Best Practice Guide for Donation Forms
There are many ways to set up a donation form on your Blackbaud NetCommunity website, but there are also many issues that can arise when your visitors interact with the form to make donations if it’s confusing to use or just too large. Building your form and the page it’s contained in correctly can ultimately generate more money being donated to your organization.
This post outlines best practices to follow when designing your form page to ensure healthy traffic and the maximum amount of donations earned through the form.
Directing Traffic to Your Form
First and foremost, you want as many people as possible to visit your donation page. Thinking about how your visitors actually get to this page can really make a positive difference in your earnings.
For example, if you have a menu on your site with a link structure like Giving > Ways to Give > Give Online Now > Click Here to Donate, the user would have to view 4 pages before they’re able to donate. This can be discouraging for some people and can have detrimental effects:
- Users simply can’t find your donation page and will eventually leave the site without donating.
- They just don’t feel like clicking through all those menu items to get to the form.
There’s a very simple thing you can do to combat these situations, which is to add a very prominent “Donate Now” button right at the top of your page (in the header). You would then link that button directly to your donation page so your visitors have a clear direction to go if they want to donate to your organization. You could make it a different color than the general style of your site and make the text inside the button larger as well. The more this button stands out, the better.
Another option would be to add a simple “Donate Now” hyperlink in the footer section of any email messages or newsletters you send out to your constituents or members.
Donation Form Placement
The most prominent and immediately-visible element of your donation form page is the donation form itself. We have seen some donation form pages where lots of informational content is placed above the donation form, pushing the donation form further down on the page. In some cases, the form itself is not even visible on the page without the visitor having to scroll down to see the form.
A significant consequence of placing the form “below the fold” (so low on the page that it’s not visible without scrolling down) is that if someone enters incorrect or missing information, they’re not noticing the resulting validation error(s) because there’s something else at the top of the page that’s taking their eye away from what’s important.
For example, placing a large amount of text in a “formatted text and images” part above your form can cause your visitor to completely miss any validation errors after submitting the form. This can actually make people think they’ve made a donation, not aware that there was an error because any error messages are pushed below the viewable window of their web browser by another Blackbaud NetCommunity part.
The default behavior of a donation form when a piece of information is entered incorrectly or if something is missing is to scroll to the top of the page and display an error message stating what needs to be corrected. So, the best thing to do is insert your donation form directly at the top of the page to ensure your visitors can clearly see any errors that need to be fixed before submitting the form again.
Ask yourself, “what information matters most to my organization?” What information do you actually need from your donors to later make the most effective use of your database? You can add as many gift attributes to your donation form as you like, but it’s best to keep these to a minimum. The fewer fields the donor has to fill out, the less time it will take them to complete the form and the more likely they’ll go through the whole process to finish donating.
It’s safe to say that if you need a certain piece of information from a donor in your organization’s database, then you should add it as an attribute to your donation form. Anything else that really isn’t necessary should be omitted. Keeping this in mind will make your donation form more concise and relevant to any designations you’ve made the form for.
Unless it’s absolutely necessary, presenting donors with a very long list of designations to choose from (especially if they aren’t familiar with all of the choices in the list) will generally add more hesitation than value. The last thing you’d want is for a donor to change their mind because they don’t know what all those designations are or which one they should pick.
The main concept here is to visually simplify the form as much as possible. By following these simple guidelines you’ll be able to design and manage all your donation forms more effectively with less user errors. In turn, there’s a better chance visitors will donate to your cause and have an easier time filling out the donation forms on your website.
If you need more information on how to setup donation forms or how they work, feel free to check out our Parts Guide. You can go to page 30 in this guide to view the chapter about Donation Forms.