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Nonprofit Partners: Online Donation Forms – 7 Ways to Impress (and Retain) Donors

July 19, 2017
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AvidXchange, a leading fintech provider of accounts payable and payment automation for midsize companies, has many customers in the nonprofit space. As such, we form strategic partnerships with organizations that work with nonprofits like @Pay, an express payment technology company that makes it easy to pay, give, or buy on a mobile device. For our nonprofit partners and customers out there, here are some best practices from @Pay’s CEO, John Killoran, for creating online donation forms.

Online Donation Forms – 7 Ways to Impress (and Retain) Donors

By now, we’re sure that your nonprofit has adopted a number of exciting, modern fundraising methods.

But no matter how cutting-edge your organization gets, online and mobile giving strategies are all built upon the success of the original online giving tool: the classic online donation form.

As foundational as it may be, your online donation form is still vital to your nonprofit’s digital fundraising success. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to show you 7 innovative ways to improve your donation form (and engage your donors along the way).

We’ll teach you how to:

  1. Brand your form in a professional way
  2. Keep mobile donors in mind
  3. Limit donation form requirements
  4. Enable recurring gifts
  5. Offer a social sharing option
  6. Include suggested donation levels
  7. Make your donation form easy to find

When we’re through here, you’ll be amazed at all the ways you can take your form to the next level.

Of course, before you can apply these strategies, you’ll need to partner with an online giving platform to power your donation form. Need help finding the right tool? No worries—@Pay’s got you covered with the buyer’s guide to online giving software.

Once you’ve found your vendor, we can dive into the tips!

1. Brand your form in a professional way.

There’s nothing worse than landing on a donation form only to wonder if you’ve somehow wandered off-site onto another organization’s website.
The fix? Match the branding of your donation page to the rest of your website.

There’s always a risk for fraud when making an online transaction, so you want your donors to feel as secure as possible when giving to your organization.

If your donation form looks nothing like the rest of your site and doesn’t reflect your organization, users may be left scratching their heads before abandoning the form altogether—and we don’t have to tell you why that’s a bad thing!

To get the branding right on the first try and avoid any confusion, follow these simple steps:

  • Use your organization’s name and logo at the top of the page.
  • Follow a cohesive color scheme (we recommend something easy on the eyes!).
  • Stick to the same fonts your website uses, preferably a readable sans serif.

Of course, you want your donation form and the rest of your website to look as professional as possible.

To get an idea of how other nonprofits are building cohesive, appealing sites, check out Double the Donation’s list of top nonprofit websites. It’s okay to steal a few ideas!  

2. Keep mobile donors in mind.

Think about how much people get done on their smartphones: checking emails, sending texts, reading the news—why not add making donations to their favorite charitable causes to the list?

Your nonprofit supporters are likely as invested in their cell phones as the rest of the world is, so catering to mobile donors when creating your online donation form is a must.

Most online giving platforms will automatically build mobile-friendly web forms for you, but it can’t hurt to go the extra mile to ensure your online donation page is responsive and ready for any device.

How do you do it? Here’s our advice:

  • Keep your donation form under one page in length.
  • Use short paragraphs and large font to make the form easy to read on small screens.
  • Limit the number of required fields to only truly crucial information (more on this in the next section!).
  • Steer clear of clutter by not including too many icons, images, or other design elements.
  • Follow a vertical layout that users can easily scroll through.

When your form is accessible and user-friendly anywhere (whether that’s at home on a laptop or on a phone during a church sermon), donors will have nothing holding them back from quickly making a contribution.

3. Limit donation form requirements.

Let’s face it: your donors, like everyone else, are busy individuals with short attention spans and packed schedules. If donating to your organization pulls them away from other valuable tasks for too long, they’re likely to become frustrated and abandon the process.

When you’ve worked so hard to get your supporters to make the choice to donate in the first place, you definitely don’t want to see them say goodbye before completing the process.

To make sure they follow through on their donation, keep your donation form simple and straightforward, with as few requirements as possible.

