Your general donation page (or main/primary donation page) is the cornerstone page of your online fundraising program. If someone organically visits your website with the intention of giving, they’re going to land here.
Visitors to your general donation page tend to have the highest motivation of any other online traffic source. With this level of motivation, you would assume a general donation page would have a 99% conversion rate. But in reality, we consider pages that have a 30% conversion rate to be successful.
This disparity leads us to a core question that I’ll try to shed some light on in this post:
“Why would a highly motivated donor who visits your donation page abandon the process before making a donation?”
What Does Google Have to Say About General Donation Pages?
The first place most people go to solve these kinds of problems is a Google search. Let’s see what “donation page ideas” are out there…
Now, the first page results look something like this:
- 12 Donation Pages That Don’t Suck
- 10 Great Nonprofit Donation Pages
- 28 Nonprofit Donation Page Best Practices
- Donation Pages – Best Practices 2017
There are a few common threads in each of these articles.
First, each article broadly assumes that there is one donation page to rule them all.
Second, there is no supporting data to back up why any of these “best practices” are better than anyone else’s best guess. Blindly applying these “best practices” is about as reliable as flipping a coin.
Third, these articles primarily address superficial design choices. None of them get at our core question of “Why would a motivated donor abandon the general donation page?”
The answer to this question is the most important distinction between a general donation page and any of the other types of donation pages.
Get Out of the Way!
A highly motivated donor wants to do one thing: donate. So anything we put between them and the donation button is friction that could knock them off the path.
So you’re saying I should just have a page with a super simple form and nothing else?
Well, not quite. Because there’s flip-side. As human beings that are constantly calculating risk, these highly motivated donors are also second-guessing their choice and looking for reasons they should turn back.
To combat this, we have to give our donors reasons to keep going and to complete their donation. We call this the value proposition.
So I need a simple page, with a clear value proposition about why they should give?
Yes! But the way you craft you value proposition on a general donation page is very nuanced. My friend and colleague Jon Powell likens it to the message in a fortune cookie.
Imagine you opened a fortune cookie, and your message read: “Tomorrow, you’re going to wake up with a brand-new car in your driveway.”
That fortune wouldn’t be believable, unless you happen to be heading to the car dealership after you finish your meal. It’s too specific to be believed.
Now, imagine your fortune read: “You’re about to eat a fortune cookie.”
That fortune is broad enough to apply to everyone reading it, but it’s not really a fortune. It’s just a statement of fact that tells you basically nothing.
What the heck do fortune cookies have to do with a general donation page?
Great question. And it’s one I asked of Jon when he first told me this analogy.
Don’t Make It Too Specific
The people visiting your general donation page have a high motivation, but the specific motivation can vary significantly. If your message (or fortune) is too specific to a particular campaign or initiative, it’s not going to apply to the vast majority of people considering donating.
They’ll come to your page, read your overly specific copy, and say “Oh, this isn’t for me.”
Don’t Be Too Broad
If your copy just says “Give a gift today” or has too vague of a value proposition (i.e. “A gift today will make a big impact.”), then you’re going to lose the donation. You have to provide real value statements about what a gift is going to accomplish.
How Do I Find the Sweet Spot?
Let’s go back to the fortune cookie. Here’s a great example of a fortune.
As you can see in the caption, the original reader saw the application of the fortune because their wife was pregnant. The short stranger would be their new born baby.
But this same fortune could apply to anyone who might be considering getting a dog or a cat. It could be that someone meets a new friend who is simply shorter than they are. Honestly, you could make up a ton of different scenarios that work.
Your general donation page copy needs to work in the same way. It needs to be broad enough to appeal to the majority, and it needs to be specific enough to be believable.
19 Donation Page Ideas to Keep In Mind
Getting the copy right is the hardest part. And it’s something you’ll have to test to make sure you’ve hit the sweet spot.
