Redirected into the abyss: how good intentions turn into lost donations

Do you know what is the primary reason online donations fall through in this digital native world of ours?

Would it surprise you to know it’s user experience?

To be more precise — a poor user experience.

As much as it may sound strange, the willingness to give money is not the issue. Despite the pandemic, people are willing to open their wallets as online giving grew by 20.7% for nonprofit organizations in 2020.

Though nonprofits of all sizes experienced a significant drop in charitable giving when the pandemic hit the most in Q2 2020, the second half of 2020 brought a remarkable recovery.


So where’s the problem?

More than half of nonprofit organizations are losing money by not offering a personalized, on-site experience that directly impacts their ability to acquire donations — for the better.

A significant amount of money is lost due to potential donors with good intent, getting fed up with friction on nonprofit websites, or losing trust along the way, and churning.

Just because a website is not for profit doesn’t justify a poor user experience. Nonprofits are in a competitive landscape as much as any for-profit business. The race for the end user’s buy-in, combined with websites working around the clock to reduce friction, means the bar is high.

In this post, I’ll cover points nonprofits need to consider in order to step up their UX game, specifically during the donation process, so they can win the hearts and wallets of their donors.

Paying attention to the donation process = more donors

Here’s the thing.

A lot of nonprofit organizations don’t pay enough attention to the checkout process. They assume once a donor arrives there — the process is over.

It’s at this stage that many take their foot off the pedal, opting to redirect visitors to pay via third-party payment solution sites.

In fact, we’ve checked over 2000 nonprofits and found that 56% redirect donors to another relevant form or webpage to receive a donation.

Why is this bad?

Because donors are practically forced to donate in one of two ways, and neither of them is something to write home about.

On one hand, there are the likes of PayPal, Venmo, and similar payment platforms that aren’t really built with fundraising in mind. In turn, this means they typically have poor user experience on their own.

On the other hand, redirects sometimes lead to dedicated donating platforms, which still manage to offer a substandard user experience because the process doesn’t have a personal touch, involves too many fields to fill out, and so on.

To add insult to injury, there is a distinct lack of branding, resulting in the potential donor’s trust in the website dropping and their confidence shaken as per the legitimacy of the site.

In general, redirecting donors to an external form is a bad practice. It tends to reduce conversions by 10%, regardless of how good the end form is, making it a not-so-effective way to engage potential donors.

What some nonprofits fail to realize is that an online donation is an act of trust. It’s a relationship that you want to maintain for a long, long time.

When someone decides to donate on your website, they are not just putting up the money. They are putting faith in you that you’ll do good on what you promise to deliver. They are trusting in your ability and purpose.

How can you improve your fundraising and build that trust?

There are four major things you can do.

  1. Keep your visitors on your website
    Your donors should never have to leave your website to contribute to your cause. The relationship is between you and them, not them and wherever they land to punch in their payment.
    We cannot say this enough: your online donation form is for one purpose and one purpose only.
    Anything beyond accepting donations means discouraging visitors to take that action.
    Remove any kind of distraction from that singular purpose: the fewer taps and clicks are required to submit a donation, the more likely it will be submitted.
  2. Take branding seriously
    Branding goes a long way in cultivating trust and connection with your organization.
    From your logo to messaging and imagery, your fundraising should clearly reflect your brand’s look and feel and remove any doubt for donors to second-guess their act.
    Most importantly, it means more donations.
  1. Don’t ask for data you don’t really need
    While this may not be the worst offender, a lot of nonprofits still ask donors for unnecessary information.
    When you ask for info that donors are not comfortable (or willing) to share, you increase the likelihood of dropping out altogether. Research confirms this as donors consider some personal information off limits.
    For some, filling out a donation form is a nuisance so shorten the process and reduce friction as much as possible by asking only for the information you actually need.
  2. Understand that one size definitely doesn’t fit all
    Nonprofits tend to redirect every visitor segment to one donation page. This means they treat everyone the same, whether it’s a first-time or recurring donor, bigger or smaller, and so on.
    What resonates with a new donor on the donation form may not resonate as effectively with another donor ready to punch in their credit card details.
    Let’s put it this way: you need to personalize the checkout process in order to both maximize visitors’ donations and increase conversion rates. Every donor is different so you need to start appealing to them individually, not bundle them together.
    Otherwise, the prospect of your message striking a chord with your potential donors will be wasted, and ultimately, money will be lost.

Raise more donations the smart way

When doing our research, we’ve noticed that common best practices still remain uncommon among nonprofit organizations.

Making a donation should be as easy as possible — period. So, grow the impact of your process by investing in a dedicated platform allowing you to focus on what really matters — making a bigger impact on others.

After all, you’re not giving anything away in return in most cases. You’re playing on the goodwill of the donor and because they usually don’t get anything in return, they are less tolerant of subpar user experience.

And if there’s anything we’ve learned from poor user experience, it’s that it can cost you valuable donations. A lot of them.

About Double

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