Go fish: capture more donors with online donation forms

When I was 9 years old my dad planned a fishing trip for us to Detroit Lake in Oregon. We left early one morning to set up camp beside the lake and get the boat on the water before the sun was too high in the sky. I remember hooking worms and learning all about his secrets to fishing. But I don’t remember catching any fish. While I’m sure I caught something, or at least got a few nibbles, the lessons of how to catch a fish stayed with me.

Much like fishing, knowing how to engage your donors online will help you catch and retain them. One of the biggest pieces to acquiring donors online is your donation forms. Like a worm on a hook, online donation forms can attract your donors so you can reel them in to build a deeper relationship with your organization.

With a greater reliance on smartphones, online donations rose 80% from 2013 to 2016 according to a 2016 study from Dunham + Company. Furthermore, the Baby Boomer generation has almost caught up to Generation X and Y with their smartphone purchases each year. More than ever, donors are online and giving. Let’s look at how your online donation forms can help you catch more donors.

Choose a form solution

First, let’s start with the basics. Are you going fishing in a boat, a kayak, or standing at the shoreline? Choosing a form solution will be just like making the choice of how and where you’ll be fishing. You’ll want something sturdy to catch the big fish but easy enough to use so you can save time and begin seeing the ROI quickly. The AppExchange can help you begin to narrow down your form solution options.

Most nonprofits have experience using Google Forms, so transitioning to a basic form solution such as Form Assembly can be simple. But if you want a form solution that will gather more than just basic information and is integrated with a donation and payment processor (as well as your CRM), you’ll want to consider your form needs. If you’d prefer an easy to use solution with no coding, consider choosing a form solution with a drag and drop interface. If you don’t want to worry about upgrading or the integration within Salesforce, you’ll want to look at a solution native to Salesforce.


Decide on your placement

One of the biggest lessons my dad taught me was where to find fish. Different fish prefer different environments and temperatures. Consider where each of your forms will be on your website and how your visitors will get there. Will you have a long form with many fields located on a landing page that has stories and images showing the benefits of their gift? Will you also have a short form on your homepage that’s next to a large call to action?

Deciding on the donation form placement will help you determine how you and your donors will be using your chosen form solution. Form solutions will allow you to easily create many different types of customized forms that can be used on different web pages. Additionally, if you want to be able to quickly clone a previously created form and customize it to address a specific appeal, you’re in a better position to do this with a form solution.


Always go with good design

Some fish are attracted to certain lures or bait. By using the language, design, and placement your audience will find appealing, you can increase the chances of making an online visitor a donor. Developing your donor personas will be a big help when learning the language your donors speak. Focus on what makes them take action and the buzz words around those actions. Using a form solution will also allow you to use your organization’s branding within in the form to create provide a more customized experience for your organization with the donor.


Use the right fields

A big lesson I’ve learned over the years is sometimes a fish can get away. Stay with me here. A big tip we offer is to remain true to your donors with the fields you choose as a donor could change their mind while they are filling out your form.

By making sure you’re using necessary fields and only requiring essential information for the transaction you can help turn more visitors into donors. Best practices include not making the middle name field required and not adding in too many personal questions just so you can learn more about the donor. While you may want to know all about them so you can begin a moves management strategy, don’t make the form too long that they stop filling it out and you lose them.

Bonus tip: You probably know what fields you’ll use from Salesforce to link to this form. Make sure to review the fields you’ll be putting in your form with your team before launching to keep communication and feedback open.


Payment processing and security

Finally, don’t forget your fishing permit on this trip! Choosing a form solution isn’t the same as choosing a donation processor and a payment processor. You’ll need to secure these as well when you begin using a form solution for your online donation forms. Take a look at the support you’ll be offered around each of these, so if you run into any issues you’ll know what kind of service to expect.

Bonus tip: Donor confidence in your organization will play a big role in a donor’s decision when they are making an online contribution. 18% of forms are abandoned when a website visitor doesn’t trust the website. Adding certifications can help instill donor confidence. And making sure your organization’s name is on all credit card and bank statements can reduce chargebacks and canceled gifts.


Moving into your Moves Management strategy

What comes after you caught that fish? Dinner. Well, maybe this particular fishing metaphor doesn’t translate as well. But you should be thinking about your relationship with a donor after their donation. Consider how your organization will be moving this potentially one-time donor into an advocate and regular donor. Creating a moves management strategy will be your key.

Salesforce has made it easier to engage with each successful online donor. With new features in Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack like Levels and Engagement Plans, moves management can become a part of your overall donor strategy and make your organization more sustainable.


Online donation forms offer flexibility to donors and nonprofits. However, making sure your donation forms are set up correctly and asking the right information can be key to keeping those donors engaged. There are so many tips and tricks with form solutions (especially on the Power of us HUB) but keeping your organization’s donor strategy in mind can help choose the right solution.

Want to learn more about using web forms in your organization? Read our article on the 8 steps you should take for translating a paper form into a web-based form.


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