Online Donations can be a Game Changer for Non-Profits...If Done Properly
Part I: Online Giving and Social Media
These Tips May Seem Obvious, But You’d Be Surprised…It Is Seldom Done Correctly

Take some time to choose your “call to action” phrase.  These few words are so critical to your success. Is it “Donate Now” or “Give Now” or “Invest Now” or is it both “Donate and Give a _____ (i.e. scholarship, etc.)”?  Maybe it’s a tagline that relates to your organization that uses “Answer the Call” for their donation call to action.  Whatever it may be, these words need to resonate with your donor audience.

Once you select your specific call to action language, the donation tab/button on your website must be BRIGHT and stand out on your page.  It has to be the first thing people see.  In some cases, it actually is a good idea that your call to action tab/button is a completely different color from your branded color scheme.  It also ALWAYS needs to be in view above the fold on a computer, phone, and tablet – there should be no scrolling to get to the call to action tab/button.


When someone clicks on the call to action button, it should go directly to the transaction page – no middle pages to distract your donors.  MINIMIZE CLICKS (1-2 clicks max) to get to the transactional page.  Your donors will appreciate this efficiency, and so will you as the donations start coming through the door.

Your transaction page is vital to the success of your online donation strategy.  Below are a few tips for developing a successful transaction page:

  • Make it minimalistic – clean, clutter-free, and concise.  Keep text to a minimum at the top of the page.  Instead, a photograph or image, if selected and used appropriately at the top of the page, can further the emotional connection of your donor.
  • There is a strategic order in which the transaction/payment/donation information should be listed for the donor and it is as such:

          1. Place gift level options at the very top – put your desired gift level first, then one amount above and below your preferred donation level, and of course an “other” option for someone to manually enter a gift level.
          2. Second, have a drop down menu if there are multiple funds for people to donate to (i.e. scholarship fund, endowment, etc.)
          3. Next, have two selection options (make this a mandatory answered section) – one for a one-time gift and one for a recurring gift. This makes it easy for your organization to increase the recurring gift opportunities and makes it easy for your donor to do so!
          4. Now comes the credit card information.  Again, ONLY have your donor fill out the necessary inputs needed for the donation transaction to occur.  Don’t bother your donor with survey-like questions (i.e. How did you hear about us?  How are you affiliated to _____ organization?).  Ask these types of questions in a follow-up email confirming the donation transaction.

  • Lastly, provide your mailing address at the bottom of the transaction page should your donor happen to get cold feet about donating online.

Think about it – the above is not rocket science – if you were a donor wouldn’t you want the transaction process to be extremely easy, quick, and simplistic?  You would be surprised by how many transactional pages do not do this for donors!  Do not lose precious donation opportunities by annoying your donors by spending more of their valuable time filling out unnecessary information.  Get only the information you need and allow your donor a quick and positive experience.

If you are to do two things and only two things to streamline your online donation strategy – these two are it.  Take a look at your online donation systems from a third-eye perspective, as if you were a donor looking to donate, and see what you see.  Is it an easy process?  How long did it take you?  Did you have any emotional connection to the process?  If these answers aren’t Yes, Super Quick, and Yes in that particular order, it may be time to rethink your current strategy and to implement the above tips.

Below are some other potential ideas and tips that you may want to consider incorporating into online donation strategies and campaigns:

          – Social media promotions and online auctions – get people involved!
          – If you have a video segment that does a good job capturing the essence of your organization and the cause you support, incorporate this video on your home (landing) page
          – Have online donation options for ALL giving, across all channels – make it super easy for folks to donate!
          – Text donation campaigns can be highly effective too, but could require a higher budget and be dependent on major crowd sourcing
          – “Friends Asking Friends” campaigns can be highly effective and potentially more cost effective than text donation campaigns

Moral of the story: your campaign, your strategy – whatever your approach may be and whatever it may entail – it does not have to be super complex to be successful.  Put together an organized, thoughtfil, attainable game plan and execute.  And, remember…keep it simple – less is more!


Part II: Highly Emotional Is a Good Thing

People donate to causes they care about.  It’s human nature.  An emotional connection is one of the most important factors when cultivating donors.  That is why it is important to step back and take a look at the imagery and visuals used in your campaign strategy to consider the emotional effectiveness of your message.  Is there anything that should be updated or tweaked to spur a further emotional connection?  Think about the VISUAL message you are creating.  Emotion captures the heart, which plays on the mind.  Is the visual message you are putting together as effective as you want it to be?  Is your message creating a response from people?  Think about those who look at your content – Where do their eyes go to immediately?  The image?  The text?  Why not both?  It is hard to create an emotion around plain text, yet, text is so important because the text is where you are verbally explaining your cause and call to action.

The below is an example showcasing the difference between capturing emotion via image only in and capturing emotion via image AND text:

  Image #1                                                                                                                           Image #2

Donation call to actionThe areas highlighted in the above hypothetical campaign ads are the emotional trigger points – where the human eye is drawn to first.  As you can see in Image #1, the emotional triggers are solely focused on the image – the puppy – and not the text.  In Image #2, the emotional trigger points are on BOTH the puppy and the text.  In Image #2 we are connecting the image to the text – the call to action – we are drawing the viewer in to read, focus, and connect with the text.

Ok yes, the above example includes puppies, which is an easy emotional sell.  But, regardless of what the cause is, the concept of emotionally connecting your viewer to the image AND to the call to action text is still applicable.  The above example points out a very subtle difference, but one that can have a very powerful effect.  Emotion is a great tool to engage your audience; so, take a look at your organization’s existing marketing materials and think about this concept when crafting your designs and campaigns!


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