Double your digital fundraising – by fixing donation forms

Published by Beate Sorum on

If I told you that you could double your digital fundraising quite easily, wouldn’t be stupid of you not to? I think everyone would agree. Yet the sorry state of affairs is this- donation forms suck, and people are not fixing them.

There is this stubborn belief in fundraising, that if someone has decided to support a charity, surely they will do so even if the donation form is a bit heavy. This is simply not true.

When you move someone with a clever piece of fundraising comms, your donation pages are a deciding factor in whether you get that gift. Making a donation is an emotional decision – not a rational one. If you are making people use the rational part of their brain to figure out your forms, chances are the donation won´t be made at all.

Since we don’t see the money we’re not getting, we don’t see the potential. I always believed that these little things were much more important than our instincts lead us to believe.

Finally, I have proof.

The Norwegian Cancer Society fixed its donation pages a little over a year ago. The old ones weren’t that bad, I have seen way worse. And still, putting a bit of effort into it, has led to some amazing results.

  • 200% increase in “regular” one-off donations
  • 150% increase in new members
  • 300% increase in new regular donors, who
  • pay 25% more, leading to
  • 400% increase in value from regular donors per year

Convinced yet?

The main components to succeeding:

Eliminate the paradox of choice – choose for the donor!

Presenting all donation options at once makes it hard for the donor to know what you need from them. What’s most important, one-offs? Regular donations? Memberships? Participation in a run? You have to decide! Put that option at the top.

Use good interaction design principles

It’s odd that it’s necessary to say this, but it is. Make your donation forms follow best practice! Field sizes, grouping related fields together, field lengths should suggest what to fill in (people don’t read help text), don’t ask for more data than you need, button design, labeling etc etc. All crucial elements, often overlooked. (Psst; if your form has been designed and labelled by your database guy, or a programmer – it’s probably not good. Spend some money, get a good user experience expert to do it.)

Fundraising technique

Fundraisers leave donation forms alone. Whereas every mail pack is subject to rigorous testing and analysis, donation pages are often not. Play around with defaults – what amount you are asking for, if you are asking for a one-off or a regular donation, what text you use in your labeling, etc. Imagine the amount of testing that has gone into the perfect mail pack. Do the same amount here.


Our Christmas appeal saw over 10% conversion from mobiles, and 17% from tablets. Do you really want to lose out on that money?

Go fix your donation pages!

Want to learn more? See Beates blog, where all of the above has been written about in way more detail: http://beateinenglish.wordpress.com.

Beate Sorum

Beate Sorum

Beate is a well known international public speaker. She runs fundraising consultancy b.bold out of Norway, but works globally. Beates particular passion is everything digital - she loves to design a donation form just right and watch the money roll in. Before starting b.bold, Beate worked on fundraising and digital communication for the Norwegian Cancer Society.


Maartje van Hoorn - Mobillion · January 28, 2014 at 10:14

Really interesting! We see the same sort of positive effect on our events fundraising platforms for our clients.

For instance, in one of the donation forms, there are three suggested donation amounts, one of which is preselected, (so the person giving a donation doesn’t even have to click) and that amount gets picked in 35% of the cases! That’s a lot. In general, that particular amount only gets given in 10% of the cases! So there’s a huge difference, all because it’s made easier for people!

Stuff like this just makes me really really excited!

    Beate Sørum · January 28, 2014 at 11:18

    Thanks Maartje :)

    Working with defaults is really cool. We changed our default from 250 NOK to 500 NOK, and didn’t see any drop in conversions. But the number of people who stayed with the default stayed the same. That’s a lot of money! I think most fundraisers could gain a lot of income just by testing more here.

    If you’re interested, I wrote in more detail about how we worked with defaults in my own blog: http://beateinenglish.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/how-adjusting-the-default-really-impacts-online-fundraising/ .

    -Beate :)

      Maartje van Hoorn - Mobillion · January 30, 2014 at 09:57

      Hi Beate!

      That’s so cool! It makes me think that we as individuals don’t really know what we want. People just know they want to contribute, and since it’s not a rational decision but an emotional one, we’re very open to suggestions.

      I think it works the same way when other people’s donations, or your friends’ donations, are displayed publicly on the page. If you see a lot of people are giving a certain amount of money, you’re likely to give just as much, or even a little more than that amount.

      Thanks for sharing your results, they’re so clear! I’ll bookmark your page, too!

Robin · February 6, 2014 at 02:32

Thanks for this. We are in an ongoing battle with both Marketing and Communications and Development Operations about this. We heard from a CEO of a major company that he couldn’t figure out how to make a donation at year end. DevOps has made it very clear that we must use a Blackbaud product for our online giving. Have you seen any done well? Trying to compile some good examples.

As an aside, I did a fundraiser for my birthday and used the website fundraise.com. I heard from many people that it was the easiest page they had ever seen for online giving. Wish it would work with Raiser’s Edge more seamlessly.

    Beate Sørum · February 6, 2014 at 12:52

    Hey Robin, thanks for the comment :)

    Wow, if they couldn’t figure out how to, you really need to do something to the page:) Our old one was fairly easy, and still the major increases in donations.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know much about either Blackbaud or Raiser’s Edge, they’re not products used in Norway as far as I know. So can’t help you there I’m afraid.

    Looked at the fundraise.com-page, yeah that looked great! Even from mobile. Good job to them:) Even here though, I think improvements could be made by for instance having a default chosen in the amounts suggested. Defaults matter big time, check out my earlier blog post about it: https://beateinenglish.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/how-adjusting-the-default-really-impacts-online-fundraising/

Corinne Bucher · April 23, 2014 at 17:39

Hello Beate

Thanks for the interesting article. I wanted to look at the donation form you mentioned but i couldn’t find it on their website…? Do you know other good examples of ‘good forms’?

Regards from Switzerland

    Beate Sørum · April 23, 2014 at 18:21

    Hi Corinne :)

    Reading Norwegian websites can be quite a challenge for foreigners, yes ;) Try http://kreftforeningen.no/gi – that’s our main donation page with the form front and center, and underneath is a list of other donation ways with their own forms. You could also check out the form design on our campaign sites, where we have a much shorter version, focused on catching the donation more than the data. Try http://krafttakmotkreft.no/ or http://kreftforeningen.no/jul to see some of those :)

      Corinne Bucher · April 24, 2014 at 14:01

      Hi Beate

      In deed.. because of the language problem i was directed to the english side. Thanks for your answer and the examples they look good. Most of the Swiss NGO still have a way to go in this matter.
      We always take https://www.charitywater.org/donate/ as a good example.
      Regards Corinne

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