5 Online Donation Form Mistakes Your Nonprofit Should Avoid

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many challenges for fundraisers, it has also created opportunities for nonprofits like yours to assess virtual fundraising efforts and learn how to use important online tools more effectively. One of those tools is your donation form, which is a critical component of your fundraising.

Unfortunately, many times nonprofits aren’t aware of the mistakes they’re making when it comes to donation forms. Some organizations think that simply creating a generic form and throwing it on a website is enough to ensure that fundraising dollars will come streaming in. Really, though, this just means they’re fumbling an opportunity to, as this article on donation forms by iATS Payments puts it, “receive the generous gift and…[collect] vital supporter information.”

In reality, raising money for your cause isn’t that easy, and it’s even harder if you’re making mistakes with your donation form without knowing it. In this post, we’ll walk you through five common mistakes nonprofits often make with donation forms so you’re no longer in the dark: 

  1. Not making your form easy to find. 
  2. Using an insecure payment processor. 
  3. Asking unnecessary questions. 
  4. Not making your form accessible. 
  5. Not providing multiple ways for donors to engage. 

Along with these things to avoid, we’ll also give you some tips on how you should build your donation form. 

As you work to ensure your donation form is the best it can be, remember to put yourself in your donors’ shoes and think through what they need from your form so their giving experience goes smoothly. By simplifying the process for donors, you’ll be signalling to them that when they have money to give, your organization is the one to give to. 

Let’s jump in! 

Mistake #1: Not making your form easy to find. 

Some experts say you only have 7 seconds to grab your website visitors’ attention. That means you definitely can’t afford to bury your donation form deep in your website and then cross your fingers and hope donors will find it. Instead, try implementing these four best practices for making sure your supporters can find your form quickly and easily: 

  • Embed your donation form onto your site on a specific donation page. Sometimes a donation form hosted through a third-party site can look suspicious and untrustworthy to a donor, even if it isn’t. Avoid this problem by embedding your donation form right onto your site. This way, the experience of donating will feel more connected to your nonprofit as a whole, as the branding of the donation page and donation form will look familiar. Plus, you’ll keep your donors on your website longer, setting them up for further online engagement with your organization. 
  • Create an eye-catching button on your main menu that can direct your site visitors to your donation page. Placing a button in your menu will prevent your donors from having to dig through multiple pages on your site just looking for the donation page. Your button should stand out from the rest of the options on your menu so that it catches your donors’ attention. 
  • Use calls-to-action throughout your website that link to your donation page. A call-to-action is simply a statement that encourages someone to complete a task. You can include calls-to-action on your website in the form of buttons or brightly colored text links that can take your supporters to your donation page. Make sure these calls-to-action are well worded. For example, “Join the fight to save our oceans!” is a much better call-to-action than “Donate now.” 
  • Link directly to your donation page on your marketing materials when you can. Decrease the chances that donors will get lost along the way to your donation form. If, for example, you encourage donors to give in an email newsletter or social media post, link directly to your donation page so your donors don’t have to search your website for it. 

The main takeaway here is that locating your donation form should be easy for a prospective donor. Don’t make them work to find it, or you might lose them along the way, which means you’re not only missing out on a donation but an opportunity to cultivate a lasting relationship with a supporter

Mistake #2: Using an insecure payment processor. 

When a donor gives to your organization, they’re entrusting you with a lot of sensitive information, including their name, address, credit card or bank account routing number, and other information. If you haven’t invested in a secure payment processor, you’re putting your donors’ personal data at risk and staking your organization’s reputation on the off-chance that you won’t experience a major data breach. 

Don’t be careless with your donors’ data. Instead, invest in a nonprofit payment processing tool that is dedicated and secure. Here are some things to look for when considering which payment processor is right for your organization: 

  • Integration with your donation page and form: Keep the donation process simple by integrating your payment processor with your donation form and putting all data in one place.
  • Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance: The PCI standards are a set of guidelines created to protect credit card users when they pay online. Choose a processor that follows these guidelines. 
  • Acceptance of all major types of payments: Ensure that as many people as possible can use your donation form by accepting credit cards, debit cards, and ACH payments. 
  • Protective measures for your payments: The best payment processors will allow you to customize your security features and give you access to fraud alerts, encryption and tokenization. 
  • Payment verification: Your processor should also offer a card verification code requirement capability (CVV2) and an address verification system (AVS) so you can investigate abnormally small or large donation amounts.

