Secrets of a Successful Donation Form

Today’s blog post is written by Jude Shimer, Associate Director of Client Operations, PatronManager.

Working in development is a bit like being an anthropologist—or a psychologist. You’re constantly investigating why people behave the way they do. Why do some patrons choose to donate while others don’t? How do patrons decide how much to donate? And what can development departments do to influence their donors’ choices—say, the choice to submit a donation form?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a psychologist to answer the last question. There’s ample research into which forms perform best, resulting in excellent guidelines for designing a successful online donation form. Here are some of the most helpful tips I’ve found:

Make it Obvious

The easier it is for patrons to find your online donation form, the more likely they are to donate. Make your “Donate” button extra visible by styling it slightly differently from other buttons on your website, such as giving it a contrasting background color or border. Here are some stylish and noteworthy examples.

Introductory Text

Forms that begin with a lot of text force donors to scroll before getting to the actual form fields—which reduces donations. Your patron clicked the “Donate” link, so they already want to donate! They don’t need further convincing. If donors need to reference essential information while filling out the form, such as perks for giving levels, make use of a sidebar, which doesn’t increase scrolling.

If your form is for a gala or other fundraising event, only include essential information such as the date and location on the form itself, and feel free to include further details (such as directions or parking info) on the confirmation page, in the confirmation email, or in a reminder email sent shortly before the event.

How Many Fields?

General wisdom is that shorter forms are better, which is true to a point. More importantly, forms should only ask submitters for information that’s either absolutely required to submit the form (i.e., their name, credit card information, etc.) or relevant to the submitter’s interests. For example, letting your donors choose a giving level or program initiative is a worthwhile inclusion; donors like to influence where their gift is going.

Conversely, when fields like “title” or “matching gift employer” add up, these can feel tedious to your donors—doubly so if they’re required. Only mark fields required if you literally can’t accept the donation without them.

Let Your Donors Pay the Fees

Give donors the option to add a percentage to their gift to help offset credit card processing fees. With PatronManager for example, you can add a 3% checkbox to any of your single donation forms. Processing fees add up, and letting your patrons cover them can make a huge difference for you in the long run.

Acknowledgment Emails

What happens after your patron donates? How do you express appreciation, and encourage them to donate again in the future? When donors understand that they’ve made a tangible difference, they’re more likely to continue donating. Remember to customize your acknowledgment emails—PatronManager lets you set a custom acknowledgment for each form. And don’t forget to stay in touch! If you’ve just completed a campaign, for example, you can email donors letting them know what their gifts helped achieve.

No need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to donation forms—these simple techniques are the building blocks of a welcoming form that encourages donations. Take a look at your forms and see if you can implement any of these changes today!

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