Best Practices for Donation Forms

Increase donations by designing, optimizing, and strategizing your donation forms.

Design and Usability

Take a look at your donation forms. Are they intuitive? Well designed? If not, you could be losing donors without knowing it.

Remove excess fields. It is critical to keep online forms as simple and clean as possible. You want people to be able to fill out a form quickly, so if you don’t need the information, don’t ask for it.

Remove all distractions. You’ve done the work to get users to the donation form, and they are ready to make their gifts. Don’t give them a reason to leave. It’s the little things, such as how you align labels and fields. If you have a field that is shorter in nature, put labels on top of each field so the user just has a single column they are reading.

Instant field validation. It’s frustrating to complete a form, hit submit, and have to go back and fix fields. Instant field validation achieved through custom JavaScript ensures that users are following the rules as they go, and gives them constant updates to ensure completion and reduce frustration.

For detailed information about how to get customized JavaScript, contact Blackbaud Support.

Think mobile. If you have a responsive website, you can make mobile considerations (larger buttons, text, and single-column layouts, for instance) at different response points. If you don’t, incorporate those mobile-friendly design elements from the outset.

Make it easy to find your form. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Make sure your donate button or promo is loud and large. If your site is mobile-friendly, be sure that the same button is large and easy to touch.

Tip: Use clear language. Some sites use clever labels like "Help this Cause," "Make a Difference," or "Get involved," but the main pages of the site should also have a link somewhere that clearly says "donate" as well.

The confirmation screen after a donation experience is also very important. People are proud to support an organization — give users a chance to share their experience of donating via social networks and email with their family and friends and your potential supporters.


Online giving was up 13.5% in 2013 and has been growing by double digits ever since. So it’s well worth the effort to optimize your online channels in order to get the best possible performance out of it.

Keep it simple Once you have people on your website, it’s important that you draw their attention to your “donate now” button. You want potential donors to quickly notice a button that says something like “donate now”.

Tip: Make sure website visitors can quickly find your “donate now” button.

Use consistent branding. Building your brand is tough. It takes hard work, strategic thinking, time, and persistence – and not to mention, money. Which leads to the question: why leave your donation page lightly branded or, even worse, completely unbranded? Branding your donation form not only makes sense, but having a branded donation page builds trust and confidence, and increases the likelihood that a person visiting your donation form will complete a transaction.

Tip: A branded donation page builds trust and increases the likelihood of donors completing a transaction.

Make sure potential donors stay on your website—don’t make them click away. If a supporter has to be taken to a 3rd party website to make a donation to your organization, you stand a higher chance of donation form drop-off. People want to know they’re on a secure site when giving a gift and sharing credit card information. Sending supporters away from your site is likely to raise questions and leave supporters wondering if they should rethink giving to your organization online, or at all.

Tip: If potential donors have to leave your website to give, you increase the likelihood of form drop-off.

Use a one-step donation form. How many clicks does it take to get to the end of a donation form? 65% of organizations surveyed require online donors to click at least three or more times to give a donation. Requiring your donors to take multiple steps in order to give to your organization can cause donation drop-offs. Don’t make it hard for people to give.

Tip: If donors have to click more than once to make a donation, you’re making them work too hard.

Keep the number of fields, especially those that are required, to a minimum. People don’t like to give away too much information or spend a lot of time filling out long forms. Be sensitive to this and make sure to limit your donation form to only the fields you truly need.

Tip: Limit your donation form to only the fields you truly need.

Offer giving levels and pre-select the one you’d like most donors to choose. Research has shown that suggesting gift amounts leads to improved donation form performance by increasing average online gift size. It’s a simple concept, really. Instead of asking people to type in the amount they want to donate, give them options. The goal is to get people to give larger amounts than they would if left to make their own, unaided decision.

Tip: Suggesting gift amounts leads to improved donation form performance. The Grady Health Foundation executes this best-practice flawlessly. For example, you could say that $25 feeds a family of 4 for a week or houses a puppy at the shelter for a month.

Offer recurring giving.Getting a one-time gift is great, especially if that gift is a big one. But receiving a monthly recurring gift, even if for a smaller original amount, is so much better because it means long-term commitment. Make sure you make it simple for your new donors to turn their gift into a monthly recurring donation.

Tip: Set donors up for long-term commitment by offering monthly giving on your donation form.


Being strategic about your donation forms can help increase donations.

Testing your donation form. Once you have a well-designed and optimized donation form, you can measure its effectiveness by testing it. Follow the steps below to test your donation form.

  1. Find 5 people willing to give you 20 minutes of time
  2. Give them some real tasks to do on your website
  3. Watch them complete those tasks while keeping very quiet
  4. Use the results to convince your organization to invest in fixing these problems.
Tip: You can also use Google Analytics to figure out if people are abandoning your page and use that to justify a proposed change.

Use multiple donation forms.If you're still using a single donation form with all the same ask amounts, no matter who visits them or where they visit them from, then you're missing a huge opportunity. Your online donation forms should be smart. They should vary depending on audience, entry point, and adjust over time as you learn more about donor behaviors.

Also, if you're only focused on anonymous visitors to the website, then you're missing an opportunity to specifically target known donors. This includes active email and landing page campaigns for known donor segments. Lapsed donors, multi-year donors, donors that increased giving, donors that decreased giving, donors to specific funds or programs, donors that subscribe to eNewsletters, and donors that have participated in an event. The list goes on and on. Research shows time and time again that targeted, personalized, and focused giving experiences yield better results. That's the smart way to go about online fundraising.