Donations from alumni are a core part of your college’s annual revenue, and your fundraising team continually strives to drive more donations through events, telephones, and personalized messages to alumni. But when an alumni does decide to donate, is your website an obstacle in the giving process?
Creating an informative and engaging website that’s easy to navigate is essential for a number of reasons. Prospective students can research your school, current students can find information relevant to their studies, and alumni can learn about opportunities to continue being part of your community. Of course, one of the most important tasks you should make easy for visitors to complete on your website is donating.
To ensure that your donation page is intuitive and actively helps cultivate more gifts at higher rates, this article will dive into five donation page tips:
- Use calls to action to drive traffic.
- Make your page accessible.
- Provide suggested giving amounts.
- Brand your donation form.
- Promote matching gifts.
Creating the donation page your college needs will require having the right website builder and strategically implementing giving page best practices. These tips will help you optimize your current donation page while also pointing out core features to look for in potential donation form providers. Let’s get started.
1. Use calls to action to drive traffic.
Before alumni can donate, they’ll need to be able to easily locate your donation page on your website. Websites that follow design best practices accomplish this by adding a link to their donation form on every page of their website, often in the menu bar. These buttons are usually large and brightly colored with a call to action such as “Donate Now.”
Of course, there are multiple types of calls to action you should add to your website in addition to a donation button in your menu. For instance, many top college websites will have multiple donation buttons on the same page—one in the menu and another after content that demonstrates why alumni should donate.
Strategically placing calls to action in places visitors are likely to look after engaging with your content can make the most of the motivation they feel in the moment, driving more donations.
Consider also how you can vary your calls to action to encourage alumni to complete other tasks based on what page they’re viewing. Morweb’s guide to nonprofit website builders lists a number of core features college websites need such as eCommerce and event registration, which can be used to drive even more revenue with a call to action. For example, you might add a link to purchase tickets to ongoing events on your website’s calendar page.
2. Make your page accessible.
An alumni who is motivated by your calls to action can be stopped from giving at the very last moment if your donation page is difficult to use or, in a worst case scenario, inaccessible to them. Following web accessibility best practices will make your donation page easier to use for all of your alumni, helping to drive more donations.
Donation forms are a common stumbling block when it comes to accessibility. Here are a few ways you can improve your forms:
- Add text directions. Text directions that appear inside of an information field and disappear when a user starts typing can be helpful for providing example answers. However, be sure to also include text outside of information fields so alumni using screen readers and other assistive technology will be able to navigate your page and input their answers.
- Ensure text is visible. There are several ways to ensure that your donation form’s text is visible. For instance, before making your page live, test the color contrasts between your text and background by viewing the page in grayscale and through colorblind filters.
- Optimize for mobile. Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics show that approximately half of all traffic to nonprofit websites comes from mobile devices. While most CMSs will automatically create mobile versions of your pages, it can be worth it to go the extra mile and adjust high-value pages like your donation form even further for optimal mobile use.
To discover more ways you can make your entire website more accessible, take the time to explore the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. This exhaustive list of accessibility standards can help you identify and resolve any potential accessibility issues you may encounter while optimizing your website.
3. Provide suggested giving amounts.
Often, donors aren’t sure how much is appropriate to give, especially if they are making their first contribution to your organization. This can lead to a wide range of donation amounts from alumni donors, varying from $5 to hundreds. As it is often expensive to attract a donor, these low amounts may not actually make up the amount your college spent cultivating them.
To provide your alumni more guidance and raise your average donation, consider adding suggested giving amounts to your donation form. These amounts can make the giving process easier as alumni will need to just press a button, while also potentially increasing the total amount they may have intended to give in the first place. For example, that donor who intended to only give $5 may rethink their initial assumptions about donating when they see your lowest suggested giving amount is $25.
You can also use suggested giving amounts to drive recurring donations. On your donation form, create two parallel tracks of suggested giving amounts, one for one-time donations and one for recurring gifts. The one-time donations should be higher than the recurring gift option shown in comparison, which can nudge alumni to choose the lower of the two options, even though it will add up to be more in the long-run.
After a donor gives, be sure to reach out to thank them for their gift and reference the amount they gave in your message. Then, later on you can reach out to them again, using their last donation amount to base your next suggested donation ask off of. For instance, if an alumni made a one time gift of $50 the first time, you might request they join your recurring giving program at $5 per month to grow their overall contribution.
4. Brand your donation form.
There are unfortunately many scams online masquerading as universities or other charitable organizations. Your alumni are well aware of this, and if your donation process navigates them to your website, they may become hesitant to provide their sensitive financial information.
There are several ways you can protect your donors’ information, such as using a secure payment processor, and you can further reassure your alumni that they are giving to your organization by branding your donation form. Adding your college’s logo and colors to a donation form will create a more cohesive experience for alumni, while also giving them an extra reminder about what they’re giving to.
Another option is to forgo the external form and instead look for a form you can embed straight into your donation page. Doing so and branding that page follows multiple best practices recommended for driving donations.
5. Promote matching gifts.
Some of your alumni may be able to increase their donations without actually spending a cent more with matching gifts. Corporate matching gift programs are an often underutilized way for colleges to generate revenue, as many of your alumni are likely aware if they qualify for a matching gift.
You can help your alumni discover if they are eligible for a matching gift by adding a matching gift database to your website. After alumni make a donation they’ll be prompted to follow these steps for applying for a matching gift:
- Enter the employer name in the database. Your donation form’s matching gift database should come with a search tool donors can use to enter the name of the business they work for. Some donation matching tools will even be able to pick up your alumni’s employers even earlier in the process if they donate with their work email address, making the process even faster.
- Complete employer matching gift application. If an alumni is eligible for a matching gift, your database should pair them with their employer’s matching gift application form. From there, your donors will just need to fill out the form and submit it to their employer before any deadlines.
- Receive prompts to finish application. Keep track of which of your alumni have submitted or are in the process of submitting a matching gift application. If an alumni started their matching gift application several days ago but has yet to complete it, consider sending them a reminder email.
Once an alumni does submit their matching gift application, be sure to reach out to them to show your appreciation. Then, your college will just need to wait for your donors’ employers to receive and approve the forms, at which point your college can look forward to extra free revenue.
Donations from alumni are an essential revenue source for your college, and you can make the giving process easier by improving your donation page. Consider how you can make your page more accessible and try experimenting with best practices to encourage more recurring donations and larger gifts. While some of these optimizations may need the help of a consultant, others your university can implement now with the right website builder. Good luck!