The Ultimate Donation Page Course

Constructing a Proper Donation Page

In this lesson we’re going to take some time to carefully construct your online donation page to make it easier for donors to take action. You’ll learn what to keep—and what to put out on the curb. Plus, you won’t have to worry about scaring anyone off when they land on your page. Everybody wins.
(If you’re still working on getting a dedicated donation page for your organization, follow along and take notes so you can get a head start. Learn how Network for Good’s donation pages can improve your giving experience and help you raise more money.)

In this lesson, you’ll learn:

  • How clutter is stealing donations from your cause
  • How to clean up your online giving experience
  • What items never to include on your donation page

How clutter is stealing donations from your cause

Let’s face it, time is money. For you and your donors. When they have to fight through pages, paragraphs, and prerequisites to donate, it costs them time, and that costs youmoney. This is because the more time it takes a donor to figure out your donation page and complete a donation, the less likely they are to complete that donation at all.

Here are 6 ways that a cluttered donation form prevents donors from giving you money:

  • Too many fields. Online usability experts generally agree that when there are more fields included on a form, a visitor is less likely to complete the form.
  • Too many links. Myriad links or navigation elements that lead visitors away from your donation page will make it more likely that a prospective donor clicks away from your form before completing it.
  • Too much text. Additional text on your page requires your donor to do more work and can trigger “fine print” skepticism.
  • Too many images. Extra photos and images on your donation page may seem like a good idea, but can often confuse and distract donors, especially when they don’t instantly communicate why a donation matters.
  • Too much complexity. When you have more complex options on your page, potential donors are less likely to complete your form.
  • Too many steps. The more pages there are to complete, the more likely a donor is to abandon the process.

These principles are true whether we’re talking about online donation pages, search engines, or When we take a step back and think about it, of course it makes sense. When it takes us more time or effort to do something, we’re less likely to do it at all. (Hey, I’m not making any value judgments here, this is just human nature!)

In other words, all that extra “stuff” = work.

In the world of user experience design, this is called “cognitive load.” This means that each time our brains have to process something on a page, however small, it requires a certain amount of mental resources. These little distractions and decisions add up to increase the average time it takes to complete a task. The more time it takes someone to work through your donation page, you guessed it—the less likely they are to get to the finish line.



Tip: Remember, great donation pages keep donors laser focused on the task at hand: completing a donation.

Don’t forget about mobile

Before we move on to cleaning up your donation page, there’s one other significant scenario where clutter can wreck a donor experience: when they’re trying to give to your organization via mobile.

Your online donation page should be optimized for mobile use and can automatically display a mobile-friendly version of your page for easy giving via smartphones. (Network for Good’s Donation Pages are automatically mobile-responsive, so we do the word for you.) When designing for mobile, pages need to be easy to see, use, and understand, with no clutter, extra steps, or elements that aren’t easily clickable with a thumb. This is becoming rapidly more important because:

  • 28% of all website traffic now comes from mobile. Source: Walker Sands
  • 51% of email opens now happen via mobile. Source: Litmus
  • 61% say they have a more favorable opinion of brands that offer a good mobile experience. Source: Latitude

Even if your donation page serves up a mobile-friendly version to smartphone-wielding donors, streamlining your page gives you extra insurance in case these supporters request the desktop or full version of your form. Besides, thinking “mobile first” will force you to create a simplified, yet highly usable experience for you donors. (Related reading: Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski)

Tip: Assess your mobile savvy with our free Mobile Donations Checklist.

How to clean up your donation page

Ok, so now that you know you need to clear away (or prevent) clutter from your donation page, how, exactly, do you do that? The trick is to become a ruthless editor when it comes to your online donation page.

Imagine that you are the last defense between your donors and “Cognitive-Load-Zilla.” This might involve a cape, lasers, or a suit of armor—whatever you’re into. The rest is up to you, but I have a few tips that will help you fight off donation page bloat.

Your page layout: Don’t try to be too clever with your donation page layout or the order of your fields. Your donors bring prior knowledge of similar experiences with them. This helps to reduce the cognitive load when they encounter something familiar. Basically, your donors expect basic things to work a certain way. Disrupting this expected flow will likely confuse your donors, which spells doom for your online fundraising goals. The good news? Most donation pages will have this order set or be pre-populated with the recommended order.

Your navigation: All landing pages, including your donation page, perform best when they offer limited navigation. This is because adding all of the choices and navigation options your website might provide will give your prospective donors more opportunity to wander around, which is the last thing you want. If you’ve done your job, you’re getting most donors to your page when they’re ready to give. For everyone else, you don’t have to trap them on your page. Give them a max of three options to find out more:

  1. A link to your website’s home page (or other donor-specific landing page). This should be linked from your nonprofit’s logo in the upper left corner of your donation page.
  2. A link to find out how to contact you.
  3. A link to a “Why Give?” page that explains where the money goes (and sends donors back to you donation page), or to online reviews about your organization.

Your form fields: Start with the minimum number of required fields it will take for donors to technically complete their donation. This will include any billing information, which is ok—donors are expecting this. What they’re not expecting: a game of 20 questions. Resist the temptation to use your donation form as a survey. Any information you might glean will be offset by smaller donation totals. Only add fields if:

a) it helps the donor complete their donation
b) it can help you raise more money, or
c) they will provide information that you can’t get in any other way. (Think long and hard about that last one!)

Your donation page copy: I’ll help you optimize your donation page text and calls to action in Lesson 4, but for now, keep it short and to the point. The headline and text on your donation page should be just long enough to reiterate your ask and reinforce the sense of urgency. Cut out anything that doesn’t do that and limit yourself to one headline and two sentences. Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The same could be said for donation pages. And if it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for us.

Your images: Images that belong on your donation page include: your nonprofit’s logo and a security/trust seal from your donation processor. For photos, focus on one picture only. This means you must make it count! One quality photo will outperform multiple photos. (We’ll get into more details about choosing the right image for your donation page in our next lesson.)

When in doubt, ask yourself, “What’s more important? Adding more stuff to our page or getting more donations for our mission?”

Tip: Walk through making a contribution on your donation page. Note what’s essential to completing (or increasing) the gift. Cut the rest.

What never to include on your donation page

This is a tricky subject—my favorite kind of subject. What goes on your donation page will vary from organization to organization. That said, here are a few never-evers:

  • Anything that causes a donor to question your credibility or legitimacy.
  • Images that don’t add to the emotional connection between the donor and your cause.
  • Anything that your donor has to stop and think about for more than 2 seconds.
  • Everything you have on your nonprofit website.

Tip: Before adding anything to your donation page, ask yourself, “Will this make it easier for donors to give?”

To sum it up, keep it simple and remember, less is more. More donations, that is.

(Keep in mind that if you have a Donation Page page from Network for Good, you can use these lessons to help you set up your page or give it a quick makeover. Log in now to review your page. Need an online donation page? Contact my pals here to find out more.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Featuring too many options or items on your donation page will negatively impact your donation results.
  • Be a ruthless editor and keep your page and form as simple as possible.
  • Don’t add anything to your page that doesn’t move a donor toward completing their donation.

You’re done for the day! Let your friends see how awesome you are.

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