How Healthy Is Your Donor Conversion Rate?

This blog was updated April 8, 2019.

My husband and I have different views about the doctor. I get an annual checkup to catch any conditions before they become chronic problems. On the other hand, my husband will avoid the doctor as long as humanly possible.

His approach reminds me of some nonprofits—the ones that avoid using website analytics. 

By one estimate, some 57 percent of all websites use Google Analytics. But few of the nonprofits I’ve worked for have this free tool installed. And even fewer use the data to guide decision making. 

This condition could eventually be fatal. Here’s why.

More donors move online

We’ve been hearing for some time that Millennials are going to overtake Baby Boomers, Silents and the Greatest Generation when it comes to nonprofit giving. And with that comes big changes in the technology that donors will demand.

We know that hasn’t happened, yet. The three oldest generations still represent nearly 79 percent of all donations. Millennials make up just 5.4 percent.

But don’t get too comfortable. We know older donors want the choice to give online, too. 

Online giving grew 1.2 percent from 2017 to 2018. Medium-sized organizations grew the most at 3.7 percent, followed by a 0.7 percent increase for small nonprofits. Online giving now represents a 8.5 percent of all fundraising revenue, excluding grants.  

Giving via a mobile device continues to grow as well. In 2016, some 24 percent of online transactions occurred via mobile.

Are you doing all you can to engage and convert these donors? You would know for sure with web analytics. Here’s how.

Start with the bottom line

Almost every nonprofit has an annual fundraising goal. That goal is advanced online when someone clicks on your donate button and completes your donation form. 

The conversion rate of your main donation page would be calculated by the number of online donations divided by the number of unique visitors to the page. 

Conversion Rate = # Donations/# Unique Visitors

In 2017, the average conversion rate for a main donation page was 17 percent. That’s down 1 percent from the year before. 

Now compare that to the average ecommerce landing page conversion rate of just 2.35 percent. Once donors are truly engaged with your mission, they’re ready to give!

Diagnose the problem

If you find your donor conversions are below average, it’s time to test to find out why. 

Online testing has moved beyond changing the color of a donate button or switching fonts. Here are six useful ideas from the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) and Blackbaud:

  1. Keep It Simple: 65 percent of organizations admit that they require donors to click three times or more to complete a donation. Simplify the process to one click to reduce drop-offs. Then, limit the fields on your donor form to the information you truly need. 

  2. But Not Simplistic: Your donors want a streamlined experience, but they expect more than a plain page. Briefly explain why they should give and where their money will go. Make sure your donation form is visual, branded and looks like your website to build trust. Need some inspiration? Check out Care.org's form

  3. Remove Distractions: Don’t force donors to register before donating. Make sure new donors can give without signing in and that returning donors can sign in to retrieve payment information. And don’t send your donors to third-party websites to donate. This can leave donors feeling their security is at risk. 

  4. Offer Giving Levels: Average online gift size tends to go up when you suggest specific amounts versus having them fill in a number. Pre-select the amount you’d like most donors to choose. Offer a monthly giving option to create a more sustainable donation stream.

  5. Remember Mobile Viewing: 84 percent of nonprofits in a recent survey said their donation forms were not designed for mobile. Given the increase in mobile donations, this should be a priority.

  6. Test, Test, Test: Don’t be afraid to test these ideas by creating multiple live versions of your donation page. In the business world, testing four versions of a landing page is normal with many companies testing 10, 20 or more to find the one that performs. 

Whatever you do, if you find your donation page is ailing, please don’t ignore it. Correct the issue now to protect the long-term health of your organization.

Laura Ingalls Fuqua is co-founder of Abeja Solutions, a fundraising marketing firm in Phoenix, Arizona. A recovering journalist, Laura has worked over 20 years as a professional communicator in both the nonprofit and corporate sectors.