand the value of their contribution
  • Believe their goodwill is going to make a specific change in the world
  • Trust what the nonprofit organization says they’ll do with their donation
  • Feel comfortable donating since they can easily imagine the effect of their donation

Once you successfully hook your donors with a brilliant headline and subheading…

You can easily progress the conversation with them on the donation page…

By reeling ‘em in with some carefully crafted intro copy!

Secret 5: Optimize The Intro Copy

The intro copy of a donation page should introduce your general value proposition.

This explains to donors why they should give to you and reveals the effects of a donation.

Since the intro copy is just a short block of text meant to stimulate a donor’s initial interest…

You should avoid going into too much detail here.

After all, it’s just an introduction that allows donors to get a preview of why they should donate!

It of course needs to be optimized, too!

How To Optimize The Intro Copy Of A Donate Page

To optimize the intro copy on a donation page, we recommend you do 4 things:

  • Always be clear and concise (It’s the ABC’s of copy writing!)
  • Use a maximum of 6 sentences (anything over is overkill)
  • Mention 1 specific undesirable event and main problem that a donation will help solve
  • Mention 3 effects a donation will create so donors know the outcome of their contribution

For Example…

In experiment #900, one of our client’s used a donate page with no intro copy on it.

The only thing donors would see is a call-to-action that asked them to give to the organization.

The Problem

Without intro copy, donors couldn’t understand why they should give.

They weren’t aware of the specific problem donations would solve…

It was also unclear exactly who a donation would help.

The donation page basically just said “Gimme your money!”

But there was no incentive to do so.

In order to fix this issue with intro copy…

We realized we’d have to start from scratch!

The Solution

We asked our client one simple question:

“When someone donates to you, what is one specific outcome?”

The answer they gave us demonstrated why donors should give to their organization.

We knew if the intro copy demonstrated this…

Donors would feel more confident and eager to donate!

Once we added the intro copy to the donation page…

Our client quickly saw a 28% increase in donations!

The intro copy worked like a charm!

For another client and experiment #6623, we took a radically different approach.

We totally scrapped the single line of intro copy highlighted in red, and we did this instead…

We told donors the beginning of a story that was connected to the nonprofit’s mission!

The details of the story included a relevant chain of events:

A tragic event that caused a problem the nonprofit could rectify with a solution.

Here’s how this story read…

In case you missed it…

The tragic event is mentioned in the first sentence which tells donors this:

Illinoisans are living in a state with the highest tax burden in the country, so residents (taxpayers) are leaving the state to go live elsewhere.

The problem is mentioned in the second sentence which tells donors this:

The state’s lawmakers are misinforming citizens that raising taxes is a good thing.

The nonprofit’s solution is mentioned in the last sentence which tells donors this:

Families in Illinois need to receive accurate and actionable information.

Now the client had effective intro copy!

The words it contained engaged donors.

It aroused their interest.

And it made them curious to find out why they should make a donation.

Ultimately, it pulled donors into a story they couldn’t help but want to read more about!

Smart, right?

Once we added the new intro copy to the client’s donation page…

They had a 150.2% increase in donor conversion rate!

Again, this was only made possible by telling donors a story they couldn’t refuse to read!

Formulas To Write Your Intro Copy

Formula 1: 

“When you give to [name of organization], you ensure that [effect #1], [effect #2], and [effect #3]. Make a donation now. Your support matters.”

Formula 2:

Paragraph 1

[Describe a tragic/important event that’s happened or still happening]

[State the main problem or the most obvious negative effect this event caused]

Paragraph 2

“At [name of organization], we believe in/that [your philosophy that’s specifically related to solving the problem in sentence 2].”

“To [support word] [result #1 your organization wants], to [result #2 your organization wants], we need to [solution/action that will cause results #1 and #2]

Try both of these to see which one helps you get more donations!

They’re bound to work!

What You Must Know…

As we mentioned, the best intro copy will pull your donors into a story they’ll love to read.

However, it’s also important for you to tell them a story they can actively play a role in!

By emphasizing to donors they must become involved in your nonprofit’s mission…

They’ll feel an urgent call of duty to help you by donating.

It’s why your donors are the story’s hero.

In fact, you need to help them understand their role when they read the body copy, next!

Secret 6: Optimize The Body Copy

The body copy of a donation page should prove to donors that your mission is their responsibility.

It needs to focus on your organization’s role, what it stands for, and how it hopes to change the world.

Then, it needs to explicitly reveal the donors’ role and that it’s up to them to make good change happen!

Articulating these things in your body copy is absolutely advised.

The optimization tips below will help you!

How To Optimize The Body Copy Of A Donate Page

To optimize the body copy on a donation page, we recommend you apply the 3 R’s:

  • Remind donors about the real-world impact your organization is making
  • Reassure donors why they should donate by giving them great reasons to donate
  • Reveal to donors that your mission ultimately relies on their generosity and donations

To further optimize the body copy on a donation page, we recommend you do 4 other things:

  • Begin with a transitional statement that connects the intro copy to the body copy
  • Stick to a concise, general, bulleted message (after the transitional statement)
  • Avoid excessive explanation copy and narrative (so donors don’t get lost in the details)
  • Use a maximum of 6 sentences (remember, anything over is overkill)

While this may seem like a lot to remember or follow through on, you can (and should) do it.

Many of our most successful clients already have!

For Example…

In experiment #6623, a client of ours wasn’t using any body copy whatsoever on their donate page!

As a matter of fact…

After the headline and a single line of intro copy, donors were told to select a donation amount.

The Problem

Without any body copy, donors couldn’t…

  • Be reminded what the organization does…
  • Recall how the organization makes the world a better place.
  • Feel reassured about the organization’s role or capabilities to change the world.

Without any body copy, donors also couldn’t…

  • Be reminded the organization’s mission was only made possible by donations.
  • Recall how important the role of a donor truly is to the organization
  • Feel responsible to take action and drive change in the world. 

Overall, the donor wasn’t told how they must be the hero in the nonprofit’s mission.

This needed to change.

The Solution

We thought about the answers to 4 questions.

  1. “What does the organization do?”
  2. “What impact does the organization hope to make?”
  3. “How exactly is the organization creating this impact?”
  4. “Who or what is the main beneficiary of the impact they want to make happen?”

That’s it.

Next, the answers we arrived at were plugged into a formula for writing effective body copy.

At this point, we simply added the optimized body copy to the client’s donation page.


The body copy increased the donor conversion rate all the way from 2.5% to 6.3% !!!

As a result, the amount of donations the organization received more than doubled!

How amazing is that?!

All we had to do was conclude the story by reminding people about two things:

The organization’s role and how important a donor’s role is!

Formula To Write Your Body Copy

Formula 1:

Transitional statement

“This is why we created [name of organization or website]”

Paragraph 1

“This organization is [what your organization or website is]. We are [what impact your organization is making]. We are [how your organization is creating this impact]. And we are doing all of this for [you, the people, place(s), or thing(s) your organization will impact].”

Paragraph 2

“But we must have your help to accomplish our mission. We depend on the support of individuals like you.”

What You Must Know…

Writing extraordinary body copy for your donation page will become easy for you.

It just requires a little bit of practice, testing, and tweaking until you find what works best!

In fact, you’ll be well ahead of the curve if you just know 3 things:

  • The purpose of the body copy (which we’ve explained)
  • The 4 key questions you’ll to need to address (which we showed you in the formula)
  • How to answer those questions in very short sentences (because concise is nice!)

Overall, the body copy assigns the responsibility of being a hero and doing good in the world…

To your donors!

Once you help them realize this is the true role they can play in your mission’s story…

Your donors will be convinced that making a donation isn’t just something you want them to do… 

They’ll believe it’s the right thing to do.

