4 Easy Fixes that Will Supercharge Your Online Fundraising

Online fundraising brings in a significant and growing amount of support for nonprofit organizations. The Blackbaud Institute’s recently released Charitable Giving Report: How Fundraising Performed in 2017 reveals that 7.6 percent of overall fundraising revenue, excluding grants, was raised online in 2017 representing a new record high.

While the nonprofit sector’s online fundraising performance is noteworthy, the results can be much better. Many things go into a successful online fundraising effort. However, some professionals have found that they can supercharge online charitable giving by making some easy fixes.

Here are just four ways you can enhance your “Donate” button or tab to get vastly superior results:

1.  Express a Value Proposition

Online for Life, now known as the Human Coalition, looked at how a donate tab’s value proposition affects giving. This pro-life organization already had a donate tab that read “Save a Baby,” which became the control in a test to find a better tab label. The organization test a new tab reading “Save a Child” and another stating “Give.”

The results, reported by NextAfter, uncovered a less effective and a more effective approach. The “Give” tab resulted in 30.5 percent less revenue while the “Save a Child” tab resulted in increased revenue of 62.2 percent compared to the control.

NextAfter believes, “This simple change reminded donors of the long-term impact of their gift. We want to save a baby from abortion because of who they will become over time.” In other words, the organization took its value proposition and made the impact more long term. Asking people to “Give” is abstract while asking them to “Save a Child” is concrete.

Building a better button or tab that tells donors the impact their gift will have, rather than simply asking them to give, can raise substantially more money.

2.  Find and Emphasize the Right Call to Action

Jews for Jesus already had a successful online fundraising effort. People could click the “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of each website page. Nevertheless, the organization tested different options to find an even more effective approach.

The control was the existing design with a “Donate” tab. The test involved adding a donation button in the upper right corner of the website header appearing on multiple pages, not just the Home page. One button read “Make my Gift” while the other read “Donate Today!” The buttons were placed in addition to the existing tab.

The “Make my Gift” button resulted in a 306.1 percent increase in total revenue, according to NextAfter.

NextAfter found that the “Donate Today!” button ended up decreasing the amount of traffic being driven to the donation page by 9.6 percent. The group speculates that “by putting the call to action in the context of the donor ‘Make my Gift’ instead of a command ‘Donate Today!,’ the donors were able to align better [to the requested] action and were more likely to click.”

As the Jews for Jesus learned, it’s important to find the right call to action. It’s also important to effectively emphasize that call to action.

3.  Make Finding the Donate Button or Tab Easy

The Dallas Theological Seminary had a “Donate” tab on the navigation bar at the top of its web page. To encourage more contributions, the Seminary tested highlighting the tab in purple, the organization’s signature color. The Seminary also tested a purple highlighted tab reading “Support DTS.”

NextAfter discovered that the purple-highlighted “Donate” tab was the most effective, generating 2,682.3 percent more revenue!

While both of the purple tabs were able to increase revenue significantly, NextAfter believes “the ‘Donate’ tab provided the additional clarity necessary to increase not only traffic to the page but also the subsequent donor conversion. We need to make it easy for donors to find the path we want them to take by being both clear in the messaging and visually emphasizing the path we want them to take.”

Make it easy for website visitors to support your organization by using a prominent, static donate button that can be easily found on every page. The best location for the button is in the upper right-hand corner of the page header. David Hartstein, at Wired Impact, suggests:

You never know when a visitor will be moved to donate to your nonprofit. Regardless of when they decide to pledge their support, you need to ensure they can easily find where to do so. Make your donate button stand out. It should look different from the other tabs in your navigation and immediately draw a user’s attention. Consider putting it in your header at the top of your website so it’s in the same location on every page. Doing so will help ensure whenever your website visitors feel compelled to donate, they’ll know exactly where to click.”

4.  Design a Better Planned Giving Button

If you want website visitors to learn more about gift planning opportunities, you need them to easily find and be inspired to click the button that takes them to your planned giving page. The typical nonprofit has a button or tab says “Planned Giving.” Unfortunately, that does little to move people to click through to the planned giving page.

Texas Tech philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP® conducted a study to find a more inspiring button. He had two objectives in mind: 1) Individuals have to be interested in finding out more. 2) Individuals have to expect to see Planned Giving information (i.e., no “bait and switch”).

James concluded that the best term for achieving both objectives is: “Other Ways to Give Smarter.” If you use this phrase, you’ll get more people to click through, and they’ll be more satisfied with the content when they do. Importantly, “Planned Giving” and “Gift Planning” buttons performed poorly.

Let’s review. While there are many things you can do to enhance your online fundraising performance, the four easy fixes outlined here can have a massive, positive effect.

Remember, no matter how well designed your actual donation or planned giving pages are, it won’t matter if people don’t click through to them. Just keep one other thing in mind: Each of the ideas I’ve shared have been tested. You should do the same. Simply because something worked for one organization doesn’t mean it will work for yours even though there’s an excellent chance it will. However, careful testing will help you discover the best option for your organization.

Have you tested different “Donate” buttons? If so, I’d sure like to hear about it.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

7 Responses to “4 Easy Fixes that Will Supercharge Your Online Fundraising”

  1. Michael,
    I found this to be a fascinating post. It’s amazing to me that such seemingly small adjustments can affect giving so profoundly. Thank you for sharing this information.

  2. I was surprised to learn than less than 8% of charitable giving was online. I thought it would have been much greater by now. Good advice you’ve given to make it larger.

    • Steve, thanks for your comment. The percentage of giving that happens online is a bit less surprising when we compare it with the percentage of online retail sales. According to the US Department of Commerce, 8.1 percent of retail sales came online in 2016. That’s not much more than the 7.6 percent of charitable giving that happened online. So, the nonprofit sector seems to be doing reasonably well by comparison to the performance of the retail sales sector. However, in both cases, I suspect the percentages don’t paint the full picture. I speculate that shoppers and donors use the Internet to learn more and to shop. Then, they make the purchases or donations using a more traditional mechanism. Over time, we’re likely to see continued growth in both sectors.


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