Get More Online Donations: 3 Reasons Why Your Main Online Donation Page Should Take After Chinese Takeout

August 6, 2018 Jon Powell

When I transitioned from just a for-profit body of knowledge to a nonprofit body of knowledge, one of the first tasks I had ahead of me was understanding the donation page. To those in the nonprofit space, it seems like a straight-forward thing: This is the place they can come donate online.

It’s easier and it’s quicker.  It’s convenience. But what if there is more to these pages to the actual donor with real money to give?

After all, I’ve discovered that similar “acts of convenience” (i.e. web processes) to those in the for-profit space are also viewed differently by the consumers that actually use them, or at least those with a consumer-task bias (they’ve got real money, a real interest, and are considering a real purchase).

So I set out a task to understand the donation page, and with a library of 349 experiments all measuring for statistical significance (i.e. 95% confidence for any kind of difference in performance) I was bound to figure it out.

One of the first things I noticed is that the area where the text / copy is on the top of the page commands a lot of influence on those that are actually interested in donating money when they arrive. (this is before any donation selection or entry is made on the page).

The other thing I noticed was a lot of inconsistent results as to what you should do with that copy / text… until I looked at the source traffic.

It was then that I discovered there are at least three types of donations pages (based on the data I have). Once I separated the results by the source, patterns and consistencies emerged for that text / copy area on the top.

What I want to talk about is the type of donation page most us are going to have, and that is the GENERAL donation page. It’s the page people go to when they click the big DONATE button in your header, or when you make a general donation ask somewhere on your website.

Let’s talk about text

What I’ve discovered is that the proper application of introductory and body text on the GENERAL donation is distinct. And I struggled to come up with an explanation until I brought home some food from Panda Express (you know, the fast-casual Chinese restaurant)

After I tore through my teriyaki chicken and noodles, it was time for the FORTUNE COOKIE. I opened it up and to my utter dismay, there was no fortune!

TREACHERY!  (wait… why am I getting mad at this?)

But thank goodness, my wife did not want her fortune cookie. So, I opened that one up and to my RELIEF (seriously, am I this emotional?) there it was.

I read the fortune, and the experience began… meaning, the message was expertly written so vague, yet so inclusive, that I could easily use it to help answer questions in my mind about recent events, or even use it to assign more value to things happening.

(this actually wasn’t the fortune in this story…but affirming nonetheless)

But you know… I don’t believe in fortune cookies. Let’s not forget that these are made in factories by the thousands. And yet still, the experience affects me.

My friends, I am seeing with our research and data that the text/copy on the GENERAL donation page MUST be treated like the FORTUNE COOKIE experience.

The 3 Key Tenets of the Fortune Cookie Experience, as applied to GENERAL Donation pages

  1. The first tenet of the fortune cookie experience is simply to have a fortune inside the cookie.

The same is true for having description text on the top of your general donation page. What I mean is that it should be more than one sentence (or two) and help remind donors why they should give to your organization.

The key word I say here is REMIND, because in a general donation page experience, people are likely coming with something already in mind, or an existing motivation. After all, they only had to go open their web browser, type in the address of your site, search for a DONATE NOW link or button, and THEN proceed to put in their information.

And it really should be more than just one sentence. It needs to be substantial enough to answer that question of “Why I should give?”.

In the example below (full experiment here), you can see that the organization went from one siren-red highlighted sentence to a meaningful response to that key question.

Because that is what people are looking for. They need to be REMINDED. How often do you find yourself, or know someone, that gets halfway somewhere and forgets what they were doing (or why they were doing it)?

  1. The second tenet of the fortune cookie experience is to make sure the fortune IS NOT TOO SPECIFIC.

After all, people have to be able to fit whatever is in their circumstances, or mind, into it right? And yet, it still needs to have a common tie to your audience.

Take this example from Reddit:

In their mind, it was the coming baby. In my mind, it could be my wife! (she is short…and brings blessings too)

Here is an example of a religious organization that had too specific of a focus on their general donation page text (full experiment here):

We find that people want something that answers the question, but broadly, and is quickly scannable, unlike campaign donation pages (from email or direct mail ‘moneybombs’ for example) where narrative and story-form tend to inspire more actual donations.

  1. The third tenet of the fortune cookie experience is to have something to bet on… those lucky numbers you often see.

Now I don’t gamble, nor am I advising you to, but FiveThirtyEight.com did an interesting study on just how ‘lucky’ those fortune cookie numbers are: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/fortune-cookie-math/

What I AM saying is that this is part of the fortune cookie experience, and like that experience, the general donation page should have text that reminds them to take action and reiterate the reasons for doing so to benefit the overall cause / organization they care about.

Here is an example: (follow the red arrow…)

Don’t take donations for granted

Don’t be satisfied with another convenient feature for your organization. Don’t just assume that it is, in fact, all beneficial and great.

Your general donation page is more than just a feature, it’s a mouthpiece and experience for your donors. Let’s not take their generosity for granted. Let’s keep them from saying things like,

  • “Wait… this doesn’t look right… this isn’t what I want to support”
  • “Wait… why am I doing this again? Do I really want to do this?”

The key is in the copy. Make it feel as potentially personable and mesmerizing as a well-written (and tasty!) fortune cookie. And if you’re looking for more on the fortune cookie and what to test on your general donation page, we’ve got 19 ideas for you and a handy, free, guide here. Good luck!

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