So they’ll have all the desire in the world to donate!

You can easily evoke this mindset in your donors by learning how to write better body copy.

Lucky for you, we’ve given you everything you need to get started.

You’ve got this!

Secret 7: Optimize The Call-To-Action Copy

The call-to-action copy of a donation page should persuade your donors to mentally commit to giving you a donation before they fill out the donation form.

It should also laser-focus the donor’s mindset on the action you want them to take.

Learning how to optimize your call-to-action will help you achieve these goals.

How To Optimize The Call-To-Action Copy Of A Donate Page

To optimize the call-to-action copy on a donation page, we recommend you do 3 things:

  • Provide a single call to action that reinforces the impact of giving a donation
  • Include a support word (help, keep, save, change, rescue, protect, transform, support)
  • Make your donors feel like they are pledging to do something specific

While not mandatory, you can try 4 other things to optimize your call-to-action copy, too!

  • Include a numeric goal that describes how many people will benefit from donations
  • Use imagery so donors can visualize the real-world outcome of their donation
  • Experiment with all capital letters
  • Create a sense of urgency

For Example…

In experiment #641, our client was already using great CTA copy on their donate page…

They had a single call to action at the end of the body copy (and directly above the donation form.)

It included a number to describe how many people would benefit from donations.

It used all capital letters to help make the call-to-action a main focus of the donation page.

The Problem

There wasn’t necessarily a big problem with the call-to-action copy.

But in truth, we knew it could be improved with just a few little tweaks!

Like always, the goal was to help the client raise their donor conversion rate!

And we believed we could do it — and we ultimately did with the changes we made!..

The Solution

The first change we made was quite clever…

We used strikethrough text, j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶l̶i̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ , to cross out the original number that described how many people would benefit from donations.

Directly next to this crossed-out number…

We added a slightly higher number using red text, so donors understood that more people could be helped and a new goal could be reached if more donations were given.

This goal tactic was proof that donations were already working and it provided the imagery of hundreds of people being helped to make the impact of donations seem more real to donors.

Here’s what else we did…

Since it was December, we added “this Christmas!” to the end of the call-to-action copy.

This created a sense of urgency for the donor so they would commit to donating now.

After all was said and done, our client’s donation page was transformed.

And so were the results they’d been getting…

The amount of donations increased by 166.4%!

If donation pages could print money, this one certainly had the power to now!

Formulas To Write Your Call-To-Action Copy

Formula 1: 

“MAKE A GIFT AND [support word] [o̶r̶i̶g̶i̶n̶a̶l̶ ̶n̶u̶m̶b̶e̶r̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶p̶e̶o̶p̶l̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶n̶e̶f̶i̶t̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ d̶o̶n̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶s̶] [slightly higher number (in red text)] LIVES THIS CHRISTMAS!”

(Please note: You should only use holidays in your call-to-action copy if it’s close to a holiday. Otherwise, you can still create urgency with donors by using “in [year]!”, “this [name of month]!”, or “in the next [number] days!”)

Formula 2:

“Yes! I want to [support word] [benefit others experience from organization]”

Formula 3:

“You can [support word] [name of organization] [the mission your organization wants to accomplish] by making a gift today.”

Formula 4: 

“You can [support word] [number] [specific demographic of people your organization helps] with [what the recipient of a donation will get] today for a gift of [dollar amount] or more.”

If you feel any of these formulas apply to your organization, feel free to test them on your fundraising page to see how your specific audience of donors respond.

You can also use the formulas as pure inspiration to give you ideas on what your donation page should say.

It’s up to you!

What You Must Know…

Writing a strong call-to-action for a donation page doesn’t take much time at all.

You just need to consider:

  • Who exactly donations will help
  • How many people your organization can help with donations
  • What is the specific impact or outcome of a donation

Be sure to apply some of the other optimization tactics we taught you about call-to-actions, too.

Then simply tweak your wording over time.

You’ll know you’re on the right track when you begin to notice an increase in donations.

Believe this…

You’re going to love it when you figure out what call-to-action copy triggers your donors to give!

The #1 Mistake You Must Avoid With Donation Pages

Do you want to kill your donor conversion rate?


Then whatever you do…

Do not put video on your donation page!

Here at NextAfter, it’s a common yet unfortunate mistake we often see a lot of nonprofit organization’s make!

But it’s not their fault.

They’re misled by all the fake gurus out there who claim that a video on a donate page makes it easier to convey an inspirational message, connect with donors, and get more donations.

However, this isn’t true.

After several experiments, we’ve learned that video actually has the opposite desired effect!

In fact, having one on your donation page will dramatically decrease the donations you’ll get.


“Why is this?,” you ask?

It’s simple.

Giving your donors a video to watch (regardless of its length) will do 4 horrible things:

  • Needlessly shifts your donors’ attention and change their mindset about donating
  • Creates friction by disrupting the flow and momentum of the donation page
  • Erases the power of persuasion contained within your copy
  • Stops or impedes donors from reaching the donation form

The end result is that any enthusiasm a donor once felt about making a donation…

Will be lowered, lost, and long gone forever.

So please, we beg you…

Remove any videos on your donation page.

If you follow this advice…

You could quickly lift your donations by 560%, 203%, or 342% like some of our clients did!

You can check out experiments #5287, #3970, or #1985 for proof! 

Final Words…


You just learned a lot about donation pages!

It must feel great to know…

You’re just moments away from getting more donations for your nonprofit!

We certainly wish you the best of luck, and…

We’re beyond thrilled that we’ve helped you unleash the generosity of all your future donors!

Now it’s time to take your newfound knowledge and make your own donation page…

That’s optimized to work!

Before you go…

Here’s a recap of the 7 secrets you learned that’ll help you create the best donation page for your nonprofit organization!

Secret 1: The header of a donation page should help you gain a donor’s trust and make them feel safe about donating online.

Secret 2: The background image of a donation page should communicate your mission to donors and help them feel an emotion that motivates them to give.

Secret 3: The design of a donation page should make things easy to read for donors, show them where or where not to look, and be used strategically so people aren’t distracted from giving a donation.

Secret 4: The headline and subheading of a donation page should capture a donor’s eyes and pull on their heartstrings, so the first things they read immediately capture their attention and make them feel an urge to donate.

Secret 5: The intro copy of a donation page should introduce your general value proposition so donors know exactly why they should give to your organization and the effects on donating.

Secret 6: The body copy of a donation page should prove to donors that your mission is their mission too, and that it’s their responsibility to take action and donate to change the world.

Secret 7: The call-to-action copy of a donation page should persuade your donors to mentally commit to donating before they fill out the donation form.

The biggest secret of them all…

Whatever optimizes one organization’s nonprofit donation page may or may not optimize yours.

The only way to find out what jives with your unique donor audience is to perform experiments.

It’s why we encourage you to make multiple changes to your donation page over time…

And never be afraid to test things out…

Until you find what works best for you.

Whatever you do, make sure you always listen to your donors by examining the data and amount of donations you get when you apply any changes to your donation page.

Because ultimately…

It’s your donors who will tell you how to create a donate page that’s optimized to work.

It’s up to you to hear them.

About the author:


Cody Foster

The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

Michelle Hurtado leads the Ad Grants program at Google, which offers $10,000 per month in free advertising to nonprofits around the world. From starting her career supporting nonprofit communication strategies to diving into digital marketing for over twelve years, she’s grateful to bring interests together and serve nonprofits through Ad Grants.  She resides in California with her husband and three children and holds degrees from Duke University and Wharton.