If you want some quick wins that we’ve tested and proven over and over again, I’ve got a few tips for you too. (And yes, they’re all backed with data and research. I’ve linked up supporting experiments.)
- Intro Copy – It’s tempting to keep this vague, but your intro copy should make it clear immediately that a donation is a worthwhile investment. (150% Increase in Donations)
- Body Copy – We don’t want to get in the way of our highly motivated donor. So keep your body copy concise. (23.1% Increase in Donations)
- Videos – Don’t use a video or other multimedia content to explain your value proposition. Text conveys the message more effectively. (560% Increase in Donation with text-only)
- Transition Copy – Use a short statement to transition from the body copy to the donation form. (166.4% Increase in Donations)
- Header Exit Links – Keep your header simple. Don’t include any navigation links that would take someone away from the page. (195% Increase in Donations)
- Side Exit Links – It’s common to put links in the right column to other pages, but you should avoid this. Don’t distract your motivated donor with reasons to leave. (20% Decrease in Donations with Additional Links)
- Header Donate Button – Sometimes we’ll see a donate button in the header that jumps the donor immediately to the form. Don’t use these as they skip your donor right past your carefully crafted value proposition. (28.2% Decrease in Donations)
- Text-formatting – Make sure you text is easy to read. It needs to significantly contrast the background. (67.6% Decrease in Donations with Hard-to-Read Text)
- Suggested Gift Array – If you have a gift array, make sure you use big rectangle buttons rather than the tiny little circle buttons. (22.9% Increase in Donations)
- Multiple Choice Array – Gift arrays aren’t a guaranteed revenue booster. Make sure you test them. If you have a relatively high average gift size, an open field might be more effective. (125.9% Increase in Donations with Open-Field and High Average Gift)
- Up-sell Copy – No one wants to be up-sold. Using up-sell copy can make your donor think “They just want more money” and could give them a reason to abandon the gift. (34.5% Decrease in Donations with Up-sell Copy)
- Recurring Gift Selection – Don’t default to a recurring gift. This can feel deceptive, and no one wants to feel like they’re being deceived, especially when it comes to money. (56.7% Increase in Revenue when Single-Gift Defaulted)
- Input Fields – Keep it simple. Avoid asking for more than you really need. And arrange your essential fields to shorten the length of the page, rather than stacking them all vertically. (39.4% Increase in Donations)
- Phone Field – Keep the phone number field optional. A required phone field often decreases conversion rates. (42.6% Decrease in Donations when Required)
- Alternate Payment Methods – Test in to using alternate payment methods. PayPal almost always creates a decrease because it takes the user away from your page. And methods like Apple Pay may not make a difference in conversion at all. (65.3% Decrease in Donations with PayPal present)
- Verification Pages – Your donor should be able to complete their donation all on one page. If you have additional review or verification pages, your donor may think they’ve given after page 1 and leave before they’re finished. (121.5% Increase in Donations when Eliminated)
- In-line Reviews – Reviews are a great idea to establish credibility, but they don’t always help when they’re place in line with the rest of your copy. Make sure you test them, and try placing them in the right column. (48.5% Decrease in Donations when Used In-Line)
- Credit Card Input Section – Make sure your donors know your form is secure. Simply placing a box around the payment fields and adding a padlock icon reinforces this message, and can lift conversions. (14.4% Increase in Donations)
- Text Below the CTA Button – Add a little bit of copy right below your final “Make My Donation” button that reinforces the value of the gift. (31.3% Increase in Donations)
That’s a lot of donation page ideas. Do you have a template?
What a convenient question!
We’ve outlined 19 elements on a printable poster that you can download for free, print out, and keep by your desk. We don’t like to call it a template because we’re always learning new things that can affect the performance of your page.
And more importantly, you should always test new ideas to see exactly what effect they have on your donors.
Use this free guide as inspiration the next time you’re dreaming up a test on your general donation page. Fill out the form below to get your free copy of the General Donation Page guide.