Streamlining the Path to Generosity: Donation Form Best Practices

Chris Esh

donation form best practices for nonprofits

Technology is primarily about reducing friction in our lives. Uber will have a driver waiting for you after a few clicks in the app. Alexa will have an Amazon box at your doorstep tomorrow just by saying the word (whether intentionally or not…). Food can be delivered to your door via Doordash without you needing to speak with the restaurant. You can watch virtually any show or movie anytime, anywhere.

People now expect things to be convenient and easy. If you’re collecting donations or selling products on your website, the margin for error is getting smaller and smaller. People aren’t going to call you if the cart doesn’t work, they’ll just abandon it and look elsewhere.

Businesses generally understand this pretty well, but nonprofits often don’t realize how easily a tedious, confusing, or glitchy donation process can drive away would-be donors.

Picture this: Someone stumbles upon your site, totally inspired by the amazing work you’re doing. They’re all set to make a donation, but then—whoops!—they hit a little snag. Maybe it’s an extra click they weren’t expecting, or a form that’s just a bit too long. It might not seem like a big deal, but these tiny hiccups can be the difference between a successful donation and a “maybe later”—which often means never donating at all.

Your most committed supporters may fight through technical challenges to get you their money, but a huge portion of potential donors are being driven by a spontaneous burst of goodwill. People feel this rush of excitement and want to be part of something amazing, right then and there. But emotions change quickly so if your website makes giving too cumbersome, that initial enthusiasm can fade before they hit the ‘Donate’ button.

So, what can we do about it? It’s all about making the donation process as smooth and friendly as possible. Here’s how:

  1. Keep It Clear and Simple: Make sure finding and hitting that ‘Donate’ button is a breeze, no matter where someone is on your site.
  2. Be Mobile-Friendly: Believe it or not, lots of people use their phones to browse and donate. The form should work seamlessly on mobile as well—they’re not going to remember to try again next time they’re at their desk.
  3. Cut Down the Steps: Nobody likes to jump through hoops, especially when they’re trying to do something good. Keep the donation steps short and sweet. Don’t ask for more information than is needed.
  4. Limit the Choices: Give folks a few suggested donation amounts and a few alternate options to give (such as mailing a check). But keep it simple. Don’t make people think too much: don’t include multiple separate donation forms, too many options within the form, etc.
  5. Talk About Impact: Let your donors know how their money helps, right on the donation page. Remind them why this matters and keep them emotionally invested. There’s nothing that kills the urge to support more than sending someone to a sad, outdated donation form that looks like it was designed in 1996.
  6. Say Thanks Right Away: A quick thank you message can make someone’s day and strengthen that connection to your cause. Make sure to have a thank you message right on the page as well as a follow-up email notification.

Here’s a fun example we built for a client a few years ago:

When someone’s ready to donate, we’ve got to make it easy. Donating isn’t just about money changing hands; it’s about people connecting with your cause on an emotional level. Our job is to keep that connection strong from the moment they land on your site to the moment they finish their donation.


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