At the 2018 NIO Summit, Michelle Hurtado joined us all the way from Google where she leads the Ad Grants program. Michelle introduced the Ad Grant program and gave 8 key tips to understanding and getting the most out of the program. Below is a preview of her session but you can view the entire session along with all of the 2018 speaker sessions here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID

The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

Josh McQueen is the founder of McQueen, Mackin & Associates and the author of “Building Brand Trust: Discovering the Insights Behind Great Brands.” He served as the Executive Vice President and Director of Research and Planning Worldwide for the world’s 3rd largest agency Leo Burnett, and later started his own market research and consulting firm to apply his knowledge in the nonprofit world.

At the 2018 NIO Summit, Josh discussed generational giving patterns and chasing the ever-elusive millennial donor. Below is a snippet from his presentation but you can view all of last year’s sessions in their entirety here.

About the author:

Allan Torres

Allan Torres

Allan is the Associate Marketing Specialist for NextAfter. He assists with marketing content creation and distribution. He is also a passionate Madridista (Real Madrid fan.) #HALAMADRID

The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

Published by Adam Weinger

4 Crucial Things You Need to Know About Matching Gifts

How would you like to have donations to your organization doubled? Sounds too good to be true, right? After all, this is the buy-one-get-one-free opportunity of your dreams.

When you are looking for the secret to raising more funds for your nonprofit, you are willing to try any new, promising techniques. The solution is simple: matching gifts.

Matching gifts will revolutionize how you think about fundraising and managing your donor engagements. Utilizing a good matching gifts program is essential to ensure you maximize the impact of each and every eligible donation to your organization.

So, you may want to incorporate matching gifts into your fundraising strategy, but you still have no idea how to take advantage of this sector of corporate philanthropy. You may be asking:

  1. What is a matching gifts program?
  2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?
  3. How do I promote matching gifts?
  4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Don’t worry! This post will answer all of your questions and provide you with the information you need to know to start optimizing your fundraising strategy with matching gifts.

So, let’s dive in and prepare you for an entirely new source of nonprofit revenue!

1. What is a matching gifts program?

Matching gifts programs are, unfortunately, an underutilized source of revenue for nonprofit organizations. The sad truth is that many nonprofit development officers have no idea what they are missing.

Have you ever wondered how to tap into the corporate sphere with your fundraising campaign? Over half of the Fortune 500 companies, along with many other corporations, offer their employees a matching gifts program.

With these programs, a corporation matches its employee’s charitable donation with a 1:1, 2:1, or even 3:1 ratio! Effectively, if an individual employed at an eligible company donates $100 to your organization, their employer would then donate $100, $200, or even $300 to your organization.

So how do corporations know when their employees are donating to charitable causes?

The matching gifts process is easy and simple — for you, your donor, and their employer. The process typically proceeds as follows:  

  1. An individual donates to your organization.
  2. The donor searches a matching gift database to determine if they are eligible for a matching gifts program.
  3. The donor submits the appropriate forms to their company.
  4. The employer matches their donation to your organization.

This program is the best resource to maximize your donor’s giving potential. It will allow you to optimize a gift of average size and help donors make a difference for your organization.

2. Why don’t more people take advantage of matching gifts?

By now you are probably asking yourself: If matching gifts are as beneficial as they seem, then why don’t more people take advantage of them?

Unfortunately, just like many nonprofits do not know how to take advantage of corporate philanthropy, most people are unaware of their own eligibility for these programs. It’s likely that your donors and prospective donors simply do not know what matching gifts are or if their company offers it.

Just look at this list of top matching gift companies from Re:Charity and you will see that many popular companies offer programs and people don’t even know about it!

Only about 7-9% of donors are taking advantage of a matching gifts program. This means an incredible amount of money that could go to your organization is left untapped. Around $2-3 billion is donated to charities through matching gifts per year, while an estimated $4-7 billion goes unclaimed.

Because most donors don’t know about matching gifts, your nonprofit needs to do everything in its power to encourage donors to use matching gifts.

3. How do I promote matching gifts?

If you are serious about wanting to promote matching gifts to your donors, there are plenty of concrete ways to go about doing so.

You should consider doing the following:

Provide access to an online matching gift tool.

Many of your donors likely use an online method of donation. Donors want easy and they want fast — they want to be able to give from the comfort of their own homes and their own devices. So you should also make it as easy as possible for them to participate in a matching gifts program.

As you read in the first section, part of the matching gifts program requires donors to determine whether or not they are eligible to participate. The best resource you can provide to donors is a matching gifts database search tool.

This tool will provide information such as:

  • Whether a company has a matching gifts program.
  • The minimum and maximum match amounts. These can vary based on the company. Some companies match anything from single digit to four digit donations!  
  • The ratio at which a company will match. While some organizations only contribute at a 1:1 ratio, it is not uncommon to find even more generous ratios that have the potential to quadruple a donor’s contribution.
  • Employee eligibility. Find out if the company will match gifts for full-time, part-time, or retired employees.
  • Volunteer grants. Some corporations are willing to donate on behalf of volunteers. They will likely donate a certain amount for a specific number of volunteer hours. A company might donate $250 for an employee’s 25 volunteer hours, and $500 for 50 hours, etc.
  • Types of nonprofits the corporation will give to. Types of nonprofits that companies generally include in their matching gifts program are educational institutions, health and human services, arts and cultural organizations, civic and community organizations, environmental organizations, and religious institutions.
  • Submission process details. The tool should also provide basic information about the corporation’s submission process and deadline. This could be providing the corporation’s contact information or a link to their giving page.

1 in 3 donors stated that they would be more likely to donate, and donate more, if they knew about matching gifts. They would know that their donation is making a greater impact.

To see how to include a matching gift search tool on your website, check out this site.

Follow up with donors about their matching gift status.

Don’t give up on getting your donors to participate in a matching gifts program simply because they have already finished your donation process. Many corporations allow a window of time — some even offer up to a year — for employees to turn in their forms to receive a matched gift!

Following up with your donors after their donation is the key to informing more people about matching gifts. Email is essential to increasing your matching gift revenue.

People donate to charitable organizations such as yours because they want to make a difference. They will be grateful for the opportunity to maximize their impact and increase your ability to do good.

Consider emailing your donors and asking them to check their eligibility for matching gifts. Use a call-to-action in the subject line to increase the likelihood that they open your email. This can be:

  • Do you want to have your donation to [organization name] doubled?
  • Double your contribution to [organization name] with employer match.
  • Help [organization name] [organization’s immediate goal] by participating in a matching gifts program.

Emails reminding donors about matching gifts that are sent within 24 hours of a donation have an open rate 2-3 times higher than the average nonprofit email! Don’t lose out on this opportunity!

4. Which matching gift tool is best for my nonprofit?

Are you still concerned about which matching gift tool you should choose to implement? Don’t worry! There is a database out there that will be perfect for your organization and help you tap into the benefits of corporate revenue.

No matter the size of your organization, matching gift database tools will benefit you greatly.

Double the Donation Matching Gift Tool – for small to medium organizations

Double the Donation’s matching gift database is the perfect industry-leading tool for small and medium-sized organizations. This database provides information on over 20,000 companies and subsidiaries and has the most comprehensive set of matching gift resources!

This tool can be integrated into the company’s website and maintains your organization’s branding creating a seamless experience for the donor.

Double the Donation also provides the option to display your own customizable link on their site. You can raise awareness of your organization and simultaneously gain access to the best matching gifts database for your donors.

360MatchPro – for large organizations

360MatchPro is best for large nonprofits and higher education institutions that already bring in more than $25,000 in matching gifts revenue a year. This platform provides a complete matching gifts marketing automation.

Remember, this platform is most effective when the organization is already taking advantage of matching gifts, not for those organizations just starting out.

This platform can screen donors’ email domains, donation form information, and email responses to identify matching gift opportunities among your donor network. You can ensure that every donor who begins with matching gifts finishes the process by sending automated, customizable messages to them throughout the process.

