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10 ways to increase donations through your website

behavioural economics websites

Behavioural Economics is changing our understanding of how people make decisions. While we like to think we are rationale, considered beings, the majority of our daily decisions are made quickly and often irrationally. This has huge implications for us as fundraisers, not least in the way we engage with donors making ‘impulse’ or ‘spur of the moment’ gifts. In this blog, we offer 10 simple things you can do to increase donations through your website, using learning from the field of Behavioural Economics.

1) Signpost it

People need to be able to find your website and your donation page in as few clicks as possible. Help them do this by:

Improving your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Thinking about the words or phrases potential donors might use to find you, how high does your webpage come in a Google search? If you are not on the first page, (and ideally in the top 5 hits) for these searches you need to improve your SEO. Make sure you regularly update your webpage – and maybe use a Google grant to secure key adwords.

Having a “Donate Now” button

This signals your need for support, and makes it easy for anybody looking to donate in response to an offline ask.

Planning the donor journey through your site

The majority of potential donors visiting your site haven’t come there to make a donation (sorry!). You need to think about what information they are looking for, how they might travel through the site, and how you can incorporate this into your fundraising story. For example, do you have an information page about a project that needs funding? If so, does this page communicate your need for help, how people can get involved and a quick link to your donation page or other response mechanism?

Behavioural economics: web fundraising

Not abandoning them

After somebody has made a gift, don’t abandon them on a thank you page with nowhere else to go. Redirect them back to the main site or, better still, suggest other ways they can help. Having just donated they are more likely to respond to other asks – such as signing petitions, sharing the campaign or considering other methods of supporting.

2) Humanise it

People care about one more than many, and respond more to stories about individuals than large groups of people. (Remember the response to the pictures of the Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi.) Large numbers can be hard to process or visualise, and can make the problem seem unsolvable. Focusing on one person feels more tangible – it is clear how a gift can make a difference.

Look for opportunities in your website copy to humanise your work and shine a spotlight on individual stories – including beneficiaries, success stories, charity staff (your heroes and heroines) and donors.

3) Contrast it

A/B webpage examples

If asked to guess which version of this website performed best in a split A/B test, most would assume Version A, with the green buttons. When asked to explain why, they tend to say “Green means go.” In fact, Version B significantly outperformed Version A, resulting in 22.7% more sales.

The reason is colour contrast. The orange in Version B doesn’t fit with the colour palette of the rest of the page. The high contrast draws attention to the button.

While this won’t please your website designer, having a “Donate Now” button that is a contrasting colour will draw attention and lead to a greater click-through rate.

4) Specify it

Articulating what a donation will achieve is a great way of increasing the number and value of gifts. Be specific about what you need support for and include a gift ladder to show how the donation will be used.

The British Museum website has a nice gift ladder for their Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan. And The Lyric Hammersmith’s interactive webpage enabled donors to buy specific items as part of their capital campaign:

Example of part of capital campaign

Example of part of capital campaign 2

5) Anchor it

Behavioural Economics studies show us that we can be subconsciously influenced by background information, even when that information is random or irrelevant to the decision we are making. Even judges are susceptible to it.

Numbers are particularly effective anchors. Consider the options available in your likert scale (the suggested donation levels on your website). Higher suggested amounts will lead to higher average gifts… but only up to a point. Similarly, pre-ticking your intended average donation amount, or pre-filling this field will anchor that amount, whilst also suggesting this is the “social norm”.

6) Stimulate it

Pages that list previous donations (such as most crowdfunding sites) can also have an anchoring effect. If somebody makes a large donation, the average value of subsequent gifts will be higher. However, the presence of a much lower gift will reduce the average value of future gifts.

Finding donors to make larger gifts at regular intervals throughout the campaign, or immediately after a small gift, will help increase the overall average of gifts.

7) Frame it

People don’t like too much choice. Providing too many options for people to consider will reduce the overall response rate. Think about how many things you are asking people to do on your website. Identify the priorities and consider whether to remove some of the others. You can always promote them on the thank you page as a “next step”.

8) Complete it

Example of fundraising measurePeople like completion. The lazy part of our brain doesn’t like open endings, or where the conclusion is in doubt. Showing progress towards a stated goal taps into this need for completion, resulting in more donations. This is called the “Endowed Progress” effect.

Campaigns that reach 10% of their target often see a small increase in momentum. This drops off around the 45-55% mark. Campaigns that get to 90% see a huge increase in donations as a result of “endowed progress”. Clearly articulating your target and showing your progress will encourage others to support.

Websites also show progress through the donation or purchase process. Having this mechanic in place can increase the number of people that complete the action, rather than abandoning it half way through.


9) Integrate it

Many organisations use their online donation platforms as digital donation boxes, with little thanking or stewarding. Ensure you have a stewardship plan in place for online donors. Thank them, show them the impact of their gift and offer opportunities to support again. And remember – digital communication is just one of the channels open to you. While it can be a quick and effective way of conveying a message it can also feel impersonal. Using a mix of channels can have more impact and strengthen a relationship, paving the way to future gifts.

10) Test it

Seemingly small details can have a huge impact on click-through and response rates (as seen in the contrast example above). Try A/B testing with different images, language, layout and designs to help ensure your site is performing as efficiently as possible.

You also need to ensure that the donor experience is the best it can be. Test this by making a donation. Experiencing it from the donors’ point of view will help identify what works, what doesn’t and things you should change.

Get people outside your organisation to test it as well. Language or phrases that make sense within your organisation may be misconstrued by donors in the real world.

What’s next?

To find out how =mc can help you improve your fundraising using behavioural economics, contact Bernard Ross, Director on 020 7978 1516 or email Keen to learn more about =mc fundraising consultancy in general? Visit the Fundraising pages.

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Bernard Ross

About Bernard Ross

Bernard is an internationally regarded expert in strategic thinking, organisational change and personal effectiveness. He works in Europe, USA, Africa and South America. His assignments have involved a wide range...