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“How Can I Improve My Donation Page?”

Published by Jeff Giddens

“How can I improve my donation page?” Over the past six years, I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times. Most of the time, it’s a loaded statement that hides a deeper question:

“What are the quick fixes I can apply right away that will guarantee me more donors and revenue?”

I wish it were that easy! I wish there was a best practices guide that I could give you that would tell you exactly how to increase revenue. But from hundreds of donation page tests, we’ve seen two principles proven time and time again:

  1. No two donation pages are alike
  2. Testing always trumps best practices

Sorry for the letdown, but we aren’t “expert marketers”. In fact, I believe there’s no such thing, and I think anyone who tells you they are might quickly be exposed by a few optimization experiments. But we have become experienced testers — and while I can’t tell you exactly what will increase your revenue, I can tell you where on a landing page you would be wise to begin experimenting.

Below are 8 areas that you can test that might unlock more donations and revenue. 

1. Page security.

This is an area that our experiments continually show matters to many donors. A simple green bar (or green characters) at the top of your page and an “https:” have proven to go a long way in reassuring donors that your page is trustworthy. But this shouldn’t be assumed — test it and quantify the impact!

2. Navigation elements.

How can I improve my donation page?

 Site visitors generally read pages from top to bottom. How many links away from the current page do you have at the top of your page? Would conversion improve if you reduced navigation? What would happen if you removed navigation menus entirely? What would happen if the donors only choice was to give or go back? We’ve seen this increase conversion rates, but there’s only one way to find out.

3. Headline.

This is usually the largest font size on the page, and one of the first places that a visitor’s eye goes. What does your headline say? Does it arrest attention? More importantly, does it motivate the donor to keep reading down the page? We’ve seen simple changes in headlines lead to big increases (and decreases) in conversion. Make sure that you don’t assume you are a copywriting genius — test it!

4. First two inches of copy.

This is often your make or break opportunity to hook the reader. Testing and optimization can ensure that your first two inches of copy (the first few lines on the page) do two things:

  1. Orient the reader. Where am I? Why am I here?
  2. Establish the value proposition. Why should I be reading this? Who is this for? Why does the rest of the copy matter?

5. Bullets or sub-headlines.

There are lots of other pages on the internet. In fact, in 2005, it was determined that there were 11.5 billion publicly visible pages on the internet. That was ten years ago. Your visitor probably has a few more pages open in other tabs. And most importantly, your visitor only has so much time to spend on your page. Can they scan the page quickly and ascertain the value proposition? If they only read the bullets and sub-headlines, what information will they take away? But please– don’t just add bullets and sub-headlines. Test whether they improve conversion.

6. Third-party credibility. 

Organizations make all sorts of claims of value on their donation pages. How can you know if they are true? It might help to have third-party that is relevant and respected reinforce your claims and recommend your organization. This case study suggests that it’s certainly worth a test. Be careful though — it’s not about getting just any third party quotes on the page. You’ll see a lift in conversion if you get the right quotes from the right people in the right location.

7. Donation form. 

What good is a beautifully designed landing page with a well-crafted value proposition if your highly motivated donors cannot give right then and there? Why would you force a visitor to click through to a donation form after all that hard work? Test embedded a form right on the page — you might see that it outperforms your “give now” button. And remember — the arrangement of the form fields can make a big difference. We’ve seen that simply rearranging (not reducing) the number of form fields can affect conversion (case study is here) — a good reminder that friction doesn’t exist on the landing page, it exists in the mind of the visitor.

8. Credibility indicators: seals, banners and badges. 

Your page might be as secure as Fort Knox and you might have attained the only five-star Charity Navigator rating in history. But what does that matter if you don’t tell your donors? Testing these credibility indicators might reduce anxiety (especially with older donors) and boost confidence that your organization is worthy of support. But be careful — putting these too close to the call-to-action can actually be distracting.

So there you have it. Are these eight “best practices” for your donation page? No, not at all. If your takeaway is to go instantly add these elements to your page, then I’ve failed.

I can’t guarantee that these elements will increase donations and revenue. But I can guarantee that by testing one or more of these elements, you will learn more about what motivates (and disincentivizes) your donors to give. Remember: the goal of a test is not just to get a lift — it’s to deliver a learning about the motivation of the donor and the clarity of the value proposition. You can learn as much from an experiment that decreases revenue as you can from one that doubles it.

In closing, a five-step process to answering the questions of “how can I improve my donation page”:

  1. Hypothesize: What is the element (or elements) on your landing page that are affecting conversion? How might it be solved? What is the expected outcome of your test?
  2. Design the experiment: Develop a treatment. Calculate your testing power and necessary sample size. Set up the test using trusted software (like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer).
  3. Validate the results: Here’s a handy tool to see if you have a significant level of confidence (LoC) and a valid sample size.
  4. Record the learnings: What did you learn from this test? How can it be tested in other parts of your fundraising program? Send it to your CEO!
  5. Repeat. Again and again. Unless, of course, your landing page converts 100% of visitors. But if you had that, you wouldn’t be reading this.

Got a cool experiment or case study? Send it to me! We’d love to feature it on the blog. Happy optimizing!

Published by Jeff Giddens

Jeff Giddens is President of NextAfter.