Holiday Tutorial: How To Make Smart Edits To Your Online Fundraising Page

Follow the robot back to the drawing board. Image from Smashing Magazine.

Like your fundraising plan, your donation page will adapt and change as you collect data about what’s working and what isn’t.  It can feel frustrating to spend money on an online fundraising service and then see your donation page sitting there, barely used, day after day, on your website- and if that’s happening, you’re doing it wrong!  You should be able to make agile alterations to your donation page and how it’s placed on your site, that will continually better address your donors needs.  Here are some tips to consider as your donation page evolves:

React to trends, not individual complaints.  You’re going to get a donor here and there that is less than savvy, even dealing with a simple payment page, who will complain.  You’re also likely going to get some nitpickers, if you’re building a large donor base.  Don’t assume there’s a systemic issue with your donation process if you get a cranky donor- do assume there is if you hear from multiple reasonable sources that they encountered a similar stumbling block in the process of giving online.  Your job is to react compassionately in the moment to any donor complaint, and also be responsible to the overall direction of your online fundraising plan.  Once you’ve collected some data from your donors, act decisively- if they find the form too long or confusing, make some cuts, even if you think that all the information is necessary.  If you really need to collect extensive information from your donors, consider making part of it an optional step after they’ve completed their payment.  This way, they can go about their business contributing, then decide if they’d like to supply you with more data.

Check your funnel.  Setting up a link on your site to your donation page is not enough to let your donors know that fundraising is one of the primary purposes of your website.  If they’re not clued-in to what they’re supposed to be doing on your site, you’re not going to see good results from you online fundraising page.  Make sure that you are taking donors directly to the page they’ll be using to donate from your ‘Donate’ button and other navigation links on your site- too many organizations take donors to some type of landing page from their ‘Donate’ links- where they have to choose another link to actually get to the page. Adding this step to your process will cause more lost donations than almost any other online misfire.  If you don’t have a clear, nearly instantaneous path to your donation page, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  Run regular tests on your site to make sure you can easily access the payment or membership page, from each page of your site.  If it takes more than one click, you’re probably looking at lost donations.

Do your own user testing.  It’s likely that you and your staff know some of your donors personally; select 10 of your favorite donors (who you’re friendly with, but not so much so that they’d hesitate to give you genuine, and potentially critical, input) and ask them to make their next gift online and give you feedback about the process.  If you really want to do some in-depth testing, write out a sheet of three or four tasks you’d like them to complete on your site- I’d suggest making a donation, signing up for your email newsletter, using your contact form and making another type of purchase (membership, event tickets, whatever), but these tasks will of course be different for each organization.  Give them a barebones list of actions you’d like them to complete and have them write feedback about the process of accomplishing each conversion.  Of course, you’ll want to reward your guinea pigs for their willingness to volunteer their time and thoughtful input, so be sure you give them something (gift cards are always usable and appreciated) or otherwise really acknowledge the generous contribution of time, energy and funds.  And when they give you feedback, pay extra close attention to any experiences that seem similar across the board (like if they had trouble finding a form, or had trouble entering their billing information for any reason).

Get clear on what’s important, then act accordingly.  It’s up to you to know your organization and it’s supporters well enough to know where you want them to put their donation dollars- membership structure with dues, fundraising drives to finance specific programming, general donation collection for operations and practical work, ticketing for events.  Whatever you do, don’t try to cram everything onto one payment page- get clear about what you want your supporters to use your site for, fundraising-wise, and be sure that they have the easiest possible time doing so.  If you’re really focused on building your member base but you notice that your membership set-up and payment page isn’t getting much traffic, it could be because it’s not featured prominently enough on your site.  If a conversion for you is a ticket sale to your annual gala, be sure that you’re setting links, buttons or other navigational pathways strategically across your site, to give your supporters the clearest access to your conversion point.  Organize buttons to your conversion points (donation, ticket sale etc.) and put them in the upper right hand corner of each page- if you can’t figure out where to put them, just go with the standard.

Keep adapting.  Fundraising is an art and a science- you’ll fare best if you factor in the best industry practices for online fundraising and carefully track your particular donors interactions with your site and online payment processing system.  There are lots of sites that offer free resources that can guide you toward successful page structure and strategy (including this one)-  be sure you’re also keeping an organized record of what changes you’re making and what resulting donor behavior changes you are seeing as a result.

Those are the basics of making effective edits to your online fundraising page this holiday season- good luck and happy fundraising!


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