Improving Online Donations

How Many C'licks Does it Take?

By Jessy Smulski | Jan 7, 2018

Hey 70’s and 80’s kids, do you remember the old-school Tootsie Roll commercial, How Many Licks? You know, the one that made us all skeptics of Mr. Owl after he stole candy from a little boy. “How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?” The world may never know…

Today, I’m here to ask a similar question. Wait for it…How many c’licks does it take to get to the end of your online donation process? (Clever, right?)

Why should you care to answer? Because of these five facts:

  1. It’s about to be giving season. More than 20 percent of all giving takes place within the last 48 hours of the calendar year.
  2. Total giving to charitable organizations reached $390.05 billion in 2016. That’s higher than the average of the last 40 years.
  3. More and more people want to donate online. In fact, online giving is up 114 percent compared to August 2016.
  4. It takes a lot of website visitors to generate funds. For every 1,000 website visitors, a nonprofit raises only about $612.
  5. According to a recent study, the online giving experience has a significant impact on donor loyalty, retention and gift levels. Branding and usability are key.

In other words, your organization should be preparing NOW to leverage the months ahead. There’s a lot of giving to be had. But if you don’t prioritize the online experience, especially the donation process, you may not reach your funding goals for the year.


The C’lick Factor

We lick a tootsie pop to remove layers. It’s the only way to get to the chewy center (unless you’re a hard candy cruncher with no fear of cracking teeth). If you think of a completed donation as the chewy center of a tootsie pop, how many layers stand between your donor and a successful act of charity?

65% of organizations surveyed say that their donation process requires at least three clicks or more. With each click, you’re providing an opportunity for your donor to bail.

Improving the Online Donation Experience The following is a checklist of non-negotiable features and elements your nonprofit website must incorporate to reach funding goals.


1. A functional, fully-branded, mobile-friendly website.

The accepted standard for web page load time is 2 seconds or less. If you think that’s fast, check this out — once a visitor lands on your web page, you only have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. It’s called a snap judgment for a reason, folks. And never is a good first impression more important than when money is involved. Likewise, if your website isn’t optimized for mobile users, you risk missing out on 18% of all online donations.


2. Simple, Intuitive Content Layout And Navigation.

The most important phase of website design is Information Architecture. If you hire the right digital agency, they will spend significant time on this part of the process for two reasons:

  • To ensure visitors understand how to move throughout the site easily and effortlessly. The goal is to get visitors to the information they want and need quickly and intuitively.
  • To ensure that the experience guides the user to desired business outcomes. Ever at the center of website construction is using design to drive performance.

3. An accessible and streamlined donation process.

The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (MSF) recently redesigned their website to improve the user experience. Among many updates, they now have a “Donate” tab that’s easy to locate on every single page. On many of the pages, they also dedicate the majority of space “below the fold” to eliciting donations. Their digital agency also refined the donation process. All it takes is one click to start the donation process, and two more to finish.

According to the foundation’s Director of Operations, MSF immediately saw an increase in donations and a 100% decrease in complaints about the donation process. Check out the full case study here.

Other elements that make this page design successful include:

  • A bright, eye-catching color that helps the donation request stand out.
  • Active language like “Donate Now” that creates urgency behind the act.
  • Predetermined “giving amounts” starting at $25 to elicit higher donation values.
  • The option to sign up for monthly, bi-annually, or yearly donations.
  • The acceptance of PayPal payment.

Do yourself a favor. Take a moment to look at your non-profit website from a donor’s perspective. Better yet — ask someone from outside your organization to provide feedback about their user experience. If you’re too close to the website design and information, you may not realize opportunities for improvement.

Non-profits who work with a digital agency have a significant advantage over those who don’t. They partner with a team of talented designers and developers who specialize in creating user experiences. When done properly, the user experience should support the needs of the visitor and the goals of the organization. In your case — one of the top goals should be simplifying and optimizing the online donation process.



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The Author

Jessy Smulski

Jessy turns industry shop-talk into simple, insightful, humanized conversation. Often described as bold, empathetic, and charmingly sarcastic; her writing style reflects her personality and reads like a friend telling stories over supper. When she isn’t writing, you can find Jessy backpacking the midwest, snowboarding the rockies, or capturing life through the lens of her camera.