5 Website Tips To Encourage Donations

Online charitable giving continues to be on the rise. These five guidelines, based on extensive user testing, will help ensure your website encourages donations.

According to Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report, online giving now represents 7.1% of total giving. For comparison, e-commerce sales are 7.5% of U.S. retail sales. As Americans’ comfort level with online transactions continues to grow, non-profits will reap the benefit in increased online giving.

The research group Nielsen Norman has probably done more user testing of nonprofit’s sites than anyone. They’ve distilled their learnings down to five guidelines.

1. Clearly Explain What the Organization Does

The most important piece of information site visitors want to know is what you do and how you do it. In the Nielsen Norman studies, this information was often enough to convince a prospect to make a gift. Make sure it is clear, concise and easy to find — front and center on your homepage.


Cru tells you what they do concisely, clearly and early on their homepage

2. Disclose How Donations Are Used

The second most desired piece of information visitors wanted was how the organization used donations. Visitors who couldn’t find this were frustrated and were prone to believe the organization was purposefully hiding bad news. Find ways to show transparency with how you use funds. This might be a pie chart that shows your efficiency or that links to financial accountability documents, like your Annual Report and Form 990.


Prison Fellowship provides the last four years of financial documents

3. Display Third-Party Endorsements

Visitors want to know if an organization is credible before donating to it. Include endorsements and ratings prominently to show your organization has a legitimate reputation. Include logos from Charity Navigator, BBB, and ECFA; high-profile endorsements; and a statement of how long you’ve been in service.


Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities makes their third-party endorsements clear

4. Provide a Noticeable and Clear Link to Donate

After visitors in the study were convinced that they wanted to make a donation to an organization, they found it surprisingly difficult to figure out how to donate. In fact, 25% of the sites in the study didn’t even have a Donate call to action. Make your donation button easy to find and understand on every page of your site. In our experience, nothing beats a button labeled DONATE NOW that takes visitors directly to the first step in the donation process.


Metropolitan Ministries uses a bright DONATE NOW button throughout their site

5. Streamline the Donation Process

Once you’ve gotten someone to your donation process make donating as easy as possible. We’ve written before about our process for optimizing donation pages. But optimization never ends. No matter how good your conversion rate is, there are ways to make the process better and the rewards for optimization are well worth the effort in the short and long term.


Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission tested into a new donation process

How well does your site do at encouraging donations?

The online giving trend is only going to continue. Complete this short evaluation of your organization’s website to find out if you’re ready:

Does your homepage explain what you do?

Does your website explain how you use donations?

Does your website prominently display third-party endorsements?

Does your homepage have a Donate call to action on it?

Have you optimized your donation process in the past year?