How Nonprofits Can Get Online Donations By Getting Out of the Way

Friction might be what’s killing your online donations.

So says Timothy Kachuriak, nonprofit donations optimizer. At the AFP International Conference 2013 in San Diego, Kachuriak shared examples of nonprofit websites where donors are forced to navigate through more than ten clicks to make a donation.

According to Kachuriak’s definition, friction is “anything that causes resistance to the online donation process.” And friction’s responsible for a majority of online donation abandonment.

How to Identify Friction in Your Donation Process

Tim described friction as donors experiencing length plus difficulty in the donation process.

Length can be experienced as:

  • A lot of content to wade through
  • Too many steps before donation
  • Having a large number of fields to complete
  • Cumbersome page layout.

Your donors can experience difficulty during donation in a number of ways:

  • Too many decision points
  • Confusing or hard-to-find calls to action
  • Error pages encountered during the process
  • Long page download times

Nathaniel Ward of The Heritage Foundation co-presented and emphasized the importance of identifying a goal and making sure you can measure your results against that goal.

Ward stated it this way:

“You have to consider a radical redesign in your giving pages to reduce friction. Every time you add another step to the donation process you lose 50% of your donors.”

In other words, the costs of extra friction on your donation pages are enormous.

Ways to Reduce Online Donation Friction

Some friction is inevitable–but you should always aim for the smallest amount possible. And sometimes, the only option is a redesign. Radical redesign means that you look at everything in your online donation process and evaluate any and all potential barriers to the donor completing the donation process.

In the end, making online donations effective comes down to one thing: testing.

Ward shared a number of free A/B testing resources offered by Google to help improve your online donation process, and also recommended  integrating Google Analytics to ensure your pages are working to meet your goals.

In the Q&A session, Ward and Kachuriak shared insights on web traffic and how to determine what you should test. They concluded that testing should correspond to the goals of the donor pages you’re creating, whether that be donor number, higher average gift or a lower abandonment percentage.

But Ward beckons not to get too caught up in the details, and to test the most essential aspects first:

“Higher traffic websites can focus on the color of buttons and font choices. But all sizes of organizations can test friction points such as number of fields to complete by the donor and the decision points you put in the way.”

In summary: identify unnecessary friction and eliminate it. Keep things simple. Make it as easy as possible for donors to support your cause.


Randy Hawthorne

As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

April 9, 2013

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