Donation page optimization tips for year-end fundraising

An optimal donation page is key in acquiring new donors and retaining them. The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) conducted an audit of member donation pages in summer 2018 to help members optimize donation pages ahead of year-end fundraising and has also aggregated additional resources that are currently available.


With the start of NewsMatch, this is the time to create optimal donation pages to increase donations by year-end. Take advantage of more help from INN and friends in the following ways:

1. If you need web development help on your donation page, the INN Labs team can assist. The team is currently helping 28 nonprofit newsrooms with their pages. Fill out the form here.

2. View the below recommendations.


Here are the top four findings and recommendations that INN found:

1. Fifty-seven percent of members audited used a donate button or tab to lead their readers from their homepage to their donation pages. Catching the reader’s eye from the homepage is an important part of leading a reader to a donation page. Test different advertisements or graphics on the homepage promoting donations to draw website visitors to the page. Using more than a button can help ensure readers are able to find a way to donate.  Here are some INN Member examples:

Examples of member banner ads promoting donation pages from the homepage

2. Readers could be more compelled to donate if donation pages have a strong pitch that is more than just a couple of sentences, but short enough to keep readers engaged. Make pitches specific to the organization and avoid using general pitches such as, “Help support local journalism and donate to us today!” Try making the pitch impactful by showing donors how their contribution makes a difference. Pull at their heartstrings by bringing the pitch to life by citing specific examples of how their gifts have had impact and using those to tell the story in a number of ways through videos, photos, and other visual storytelling.

3. Design of donation pages can be improved by shortening the number of web pages donors must go through during the donation process. Thirty-eight percent of members audited embed their entire giving form on the donate page. Consider embedding giving forms or finding a payment processor that has an embed option.

4. About 28 percent of 124 members (35 members) have suggested donation amounts defaulted at monthly donations. Try having the default suggested donation amount be monthly. Consider starting with four to six suggested giving amounts and try including what the money would go toward for each amount—this makes for a more compelling ask and shows the donor how they have an impact.

Here are some INN Member examples (click to view):

Test starting with the highest suggested amount first to possibly result in higher revenue. Additionally, negotiate with payment processors for lower processing fees. The most common and lowest fees were 2.24 percent of the donation plus $.31 and 3 percent of the donation. Also, include an option for donors to make a donation in honor of or in memory of someone as a tribute gift. The audit found 64 percent of members do not offer this option as part of their donation page and can be a missed opportunity.


INN had 153 members and audited every member’s page during the time of the audit, which was conducted in the summer of 2018. The audit analyzed 18 different elements of a donation page, such as the number of suggested donations, the number of clicks throughout the donation process, and whether donors are asked to sign up for email newsletters.

These tips were generated from a study of INN member donation pages conducted by business student Nikita Advani at the University of Southern California in July 2018, working with the guidance of INN Communications and Marketing Director Jules Shapiro. Advani is an Emma Bowen Foundation fellow.