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Convert Surfers into Donors

publication date: Dec 8, 2014
author/source: Bill Kennedy

Bill KennedyOne of the goals of charity web sites is to attract donations.  That’s why charity websites have a prominently displayed Donate Now button, usually on the homepage.  Here’s how it works: 

Someone browsing the web reads about your cause.  They click on your web site.  They read about your work.  They connect with the stories.  They feel they want to support you.  They go to the donation page.  They complete the form, input their credit card number and make the donation. 

At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen.  The reality is that many potential donors do not complete the process.

Why do donors give up?

Beate Sørum is a charity web designer consultant who has studied donor motivation.  “Giving,” she says, “Is an emotional decision.  When the potential donor has to think about how to navigate the web site, follow complicated instructions or answer unnecessary questions, the motivation to give is interrupted.”   That interruption is enough for the potential donor to lose patience, get annoyed or remember something else they need to do.

Beate and her team at the Norwegian Cancer Society redesigned the web site navigation and forms to make them simpler and shorter.  The result was a doubling of the digital income.  For the most volatile donation types, such as signing up for a monthly direct debit, the results were even more dramatic:  a fivefold increase.  Yes, making it easier to give translates into more gifts.

“I have decided to give, and I will do so even if this form is a bit incomprehensible and it takes me all afternoon,” said no donor, ever.

Are all donors the same?

No, if a donor has a long history with your charity or a deep commitment to the mission, they will have more patience with the web site and be willing to input more information.  According to Sørum, people giving in memory of or to honour someone else are much more motivated to give than someone who happened to connect with your message.

What about my web site?

The best way to determine whether your web site needs to be simplified is to test it.  Google Analytics is a free tool to help you analyze how people experienced your web site.  It will tell you where they came from, which pages they visited and how long they stayed.   A feature that is not often implemented is Goal Conversions.

Think about the goal of your web site.  Is it to get people to sign up for a newsletter, make a donation, or do something else entirely?  Whatever it is, that action is your goal.  The number of times that action happens is your Goal Conversions total.   Once you set the goal in Google Analytics, you can view the statistics of how many people viewed and acted on the material.

Think of Google Analytics as your way of testing your web site, the way you would do A/B testing on direct mail.  Look at the numbers periodically and after every campaign.  Make small changes and measure their impact.

What to do next?

Research your web site.  Pretend you are a donor and evaluate the experience.  Ask staff and volunteers for their experience.  Talk to donors who have never sent in their gifts online for their experience.  Connect those answers to your Google statistics so you have a sense of the potential improvement.  At that point, it might make sense to hire someone to do a full analysis.

For more information visit:

Norwegian Cancer Society web conversion

Google Analytics

Bill Kennedy is a Toronto consultant working with charities to get more from their systems, both financial and fundraising.  You can find more information about Bill here

Image courtesy of antibodyphoto at

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