Get Set Online

Get Set Online

online icon (computer and cell phone)Create a Winning Donation Form

Now that the vast majority of donors in America have made a contribution online, your donors will expect your donation form to be as easy and quick as buying something from Amazon. This means simple, quick, and easy with only necessary data fields, and all of the information on one single page from start to complete.

For many stations this is not at all the experience, as many PBS stations have 20+ fields on a donation form as well as multiple pages to complete the donation. Not only is this not best practice it is not meeting the expectations of your potential donors and will cost your station needed revenue.

Here's how to design a donation form that will help your station maximize your donation completion rate. Remember that once you know your stations baseline, you can begin to experiment with these best practices and see which changes and enhancements help improve your completion rate.

  • Ensure that your donation button goes directly to the contribution form. Once a potential donor has clicked that button they do not need more information on what to do, they’ve made a decision and you want to ensure they keep moving down the funnel.
  • It’s important that your giving form, even if it’s hosted by another company or site, looks familiar to the page the donor was just visiting. If the donation form looks unfamiliar, you will see a higher abandonment rate. Including a short but powerful statement at the top will remind donors why they are contributing. This has been shown to increase completion.
  • Many successful forms begin with a landing page that offers donors two primary options: "Make a sustaining contribution" or "Make a contribution." If all donors arrive at the same page to start, you may wish to include smaller, somewhat less prominent, options to "Update payment information" and "Increase my monthly gift." Both are key components of a complete sustainers program.
  • Monthly giving should be the default or first selected option, this is following your sustainer-first mindset. Include an easy way for donors to toggle between one-time and on-going gifts but lead with monthly. 
  • Only include the essential information you need to complete and acknowledge the gift. Examples of extraneous questions are; age, communication preferences, middle name, how did you hear about us?, title & suffix, multiple phone numbers. All of these are information you might want to learn eventually, but each additional question on your form will decrease the number of gifts you receive online, so be creative about both paring down the form and finding ways to secure this information later.
  • Eliminate any outlinks from the form. The only options should be either the donation completion button or the back button.
  • Make sure you are signaling to donors what you want them to do. Give only five to seven suggested gift amounts along with an “other”. Too many options, and a potential donor can feel overwhelmed, too few and they aren’t sure what’s expected.
  • Set up custom ask string functionality for e-mail appeals. The technique of highlighting a particular amount has been shown to be very effective. Consider this if your donation provider allows.

Finally, test what you've built. Be sure to test your forms thoroughly on real-world users — ideally a few dozen volunteers without internal membership experience. Don't give them any pre-conceptions — just ask them to play the role of someone who is interested in becoming a sustaining member online. Watch — silently — what they do. Ask them to talk out loud while they're going through the process. Listen — carefully — to what they say when they are finished. They will probably see things your team missed. Keep making modifications and doing A/B tests with real users then examine the results on your chosen metrics. Discovering the ideal color, text and form length can make a big difference in your overall revenue.