Getting Users to Donate on Your Nonprofit Website [link]

It’s a common if misguided notion that bigger and brighter donate buttons and slick snazzy websites are required to get users to donate. That view overlooks some of the most basic requirements that come first:

  1. Visitors need to know what your organization does.
  2. Visitors need to trust that you’ll use their money well.

This is advice that I’ve given website owners who ask for a long time, and recently I found some data to back it up.

Frequent readers of the blog know that I’m a long-time fan of Jakob Nielsen and his work on website usability. I’ve linked to his articles before and I’ll link to them again! They almost always provide straight-forward and well-researched usability guidelines.

#1: Tell People What You Do!

In “5 Tips to Get Donations on Nonprofit and Charity Websites”, the very first tip seems strikingly obvious yet paints a poor picture of the nonprofit website world:

Our studies tell us that the most important pieces of information that people need to know about a charity or nonprofit before they make a donation are the type of work that the organization does and how that work is done. [original emphasis]

However, this is shockingly hard on many websites:

On average, it took users about 6 minutes to locate information about the organization’s purpose, which was far too long. A task time of 1 minute for this crucial task would be a more reasonable goal… [original emphasis]

6 MINUTES! That’s crazy.

So stop right now and ask yourself if your nonprofit website—or your favorite one if you don’t work for a nonprofit—clearly explains to a brand new user with no knowledge of your work or cause what you do in easy-to-read text and graphics. If it doesn’t, start thinking about ways to improve it.

#2: Build Trust

Once users learn what your organization does, you need to build trust that a donation will be well-spent for the benefit of others. Nielsen recommends doing this by clearly explaining how donations are used (point 2) and displaying any third-party endorsements like certifications or testimonials (point 3).

#3: Make It Easy

Only in Point 4 of the article do we get to the donate button and then, it’s about making sure it’s easy to find, not loud and in-your-face. Nielsen wraps up with ensuring that the process after the first click is smooth and easy to use. When compared with the average ecommerce checkout process, donation forms have some catch up to do.

Step Into Your User’s Shoes

It’s silly to think that a person might donate to an organization without an idea of what they do and how they do it, yet people sometimes approach the website donation process as if the big button that says “Donate” is the most important feature. It’s not, and there are some even more basic requirements that are overlooked on many nonprofit websites. Don’t let yours be one of them!

Read “5 Tips to Get Donations on Nonprofit and Charity Websites” on Nielsen Norman Group.

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