You can use this platform to analyze your donor data and predict how much you will be able to add with matching gifts. This will allow you to better plan your fundraising strategy and reach your goals for your cause.

Matching gifts are the best way to take advantage of corporate philanthropy and maximize the impact of your existing donors. If you still have questions, find your answers in this guide to matching gifts.

Make sure you don’t let this extra revenue pass you by! Encourage your donors to check their eligibility and do everything in your power to make the process as easy as possible for them.

About the author:

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger

Adam Weinger is the President of Double the Donation, the leading provider of tools to nonprofits to help them raise more money from corporate matching gift and volunteer grant programs.

The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

5 Ways Charities Can Optimize Their Online Giving Experience

Published by Brady Josephson

Online fundraising can seem complex. You’ve got so many different tools to figure out. All that data you can get and track. Rules, regulations, and ‘best practices’ are often changing. A lot of different people have different ideas on how you can do online fundraising. And, for many of you reading this, online is just one part of what you do, not all that you do.

To help shed some light on this subject as it relates to Canadian charities, last year I signed up to get email updates from 152 Canadian charities and then made $25 donations to all of them. I captured and scored each area — email signup, fundraising emails, and online giving experience — to produce The Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard.

The study is free and in it you’ll find all the stats and key findings but today I want to focus on a simple framework to help with how to think about online fundraising and then provide some ideas to improve your online giving experience based on the research study and some real examples from the world’s largest online fundraising experiment library.

Three strategies to grow online fundraising

When it comes to growing your online fundraising, everything you do should really fit under one of these three main strategies:

  • Get more (quality) visitors to your website.
  • Get more of the people visiting your website to make a donation.
  • Get those making a donation to give more on average.

And the beauty of those simple strategies is that they correspond to the 3 Online Fundraising Metrics that Every Nonprofit Needs to Track:

  • Traffic
  • Conversion Rate
  • Average Gift

If you multiply those three metrics together, you get revenue. So if you increase traffic, and the other two remain the same, you’ll raise more money. And if you can increase traffic and conversion rate, with average gift staying the same, well then you’ll raise even more money.

That’s pretty straightforward — I hope — but understanding how to get started is one of the biggest questions we get asked. So much so, that we recorded a whole podcast episode to answer it, When It Comes to Online Fundraising, Where Do I Start? I’ll spoil part of the podcast and let you know that, often, one of the easiest things you can do to raise more money online is to optimize and improve your donation page so more of your current visitors — as many or as few as you get — are more likely to donate.

So with that here are…

Five ways to optimize your online giving experience

1. Be clear with what their donation will do.

Clarity trumps persuasion. It’s one of my favourite sayings around the office because experience shows it to be true but being clear is something every organization has the capacity and ability to do. It may be hard to be creative, or unique, or have some amazing offer but everyone can be clear. And being clear in terms what someone’s gift will do on your donation page can make a world of difference.

Because why should you give if you end up here:

Unless you’ve 100% made up your mind that you’re going to give your money away, that page could stop you in your tracks (and you may never come back).

But look at this simple experiment where the addition of a few short paragraphs of copy/text helped communicate what a donation would do and increased donations 150%:

In the research study, we saw that 64% of organizations used more than one sentence of copy to share their ‘why’ but if we would’ve looked at how many used more than 3 sentences, that number would drop to 30% or so.

If you want to tell people how their donation will help — and you need to — you have to tell them. Be clear. Be simple. Use copy.

2. Give people a reason to make a monthly donation.

Monthly giving is hugely important to long term success in fundraising but if you only look at the online giving experience you would never guess that to be true. Only 10% of organizations gave us a reason to make a recurring donation (as opposed to a one-time donation). The rest just had something like this:

Does that seem like something incredibly valuable to the organization? Or being positioned in a way where it looks like a valuable way to give for the donor? Not really…

And this isn’t unique to Canadian organizations. We also did a study on recurring giving last year with 115 nonprofits in the United States and found pretty much the same thing where just 9% of organizations had a ‘why’ or value proposition for recurring giving on their main donation page.

We saw some neat recurring giving focused ideas in the study like a pop-up at the time of one-time donation, impact calculator, and special donation anchors, but even doing something more subtle and simple like this can help:

You can see that they first answer why a donation is needed and what it will do before communicating just how valuable a recurring donation is.

If it’s important to you, you need to prioritize it but make sure you communicate the value of it not through your eyes but through theirs. Is it more impactful? More convenient? Do they get any special treatment? Then tell them.

In this example, words like ‘vital funds’ show the importance of the donation, ‘automatically’ gets at convenience, and ‘change or stop’ is empowering to a donor so they don’t fear signing up and never being able to stop.

3. Eliminate unnecessary, distracting, and conflicting links.

One of the easiest ways to optimize your donation page is to do this:

  1. Take your donation page/form out of your website template to get rid of side, top, and footer navigation
  2. Remove all the additional ways and options of giving other than online
  3. Take away any other calls to action and links that don’t help the donor complete the donation process

All those extra and unnecessary links create friction for the donor and when the different types of friction — more on the 7 types of friction here — become too much, people will abandon their donation.

They clearly have some interest in giving otherwise they wouldn’t have clicked something to get to your donation page, so confirm your message and then get out of their way. You don’t want them to sign up for your newsletter or connect with you on social media at this stage, so why have those links and options even available?

Here is a very extreme version of all the friction a donation page can create for a donor:

Look at all the distractions and decisions they are making the donor — me in this case — make. It’s so overwhelming I’d just give up if I wasn’t doing it for this study. If the visitor wasn’t actually looking to make a donation for some reason then they can use the back button or dig a bit for a link to take them away. They don’t need to see all the other things you do or things they can do so just remove them.

4. Build trust where, and when, you need it in the giving process.

It’s an unfortunate reality but many donors, especially high value older donors, are concerned about the trustworthiness of the organization and the security of their information. So why not make it easier for them to trust you and feel that their information is safe.

Add your charitable registration number, privacy policy, and even third party ‘evidentials’ — testimonials, seals, etc. — that let people see why they should trust you more. And when it comes to security, adding a little ‘lock box’ and shading the Credit Card area — where people are most information sensitive — are small things that can be a pretty big difference. Like a 14% increase in donations in this case:

Those are a few things you can do pretty easily to help put your donors at ease (and help you get more donations) but not all organizations are doing that:

  • 39% did not have their charitable registration number present on the page
  • Only 31% of organizations had ‘trust’ marks
  • 33% had no privacy policy available

Remember the monthly giving example from Ducks Unlimited? Here’s what the bottom of their page looks like:

You are a trustworthy organization with good data management and security systems so show your donors that you are when and where it matters.

5. Have a really good, warm, and thankful confirmation page.

You’ve secured the donation, nice. But the work of continuing to build the relationship with the donor is just starting. And that starts with your confirmation or thank you page. Confirming that the donation was successful and thanking them is the bare minimum (something that 12% of organizations didn’t do) but the majority of organizations said something like this:

Makes you feel all warm and tingly inside doesn’t it? Compare that to something like this form UNICEF:

There are some strategic things you can do on the confirmation page like ask for more information (how did you hear about us), give them an action to take (will your employer match your gift?), or even ask them to give again to another project or as a monthly donor but it’s easy to make sure they are thanked in a meaningful, warm, human way.


Those are just a few ideas and examples of how you can improve and optimize your donation page. You can see 19 different areas of your main donation page that you can test and download a guide here, and get the full Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard here

This post was orginally published on Charity Village and can be read in full here.

About the author:


Brady Josephson

Brady is a charity nerd. He's an adjunct professor, fundraising writer, speaker, and podcast host and a huge Liverpool FC fan (#YNWA). At NextAfter, he oversees training and research to help nonprofits raise more money online to fund their life-changing work.

