Optimizing Online Donations in the Giving Season

Optimizing Online Donations in the Giving Season

Time for a Website Checkup!
Optimizing Online Donations in the Giving Season

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Donations to nonprofits peak during the winter holiday season, when giving of all kinds is traditional. Many people want to donate to charities during holidays as a way to spread joy during the season and like to give donations rather than buying gifts. In the United States, charitable giving (giving to non-profit organizations) can also be deducted from taxes. The holiday season coincides with the donation deadline of Dec. 31 to claim a dedication for that calendar year, which is another big reason why there’s a spike in donations.

The peak in giving during the holidays is a consistent pattern for all nonprofits, regardless of their size or the issues they work on - from organizations offering art courses for children, to health services, to environmental policy nonprofits. According to the Blackbaud Institute, in 2019, almost 20% of all online donations are given in December, and that is likely to increase. To take advantage of this peak in giving, it’s essential to make sure your website is in top condition to receive these donations. Otherwise, your efforts to encourage donations could easily be wasted with a poorly designed website. Remember - you are not the only cause or organization that donors care about. The majority of donors give to multiple causes, and if your website is hard to navigate, they will take their donation elsewhere.

Is your website ready for the giving season?

Potential donors could get turned off by a website that takes too long to load or is confusing to navigate. It’s important to prioritize the key sections of the site. The donate section requires an extra check-up, both to make sure that it’s easy to find and that the giving portal is simple and frictionless to use.

This may also be a good time to start optimizing the website for next year, especially to allow visitors and donors to intuitively navigate and use your website. It’s important not to overlook website performance on mobile devices - in a survey of thousands of U.S. nonprofits in 2019, approximately 25% of donations happened over mobile. Some websites that work well on desktop platforms don’t perform well on mobile. Responsive (desktop, tablet and mobile-friendly) design is essential as visitors use mobile devices particularly when on the move. That time waiting for the bus might be the only time a busy person has time to look at and think about donating to your cause.Be sure to invest in the right nonprofit web designer to help your organization grow.

Look for an experienced web development company with years of experience in optimizing nonprofit websites. That way, you can count on their expertise and insights in delivering web development and digital design solutions that are customized to your mission and are helpful in meeting the challenges you’re facing. It’s not just the technology and design, the content strategy and overall digital strategy are key.

Optimize donation forms

Besides optimizing your nonprofit website, the web developer and design team will optimize the donation forms to maximize the returns from your donors. They will work with you to ensure that your site meets all relevant accessibility standards and successfully retain new and existing donors and supporters.

For example, when working with Acadia Center, an environmental nonprofit, Think Design made a few changes to the online form and choose a different service to process donations, increasing online donations over 100%.​​ It’s important to note that the charity sector has its own donation processors like Give Lively (which was used in this situation), which is different from ecommerce platforms that use online payment systems like PayPal. The donation process was made a lot easier by better integrating the form with the website as a whole.

SEO and social media

Finally, don’t forget the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). The nonprofit sector in America is huge: according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to stand out from the competition, and one of the best ways to do that is to be high in the rankings on search engines. Improving the SEO is a gradual and iterative process that takes months, so it’s worth getting started soon to prepare you for the next holiday season.

Similarly with social, a well run campaign will energize your audience and create brand evangelists who will attract more donors. That way, more donations can be encouraged down the line, not just during the giving season.


The same principles that lead to success for commercial organizations and e-commerce websites, can be harnessed to help your cause and your non-profit. Crafting a smooth user experience (UX) with intuitive navigation that works on desktop and mobile appealing design, and relevant, up-to-date content will help visitors feel confident in the organization. The aim is to eliminate any barriers to giving. Clunky forms, inconsistent and erratic messaging won’t cut it.

A good nonprofit website developer can help devise and implement a strategy to build on the successes of this year and make next year an even better one for your organization.

Happy Holidays!