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New Rules for Maximizing Online Donations

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Usability, or lack thereof, is one of my pet peeves.

You might be more familiar with the term user experience, UX, UI– but whatever term you use to describe it, your organization might not be doing much to optimize it. Many sites claim to have robust sites with optimized this, and high level that, but when it comes down to it, the user experience was designed more for the web site owner than the intended target user.

You’ve experienced this. How often have you gone to a website retailer and found it impossible to locate what you came for in the first place? Within the nonprofit world it’s even worse…

The other day I was looking through other nonprofit websites to glean and share best practices with some of my clients. It didn’t take long to discover that most nonprofits do everything they can to discourage would-be donors from making a donation. One major worldwide nonprofit in particular took me through 11 screens before I was even given a chance to increase their impact with my financial contribution. I guess they really, really, wanted to make sure I wanted to donate…

Here are some helpful ways you can be maximizing online donations and increasing online fundraising revenue by optimizing your website:

  • It’s all about the experience. Making a donation has a completely different feel than ordering tchotchkes from Amazon. Do away with the online store feel and try to create a one-to-one relationship between each project and the associated donation response form.
  • Less clicks, more dollars. There is a direct correlation between the number of clicks that you put between a user and your goal that negatively impacts conversion rate. The technical term for this is called “funnel abandonment”. Try to limit the number of screens that the user must click through in order to complete the donation. If at all possible, enable the user to complete the donation on the same page that prompted it.
  • Um, can I have a little help here? If you do have a multi-step check out process, clearly communicate that to the user. Provide some frame of reference as to where they are in the check out process and when the torturous form-filling will end. Give them clear directions as to what information is required and optional, and for the sake of everything holy, provide the user with coherent and easily identifiable error messages.
  • You have not, because you ask not. We recently launched a microsite for a client that included a free resource offer for users that filled out a registration form. The goal was purely name acquisition. About a month into the campaign we added an option for users to also make a donation through the form. That simple little change translated into thousands of “extra” dollars and did not affect the conversion rate for the form whatsoever. Whenever appropriate, add a donation option to registration or name acquisition forms.
  • No, I don’t remember my password! Putting a login screen between a user and a donation form is like putting an obstacle course between a grocery shopper and the check out lane. It seems like a good idea—after all, once the donor sets up their account all of their information will be saved, right? Wrong! I learned this lesson the hard way. Trust me, don’t do it.

Can you imagine what you would do with a 50% increase in online donation conversion? What kind of impact could you have if it grew to 75% or even doubled?

Or maybe, if you’re like me, would rather ask, “How could my community, state, nation, or world be different if our organization had more resources to invest in the work that we do?”  This is the great thing about online donation optimization– the more money we can raise with greater efficiency, the more good we can do. And that, should be all the motivation that we need.

How many online donations is my site losing?

One of the biggest problems with online donation abandonment is that we don’t ever truly know just how many online donations we may have lost due to a poor online donor experience.  That’s why we have developed a tool to give you an idea how your web site is doing compared to nonprofit industry benchmarks.  We call it the Flux Capacitor of Revenue Maximization (silly name, I know– but very powerful tool).  The Flux Capacitor of Revenue Maximization (FCORM) Report will help you assess the three key areas that drive online revenue: Traffic, Donation Conversion Rate, and Average Gift and provide you with insights into where your web site may be leaking revenue.  After reviewing your FCORM you will be better equipped to put together a strategy that helps you plug the leaks, and capture more revenue.

Get your free FCORM report today (by answering three simple questions) and start maximizing online donations.

Published by Tim Kachuriak

Tim is the Chief Innovation & Optimization Officer for NextAfter. Tim has accomplished a lot over his career between driving online fundraising growth for countless nonprofits, sitting on the board of multiple nonprofits, and being a sought-after international speaker. But his biggest accomplishment may be winning "Best Stage Presence" for the 1991 Pittsburgh Boys Choir.