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10 Online Fundraising Ideas That Are Proven to Grow Your Revenue

Published by Brady Josephson

10 Online Fundraising Ideas Proven to Grow Revenue - Blog Image

After spending a year observing every online fundraising idea, test, and experiment being run by all the optimizers here at NextAfter, I found 10 online fundraising ideas that you need to be testing and implementing this year.

Let’s get right to it!

1. Focus on the 3 online fundraising metrics that really matter.

There are a ton of shiny objects in digital fundraising and marketing to get you distracted from real goal: increasing revenue.

3 Online Fundraising Metrics

To optimize your online fundraising, you’ve got to get laser-focused on the 3 metrics that we call The Flux Capacitor of Online Revenue Maximization.

The three online fundraising metrics that really matter are:

  1. Website Traffic
  2. Donation Conversion Rate
  3. Average Gift Size

Increasing any single one of these metrics is going to lead to more revenue. But increasing 2 or all 3 of these metrics is going to lead to exponentially more revenue.

To learn more about the FCORM metrics and how they relate to online fundraising revenue, read this blog post by Nathan Hill. Here, he breaks down what it is and how nonprofits can leverage it for higher online revenue.

But here’s the basics of what you need to know…

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Use these 3 metrics as your strategic framework. Anytime you and your team make a decision about a new online fundraising idea, activity, or strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will it produce more traffic to my website?
  • Will it drive more of my traffic to donate?
  • Will it encourage donors to make bigger donations?

2. Think of your donor funnel as a donor mountain.

The Donor MountainReally this is more of a way of thinking than a strategy. But changing your perspective on the how your donors interact with you is critical.

We can’t pretend that donors are organically falling into a typical “sales funnel.” They’re not falling in at all. In fact, making a donation can be a lot of hard work.

A donor rarely wakes up thinking, “I’m going to donate to ORGANIZATION today.” Something has to prompt them to consider giving. And it’s your job to help them make the journey from being prompted, to actually completing a donation.

Your message is your main tool to help your donor up the mountain.

From the moment a donor is prompted to consider giving, there are distractions and micr-decisions all along the way.

You have to use the copy in your emails, on your landing pages, and on your donation page to explain why someone should keep moving forward to the ultimate goal of donating.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

A donation doesn’t happen in one step. You have to help your donor take a lot of little steps towards the ultimate goal of donating.

3. Your emails and donation pages need to be longer than you might think.

It’s often considered “best practice” to keep your copy (or your message) really short. But over and over again, testing and research shows that almost every organization needs to write longer copy.

Here’s why…

How more copy on an email signup form increased conversions

In this experiment, we wanted to increase email sign ups. The version on the left is what the vast majority of nonprofit email signup forms look like.

Online fundraising idea - Email newsletter signup form test image

The treatment on the right really has one substantial change…there is more copy explaining why you should sign up!

The new version says this: “Get exclusive access to breaking campus reform stories as they happen. Sign up below and we’ll keep you in the loop too.”

Adding two sentences and tweaking a headline increase email signups by 28%.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Use more copy to communicate why someone should sign up, click through, or donate.

Keep in mind, it’s not the length of copy that improves conversion. It’s how well your copy communicates why someone should give, or click, or sign up.

If you want to dig deeper into how you write better copy to increase conversion, you can check out this post on improving your value proposition.

4. Send your fundraising emails from real people to real people.

Almost every single email best practice out there recommends using some form of a designed email template. But here’s something most experts will never tell you (because they don’t dare test it)…

All the hours you spend designing emails are costing you donors and revenue.

“Well, how else are you supposed to do it, Brady?”

Just write an email like an average, everyday human being who doesn’t know how to create a flashy HTML email.

This is how real people write emails to their friends and family — and that there is a multitude of experiments and data to show that sending plain-text style emails is far more effective for raising money.

Here’s just one of numerous experiments that strongly suggest that a personal approach performs better than a heavily designed email.

How a more humanized email increase donations…by a lot!

Online fundraising idea - write a more personal email - imageIn the control on the left, you can see some graphic elements like the corporate logo and the big blue button below. The recipient’s name is personalized with their first name.

In the treatment on the right, we’ve removed these graphical elements and saw 145.5% increase in donations.

With these results in mind, try experimenting with your own email fundraising by:

  • Removing design elements so it looks more like a personal email.
  • Using copy/text that’s more personal and about your donor (like the second-person pronoun “you”).
  • Using a real person’s name and email as your email sender
  • Personalizing the email with the recipient’s name.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

People give to people, not email marketing machines. The more human and believable your email is, the more successful your online fundraising will be.

For more on making your emails more human, you can dive into a free online course on Email Fundraising Optimization here.

5. Send emails when others aren’t.

When I check my email in the morning, I often have 10, 20, 30 or more emails to sift through – depending on the day. But when I check email throughout the day, there’s not nearly as much to sift through all once.

You can stand out in the inbox by sending emails when others aren’t!

So what days are organization sending emails? Well, I’ve got some data for you on that.

In the month of December, we looked at all the emails we received in our aggregate donor inbox from hundreds of organizations and charted them.

Online fundraising idea - send email on the weekend chartWe found that weekends present an opportunity for nonprofits to stand out because they have lower send volumes from “competitor” organizations.

In fact, not only were email open rates optimized, the data shows an increase in average gift size from emails sent on the weekend too.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Try publishing your emails on weekends and during afternoons and evenings, when fewer organizations are sending emails. By sending during relatively quiet times, you’re more likely to be noticed.

6. You don’t always have to send more email to bring in more donations.

You can always send more emails to try and bring in more donations. But you don’t always have to do this to increase donations.

You can increase donations without adding more email sends to your calendar by using content marketing.

This is one of the coolest experiments in our research library. And it’s a perfect mashup of how direct mail and online fundraising come together to make even stronger donors.

Online fundraising idea - uses brand ads with direct mail imageIn this experiment, one half of the donors were sent a direct mail letter with a donation ask.

The other half were sent the same direct mail letter, but they were also targeted with brand ads on Facebook.

The goal wasn’t necessarily to get people to click on the ads. It was to make sure they were continually reminded of the organization.

The group that was targeted with brand ads saw a 25% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Create content (both organic and paid advertising) that reinforces the impact of donating. Use this to cultivate and prime your donors in order to make your direct donation asks even more effective.

Here’s another super cool experiment that shows how a personal post-card (without a donation ask) can lead to greater year-end giving.

7. Throw away your boring confirmation pages, and start using instant donation pages instead.

Last year, I went around and signed to receive emails from 152 organizations. And I made this startling find…

Only 48% of organizations used a confirmation page after an email signup.

You might be saying, “Why does that matter? My form shows a thank you message without using a new page.

Online fundraising idea - use an instant donation pageBut here’s the deal… A real confirmation page will let you:

  • Improve the user experience by letting users be 100% they’re done.
  • Continue the engagement by providing more interesting and useful content.
  • Track completions and conversions easier

Now, for those that are using confirmation pages, only 8% actually asked for a donation right away.

“But Brady…that’s so rude to ask someone who just signed up for an email to donate.”

I prefer to let the donor be the judge of that. And time and time again, we see new contacts becoming new donor instantly when using an instant donation page.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Instead of just showing a thank you message or standard confirmation page after someone signs up for an email, use an instant donation page to start acquiring new donors right away.

You can dig into the ins and outs of instant donation pages here.

8. Stop designing to make things look pretty. Start designing to make things more effective.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not anti-design.

I’m very pro-design. But that design has to be communicating the right message in a way that is empathetic to our donors.

Designing for the sake of being modern or pretty often leads to some pretty negative results. And just because Charity Water has a really cool looking page doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective thing for you.

