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  • Writer's pictureKaren Hopper

The myth of the perfect donation form

You have mere seconds to catch the attention of your customer or donor - but are you also doing enough to convince them to follow through and make a donation or purchase?

60% of donation page conversions happen in less than 60 seconds. But what about the other 40%? Turns out their conversion peaks at 4-5 minutes. (Source: Classy)

What are they doing with that time? Reviewing your value proposition and impact, of course. If it's there.

Time and time again, we've heard that we should "get out of the way" of a donor and make the form experience as smooth as possible, because people who have clicked through to that form - usually from your website - have already decided that they're going to donate.

But the data from the Classy study shows us that while that might be true for about half of our eventual conversions, what about everyone else? Is that form title and image, and perhaps a couple of generic sentences about the mission, enough to convince a skeptic to pull out their credit card and part with their hard earned cash?

For the same reason you don't purchase everything that has a "one-click buy" option on Amazon, donors don't give just because your form is "flawless" and "easy to complete." The content on your landing page is there for the skeptics, not for the folks who have already made up their minds.

So how do we convince skeptics? Check out the copy on PETA's donation form (you can hide the graphic image!), and how impact-focused it is. charity:water has also crafted their donation forms to be much more content heavy, reducing the prominence of the transactional form and making it way more about the experience of the potential donor and what they can do to become a part of the community.

Going one step further, this landing page from the Humane Society, where you land if you click through their paid search ads - before you get to the donation form. If that doesn't fly in the face of "everything we know about donor behavior", I don't know what does. We'll get into the power and persuasion of landing pages in more depth in a future blog (or if you want more right now, go check out Unbounce and their incredible resources).

All that said... having a confusing or hard-to-complete form can sink your conversion rate, even among people who really, really want to give you money.

Here is perhaps one of the most horrifying donation forms I've ever laid my eyes on (for multiple, obvious reasons). I'm not linking to it directly because they don't deserve the traffic.

The part that gets my goat about this form more than anything else is the sheer number of options and decisions the user has to make before they click through to the next step. This gets us into the realm of decision paralysis, where the brain shuts down in the face of too many stimuli. The "elite donor" box even jumps back and forth like a gif, which adds to the overwhelming colors, checkboxes, and asks.

This is an extreme example, sure, but I think we've all experienced a confusing checkout process for something we actually want to buy - and perhaps we've gone so far as to abandon that cart because the page keeps firing an error even though we know we typed our credit card information in correctly, or it doesn't recognize the District of Columbia as a real place in the U.S. (which has happened to me more than once).

Rants aside, please remember that everyone filling in your form is a human. They have thoughts, distractions, and feelings. They're on your website because they care about your issue or are looking for a solution that you're providing - now it's up to you to get them to take the plunge, and to make it easy for them to do so.

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