It might be tempting to view data security as trivial or unnecessary, but in reality, the security of your payment processor can greatly affect your relationship with your donors and your fundraising success, so it’s something to take seriously. Choosing a secure payment processor will help to set your website up as an effective fundraising tool and give you peace of mind as you collect donors’ payment information. 

Mistake #3: Asking unnecessary questions.

Even with a secure payment processor, your donors will be wary of your donation form if it asks for too much information. For example, some donation forms ask for unnecessary information like middle name or country of residence , either by default or because of poor planning. And while form fields like these may seem harmless, they might also be working against you. 

Asking unnecessary questions in your donation form can negatively affect your supporters’ donating experience in two ways: 

  1. Donors may see your donation form as untrustworthy and think it’s taking too much of their information and decide not to donate.
  2. If there are too many questions to answer or fields to fill out, donors may think the form will take too long to fill out and abandon their transaction altogether. 

To avoid these two problems, work with your team to identify what exactly you need to know about your donors. After all, you do need some information so you can contact your donors, set goals specific to them, and create effective marketing materials catered to certain demographics. But other information is just flat out unimportant to your operations. 

Aim to request only necessary bits of information, like names, addresses, contact information, payment information, and maybe helpful information that won’t seem too invasive to a donor, like preferred method of contact or how they heard about your nonprofit. Other non-essential questions can be marked “not required,” but still, you should limit those non-essential questions to just a few. And in most situations, remember that if you’re in doubt, you should probably leave it out.

Mistake #4: Not making your form accessible.

Another common mistake nonprofits make when designing donation forms is not considering all donors’ needs. This includes thinking of people of all abilities or people who use mobile devices. When your donation form isn’t designed with all your potential donors in mind, you risk not being able to connect with all the people who care about your cause. 

Here are two tips so that you can reach all of your donors and meet their needs: 

  • Ensure your donation page is in compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. These guidelines include using a high contrast ratio, easy-to-read fonts, closed captioning and transcripts on multimedia elements, and alt-text on images for individuals who may be navigating your website with a screen reader. 
  • Optimize your donation page for mobile devices. Optimizing for mobile ensures that if your donors are looking at your donation page on a phone or tablet, the formatting, images, and text will all be readable. 

Being mindful of every potential donor will help your organization create lasting relationships with everyone who supports your mission. Plus, when you make your donation page and form accessible to all, you’ll get a reputation boost for being inclusive and thoughtful of your entire supporter base. 

Mistake #5: Not providing multiple ways for donors to engage. 

Collecting a one-time donation from a supporter is certainly helpful for your nonprofit, but finding ways to increase their engagement for the long-term will benefit your nonprofit even more. 

One way you can encourage supporters to engage with your organization on multiple levels is to use your donation form to offer different opportunities for engagement. These might include: 

  • Adding a matching gift database so donors can see if their employer participates in donation matching. According to 360MatchPro’s guide to matching gift databases, an estimated $4-$7 billion of matching gift funds goes unclaimed each year. This is mostly due to the fact that donors are unaware of their employers’ participation. An embedded searchable database can help solve that problem and give donors the chance to boost their donation right as they’re filling out your form.
  • Offer a recurring monthly donation option. Many donors would give on a consistent monthly basis if only their chosen organization made it easy for them. You can offer the option for donors within your form to turn their donation into a monthly gift, making it so they are billed monthly without having to put their payment information into your form each time they want to give. 
  • Giving suggested donation amounts. Suggested donation amounts prompt your donors to give more. For example, when a donor navigates to your donation form intending to give $5 and then sees suggested amounts of $10, $20, or $50, they’ll be more likely to increase their donation. Plus, suggested giving amounts are easy to select and provide an element of social proof, meaning they signal to your donor what is a typical or normal amount to give. 
  • Include an opportunity for donors to opt-in to email communication from your organization. Donors who care often want to be involved in other opportunities, like your planned giving or volunteer programs. Give them the chance to learn more about these opportunities by letting them opt-in to email communication from your nonprofit. 

Giving your donors more information about how they can engage with your organization will help you to find the “super” supporters in your donor base who can really help push your cause forward. Create your donation page with these opportunities in mind so you can identify those individuals who want to cultivate a relationship with your organization. 

Many nonprofit organizations neglect their donation pages only to see a slump in donations. By avoiding these five mistakes and working hard to optimize your donation form, you can become an organization that consistently retains donors and fosters lasting relationships with supporters. Get started today by working with your team to create a donation form that donors actually want to use. Good luck!

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