I attended my first Association of Fundraising Professionals event in Boston this morning, and talked to a couple people, none of whom knew - even approximately – what the conversion rate of their online donation form was. I briefly panicked; perhaps somehow the entire sector doesn’t know how important this number can be?
A conversion rate is a measurement of how many people can take an action, compared with how many people take that action. For your donation form, you can easily measure it by counting the total number of donations received via that form, and dividing that number by the total number of unique visits (or just hits if you aren’t sure how to track a unique visit) to that form. Use Google Analytics or a similar tool along with perhaps a report from your credit card processor.
If you’ve never calculated this rate before, do so now and write it down somewhere everyone in your office can see it. Then draw an arrow to a number twice as big. With a little elbow grease, I think you can achieve that goal.
What’s a reasonable conversion rate?
It depends! It depends on your audience, demographics, time of day, what kind of ask you are making, your branding, how many form fields you absolutely have to require, and all sorts of other stuff. Don’t compare it with the conversion rate the IRS gets when people file their taxes – that’s mandatory. Compare to other similar organizations doing similar things. Don’t be shy – call them up, ask them how they do, and if they have any tips. You can share your tips, and as a whole your cohort will improve.
I did find a few scattershot references to specific conversion rates while researching this article. They are generally under 20%, and many case studies featured by fundraising consultants feature improvements from 2% to 4%, from 5% to 8%, stuff like that. Generally speaking, your rate will be under 10% if mostly new visitors are hitting the page. If an email goes out only to loyal, 10 year recurring donors who also volunteer and serve on your board, you might expect to break 50% or more.
Know your funnel
It’s easy to focus on a single conversion rate – the open rate of your mailing, or the conversion rate of your form. However, in any campaign these numbers work together. In fact, you can multiply them together to determine your overall conversion rate. For example, if 20% of people click on a link in your mailing, reach your donation form, where 20% of people donate, then your overall conversion rate is 0.2 X 0.2 = 0.04 = 4%. So if you sent your mailing to 100 people, you’d probably get 4 donations.
Each step in your process causes some people to drop out – as the total number of people whittles down, step by step, that’s a funnel.
Let’s take another example: The open rate of the mailing is still 20%, but this time the conversion rate of your form is 2%. What if it was really easy to get a 4% conversion rate? That’s still only 4% – no big deal right? No way! That has the same effect as doubling your open rate to 40%!
0.2 x 0.1 = 0.02 = 2% – Before
0.4 x 0.1 = 0.04 = 4% – After doubling open rate.
0.2 x 0.2 = 0.04 = 4% – After doubling form conversion rate.
Those last two results are the same! Improving any conversion rate in your funnel improves the overall conversion rate by the same amount! So, go for the easy stuff, the low hanging fruit.
Tips and Tricks
Most of these ideas we pulled from the resources below. Also, check out this huge list of tips.
- Keep it short and simple – what can you remove? Removing the title and suffix boxes boosted conversion 30% on one page.
- Test your form in all widely used web browsers, at least one mobile device, and with different kinds of inputs. Maybe you have a bug in the amount field if people type a dollar sign!
- Is your form accessible? Learn about Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- One page only – do you need a multi-page process?
- Trust seals (Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, Guidestar…) can work. Make them prominent, closer to the top of the page (above the fold)
- Don’t look just within the nonprofit community – search for “landing page optimization” and “conversion rate” generally, and learn from for profit marketers and web professionals.
- Don’t require registration. Making an account on your site probably isn’t essential. Don’t make people do it.
- Don’t leave the amount field blank. Don’t make people think about how much they want to give. Suggest something 25% higher than your average donation. In fact, give reasonable defaults for all form fields if you can – saves time.
- Use (and compare) multiple forms for multiple needs. Send different kinds of donors to differently configured forms, once you know more about your community.
- Be mobile friendly – it’s hard to type in credit card info on a phone, but you can give people easy options to be notified later (an email, for example).
- Use bigger buttons to get people TO the form. Make sure the Donate button is the biggest, boldest, most colorful button on the page, if you want people to find it first. Note, an aggressive, commanding submit button ON the form (Donate NOW!) didn’t have as much of an effect in some studies.
- Forget what you like and what you think: Only results matter; trust the data.
- Analyze your competition. What do they do? Any good ideas?
- Create a sense of urgency. If a user is thinking “yeah, I’ll come back and do this later….” they probably won’t.
- Say thank you. The “donation complete” screen should be bright and thankful, leaving the donor with a good feeling.
- Your contact information should be somewhere on the page in case there are problems. Can I mail a check? Can I donate in Canada? or Your form is broken!
- Use visual techniques to influence action. For example, what if the faces in images on your page are looking at the donate button?
- Jakob Nielsen’s usability study – widely cited: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/nonprofit-charity-ngo-study1.html
- Some counter arguments to the above