Creating a Great Donate Page

How many pages on your site actually bring in money directly? Probably only one – your donation page.

If you don’t have a donation page, we’re preparing an article on services that provide an easy way to take money online painlessly (that aren’t Paypal). We’ll have that up next week, but today we’re talking about the donation page itself.

It really makes sense to spend some time refining your home page and creating something that really works. Like we just mentioned, your donation page actually creates revenue and can be an important part of an annual fund or a campaign.

What may not be so obvious is that very small changes in your donation page can make a huge different in your rate of conversion – that is, how many people are visiting the donation page and actually following through and making a gift. To cover the bases of what every donation page should be doing, we’ve put together some tips that can be put into use to create an engaging donation page that results in more online giving. Let’s get going!

Connect the Donation with the Cause (with Design)

Far too often, we see donate pages that look completely different than the page the user was at before they clicked the “donate” button. Sometimes this is because of technical limitations, and if that is the case, it’s time to switch your credit card processing provider to something more flexible. Where visitors enter their credit card information should look like the rest of your site, or the area of the site they are in.

For instance, let’s say you have an annual fund mini site (which we highly recommend), and the contribute page is at Most likely, your visitor is being presented with the case for giving to the annual fund on all the other pages. What you are building, how the money is used – basically all of your annual fund marketing materials.

At some point, your visitor is going to decide that they are ready to make a contribution. They will click on the donation button and are presented with steps to enter their information. However, many sites make the mistake of leaving the visitor on their own after this on a strange looking page, but we need to make sure that the action that was intended when they clicked on the donate button is completed.

That means not simply presenting credit card and information fields. It mean placing the donate page in the same template as the other pages of the annual fund mini site, and making sure it looks and feels like just another area of the site. Taking this first step is a huge leap forwards towards better donation conversion rates.

Connect the Donation with the Cause (with Information)

A donation page that looks great can be helped with some quick and easily digestible information about what the user is donating for. They should already know, but they need a little reminder to get them from the page load to entering their information. On the annual fund page, you might have a sentence or two about the overall goals annual fund. Nothing too fancy, but something that gives a little context.

Don’t Take Unnecessary Information

I’m a very patient internet user, and even I have been turned away from sites because of a sign in form that seems to want to know everything about me. My gender, my email address, my phone number. It’s no small task to enter in all that information, and it can be a big reason why a visitor may come to your donate page and turn away.

It makes sense then to strip down all the unnecessary elements and leave just the elements you need to process their credit card. So take away the name prefix, the gender, etc. We’re interested in visitors giving money, and anything that we don’t really need that slows them down can be thrown out.

But wait! A credit card data input does not equal a donate page. Read on to the next section for more.

Do Take Relevant Unique Information

There is some information that is appropriate to collect if there is a system in place to take the information and use it correctly. This is information that a user may really want to or need to provide with a donation.

  • The year of the donator’s graduation if they are an alumni
  • A designation for the donation (for example, maybe they can check “athletics” to benefit from their donation)
  • A name they are donating for. Perhaps they want to make a memorial donation, or donate as a person and their spouse. The name on the credit card may not be the name they want to donate as.
  • Opt-in options for special programs or societies based on the donation amount. This varies from school to school.

Also, capturing an email address is often necessary for credit card forms (for a receipt of payment), so adding an “opt-in” for an email list is appropriate.

Style Your Forms

This one isn’t very scientific, but as a personal preference, I always like to style forms to make them a little more fun to fill out. Nothing fancy, but a form that is left with default browser styling isn’t very exciting.

Say “Thank You”

We’re placing a lot of importance on the donate page, but what about when your visitor finishes the donation process? Your donation processing provider should allow you to send the user to a custom “Thank You” url.

When someone donates, they are giving a piece of their money to your organization, and they want to feel appreciated for that. Nothing says “we don’t appreciate your donation” like a screen that says “DONATION PROCESSED SUCCESSFULLY“.

Instead, have your annual fund director, or school president, or another appropriate individual write a short, sincere letter of thanks, and make that your thank you page. Better yet, design it to look like a letter and include a signature at the bottom.

Donors who have a good online experience and feel appreciated are more likely to be repeat donors.

Use a Colorful “Donate Now” Button

Not only is green a vivid color that works well with most designs, it has a calming effect that seems to be conducive to online payment processing. According to a 2008 Donordigital report on online giving tests, a green donation button increased conversions by 22% over red or blue. Also, bigger donation buttons were found to increase conversions as well.

It should be noted that the color of your donate button may vary in effectiveness depending on your site design and visitor profile. We are going to discuss how to test this in an upcoming article on A/B testing.

Test and Refine

Consider your donation page as a work in progress, and give it the attention it deserves. If you’re seeing lots of traffic but low rates of donation, mix things up and see if the numbers improve. Remember, it’s the only page on your site that generates revenue!