What data you need ultimately depends on your organization, so you should examine your current form and see where you can cut down.
No matter what, you should still require some basic information, such as:

  • First and last names.
  • Contact information—either an email address or phone number.
  • Payment details (so your nonprofit can get your donation!).

Remember: if you’re worried that you’ll miss an opportunity to collect valuable donor insight by leaving fields out, you can always send out a dedicated survey to ask specific questions not included on the form.

4.  Enable recurring gifts.

Historically, making a regular donation has meant remembering to mail in a paper check each month, quarter, or year. But if you’re making the most of your online giving form, you can leave that outdated method in the past.

One of the greatest perks of online donation forms is how simple they make recurring giving.

You’re likely already aware of the many benefits of recurring gifts, but you may not have known how to successfully implement a regular giving strategy at your nonprofit.

To make recurring donations possible, include the following fields on your form:

  • A recurring giving checkbox.
  • Preferred giving schedule (e.g., yearly, quarterly, or monthly).
  • The donation amount.

Simple? We told you so!

Once the donor has submitted their initial donation, they’ll have also scheduled future ongoing automated transactions, each with their own receipt. Don’t forget to thank them for each gift!

5. Offer a social sharing option.

Your donors are excited that they’re having an impact on a cause they care about, so you should make it easy for them to share that passion with friends and family.

The best way to facilitate that is to include a social sharing option on your donation form.  

Not only will this option give your donors a valuable next step after they complete their gift, but it will also serve as free publicity for your cause.

Think about it: when you see that your friend, coworker, or relative is excited about a charitable mission that’s bettering the community, wouldn’t you want to investigate and see how you can get involved too?

If you choose to include a social sharing button on your form (and we hope you do!), keep these tips in mind:

  • Make it optional—not every donor will feel comfortable broadcasting their gift, and that’s perfectly okay.
  • Include multiple mediums, such as Twitter, Facebook, and even email.
  • Allow donors to customize their post to share a personal message.
  • Make sure the post links back to your website or social profile.

If your donor tags your organization in their social post, you should always comment or reply to thank them for their support!

Social campaigns are especially important during the giving season and viral fundraising days (like #GivingTuesday), so take advantage of those times by encouraging donors to share their gift on social media.

6. Include suggested donation amounts.

We’ve already mentioned how busy your donors are, so let’s make the donation process even simpler for them.

Work with an online giving platform that will enable you to include pre-set giving levels in addition to a custom amount field.

Not only will these suggestions take the guesswork out of giving, but they might also guide your supporter toward giving a larger amount than originally planned.

A few tips for implementing this strategy:

  • Include three or four reasonable amounts that range from modest to generous (for example, $25, $50, and $100) so every donor feels comfortable.
  • Tell donors what each level provides for your cause so they can visualize their impact.
  • Base your median amount around your average online donation so that you’re not asking too much or too little (check your CRM to find this data!).

When donors don’t have to spend time considering how much they want to give, they’ll be able to complete their donation even more quickly, reducing the chance that they’ll walk away before clicking “submit.”

7. Make your donation form easy to find.

Now that you’ve spent so much time optimizing every step of your online donation form, it’s time to put it to good use and get the word out about your online giving options!

You’ll need to promote your online giving form as widely as possible so that supporters know where to go to make a contribution. That means placing links to your donation page on social media, in emails, and even in direct mailings.

Additionally, you should make your donation form as easy to find on your nonprofit website as possible.

Here’s how to direct users to your donation page from the second they sign on:

  • Feature a large, brightly colored donation button at the top of every page.
  • Add a donation button at the bottom of relevant pages so donors know where to go next.
  • Include a Ways to Get Involved page in your navigation bar, with instructions on all the next steps a site visitor could take, including making a donation online.

Don’t forget: the purpose of your website isn’t just to educate donors about your mission—it’s to encourage them to take action by donating! Make that purpose clearer by highlighting ways to give all throughout your site.

No matter what software your organization has on hand, your online fundraising strategies won’t get very far without a well-designed donation form. But with these optimizations on your side, you’ll be well on your way to fundraising success!

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