Published on August 27, 2013 by

6 no-nos for online donation pages

In this post, I wanted to focus on charity online donation pages.

Right before the end of the financial year, I made online donations to 12 different charities. And with all the buzz about multichannel giving, digital donors and online engagement, I was surprised at how bad the online giving experience was in several cases.

While I won’t name and shame, I will outline some dos and don’ts when it comes to setting up your web donation pages.

After all, you probably spend a lot of effort getting prospective donors to come to your website to give. All those appeal letters. The email campaigns. Nurturing donors along with newsletters, calls and possibly even visits or events.

Then the donors come to your site and find themselves bamboozled by the following:

1. Multiple screens during the giving process

With each extra screen you add into the donation process, you risk losing more donors especially if your interface is not well-designed and has teeny, tiny font.

If you must use multiple screens, try to keep it to two if possible. And use a progress bar at the top of the screen to show the donor where they’re up to in the donation process.

Eg. Enter gift amount - Personal details – Financial details – Confirmation – Donate.

2. Shopping cart software

Ummm, I really find it weird when you tell me to add my donation to the shopping cart. Will I get free shipping with that too? Or a discount if I enter a coupon code?!

Your donors are giving to your charity. Note I said “giving” not “buying”. Don’t turn the joy of giving into a consumer transaction. Treat them with respect by acknowledging they are givers not mercenaries.

The only time a shopping cart interface is appropriate in online fundraising is if you’re doing some kind of giving catalogue.

3. Not providing specific giving options

Even if donors intend to give a specific amount, it’s still helpful to provide a range of gift values.

☐ $50  ☐ $100  ☐ $200  ☐ $500

Even better is to provide gift values along with exactly what that gift will do.

$45 will provide a well with clean drinking water

$100 will help preserve the endangered speckled wren

If you’re running a specific appeal, your donation pages should (of course) have gift amounts that match what you asked for in your appeal communications.

4. Too many required fields

Donors are trying to make a donation not complete a census form!

Required fields should include the details you need so you can process the gift from the donor. That’s it.

I understand many organisations are trying to capture more data from their donors. But fields such as date of birth and where they heard about your appeal should really be optional.

If this information is truly important to you then keep the fields optional but try to provide reasons for the donor to give you those details.

For example, if you want the date of birth, tell the donor you want it to help verify the donor’s identity in future. Or if you want to know where the donor heard about you, say this is used to allocate fundraising dollars more wisely in future – which means more of their gift goes towards programs and services.

5. A financial gateway supplier with intrusive branding

This is a tricky one. Lots of smaller charities don’t have the resources to set up the ability to accept online credit card donations. So they resort to using financial gateways such as Paypal or Givenow.

Although user interfaces have improved and you can customise them to some extent, it still makes for a clunky donor experience. It goes something like this.

  • Fill in gift amount and donor details.
  • Click Next.
  • The site seems to take a while to load a new page. Then you end up in a Paypal interface with a charity logo dropped in.
  • Fill in your financial details. Look for the correct button to submit.
  • Get taken back to charity website.

It works but it’s not a great donor experience. Also, using Paypal is more traditionally associated with a buying, not giving, experience. It’s a bit like using shopping cart software as outlined under point 2.

Meanwhile, Givenow displays a huge logo at the top of its giving interface. It also has a search box where donors can look for causes that interest them. Why would you want to give prospective donors the opportunity to look for other causes besides yours? What a distraction!

I don’t mean to pick on Paypal and Givenow. Without them, some charities just would not be able to accept donations online. But long-term, I feel charities should work towards using gateways that provide a seamless giving experience.

6. Very dry and boring confirmation screens

I’ve changed the details but here are some confirmation screens I got after giving.

Thank you June Steward for your donation.
An email has been sent to xyz.xyz.com for your records.

Thank you for supporting Crazy Animals Foundation.
You will receive a receipt of your activity as soon as it has been processed.

 (In robotic tone). Do – you – get – the – feeling – these – messages – were – written – by – a – techie?

And what’s with the “receipt of your activity”? I just gave you my money because I believe in your cause and you don’t even call it a gift?

Worse than the dry and boring confirmation screen is being reduced to a number.

DONATION COMPLETE
Thank you, your donation of $50 to Happy Children’s Charity is complete.
Your receipt number is PP987654.
Your receipt is being emailed to xyz@xyz.com.
Your credit card statement will show this donation as Happy Kids Fund.

So I'm not even acknowledged by name. I've just been assigned a number. I guess I should be happy this charity at least said “thank you”. That’s something.

But I think this here is a lost opportunity to make a donor feel really special. After all, a donor has just given to you online. Some donors may give you $20 online. Some $200. Some $2000. Some even more! It only takes a little effort to make your confirmation messages sound a bit more upbeat.

Why not try something like:

Thank you, June, for your generosity!

Your gift of $50 to Happy Children’s Charity will go towards feeding poor children who would otherwise go hungry tonight.

You’ll get a receipt right into your inbox at xyz@xyz.com very soon. If you need to talk to us, call 1800 654 654. Here’s your receipt number to speed things up: PP987654.

When your credit card statement shows up, this gift will appear under Happy Kids Fund.

Thank you again for supporting Happy Children’s Charity!

The tone is much more warm and friendly. It also uses my name. The copy also reminds donors of what their gifts will achieve.

How to do donation forms right

Fortunately, I also noted lots of things charities did that made their donation pages rock. In my next post, I’ll outline the 7 donation page features that cry out Yes! We love donors like you!

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