Four tips to improve your online end of year fundraising without breaking a sweat

publication date: Oct 25, 2018
author/source: Carrie Rice

Last year my friend’s mother died. After giving her my condolences, my next thought was to make a donation to an organization in memory of her mother. I got the name of a deserving nonprofit from my friend and went straight to their website. On the homepage, I had to dig down to even find the donation form. And then when I did, the donation wouldn’t go through. I considered contacting the organization by phone or even mailing them a check, but the simpler option was to make an online donation to a similar organization. One nonprofit lost a gift, and I will likely never think about them again. The other organization got my donation, and might even make me a continuing supporter!

How usable is your donation form? Can you find the “Donate” link quickly on your website’s home page? Is the form easy to read and fill out on a phone? Donation forms have surprisingly low conversion rates: visitors fail to complete donation forms 83% of the time according to Classy. What can you do to help your donors make that gift? What if it’s a new donor? This interaction may be the beginning of your relationship with that person. A good donation form is great #donorlove: it makes the donor feel understood, and that their gift is valued. A poor donation form can end a donor relationship before it even starts.

Here are some simple ways you can improve your donation forms for both yourself and your organization:

Transaction Fees When a donor goes to make a donation on your website, do they have the option of covering the transaction fee? This fee, generally about 3% of a donation, can feel like a small amount to a donor ($3 added to a $100 contribution) but can add up quickly for your organization. Believe it or not, 55 to 60% of online donors agree to cover transaction fees when given an opportunity to do so says Classy. Donors like to know that their entire gift is going directly to your organization.

What can you do?

1. Figure out how much your organization spends on transaction fees. How much is your organization leaving on the table if even 50% of your online donors are willing to pay the transaction fee?

2. See if your platform can allow donors to choose to pay transaction fees. If so, flip the switch! You can always switch it back later.

3. Communicate to donors the value of covering transaction fees. Once you’ve got the opt-in box into place, include an article in your newsletter about how much these fees can add up to for your organization and the value of covering it with every gift they make.

Ask Ladder If you are reading this article, you likely work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector. You have some idea what an appropriate annual gift is to an organization. But many donors don’t know how much to give. Frontstream's experience shows that making any suggestions actually increases gift amounts by showing people what is appropriate. Generally, 4-5 options on your ladder are a reasonable number. Statistically, we know that donors will likely choose the second or middle option.

What can you do?

1. Set up 4-5 suggested amounts (and Other $_____) based on the range from your lowest typical gift (usually $20-$25) to a push ask for any one online giver (usually $250-$1,000).

2. Compare your suggested amounts to similar organizations, based on their size, donor pool, service area, and sector (education, arts, animal welfare, etc.).

3. Try different suggestions out and compare the results. Try out one set for this #GivingTuesday, then something different for end of year.

Recurring Gifts Ah, the joy of recurring gifts. For the donor, they can think of their gift as part of their monthly budget, like rent, car insurance, or Netflix. For the organization, you can count on a certain amount of revenue consistently month after month for an average of 13 months (, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2018). Particularly at the lower monthly giving levels ($10-$20/month), donors will likely “set it and forget it.”

What can you do?

1. Make recurring gifts an option. Even better, use text and images to encourage giving monthly rather than in one-time gifts.

2. If possible, use different suggested amounts for recurring gifts. Unless they are on a dedicated major gift page, it’s unlikely that a donor is going to give you $500/month. So change that highest suggested amount to a more reasonable $125/month (or whatever is appropriate for your community).

3. Incentivize recurring gifts. Why should major donors have all the fun? Have a thank you reception just for recurring givers no matter what the amount. Just thank them for providing the foundation for you to run your organization.

Donate Button Why do we assume that donors have been to our website before and can find their way to the donation form? Repeat after me: I will place a donate button on every page of my website. Who knows when someone will be sufficiently moved by your organization’s impact to make a gift? People can’t donate if they can’t even find your form.

What can you do?

1. Put a donate button on every page. Yes, every page.

2. Make sure the button is in large contrast color.

3. Say “Donate”, don’t get creative (here...). There are other places for creative Calls to Action - this isn’t one of them. You want to be as clear as possible that this button will take them exactly where they want to go.

Key Takeaways

• The donation form is an important part of the donor’s experience with your organization. It takes #donorlove to think about what their experience is like and to make it as pleasant and engaging for them as possible especially as you move into the end of year season.

• There are many things you can do to improve your donation form. Even small changes can have a significant effect.

• You don’t need to rebuild your whole website to improve your online fundraising.

Carrie Rice is the co-founder of Project Donor Love, an agency focused on creating donor-friendly websites and optimized donation forms. She can be reached at

Like this article?  Join our mailing list for more great information!

Copyright © 2011-Current, The Hilborn Group Ltd. All rights reserved.

Free Fundraising Newsletter
Join Our Mailing List