Boost online response by optimizing your donation landing pages

Most organizations devote lots of time and energy into developing clever creative for their online campaigns and e-mails, whether it’s the Tck Tck Tck global warming campaign or AmeriCares “Send your mother-in-law to Darfur” gift catalog.

But if you’re trying to raise more money online, the first thing you may want to try is persuading more of the people who already click “donate” on your Web site or in your e-mails to actually make the gift on the donation landing page.   Surprisingly, 80% or 90% of the people who go to the donation page typically don’t actually complete the transaction.  And if you can improve your “conversion rate” by 10%, that’s 10% more donors – ka-ching! – without spending a nickel on more e-mails or Care2 names.

Over the last three years, Donordigital has been running landing page optimization tests that have increased conversion rates – the percentage of people who land on a donation page who actually make a donation – by 10%, 20%, even more for some organizations and some pages.  Of course, your mileage may vary, but if you optimize your landing pages, you’re pretty likely to increase your conversions and your revenue,  even if you have to pay a consultant to help you.

So what makes a better donation page?  While every organization gets different results on different pages, these are some of the variables that seem to make a difference for many organizations:

  • Show at least some of the form fields on the donation page “above the fold” (what you can see without scrolling).
  • Cut out unnecessary fields, such as title (unless you will really use it) and how-did-you-hear-about us, and ones that donors are reluctant to fill out (phone numbers).
  • Make the button say “Donate” not “Submit,” make it larger and colored; don’t include confusing and unnecessary buttons such as “back” or “cancel” (sometimes the default in to your software).
  • Provide a clear and compelling “ask” headline (Donate to save the whales!).
  • Show the “secure transaction” symbol from VeriSign or another provider above the fold.

A recent test showed a 28% increase in conversions (over the currently used “control” donation page) on a page that featured the VeriSign secure page logo above the fold, apparently making donors feeing more secure about giving to this well-known organization.

You may also want to create different landing pages for visitors from different sources.  For example, visitors clicking on the main donate link on your home page may know more about you than some of the visitors coming from a search on Google or Yahoo!.  E-mail landing page may work better if they make reference to the e-mail message that brought visitors to the donation page, but you can assume the visitors need less information and less assurance about your organization because they are read the e-mail and are probably signed up for your list.  Conversions are naturally higher on most pages in December because year-end giving and tax deductibility motivate many visitors.

So how do you do it?  There are two choices: A/B testing and multivariate testing.  In A/B testing, you test your current (“control”) donation page and an alternative one, then direct half your donation page traffic to your “control” page, and the other half to a page you think will perform better.  The more sophisticated technique, multivariate testing (MVT), enables you to test many variables at once.  However, but it’s more complicated to set up and requires more traffic to the test pages to get statistically valid results.  While there are commercial multivariate testing platforms such as Interwoven Optimost, Google offers the excellent – and free – Website Optimizer product, which integrates nicely with the free Google Analytics (which you’re already using, right?)

Nick Allen is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company.  Contact: or phone (510) 473-0366.

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