[GUEST POST] Optimizing Donation Forms to Maximize the Gift and Complete the Transaction

Donation forms are like belly buttons — everyone has one. There are lots of thoughts on optimizing donation forms in general. Conversations range from how they should be styled, form length, and imagery — both still and video all the way down to the thank you page.  From the verbiage in the ask to the “process” button, organizations have so many opportunities to make for a great donor experience and get the most out of the gift.

I do not claim to be the oracle here. This article is more of a sharing of what I see other successful organizations doing and what has been shared with me in person from some of the hundreds of nonprofits I’ve worked with.

The following tips for optimizing donation forms are common among both large and small organizations:

Keep your donation form short and easy to complete.
Many organizations have two and three page donation forms with too many options for donors. Option examples are honor/memorial gift, tribute gifts, matching gifts, designated giving options, recurring gift, joint gifts, etc… Don’t get me wrong; I like those gift options, but I recommend a landing page with specific forms for each type of gift. On that landing page, I also recommend that you provide information on estate and stock grants, and workplace giving as well as your phone number and physical address should the donor want to engage via those means.

Make the donation form an extension of your organization’s mission.
A line or two at the top of your donation form that speaks to what your gift is ultimately going to accomplish helps donors understand the impact of their gift. Share your merits and show your donors any charity ratings that you are proud of. Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two examples of companies that monitor charity ratings. The rating icons can be added easily to your donation forms.

Pre-select your ask!
I have yet to see a donation form that doesn’t allow the organization to select a default dollar amount or pre-check a radio button. Think about your average gift and create an amount slightly higher as your default amount. You can pre-check the radio button or highlight the dollar amount that you want donors to give. I have seen quite often that donors give what the organization asks for. It’s nice when you first start reporting on this and you see the difference.

Make the sustaining ask easy and a simple option to check.
To me, the real spirit of a sustaining/recurring gift is simply a monthly gift that’s given until the donor decides to stop it. I recommend NOT allowing your donors to select how they want to sustain and how many payments they want to make. I would be more ok with this type of ask if there were a donation form specifically for sustaining and/or recurring gifts versus including it as part of a main donation form.

Offer as many payment options as you can.
PayPal, bank/debit withdrawals, ApplePay, and Amazon payments are nice, convenient options for the donors to choose from.

Pay attention to the “process” button.

Once the donation form is filled out and ready for the donor to complete the transaction, make sure the process button is left-justified, easy to spot, and in the same color as your organization’s colors. I would remove any buttons that say “cancel” or “back”.  Let the donor only see the process/donate button and get that gift! For emergency gifts, a red process button might be a better choice.

Most of these ideas can be applied and tested almost immediately. Give them a try: seeing the upticks in results and higher gift amounts will put more of the “fun” back in your fundraising!


by Mark Montenero, Customer Success, Lead, Blackbaud
Mark has been with Blackbaud for over 11 years, joining as part of the Convio acquisition. In roles ranging from sales to customer success, Mark has been instrumental in building relationships with some of our largest clients. When not on the phones with customers, you can typically find him at bbcon, NTEN and other events evangelizing Blackbaud and sharing best practices on social good. Originally from Long Island, he relocated to Austin with his wife, Jennifer, in 1998. They are blessed to have a 15 year old son, Jake, and two rescued dogs, Abbie and Brooklyn, with them.

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