I’ve written a lot about how to do things right, but let’s talk about some of the common missteps on online donation pages and how they can affect your ability to raise money online.
1.) Too Much Text.
Your donation page is not the place for idle chit-chat. I personally like donation pages that follow some basic rules of snail mail donor outreach- particularly: talk about them, not you and be sure to say ‘thank you’. Give them a one-sentence description of your organization and what their funds will do and a clear message about how deeply appreciated their gift is. Anything other than that simply helps push your donation form ‘below the fold,’ making it less clear to donors what they should be doing and leading to lost donations.
2.) Unclear call to action
In my opinion, the call to action on a donation page should come in the title, not in the page text. Saying ‘please use the form below to make a donation’ in the precious little space you have to make your text impactful is nothing but a waste- your donors are, presumably, not idiots, so choose a strong title for your page (‘Donate’ or ‘Give Today’ or something similarly direct) and include in the text a clear, brief statement about how their contribution will make a difference, then get out of their way! If a donor clicks onto a donation page and they see a block of text that looks purely informational, it stalls momentum through the donation process and is subliminally confusing- put a strong, call-to-action title on your donation page (‘Give Today’) and let it do it’s job.
3.) 3rd Party Branding
Disclaimer: this may be partly personal preference that I’m going to reference as straight fact- your donation page should look like your website. When a donor clicks your donate button, they should see a donation page that feels aesthetically and conceptually in line with the rest of your organization’s online presence. Having your donors move conspicuously away from your site to that of a third-party provider is a good way to let them know that fundraising isn’t an internal priority and gives them a good opportunity to ‘abandon the shopping cart.’ Since PCI-compliance is typically maintained by the service provider, not the organization, it’s likely your payment system is not hosted on your own server- that’s okay and is the logical choice for most non-profits that don’t have the staff or funding to attend to the PCI-compliance requirements necessary to keep donor info safe and secure. It’s how our service works and how many similar providers offer payment processing service- the issue isn’t moving your donors to a secure environment outside your own site server, it’s having a payment page that is covered in information and graphics that don’t match up with your organization’s website. Your donation page should be just that: yours! Don’t use a service provider that doesn’t let you retain graphic ownership of your donation process, it’s just not worth it.
4.) Multi-step payment process
There should be two clicks in the donation process: one where the donor clicks the donate button on another page of your site and one on your donation page when they submit their payment. Donors shouldn’t need to click through multiple screens to complete their payment (I’m looking at you, JustGive- 9 steps to make a donation!) and they also shouldn’t have to click a donate button, then land on some sort of informational page. Your buttons should funnel directly into your donation page and your donation page should offer, a simple, one-step process for your donors. Each superfluous step gives the donor another opportunity to bail out on their contribution, especially if the multi-step issue is combined with the 3rd party branding I was griping about above, as it often is.
Remember, it’s your job to keep your donors attention, offer an easy process for giving to your organization and keep your website and fundraising tools aligned with your organizational mission- don’t blow it after the sales already been made!