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Enhance your donors’ giving experience!

By Amy Nicely, Senior Project Manager

Success! You’ve connected with someone online, they’re inspired by your ministry, and they want to make a donation.

But how? In that crucial moment, they need the easiest, most pleasant possible path to donating.

Is your donation process simple, clear, and efficient? Or is it complicated, hard to understand, time-consuming?

The answer to this question will dramatically impact your online giving results — because clumsy online donation systems frustrate users, often zapping that passion they felt for your work only a moment earlier.

Let’s see how your ministry’s online donation process works — or doesn’t — and figure out how to fix what’s broken.

1. How many steps?

How many fields do you require your new friend to fill out before clicking “Submit”? The more steps they must take — the more fields they must fill in on your donation form — the likelier they are to give up and bail out on the process.

You know it only takes 15 seconds, but to a new prospective donor with a relatively limited depth of commitment to your mission, it may feel like an eternity … time they don’t want to spend.

And the more details you require, the more your friend feels like you’re a big, heartless corporation — instead of a warm human family committed to a worthwhile cause.

Try stripping down your form to the bare essentials: name, contact info, payment details — period.

2. Simplify my life

Five ways to streamline your donation process by creating a user-friendly interface:

  1. Make labels and instructions clear, concise, and plain-English.
  • Avoid unnecessary questions.
  • Provide drop-down menus where possible, so the user can choose from options rather than type their own answers.
  • Offer auto-fill to save the user time and effort.
  • Provide suggested donation amounts! This won’t be considered pushy or imposing; it will feel like a convenience.

And then: Ask for feedback — maybe a button at the bottom of your online receipt email linking the donor to a simple comment form. 

(Why include the button with your receipt email? If they’ve used your donation form and you’re immediately receipting them, it’s the perfect time to get a sense of how they felt about the process — and over time, you can improve your process based on accumulated feedback.)

3. Friendly on the phone?

More and more donations are made via mobile device rather than on a computer. A donation form looks vastly different on a phone screen than on a laptop screen, so your online donation form needs to work well both ways. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing out on lots of mobile donations.

Once you’ve simplified your form, it will be easier to employ “responsive design principles” — that’s a fancy term for ensuring that the form auto-adjusts to various screen sizes and shapes. (If your website looks great on a laptop but ridiculous on a smartphone, you’ve lost a chunk of your audience.)

Responsive design also means:

  • Optimize page-load speed.
  • Use clear, legible fonts.
  • Include touch-friendly elements where possible.
  • Appropriate spacing, for maximum readability and usability.
  • Make your buttons are big enough!
  • And test, test, test before you go live.

Keep your donation form short and compact — the less scrolling required, the likelier you are to get a donation. 

Overall, keep making clear, intuitive navigation a top priority. (“Could my Aunt Mary do this?” is a good question to ask.)

4. What money looks like

Digital payments come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. It’s natural for someone to have “favorites.” Give your donor-to-be as many options as possible so they can go with their personal preference:

  • Credit/debit card? 
  • PayPal?
  • Apple Pay?
  • Google Pay?
  • Venmo?
  • Other digital wallets?
  • Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin?

The more diversity you offer, the greater your chances of receiving a donation.

5. You’re awesome

It’s absolutely crucial to say “Thank you” quickly, clearly, simply, warmly, and truthfully after someone make an online donation to your organization.

Your effective expression of appreciation for a gift will go far toward building a strong relationship with that donor.

Here are some tips:

  • Address the donor by name.
  • Mention their contribution amount.
  • Talk about the cause they gave toward, as specifically as possible.
  • Focus on the impact they’re making in someone’s life — the end-result of the donor’s giving — rather than talking about your ministry’s processes.
  • If possible, add a highly personal touch, like a handwritten note.

6. Story of the One

One of the single most powerful ways to generate a donation and increase the likelihood of future donations is to share the story of one life changed through the work of your ministry, empowered by the donor’s generosity.

When sharing an individual’s situation, focus on details that relate to your ministry’s work; omit details that aren’t on-message. 

Use statistics when they really help support the story; otherwise, isolate stats in infographics or other communications.

Use visuals — photos and video. Crop photos to leave out extraneous, distracting stuff. Trim videos to the minimum for maximum impact.

7. How long since I’ve heard from you!

Keep communicating with your donors. Provide updates on the work they’re making possible.

Communication fosters relationship. Transparency fosters trust.

And frequency is your friend: The donor who has embraced your cause doesn’t feel imposed upon to receive an email in their inbox. Reach out often with brief stories, concise updates on projects, and other news — not always asking for a donation.

Use multiple channels: email, messaging apps, social media — let donors receive information however they prefer, and let them unsubscribe from any they don’t.

Let’s talk more about your donation process! Contact me anytime via I look forward to hearing from you!