We need to design with our donors in mind.

Take a look at how redesigning a donation page to make it more personal affected the actual revenue coming in from the page below…

How design impacts conversion on a donation page

Online fundraising idea - design your donation pages for effectiveness imageYou can see the original page here. It’s just one giant form. No value proposition copy. Hardly any personal copy at all. There’s also a load of distracting button links across the page.

Now, here’s the treatment version of that donation page.

You can see quickly how the design changed drastically on this page to be much simpler and have more value proposition copy.

This new layout saw a 340% increase in revenue.

In this experiment, we see how a “pretty” page became a lot less pretty – but it drastically improve donations.

Online fundraising idea - pretty design isn't always effective image

You don’t have to read the copy to see what changed in the design. The treatment opted to use less imagery and more copy to help donors understand why they should give.

The “less pretty” page saw a 134% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

The goal of design isn’t to be the prettiest, or the most modern. The goal is to get more donations.

Here are some of the essential elements we’ve found are proven to increase donations on your page.

9. Get rid of all other links on your landing pages and donation pages.

One of the easiest ways to improve and optimize your donation page performance is to remove all the unnecessary distractions from your donation page.

Every other link on your donation page is an opportunity for a donor to get distracted from the primary goal, and head off down a rabbit trail to something else.

Even something like a link to “login” can actually hurt your donations – primarily because remembering a username and password can be so incredibly frustrating.

Other examples of distracting links include:

  • Share this on social media
  • Follow us on Facebook
  • Look at Planned Giving options
  • Subscribe to our newsletter

The list goes on and on.

All of these options create friction in the process of giving and reduce the likelihood that your page visitor is going to donate.

Online fundraising idea - remove extra links imageRemoving the navigation from the donation page saw a 195% increase in donations!

In this experiment, we went a step further. It’s not just navigation links that can hurt donations. Even the most well intended links can be holding your donations back.

Online fundraising idea - remove other ways to give imageRemoving the “Other Ways to Give” link saw a 5.5% increase in donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Reduce friction anywhere you can. In your email marketing, donation pages, and website.

Wondering how much friction is actually on your donation page? Take the Friction Self Assessment and find out how you can optimize your donation pages!

10. Focus on recurring giving.

Recurring donors are worth a lot more in a year — and over their lifetime – than your other donors.

The State of Modern Philanthropy report shows that recurring donors are worth 5.4 times more than one-time donors over their lifetime.

Yet when we looked at 150 nonprofits in the U.S., we found that only one out of 11 organizations had a value proposition that explained why a donor should become a recurring giver.  

To increase the number of recurring donors, you need to answer the question: “Why should I give a recurring gift to you rather than a one-time gift… or to another organization… or not at all?”

How a recurring donation prompt increase recurring donor conversions

In this experiment, this organization showed a pop-up right when you clicked the “Donate” button. Before the gift was processed, they asked if you wanted to upgrade to a recurring donation.

It gave some strong reasons why a recurring donation (even with a smaller initial donation) was more effective.

Online fundraising idea - recurring donor popup

Using this recurring donor prompt led to a 64% increase in recurring donations.

Key Online Fundraising Idea

Increasing recurring donations can be transformational for your fundraising, and there are tons of ideas to test to try and grow this essential donor segment. Here are two ideas:

  • Give a reason as to why someone should make a recurring gift on your one-time donation page.
  • Place a recurring donation ask right before someone completes a one-time donation.

And if you want to go really deep on recurring giving, you can check out the free Nonprofit Recurring Donation Benchmark Study and get 30+ new strategies and online fundraising ideas to test based on data and research.

You can get the recurring donor report at

Need more ideas to grow your online fundraising?

Email Fundraising Optimization Course imageWe’ve developed (are continuing to develop) a series of online fundraising courses that will show you everything we’ve learned from 1,854 online fundraising experiments. These courses cover proven strategies to help you:

  • Grow your email fundraising
  • Improve conversion and revenue on your donation pages
  • Acquire more emails from your email acquisition landing pages
  • Use Facebook to acquire new donors
  • Set up and run a/b tests to learn what really works to grow
  • Create an effective online year-end fundraising campaign

Every single course is available for free. So if you want to dive deeper and learn proven ways to keep growing, you can activate your free courses at

About the author:


Brady Josephson

Brady is a charity nerd. He's an adjunct professor, fundraising writer, speaker, and podcast host and a huge Liverpool FC fan (#YNWA). At NextAfter, he oversees training and research to help nonprofits raise more money online to fund their life-changing work.

The world's most mind-bending virtual phenomenon for online fundraising & digital marketing... NIO SummitLearn More »

AB Testing Guide for Nonprofits

A/B testing is something that not a lot of nonprofits are doing well – but those that are running a/b tests are seeing major lifts in donations and revenue. So how exactly do you start setting up and running a/b tests at your nonprofit that lead to major lifts? I’m going to show you how in the A/B testing guide for nonprofits.

In the 8 steps below, you’ll learn exactly how to find where to test, what to test, and how to test. But before we get there, let’s look at why you need to be testing.

Why is a/b testing so important?

The answer here is actually really simple. Relying on your own intuition is no better than flipping a coin to determine which version is better.

But why should you take my word it? Let’s look at an example or two…

Which of these donation pages is going to bring in the most donations? The all text page or the page with a video?

Text vs Video a/b test


If you’ve read more of our blogs than just this one, you probably know the answer already. But this is an area we get questioned on more often than almost anything else.

The correct answer?

The all text page saw a 560% increase in donations!

Without testing, we would have no idea. And even if you’re one of the few fundraisers that would have picked an all text page over a page with a video, would you have been willing to risk a 560% change in donations without testing it first? 

Let’s look at one more test that’s a little more nuanced.

Which email below brought in more donations? If you can’t read the text, just click on the image to pull it up full screen.

Email A vs Email B - a/b test

Honestly, I could make an argument for why either of these should win based all the fundraising “best practices” that are circulating out there.

Here’s the answer…

Email B increased donations by 360%!

Did you get that one right? Even if you did, were you 100% confident? Confident enough to risk a 360% change in donations?

Where should you start a/b testing?

The simplest answer is to ask yourself the question, “Where can I get the most return for my effort?”

But I bet if you asked that question even to your closest colleagues, you would get wildly different responses. So here’s what I would suggest…

3 Key Online Fundraising MetricsStart testing areas of your fundraising that influence these 3 key metrics: web traffic, donations, and average gift.

These 3 metrics each have a direct impact on revenue. And if you’re a/b tests start improving revenue, it will be much easier to get others to care about what you’re doing.

If you want some specific test ideas to start with, check out these 5 common fundraising “best practices” that you should stop assuming work, and start testing new, proven strategies.

Ok. I could go on and on about where to start testing, but let’s get into the A/B testing guide. Here are the 8 key steps to launching an effective and valid nonprofit A/B test.

1. Identify Your Conversion Goal

First, you need to define the goal that you’re trying to accomplish. Without a clearly stated goal up front, you will never have a clear understanding of whether or not your test was successful.

Your conversion goal will give you the framework to design your a/b test and craft your hypothesis.

If you want to improve your donation page, your conversion goal might be the “total number of donations.”

If you want to traffic from a banner ad to a landing page, your conversion goal might be “clicks” or “landing page visits.”

If you want to improve your email newsletter form, your conversion goal might be “form submissions.”

Once you’ve identified the specific metric you’re hoping to improve, you can move on to step #2.

2. Make Sure You Can Measure Your Conversion Goal.

If you can’t track it, you can’t A/B test it. And if you can’t A/B test it, you can’t optimize it. And if you can’t optimize it, well…then you’re potentially leaving huge amounts of donations on the table as you saw in the examples above.

