Fundraising Secret #38: Make Online Fundraising Easy

As the recession continues, and our need for funds grows, I continue to believe we'll need a combination of face-to-face experiences with donors augmented by a robust, but appropriate, use of online tools.

In my article Bananas and Websites, I give an overview of Seth Godin's concept that, when looking at a web page, all of us are organ grinder monkees. We just want the "banana" - we want to clearly know what we're supposed to do.

Our job as website designers is to make the banana really obvious.

In my seminars, I show a picture of Yahoo! and ask "Where's the banana?" It's pretty confusing, lots of things happening and no clear "one thing" that a user is supposed to do.

Then I show a picture of Google. On their main home page, they have a very clear banana: search. There is virtually nothing else to distract us from doing that one thing.

Well in the "oldie but goodie" category, the Chronicle of Philanthropy posted an article on making "online donations surge." This appear back in May of 2008 and is a brief report on research done by DonorDigital. [The DonorDigital link goes to a PDF of the entire study.]

In short, the study shows that:

  • Bigger "click to donate" buttons work better
  • Red ones work better
  • And donors are more likely to donate when asked only for the minimum information

Basically, make the banana obvious and make it easy.

This probably seems incredibly obvious, but so few of us do it. For instance, take my alma mater Milton Academy. This is a very successful and very established New England prep school. Kudos to them for making their giving page only 1 click away...if you think to look for it down in the footer.

But look at what you're faced with when you go there: 37 possible fields to fill in, check off, or choose from.

I can buy a book from Amazon far more easily!

I find it intimidating to use. Sure, schools want this info about their alum. But wouldn't all this be better served on an "alumni notes" page? To me, it seems that if a donor wants to make a gift, why not let them? Credit card info, billing address, and amount is all that's needed. And a comments field in case they want to designate their gift.

How does your nonprofit do? Do you make it easy to give from your site? Or are you putting up lots of hurdles?

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Hi Marc,

    You make a great point. The easier, the more likely to get the desired response. Another thing to consider is that many of the visitors do not arrive at the main page of the website. The guidance you provided needs to be followed throughout the website. For example, every webpage should have that "click to donate" button you mentioned in a place easily seen.

What would you add?