How to decrease friction in online giving

I hate answering the phone.

In fact, there are three levels of disquiet I experience when my phone rings.

DefCon Level 1
Someone on my contact list is calling. Perhaps it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a colleague. Either way, as an act of generosity, I let it ring all the way through rather than force it straight to voicemail.

DefCon Level 2
Just a random phone number. These people, nay criminals, should have known better than to try to communicate with me on my communication device. Straight to voicemail! No questions (no matter how appropriate) asked.

DefCon Level 3
The “Unknown” caller. Attention app developers: the universe requires an app that allows us to taser-blast the agents of evil on the other end of these calls.

So… what does this have to do with online fundraising?

The reality is that people visiting your donation pages go through a similar mental process. The interaction can end with a single click, so it’s essential to seize the opportunity.

Don’t confuse your donors

When someone lands on your donation page you can steer them in one of two directions: yes or no.

And it’s not just one big, “Yes, I will donate” or “No, I won’t donate”.

Every interaction. Every decision. Every thought sequence. Absolutely all decisions must be met with a YES or you have lost the opportunity.

In that context, every successful donation is a significant triumph and should be celebrated.

So what does this all mean? It means you must identify and reduce friction in your online giving process!

What is friction?

Friction is defined as anything that causes psychological resistance to a given element in the donation process.

Friction is bad.

Friction turns people away.

Friction reduces your conversion rate, your online revenue and, ultimately, your organizational impact.

So reducing friction is a big deal. With that in mind, let’s look at the types of friction in the online giving process.

The team at MECLABS has devised the following equation:

Friction = Length + Difficulty

Much can be said, but I’m going to focus on just a handful of examples that you can apply today.

Examples of length friction

Field Number Friction
When you ask for too much information, the forecast for friction goes way up. As Tim Kachuriak of NextAfter posits, “Are there fields that I can eliminate completely, make un-required, or ask for later?”

Field Layout Friction
A form that appears to require a lot of work will heighten friction. Your giving experience must feel easy. Moving related fields side by side can help create the perception that less is required, thereby reducing friction.

This leads to an essential principle: friction doesn’t exist on a page, it exists in the mind.

Examples of difficulty friction

Decision Friction
Friction is introduced to the giving process when donors are forced to make unanticipated decisions about their donation. I’ve seen donation forms ask for a donor’s birthday, a paragraph about what prompted them to give, or choose from a long list of potential gift designations. Unanticipated questions like these make the donation process more difficult and can dramatically impact the bottom line.

Registration Friction
Don’t rely on a donor’s willingness to create an account or remember a password as a prerequisite to making a donation. This is a barrier that represents enormous friction and will negatively impact your online giving.

The takeaway

Like sending a caller straight to voicemail, a potential donor is always a single click away from exiting your page. If your donation page is riddled with friction, you look less and less like an organization they can trust — and more and more like an “unknown caller”.

Reduce friction and you will increase trust, increase giving, and increase impact.