Designing a Giving Form That Will Delight Your Donors

Picture this: a donor knocks on your office door. She has a stack of cash and she wants to give it all away.

What do you do? Do you make her take a seat in the lobby and hand her a clipboard with three sheets of information that she has to fill out before she can leave the money? When she’s done doing paperwork, do you mutter, “Thank you,” then shove her out the door?

Of course not. That’s a perfect way to lose a donor.

So why are we doing the exact same thing online?

Think about it. When a user lands on your giving form, they have their wallet out and they’re looking to give you their money. Across the higher-ed/nonprofit landscape, we treat those users just as poorly as we treated Ms. Imaginary Donor. We make the form hard to use, we suck up the donor’s precious time, and we take away the beauty of making a gift and the magic of a thank you by making the entire process drab.

Here are four things to consider when creating your giving page:

Make It Easy

In a world where mobile traffic has outpaced desktop, you need a mobile-friendly or responsive giving form, but only 16% of organizations have one.

If a user can book a vacation, buy a car, or do their Christmas shopping all from their smartphone, they should be able to easily make a gift, too.


UC Berkeley has one of the best mobile-friendly giving forms out there. Not only is it responsive, but it’s also designed to reduce the time spent waiting for pages to load, which helps smartphone users speed through the gift-making process.

Make It Short

Did you know that you only need 11 pieces of information to process a credit card donation? When building a great giving form, make it a life goal to get as close to that number as possible.

The American Red Cross does a great job with that in its simple, straightforward giving form. The organization also includes an option for past donors to auto-populate giving information, reducing the entire donation process to just two clicks.


In higher ed, we ask for a ton of extra info: split gifts among different funds or with a spouse, gifts in honor, gifts in memory, employer matching gift options, pledge payments, special instructions, and more. We’re providing a Cheesecake Factory-level of customization (I want the triple fudge nut with the Oreos baked inside and covered with strawberries and real whipped cream, please) for what should be a simple transaction (dessert!).

If you absolutely must include all those options, do it in a way that’s as minimally intrusive as possible. You could strip all the extra info out of the mobile version of the form or create accordion menus at the bottom of the page that users can quickly pass by if they’re not interested. (UNH did this during a recent one-day campaign)

Make It Pretty

Remember, anyone on this page wants to give you money. It’s time to tug on the heartstrings.

Take a spin through Invisible Children’s giving form. Try not to smile. I dare you.

They’ve done a beautiful job of using huge, candid images to showcase the people you’re helping by making a donation. It makes the giving process a joy, not a chore.


One more example: While it’s not exactly along the same lines as an annual fund campaign, World Vision does a fantastic job of storytelling by introducing the children whose lives you can change on the support page.

Make It WOW

So far, we’ve focused on the process of making a gift. But it’s equally important to think about what happens right after your donors give.

Think about what we could have done to make Ms. Imaginary Donor feel appreciated. We could have given her a huge hug, introduced her around the office, talked about how great she is, or maybe even connected her with a student who could say thank you, as well.

How are you making that experience a reality on your giving form? Are you giving your donors a hug with a warm, friendly thank you message? Or just a generic, tax-deductible receipt?

Here’s what I received from charity: water (check out their giving form here) after making a gift:


The photo came personalized by name with a short “water changes everything” message about the impact of the gift and how the money would be used. I’d get my tax receipt later, but the first memory I have was a wow moment that reminded me of why I gave in the first place. Making me want to give again and again.

Your giving form is the most important page on your website. It’s the one that’s most critical to our work as fundraisers, and by extension, the future of our institutions. Make it a priority to give it a little love and attention. Improve it or overhaul it —and your donors will no longer be imaginary.

Seeking more fundraising wisdom from Mike? Read his post on how to optimize Facebook ads for advancement.


Mike Nagel is the Associate Director for Advancement Communications at Phillips Exeter Academy. He spends his time managing and creating stories for PEA’s social media, alumni website, email marketing campaigns, and other mostly-digital play spaces. Say hi on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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