My Secret Sauce: Building a Forgettable Donation Form

A big part of my job over the past 2 years has been managing a single donation form. During this time I’ve operationalized the A/B testing program and turned our focus from the “big and sexy” to… well… boring and iterative. It’s not all that bad, though! We’ve grown our revenue substantially each year – largely attributed to our mission to understand what makes donors tick. At the risk of getting sued for sharing trade secrets, here’s our secret sauce: our form is forgettable.

Working at a nonprofit often means you work around a lot of incredibly passionate people. Every change you implement carries an element of emotion with it… a lot is at stake! In our case any change we make could directly affect the lives of children. We want everything we build to reflect our commitment to the mission which often means putting a patient on just about everything. It pulls our heart strings. We’re more than just fundraisers, we’re experience builders! So what’s on my go-to checklist for building our donation form experience?

Well, we need to collect payment. Ugh, how sterile. Let’s include a quote about our mission… and add in a patient. The big question is whether the patient should look at me or the form. Oh and why not add in where the money goes? We really want them to remember WHY they’re making the donation.

Reality check time. If a donor is on the form we’ve already done something right. They’re on the form. They’re already emotionally invested. If your form triggers emotion it’s likely frustration. The last thing I want to hear from a donor is that they remember filling out the donation form. We’ve found that the most productive variables to test on the form are the donation amounts. Adding a patient did nothing noticeable. Adding a value proposition actually distracted our users and reduced conversion rate. Sure, maybe if we spent another few months testing different permutations we might find something that works; but we consistently win when we test variables that have zero weight on emotion.

So to the nonprofit world, here’s my gift to you: make your form forgettable and you will make money. You don’t want anyone to remember filling out your damn form – they should remember the mission instead. To the person who will inevitably comment “emotion worked for us!”… you might want to check on your acquisition strategy. A form isn’t a landing page. Just sayin’.

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