“Build it and they will give” is not a good way to think about online fundraising.

Just because you set up your giving page with some text, an image, and a giving form does not mean that donors who come to your site will be motivated to give.

Not all giving pages are created equal. Not every giving page performs as well as the others.

But how do you know which of your pages are “optimized” for online fundraising and which ones are not? 

This question is crucial. 

If you can identify the giving pages that perform well, you can test to uncover the successful elements of those pages and build upon that foundation.

Before we talk about the best way to identify high and low-performing pages, let’s take a look at what most nonprofits do to identify their top-performing giving pages.

“Looks good to me” is a bad approach

Sadly, a very common way nonprofits assess the value of a page is to simply look at it. 

If it “looks good” to them, then it must be good, right? 

No. Not right.

As a starting point, online fundraisers typically review a giving page and look for what they identify as best practices. They evaluate characteristics like:

  • Word count (not too many words and not too few)
  • One relevant image
  • A good headline (“good” meaning it’s built according to the latest headline-crafting wisdom)
  • How many forms a donor has to fill out (too many is too much, right?)
  • Navigation menu (don’t give them a way to navigate away from the page!)
  • Clear call to action

When you are creating a new giving page, best practices are a great place to start.  But for an already published giving page, the results are what really matter.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if your giving page follows every copywriting, design, and digital fundraising best practice.

If your page breaks every design rule and it performs well, learn what your donors are telling you and keep growing.  Likewise, if a page is performing poorly, there are lessons to be learned. 

The only way to know if your giving pages are performing well is to measure the results and test them.

Testing is the way to go

Test, measure, repeat⁠—that’s the simple process of knowing which of your giving pages is performing well and which ones aren’t. 

It’s also the way to improve the performance of your giving pages continuously.

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

–David Ogilvy

You probably read that and know it’s true. But if you’re like most nonprofit leaders, the idea of testing sounds like a lot of work, and you just don’t have time for one more thing to do. 

But testing doesn’t have to be as complicated or time-consuming as you might think. Here’s a simple starter’s guide to testing giving pages.

1. Create your giving page.

The first step to the testing process is to create your giving page.  In fact, you probably already have one. 

Use all of the best practices of copywriting, digital marketing, and online fundraising to create your giving page and reduce friction in the online giving process.

One exciting way you can reduce friction using RaiseDonors is to pre-fill the giving forms for your donor before they ever get to the giving page.

2. Measure your results 

Just like creating giving pages, we’ve made tracking results in RaiseDonors simple.  Without even building a report, you can easily access:   

  • Number of unique visitors to your giving page, 
  • Conversion rate of your giving page,
  • Average gift size,
  • Number of donations given, and
  • Total amount you’ve raised.

After you create a new giving page, I recommend you create and save a separate report at the end of 7 days, 14 days, and then 30 days. 

Do this for every new giving page you create and compare the numbers. 

Why do these numbers matter?

Ok, we’re going to get just a little nerdy here, but stay with me.

There are actually three key metrics that are instrumental in growing revenue in any online fundraising program: traffic, conversion rate, and average gift size. As each one of these metrics increases, so does revenue. If any of them decrease, revenue decreases.

if you are just getting started with testing and optimization, I recommend paying special attention to conversion rates.

Why conversion rate?

Conversion rate optimization is all about discovering what makes donors say “yes”.  There’s so much to learn when you dive into what your donors value and what causes them to say “no thanks”.

But when you’re just getting started, there’s another reason conversion rate is a great place to focus.  Other data points are more easily impacted by factors that are more difficult to control⁠ or predict—whereas the conversion rate is impacted directly by what is presented to the donor who is already on your page.

How is conversion rate calculated?

RaiseDonors will track your conversion rate for you, but the formula for conversion rate is straightforward:

Number of Gifts Given / Number of Unique Visitors = Conversion Rate

As an example: if you received 100 donations last month, and 1,000 people visited your page—your conversion rate would be 100 / 1,000 = 10%. 

Even with the uneven amount of traffic, by comparing the conversion rates of giving pages, you can still glean insights into what your donors value.  This is how to engage in the process of optimization. 

And that’s what optimization is: a process of learning and growing. 

3. Modify your pages and test again.

Once you’ve made initial comparisons across your pages, take your top-performing page and try to identify the elements that make it so successful.

Does it have more text than your other pages? 

Then write some additional copy for your underperforming pages and see what happens.

Does it have an emotional image?

Then post emotional images on your other pages and see how they do.

Does it have a bold call to action, a soft appeal to the heart, or a compelling story?

Some audiences respond to optimistic or positive messaging, while others respond better to messaging that speaks to the consequences of inaction. 

Review your high-performing giving pages to see what kind of mood your donors respond well to, and then modify your other giving pages accordingly. 

These are just a few of the many ways you can analyze the performance of your high-performing pages and then modify your other giving pages to give their performance a boost.

So easy, there’s no excuse!

There will always be an excuse to get out of testing your pages. 

But when you’ve got an online giving platform like RaiseDonors, there’s no good excuse!

Testing your giving pages isn’t something reserved for nerds like me.  Start testing. Start learning.  Engage in the process.

When you embrace a culture of learning, you’ll never have to wonder again if “your page is optimized”.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.