How to Optimize Your Organization’s Website for Donations

In Digital by Dan McCurley

I started reading Nielsen Norman Group’s articles about usability and website design about 15 years ago, and they never disappoint. In a recent article, Janelle Estes reminded us that donors have high expectations for your organization’s website, and specific needs that should be met if you hope to get donations online. Janelle shares 5 tips to get donations on nonprofit and charity websites:

  1. Clearly Explain What the Organization Does
  2. Disclose How Donations Are Used
  3. Display Third-Party Endorsements
  4. Provide a Noticeable and Clear Link to Donate
  5. Streamline the Donation Process

She explains in depth why each of these is important, but I wanted to share some examples found out in the wild, for inspiration.

Clearly Explain What the Organization Does

Several of our clients do a great job explaining their mission on their home page. Here are just 2 examples.

Feed the Children

Mission statement

Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission

Mission statement 

Both organizations explain what they do (and not just their mission or vision) right up front. Notice how they provide links to learn more, for donors who want specific details.

Disclose How Donations Are Used

Many organizations struggle with this one. But look how World Vision discloses this information (again, with a link to learn more).

World Vision

how gifts are used

Display Third-Party Endorsements

One of the simplest ways to establish credibility is to include badges from endorsing parties. This is particularly effective if your nonprofit organization achieves superior ratings.

Compassion International


Provide a Noticeable and Clear Link to Donate

You might be surprised at how difficult it can be for users to find your donation form, even if it’s included in your navigation menu. For this example, look at the various ways charity: water promotes their donation page.

charity: water



charity: water includes a link to its donation form in the main navigation menu (as the first option), the body of the home page, the footer, and throughout other various sections of the site.

Streamline the Donation Process

Perhaps the hardest, and yet most profitable, way to optimize your website is to improve the user experience for donors. Notice how I’ve left out an example here…. Why? Testing trumps marketing intuition.

Every organization is unique, so the simplest answer is always test, test, test. Split testing different offers, layouts, calls to action, user flows, headlines and visuals is a sure way to streamline the donation process.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) testing can be done using third-party tools, eliminating strain on your internal team resources. More importantly, these tools enable statistically valid testing in controlled environments, ensuring that the results are accurate and reliable. Streamlining your donation process provides a better user experience, which in turn increases response rates and revenue.

Get Started with Digital Optimization

We’ve got a disciplined process to accomplish each of the 5 suggestions above. It’s called digital optimization. We’ve blogged about the principle of optimization, how it helped one client achieve a 200% lift in conversion and how we’ve used it to smartly evolve websites rather than wholesale redesign them.

If you’re interested in testing and optimization work with Masterworks, please contact me or Dave Raley directly. Or if you already work with us, contact your team. We can chat and see if optimization is a good fit for you.

Dan McCurley
Digital Marketing Strategist

P.S. If you’re involved with leading or producing digital work in your organization, I would strongly recommend signing up for the Nielsen Norman Group Alertbox email newsletter. They regularly publish practical and insightful articles.