7 Online Donation Best Practices (That Actually Work)

Are you looking for ways to amp up your online donations? Your organization is already aware of the benefits online donations offer. Now, you’re searching for ways to maximize your online donations and raise even more funds.

Luckily, there are some strategies that can help you reach or even exceed your fundraising goals. If you want to optimize your online donations, keep reading for these seven online donation best practices:

1. Integrate your online donation forms with your CRM.
2. Use suggested donation buttons.
3. Simplify your online donation process.
4. Offer recurring gifts as an option.
5. Make sure your online donations are secure.
6. Give your supporters more ways to donate.
7. Create a peer-to-peer campaign to spread awareness.


Need some more help understanding online donations? Check out this helpful guide.

Online donation tip 1: Integrate your online donation forms with your CRM

Best Practice #1: Integrate your online donation forms with your CRM.

Online donation forms let you easily collect information on your donors, but all that information needs to go somewhere.

As long as your online donation software integrates with your nonprofit CRM, you can link the two together. The information donors fill out on their donation forms can be collected and stored in one centralized place.

Your nonprofit can benefit from this linking of information in three ways:

A. Automatic updates.

Every time a supporter makes a gift, their information will be transferred to your CRM. Think about this for a second. Your nonprofit will have the most up-to date information on your donors.

Let’s say a donor’s address changes; the next time that donor gives, you’ll have an updated address. You won’t have to go into your CRM and manually change the information yourself, which will leave you more time to focus on more important tasks.

B. Easy access to donor information.

If your donor information is fragmented, you won’t have a full picture of your supporters. It will also take you more time to locate and collect all the bits of information you need on a single donor.

When your donor data is centralized in one place, anyone with access can easily refer to the information it holds.

C. Get a comprehensive understanding of your supporters.

It can be difficult trying to engage donors without all the facts. Now that all your donor data is in one place, you’ll have clear picture of your donors. This can improve your engagements and help you analyze information on your donors better.

The takeaway: When you integrate your online donation software with your nonprofit CRM, you’ll have a more complete understanding of your supporters. You can engage with donors better, and those engagements could motivate your supporters to give again.

Online donation tip 2: Use suggested donation buttons

Best Practice #2: Use suggested donation buttons.

Sometimes your donors need a little direction when they give. In fact, most donors don’t really know how much is the right amount to give. That’s where suggested donation buttons come into play.

If you’ve ever made an online donation, then chances are, you’ve seen these buttons. They provide donors with suggested gift amounts and are often found on online donation forms or in gift request emails.

If your donation forms don’t have preset donation buttons, your supporters are left with a blank space, leaving the gift amount entirely up to them. For a donor, that can be intimidating!

So how do suggested donation buttons help? Using suggested donation buttons offers your nonprofit two main benefits. They can:

  1. Speed up the donation process. When you place a few donation amount buttons in an email, donors can simply click on the amount they want to give. They can continue with the donation process with one step already complete!
  2. Encourage donors to give more. Donors will see the suggested amounts and presume that others are using the buttons. They’ll infer that the preset amounts must be the right amounts to give and choose from the options provided. This gives you the power to guide donors to a certain gift amount.

If you use suggested donation amount buttons, just be sure include a few high and low amounts. That way, every donor has an option that fits within their means.

The takeaway: Suggested donation amount buttons help your nonprofit create a smoother donation process and can potentially increase average gift amounts.

Online donation tip 3: Simplify your online donation process

Best Practice #3: Simplify your online donation process.

Donors are taking time out of their busy schedules when they decide to give to your organization. Why not make the process easy for them?

When donors experience a quick process, they’re likely to give again.

If your nonprofit wants to speed up your donation process, here are few tips you can use:

A. Make some fields optional.

Not all of the steps in a donation process need to be required. And some of your donors looking for a quick process will appreciate it if they don’t have to complete steps they feel are unnecessary.

With optional fields, your nonprofit gets the best of both worlds. You can still collect information from willing supporters and keep your busy donors from abandoning the donation process.

B. Limit your form to one page.

Shorter forms are less intimidating because donors see everything they need to fill out and can gauge how long it will take them. Additionally, the process will take less time because there is less information for the donor to fill out.

The limited space will help your nonprofit be more particular about what questions to include. That way, you’re not stuffing your form with too many fields.

C. Create clear steps to avoid confusion.

No one wants to complete a confusing donation page, so make sure that every step in the process is clear.

Your nonprofit should test out your donation forms before they go live. If you encounter any complicated steps, your donors will find the same parts confusing.

If you need some direction on how to create better online donation forms, check out this fantastic guide.

The takeaway: A simple donation form gives donors a quick process. When supporters have a convenient way to donate, there are fewer barriers stopping them from making another gift in the future.

