The difference between giving and buying

Are you designing your donation pages just like you would a landing page for a product? It’s time to rethink what makes donation pages work.

Are you designing your donation pages just like you would a landing page for a product? It’s time to rethink what makes donation pages work.

Many of us in the nonprofit world come from a for-profit background.

Typically, this is a huge advantage.

It’s a good thing that you don’t lose all the wisdom and experience that you’ve gained over the years.

Nonprofits are made better by professionals who know the latest best practices in marketing, sales, finances, and other critical areas.

However, there are fundamental differences between nonprofits and for-profits.

You can really see these in the giving and fundraising process.

I want to share with you two critical differences between the giving and buying process that we discovered while participating in The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages benchmark study with our friends at NextAfter.

The Emotional Reward is Different

The first major concept we discovered is that the emotional reward in giving happens differently than in the buying process.

When you buy something, there is an emotional rush that you experience.

Depending on how much you’ve wanted that thing you purchased, your emotional reward might be high, or it might be just “meh”.

When my gas tank is on empty and I purchase gasoline, I feel relieved.

I feel confident knowing I’m not going to be walking miles on the highway with a 5-gallon gas can.

The emotional reward I get when I walk out of Best Buy with that latest gadget I’ve been waiting on for months—that rush is definitely greater!

Even though there’s a big difference in the degree of emotion we experience, there’s still an emotional reaction when we make a purchase.

And that’s what makes going shopping so pleasant at times.

But what about the giving process? Is there an emotional reward here, too?


But the emotional reward occurs in a different order.

When a donor gives to your nonprofit, he or she doesn’t feel the emotional reward after making the gift.

The donor feels the emotional reward just before giving.

They will probably feel an ongoing satisfaction after the gift, but the emotional climax of feeling fortunate, blessed, or compassionate will occur the moment they say yes to giving.

The decision to make a gift most often occurs on your donation page.

That’s why optimizing your giving pages is so important!

Higher-performing donation pages maximize the emotional reward of the donor right before they decide to give.

Well-written copy, well-placed imagery, and other techniques on your giving page help to increase the level of emotion your donor will experience while scrolling through your page.

This is one of the joys of being a fundraiser, online or offline.

You are here to increase the donor’s joy or satisfaction in giving.

Optimizing the emotional reward in giving isn’t gimmickry or manipulation—it’s making their lives better by ensuring they understand just how important their gift is.

High-performing giving pages also minimize the friction donors encounter when giving online.

When donors have to give out too much personal information, or click through numerous pages, or designate their gift to a fund out of a list of a hundred funds—these are all types of friction that can lead to the donor abandoning the gift.

According to M+R Benchmark, 83% of your giving page’s visitors will decide to leave the page and abandon the giving process.

But by increasing the emotional reward and decreasing friction on your giving page, you can improve your chances of moving donors towards giving generously.

Giving is not a funnel, it’s a mountain.

Another critical difference between the giving and buying process is that in buying, we often think of a marketing funnel.

In a marketing funnel, you throw traffic to the top, and people—in this case, donors—fall out the bottom after going through some steps in the “buyer’s journey.”

But when you look at the way the giving process works, there’s no such thing as a marketing funnel where gravity is helping move donors through the process.

In reality, the giving process goes in the opposite direction, fighting gravity the whole way.

The giving process is actually a mountain of many micro-decisions your donor has to make.

Each step of the way, your donor has to decide to move forward and go to the next micro-decision.

And when they arrive at the next decision, they have to be persuaded it’s worth it to say yes again.

Our unique role as fundraisers and marketers is to sit at the top of the mountain and help guide donors up each step of the mountain.

Giving is a process.

It’s not as easy as making the decision and then filling out a form.

There is a series of little micro-decisions all the way through the giving process, and it’s our job to help donors through those.

A common first decision for donors is, “Do I open this email?”

Then, “Will I read the whole thing?” Next, “Do I click on the donation button?”

And when they land on your giving page, there’s a whole new set of questions they will be asking themselves.

The primary question will be, of course, “Why should I give to you rather than another organization, or not at all?”

This question should be answered on your giving page with your value proposition.

In each step of the process, you—as the fundraiser—have to increase the emotional value and reduce the emotional cost so that your donor is motivated to say yes and move on to the next step.

Landing on the giving page is not the final step.

It’s the beginning of a whole new series of questions you need to guide your donors through until they get to the point where they give.

It’s a great life.

So this is our job. It’s not like traditional marketing.

It’s not like traditional sales.

Leading donors through the giving process is much different than leading prospects through the buying process.

But it’s a great life!

You and I get to help donors feel the joy they truly deserve in giving.

To see for yourself what’s working—and what’s not—in online fundraising. Download your free copy of our benchmark report, The State of Nonprofit Donation Pages, today!