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What Online Donors Want to See on Your Website

How to Improve Your Online Fundraising

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A friendly website.

Robin Jareaux/Getty Images

It is tempting to think that websites are less important in this age of social media. But, as a recent report on young people revealed, the website may be more important than ever. People of all ages, are likely to research your nonprofit right at your home page before they give to you. Make sure that you make donating as easy as possible.

Jakob Nielsen, a web page usability expert, has found that bad nonprofit website design results in fewer online donations.

A recent Nielsen study asked participants to choose one of two charities (within the same category) after looking at their websites; and then to donate to the chosen charity, through the charity website, using their own credit cards.

The study found that participants wanted, most of all, to see an organization's mission, goals, objectives, and work. Secondly they wanted to know how the charity uses their donations and contributions.

Shockingly, only 43% of the 23 sites tested provided information about mission, goals, objectives, and work. And only 4% of the nonprofit websites gave information about how they use a giver's donation.

The study found that donors want to give to organizations that share their ideals and values. But, when choosing among charities that, say, help alleviate poverty around the world, donors want to know HOW the organization does that.

Going deeper, the study found that there were certain factors that are, simply, "donation-killers."

  • Nearly half (47%) of the usability problems related to poor page and site design with unintuitive information architecture. Surprisingly, 17% of the sites made it hard for users to even find where to make a donation.

  • More than half (53%) of the usability problems were related to unclear content, missing information and confusing terms.

  • One of the worst problems was poor integration of local chapter sites with their national parent sites. When donors moved to a subsidiary site to find out what was being done in their local area, these sites looked completely different than the parent sites.

By and large, once donors moved on to the actual transaction, things moved fairly easily, especially when the process was similar to the merchant sites that they are accustomed to using.

The study suggests that fixing even minor usability problems could increase donations by 10%. That is a considerable improvement that justifies a little expense and time in fixing the bugs.

The study concludes that, "To improve fundraising, speak plainly and answer donors' main questions, and money will flow your way."

Jakob Nielsen report summary.

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