Google analytics is your essential tool for measuring your goals.

To measure your conversion goals, there is one thing you need to set up, and one thing you really, really should set up to get the most out of you’re a/b testing.

You need to set up conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Need some helping setting up your Google Analytics goals? There’s a great post from Neil Patel on 4 types of Google Analytics goals. In short, you can set up 4 different types of goals based on:

  • URLs
  • Visit Duration
  • Pages Per Visit
  • Google Analytics Event

For almost all of the a/b testing you’ll start out with, you’re going to either use a URL goal (triggered when someone visits a specific URL like your donation form’s confirmation page) or a Google Analytics Event goal (triggered by an event that fires when a form is submitted).

Google Analytics Goal Types

You really, really should set up eCommerce tracking.

Now, I understand that eCommerce tracking is much harder to set up than a basic conversion goal. So if you can’t get it set up right away, that shouldn’t stop you from testing. But the more you run a/b tests, the more you’re going to want to track the actual revenue that’s resulting from your testing.

Why is eCommerce tracking so important?

eCommerce tracking will let you see exactly what you’re a/b tests are doing to your revenue. In some cases, you might be getting more clicks or visits to a landing page, but actually hurting your revenue. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it happens more often than you might think.

Here’s an a/b test where we an increase in email clicks, but a decrease in donations.

If you don’t measure revenue, your test could appear to be positive, but actually hurt you where it matters most.

3. Craft Your A/B Testing Hypothesis

Once you know exactly what you want to improve, and you know that you can measure your goal, you need to define your hypothesis.

A good hypothesis will address the specific idea that you can think can make an impact on your conversion goal.

Example Hypothesis:Removing friction from the giving process by eliminating unnecessary form fields will increase donations.”

This hypothesis tells you the specific variables that you’re a/b test will look at. It makes it clear that your treatment or challenger page will have fewer form field than your control (original page).

In this example, your treatment might remove fields like “gift designation,” or “Make this gift in honor of…,” or other fields that are not absolutely essential to processing the donation.

Changing multiple variables at once

Some would argue that your hypothesis has to isolate one specific variable. If you change too much, you don’t really know what part of your test actually made an impact.

While this is true, your hypothesis can be crafted in a way that allows you test multiple elements at once – so long as they support the foundation of the hypothesis.

Example: A more personal email will lead to more donations.

This hypothesis addresses a specific idea, but it opens the door to change multiple elements in your email. Your control could be a heavily designed template, and your treatment can be a plain-text email with more personal copy. While multiple elements are changed, it all supports the underlying hypothesis.

Here’s an a/b test where multiple variables changed, yet the experiment remained sound.

Once you have your hypothesis created, write it down! You don’t want to forget why you ran the test, or what the over-arching idea was. You’ll want to keep your hypothesis so you can document what you’ve learned after the a/b test is complete.

4. Calculate Your Estimated Sample Size

Before you run your a/b test, you need to make sure that it’s possible to get a valid result.

To do so, you have to calculate your estimated sample size. All this means is that you need to figure out how many people need to see your a/b test in order to get a reliable result.

For instance, if your test increases donations by 50%, but only 20 people actually visited your donation page, it’s possible that this increase in donations was just the result of random chance.

There are some great tools out there to calculate exactly how many people need to see your a/b test in order to get a valid result. Here are a couple to choose from:

A Quick Walkthrough of Sample Size Calculation

If this is all new to you, here’s a quick explanation of how to use the Optimizely tool I listed above.

First, enter you Baseline Conversion Rate

This is the conversion rate that you would normally expect to see. If it’s a donation page, your conversion rate would be the number of donation divided by the number of visitors.

If your conversion goal is email clicks, your conversion rate would be the number of clicks divided by the number of emails sent.

Second, enter the Minimum Detectable Effect. This is the minimum amount of change you’d like to be able to measure. So if you hope to see a minimum of a 20% increase in donations as a result of your test, enter 20%.

Third, enter your desired level of Statistical Significance. We always recommend using 95% for this number. Statistical Significance is the likelihood that you’ll see this same result in the future.

For example, a 95% statistical significance essential means you’ll see the same result 95 out of 100 times. A 50% statistical significance is basically the equivalent of a coin toss – the result could go either way with equal odds.

After entering these 3 numbers, you’ll receive your Sample Size per Variation. This is the amount of traffic (or people) you need to see each version of your experiment. If you need 1,000 samples per variation, that means 1000 people need to see your control and 1000 people need to see your treatment.

Example A/B Test Sample Size Calculation

Once you’ve calculated your needed sample size, you need to make sure you’re a/b test is actually capable of getting enough traffic.

If your donation page doesn’t get enough traffic, test something earlier in the donation process. Try testing a fundraising email first.

5. Design Your Treatment

Half way there. The planning stage of you’re a/b test is done. Now it’s time for the fun part: designing your treatment.

Your test design is made up of at least 2 variants – your control and your treatment. The control is your original page, email, form, etc. The treatment is your challenger or the new design you want to test.

To design the treatment for your a/b test, you’ll want to keep your hypothesis in mind. If your hypothesis is as simple as “Removing the image in the email will increase clicks,” then your design will be really easy.

All you have to do is get rid of the image.

Designing for a more complex hypothesis gets tricky. If your hypothesis is something like “A more empathetic messaging tone will increase donations from an email fundraising appeal,” you have a little more work to do.

Every element you change has to support your hypothesis. With the example above, you shouldn’t change the color of your call-to-action links, or use a completely different email design. But you would likely have major changes to your email copy throughout.

This can get pretty complicated, so it’s best to have a colleague double check your a/b test design to make sure aligns with your hypothesis.

Our friends at ConversionXL have a great post on how to craft one of these more “radical redesigns.” You can read more about radical treatment designs here.

Once your treatment is designed, you’re ready to set up your experiment.

6. Set Up Your Experiment

You’re getting to the home stretch! Time to set up your well-planned experiment.

Setting up an experiment on your website

It used to be that you had to shell out some cash for a tool like Optimizely in order to run a good a/b test. But with Google Optimize, the vast majority of your testing can be done for free.

So that’s what’s next. If you don’t have a Google Optimize account, you can create one just using your normal Google Analytics login. If you need help getting it set-up, this post from Google has got you covered.

Once your account is all set up, you’ll create a new experiment. In many cases, you can edit the actual page elements right from Google Optimize without having to touch any code.

You can set your URL targeting, change what percentage of your web traffic sees your control and treatment, and set your conversion goal. Remember how we set that up in step 2? This is where all that hard work pays off.

Google will even help you preview your experiment to make sure everything’s being tracked properly. Here’s what your dashboard looks like once your experiment is running.

Google Optimize Screenshot

Once you’ve got everything configured, do one last test to make sure everything’s firing properly. Open the page you’re testing in an “Incognito Window” and see if it gives you the control or treatment. Then close the window and open a new one until you’ve seen and tested both your control and treatment.

Setting up an email experiment

Most email marketing tools will let you run an a/b test without any additional tools, fancy coding, or jerry-rigging of the platform. If you don’t know how to do it with your email tool, contact customer support.

If your email tool can’t run a/b tests, there’s a way to hack it. You can manually divide your email list into 2 parts and send two separate emails. Just make sure your lists are divided randomly, and not between key segments like “donors vs non-donors.”

*If you have to hack it like this, you’re using the wrong email tool. Time to start looking for a new platform.

If you don’t have an email tool, start with Mailchimp. It’s free up to 2,000 contacts and it will let you run a/b tests. It’s by far the best tool to use if you have a small list or are just starting out. Plus, there are tons of integrations to get your data into other common online fundraising tools.

7. Validate Your Results and Document Your Learnings

You’re a/b tests don’t matter if no one learns from them. 

