Simon Norris: Charities need to improve the experience of online giving

A digital agency expert picks out some top tips for encouraging and reassuring donors

Simon Norris
Simon Norris

Although the majority of charities are taking website donations, they are failing to make a real impact because the journey is neither appealing nor inspirational. Charities should think about improving their digital engagement strategies by implementing some key techniques to enhance the experience of online giving.


- Allow donors to choose how their contributions will be used

The option to donate to a specific scheme, project or area of a charity is an effective addition to a website and can be implemented by including links to microsites on the donate page. Online donors like having the opportunity to choose exactly how their money will be used; it helps to reassure them and inspire them to donate.

- The power of social influence

A strong motivator for charities is having Facebook ‘likes’ on the home page. This offers social proof and allows donors to see who else supports the charity – a simple but effective way of reiterating trust.

Another form of social proof that can improve the online experience is a live list that shows recent donations. This highlights active donations and makes potential donors feel part of a larger community.


- Guide the donor through the process

A noticeable call-to-action button on the home page can help donors easily find the route to donation. Putting the donate option at the end of the navigation ensures that those moving through the options will land on this page last, at which point they should be more familiar with the charity’s cause and actions and be prepared to make donations.

- Use ‘trust’ symbols

A ‘trust’ symbol such as the VeriSign logo helps to reassure potential donors who are concerned about online security. Visual symbols can convey trust and serve as an indication that the website is verifiably legitimate.


- Provide a straightforward progress indicator

Charity websites should display a progress indicator at the top of every stage to inform the donor what step they are on, the time it will take and what they should expect next. Progress bars that gradually fill with a colour as the process completes are a good indicator to use on charity websites because they are easy to understand.

- Continue to provide motivation and reassurance

Numerous people abandon the donation process halfway through. By having uniquely styled and branded forms on charity websites, donors are reassured that the forms are part of the charity. As long as these style guides remain consistent throughout the payment process, donors feel assured of their transaction and will be motivated to complete it. To reinforce the website's level of security, charities could include credit card and security logos on the first page of the payment steps.


- Encourage donors to spread the word through social media sites

The thank-you page encourages continued interaction with the organisation, helps the charity to engage further with donors and is an effective way to offer possible next steps for the user. Encouraging participants to share their experiences through social media forms a sense of community, helps inspire others to get involved and broadens the scope for possible future contributions.  

- Reassure the donor that the transaction has been successful

Although it is not an e-commerce transaction, it is still crucial to provide contact details and information on how to follow up any potential problems. It is important for charities to remember that donations are not purchases and donors should therefore not be treated as online consumers. To make this page seem less like a commercial receipt and more like a personal message, charities might want to change the title from ‘donation complete’ to ‘thank you’ and include images and text to explain the difference the contribution will make.

If the charity’s website does not provide an acceptable online experience it will not transform website visitors into donors. It is important to understand the online user’s motivations and mind-set so that each step of the online donation process can support, encourage and improve their experience.

Simon Norris is chief executive of Nomensa

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