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Only One Donation Form? You Might Be Missing Out


By Sean Chisholm

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

When it comes to the wide range of online fundraising options available to nonprofits these days (crowdfunding, peer-to-peer fundraising, events with individual fundraising, etc) the simple donation form can quickly become an underappreciated and underutilized asset. Perhaps that’s because donation forms are relatively simple. Perhaps it’s because everyone seems to have one already. Whatever the reason ultimately is, you should take care not to ignore the “lowly” donation form.

When used properly custom donation forms can be a powerful tool for growing and optimizing your online fundraising efforts. One area in particular where more deliberate use of custom donation forms can boost your results is with special appeals.

When your donation form matches the aesthetic and messaging of the appeal you are sending out, it allows you to create a seamless flow from the moment the email message is opened to the moment the gift is completed. Minimizing friction in this process and keeping the messaging consistent helps to turn as many “clicks” into completed donations as possible. With that in mind, here are a couple examples of organizations that are actively using custom donation forms to optimize their special appeals.

Feeding America – San Diego

This summer Feeding America San Diego ran a campaign called “School’s Out, Hunger’s Not.” Like most special appeals this campaign was meant to address a specific and timely need. In this case, the organization was addressing the lack of meals that food insecure children receive during the summer time (when access to free or reduced fee meals at school is no longer available). You can see from the image of the appeal below, that the message was well crafted and that campaign-specific graphics were used:

Click to completely enlarge and read the full e-mail.

This appeal does a really nice job of creating a sense of urgency by:

1. Letting the reader know that all donations will be matched two times over

2. Framing the appeal as a special offer that will only last for a limited time

Those two elements along with the description of the specific need being addressed all tee the email appeal up for success.

You can see from the top header that the custom graphic developed for this campaign is replicated on the donation form. A visual element like this quickly lets donors know that they are in the right place.

Perhaps more important than the visual reinforcement though, is the appeal text that appears below the header. It starts with a bolded declaratory statement: “Yes, I want to help feed kids and families this summer.”

A visual element like this quickly lets donors know that they are in the right place.

Anyone who clicks through the original appeal will at least be thinking about making a donation. You can imagine someone reading this headline and (consciously or subconsciously) resolving to make the gift. Finally, the brief squib of text beneath the main headline underscores the elements we mentioned above that help create a sense of urgency in this appeal. The time limit and the matching benefit are reiterated to further commit donors to not just acting, but acting right now.

Shining Hope for Communities

Shining Hope for Communities, an organization working to combat gender inequality and extreme poverty in urban slums, is another great nonprofit that is making use of custom forms to maximize their donation appeals. The email below is from one of their holiday campaigns:

On top of being very well-designed, this appeal also does a very nice job of creating a sense of urgency. The messaging centers on the $200,000 matching grant that Shining Hope will receive if they are first able to raise $200,000 in individual donations. The progress to-date is visually represented, showing donors just how close the organization is to reaching the all-important tipping point.

In addition to the sense of urgency created by the text and graphics at the top, the bottom portion of the email does a nice job at making the impact of individual donations tangible and relatable. Different suggested donation amounts are linked to programmatic outcomes, helping readers understand what a gift will enable. Now take a look at the custom donation form that Shining Hope for Communities used with this appeal:

The first thing to note about the donation form is how the aesthetic of the appeal is seamlessly carried over from the email to the actual donation page. By matching the look and feel of the appeal to the donation form, the organization is able to minimize any discontinuity that might otherwise invite a potential donor to reconsider the decision to click through.

Also, as was the case with the Feeding America San Diego appeal, the donation page here reinforces the sense of urgency originally created by the email text. The text on the donation page reminds the potential donor how much hangs in the balance (the $200,000 matching grant!). By creating a seamless flow from both an aesthetic and informational point of view, Shining Hope puts themselves in a position to receive as many donations as possible.

Sometimes the Small Things Matter Most

It may not seem like a big deal to switch out your default donation form with a custom one, but it can really help increase your bottom line. With online fundraising all it takes is one click to lose a potential donation, so it pays to optimize even the little things. If you’ve been ignoring your donation forms, it may be time give them a little more love. You might just be pleasantly surprised at how much of a difference the “lowly” donation form can actually make.

Turn New Donors Into Lifelong Supporters

donor retention handbook

Image Credit: Alistair Knock

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