If you don’t document your results, you’ll never remember what you learned. And one day you’ll be sitting in a meeting where someone asks, “Why don’t we have a video on our donation page anymore?”

If you document your experiment, you can easily show that the video on your page was killing donations. If you don’t document your experiment, it’s just their word against yours.

Logging your experiments is super easy and totally free on 

WinstonKnows a/b test tool Screenshot

It has never been easier to document your experiments. We built this slick tool called that will give you your very own research library, allow you to log every experiment you run, and give you an infinite archive to keep track of everything you’re learning.

Plus, there’s a cool dashboard to show all your big wins. You can use that to help get yourself a little promotion when the time is right.

Winston Knows Dashboard and Library

But it gets even better…

You can also connect your Google Optimize account, Mailchimp, Hubspot, Unbounce, and other common testing tools so your a/b test results get pulled in automatically. It’s literally like magic.

When you’re all done logging you’re a/b test, will give you a short little URL that you can use for step 8…

8. Share Your Results and Change the World

If what you learned from you’re a/b test never gets seen by anyone else besides yourself and your closest colleagues, how can you ever hope to see major growth?

If you work at a nonprofit, sharing these learnings can lead to entire organizational culture transformation. And organizational culture change can be one of the biggest factors leading to online fundraising growth.

If you’re a consultant that works with nonprofits, the best way to get more buy-in from those organizations is to share your learnings with them. And by doing so, you empower those nonprofits to apply those learnings in other areas in order to increase their impact.

No problem or challenge is ever solved by withholding data. So if you want to see generosity increase and the causes you care most about have a bigger impact, sharing your learnings is essential.

Need some new ideas to test in your online fundraising?

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About the author:


Kevin Peters

Kevin is a proud Fightin' Texas Aggie. Enough said.

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5 Online Fundraising Habits to Stop This Year - Blog image

At the start of a new year, there’s a universal sense of resolve to look at our lives and consider what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. While it’s healthy to do this in our personal lives, it’s also essential to a healthy online fundraising program.

To help you hit the ground running with your online fundraising in 2020, I’ve outlined 5 online fundraising habits that you need to stop doing right now.

But a new year is also a time for new beginnings. So I’ve also included 5 online fundraising habits and strategies that you need start using this year if you haven’t already.

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits You Need to Stop 

1. Stop Using Heavily Designed Email Templates

Time and time again, our ongoing testing and research has shown that personal, humanized emails greatly outperform heavily designed email templates. People give to people, not email machines. So when an email looks like marketing that was sent to thousands of people, donors tend to ignore or delete it.

In experiment 7466, we saw a 19.7% increase in clicks by dropping the heavily designed email template:

How stripping out branding in an offer email affects clickthrough rate (Experiment #7466)


Treatment #1

19.69% Increase to Clicks

2. Stop Using “Donate” Short-cut Buttons on Your Donation Pages

Not every donor visiting your donation page has actually decided to give. This seems like a generally understood idea, but most fundraisers create opportunities to short-cut donors right to the donation form.

The most common example of this is a page with a “Donate Now” button in the navigation that jumps the visitor right to the form. The problem here is that it lets the visitor bypass the reason why they should give, and decrease the likelihood of them actually donating.

In experiment 2107, we saw a 52.6% decrease in revenue when we used the short-cut button:

How creating a "shortcut" to the donation form affects conversion (Experiment #2107)


Treatment #1

28.16% Decrease to Conversions

3. Stop Calling Your Donors “Friend”

The quickest way to let your donor know that you don’t actually know them is by starting your email with “Dear friend.” Nearly every email tool on the market today allows you to insert the recipients first name. And as it turns out, when we call our donors by name, our email performance improves.

In experiment 5707, we tested inserting the recipient’s first name and saw a 270% increase in clicks.

How first-name personalization affects email engagement (Experiment #5707)


Treatment #1

270.07% Increase to Clicks

4. Stop Using Words That Every Other Organization Uses

If you were to go look at the donation pages of 10 different organizations, chances are that you would see several common phrases across all of them. Give hope. Stand with us. Join the fight.

Phrases like these are generic, and can apply to almost any cause. To improve donations, we need to communicate our message and the reason to donate in a way that is unique. The way that your organization solves a particular problem or fills a specific need is exclusive to you, and your copy should communicate this.

In experiment 5729, we saw a 134% increase in donations by using more exclusive value proposition copy:

How a radical redesign that reduces friction and increases the force of the value proposition affects donor conversion (Experiment #5729)


Treatment #1

134.19% Increase to Conversions

5. Stop Using Donation Confirmation Pages

Once someone fills out your donation form and clicks the “Make my donation” button, that natural assumption is that they’ve completed their donation. Yet, many donation pages include a confirmation or verification page for a donor to review their gift before making it is final.

This extra step creates unnecessary confusion because most donors will click the “X” and assume their donation is complete – causing you to lose a donation without your donor ever knowing it.

In experiment 3712, we removed the verification page and saw a 175% increase in revenue:

How additional friction from a verification screen affects revenue (Experiment #3712)


Treatment #1

175.62% Increase to Donations

The Top 5 Online Fundraising Habits and Strategies You Need to Start

1. Start Personalizing Your Emails

Personalization is more than just inserting a first name here and there. It’s about making the entire email feel personal to the recipient – as if you sat down and wrote an email specifically to them. This includes personal sender names, subject lines, and copy.

In experiment 4307, we saw a 137% increase in clicks by creating a more personal email:

How subject line personalization affects open rate (Experiment #4307)


Treatment #1

137.19% Increase to Opens

2. Start Writing Emails Like a Human Being

It’s not always just the details of your email appeal that make a difference in donations. The tone of your email has a huge impact on the likelihood that someone will open, clicks, and respond. Use a tone that sounds like a human wrote it, rather than a brand or marketing machine.

In experiment 4171, we used a more personal tone and saw a 145% increase in donations:

How a personal tone affects donations in an email fundraising appeal (Experiment #4171)


Treatment #1

145.5% Increase to Conversions

3. Start Writing More Copy for Your Donation Pages

Most fundraisers want to keep their donation pages short and sweet. Maybe this is because of the common notion that “people don’t read online.” Or maybe this is because some fundraisers just simply don’t know what to write.

Regardless of the reason why, testing says that using copy to thoroughly explain why someone should give to you will increase conversions and revenue.

In experiment 6623, we saw a perfect example of how more copy on a donation page increased donations by 150%:

How the addition of value proposition impacts donor conversion (Experiment #6623)


Treatment #1

150.15% Increase to Conversions

4. Start Tracking Your Campaigns Properly

UTM MakerEvery time we start working with a new nonprofit partner, the first thing we do is look at all of the analytics and donor data to find where the greatest opportunities are. Yet, most organizations aren’t properly tracking their campaigns with consistency or accuracy.

Kevin Peters created this fancy little tool called UTM Maker that will make it super easy to track all of your campaigns back in to Google Analytics. Just enter your URL and a few pieces of info about your campaign, and it will generate a perfectly tracked link to make sure your analytics are clean.

5. Start Optimizing

Every learning in this entire blog post is a result of ongoing optimization. Every day, we’re testing new ideas and hypotheses across donation pages, email, advertising, articles, and more. And every new experiment leads to greater learnings and understandings of what works to raise more money online.

Make a commitment this year to start testing and optimizing your own online fundraising. And if you need help getting started, we’ve got a blog post that will walk through the steps of setting up your first experiment.

About the author:

Nathan Hill

Nathan Hill

Nathan is the Marketing Director for NextAfter. He spends every day working to help nonprofit organizations discover how testing and optimization can transform their marketing and fundraising, leading to greater impact and organizational growth. He is also a giant Star Wars nerd.