Online donation tip 4: Offer recurring gifts as an option

Best Practice #4: Offer recurring gifts as an option.

If you’re looking to increase your fundraising potential, then your nonprofit needs to offer recurring gifts.

Most online donation software contains a feature where you can insert a recurring gifts option into your forms. When donors use recurring gifts, they may give less, but their contributions over time will more than make up for the smaller individual gift size.

Plus, recurring givers have a higher retention rate. New donor retention rate averages around 23%, however; with monthly donors, you’ll have a retention rate of 86% after just one year.

Just in case you need a few more reasons to include recurring gifts on your online donation forms, here are even more benefits:

  • The process is quicker because donors don’t have to remember to return every month to donate.
  • Your nonprofit can expect funds on a regular basis.

The takeaway: Your nonprofit can increase your potential donations when you include recurring giving as an option. 

Online donation tip 5: Make sure your online donations are secure

Best Practice #5: Make sure your donation forms are secure.

Security is one element that makes some donors hesitant about giving online. Ease your donors’ worries by making sure your donors’ information is protected every time they give.

How do you ensure your donors’ information is secure? The amount of security is dependent on your online donation software. So, it’s time for your nonprofit to get familiar with security.

To make sure your online donations are safe, look for the following security measures:

A. PCI compliance

First, you want to make sure that your donation software is PCI-compliant. When your software provider is PCI-compliant, they follow a strict set of data security standards (DSS) created and enforced by the Payment Card Industry (PCI).

B. Tokenization

Tokenization is a process where delicate information is turned into a series of symbols, called a token. The token makes it harder for scammers to decipher the information. In fact, the payment processor is the only one that can translate the token and verify a donation.

C. 2-factor authentication

If you’ve ever had to verify an online purchase with your email or phone number, then you’ve experienced 2-factor authentication. For example, before a donor can confirm his debit card payment, he has to authenticate the gift through his email account or phone number. Basically, it helps you verify that your supporters are who they say they are, so you can avoid fraud.

The takeaway: Don’t give your donors any reason to be hesitant about using your forms. Make sure you choose a software provider that uses extra layers of security to protect your supporters.

Online donation tip 6: Give your supporters more ways to donate

Best Practice #6: Give your supporters more than one way to donate.

The beauty of online donations is that your donors have so many options. It’s up to your nonprofit to offer your donors more ways to donate so that they have a convenient giving experience.

When your nonprofit provides donors with more ways to give, you’re increasing your fundraising potential. Think about it this way: Not all of your supporters are going to prefer giving with the same method. Offering more options means you can cater to more of your supporters rather than a select few.

So what other ways can donors give? Here are few ways you can accept online donations:

  • Donation forms
  • Mobile apps
  • Text-to-give
  • Email donation buttons

Additionally, when you accept donations through different methods, you’re effectively making the process easier for your donors. Donors don’t have to block out time to make a donation. They can pick the method that bests fits their situation.

Plus, more donation channels give your nonprofit more flexibility.

Imagine that you’re hosting a fundraising event and you want to encourage donors to give during the event. If you offer mobile donation channels, your donors easily donate during the event when the desire to give is strongest.

The takeaway: You and your donors can benefit from having more giving channels; it gives donors more options and can increase your funds.

Online donation tip 7: Create a peer-to-peer campaign to spread awareness

Best Practice #7: Use peer-to-peer campaigns to spread awareness.

Peer-to-peer fundraising uses your existing supporters to raise funds on your behalf. Your supporters will rally their friends and family to raise donations.

In other words, peer-to-peer campaigns put fundraising in your supporters' hands. A successful campaign can help you increase your website traffic, spread awareness of your cause, and bring in new supporters.

If your nonprofit wants to host a peer-to-peer campaign, you’ll need a few things to get started:

  • A platform to host your campaign. The platform you choose is important because different platforms offer different features. You want a platform that can help you track information and can give your supporters some customization when it comes to setting up their accounts.
  • A group of passionate supporters you can ask to join your peer-to-peer fundraising event. Not all of your supporters are going to be ideal for this type of campaign. Start off by asking donors that have a strong connection to your cause or who have participated in past campaigns.
  • Content that your donors can share with their peers. Videos, images, and blog posts are all examples of content that you can provide to fundraisers. That way, your supporters have material to share with their peers and motivate them to donate.

Make sure that you help supporters set clear goals. Your fundraisers will be more motivated to raise funds if they can see how far they have to go.

The takeaway: If you’re looking for a way to amp up your fundraising goals and bring in your supporters for help, peer-to-peer fundraising is the best way to go.


Now that you’ve got these seven best practices under your belt, you can optimize your online donation channels to raise even more funds. Good luck reaching your fundraising goals!

Learn more about how you can accept online donations with iATS Payments.

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