Web Marketing Today

Charitable Giving: How to Increase Online Donations

For charities, competition is high to capture donations. What’s the best way to get people to give? This article examines what charities are doing online — and what may or may not be working.

Criteria that Enhance Charitable Giving

The findings from various studies could offer ideas for increasing donations to websites and through social media sites. Here are two examples.

  • Focus on individuals. Stories that focus on one individual results in higher donations than appeals that focus on statistics or combining the individual story and statistics.
  • Ask for time, not money. In October 2008 Journal of Consumer Research, asking supporters for their time, not for their money, is a better way to increase donations.

Charitable organizations have different approaches. Testing these approaches may result in increased donations.

Local Charities

Below are several local charities with various budgets and staff that needed donations quickly in order to respond to a regional crisis, Hurricane Sandy.

The Rockland Community Foundation is small. With the advent of Hurricane Sandy, its home page is attempting to provide information regarding who they are, what assistance is available for individuals and businesses, and to solicit donations to aid those affected by the crisis. The result is a page that is cluttered and offers donors more than four choices in their main content section. There is no context given by the donate buttons and assumes the potential visitors know which fund they wish to benefit from their donation. If potential donors try to simplify their choices by choosing the larger “Donate Now” button on the left side, they are taken to a page that offers 22 choices sorted into 4 categories that may result in choice paralysis.

Rockland Foundation

Local website seeking donations during a crisis resulting in cluttered page.


In contrast, the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition website uses proximity and color to direct the visitors’ attention to its various content and has a “Please Donate Now” button positioned above the fold and to the right of the web page. The top header contains pictures of people who have been helped.


Local website responding to crisis and providing information in more organized manner.


Another local charity website is Food Bank For New York City. This charity’s home page is more clearly designed and has an obvious call to action.

NYC Food Bank

Direct Donation Appeal by Food Bank For New York City.

Established National Charities

Larger, established charitable organizations show how white space can be used to present the information more clearly.

The International Rescue Committee explains in an easy-to-read visual how a donation can be easily doubled. In addition, it explains that a $52 donation can buy a year of school. The page also features pictures of people it helps, a sense of urgency with the line “Donate by December 31, 2012,” and trust factors such as the Charity Navigator rating and the Better Business Bureau logo.


International Rescue Committee’s “Double Your Impact” appeal.


Public radio station WNYC offers its site visitors a pop-up window with a value proposition: “Increase Your 2012 Tax Refund by Supporting WNYC” — and showing a calendar with a visual countdown. Most visitors to the site are presumably people familiar with the programming and are likely listeners, people who have supported the station in the past, or are current supporters.


WNYC offers a visual countdown and value proposition to potential donors.

The last example demonstrates the power of the unexpected and also exemplifies the emotional connection.

Women for Women International uses a rotating banner to provide its primary messages. One of the first images displayed is of a distraught woman with the words “Crisis in DR Congo.” It also uses copy that has an emotional appeal — “You can make a difference.” — followed by charitable giving options: “Donate Now” or “Sponsor Now.”

WFW Crisis

Emotional appeal on Women for Women website.


The next rotating banner image is for its program where you can give animals such as goats and bees as a symbolic gift to support a woman. For example, for $100, Women for Women will provide a bike to a woman to transport goods.

Gifts That Give

Gifts That Give Back — such as an animal — banner on Women For Women’s website.


Finally, a clickable graphic moves over the top of the web page that shows a cow pulling a cart of vegetables and a sign “Help our garden grow. Browse our other gifts now.”

WFW CowOverlayGraphic

Clickable graphic overlays home page of Women For Women’s website promoting
its “gifts that give back” program.


When clicked, it takes the visitor to the gift selection page that is well designed with an emotional appeal, “Give a gift that helps women survivors of war change their lives.” Donors can choose a gift based on four categories or five price points.

Gifts That Give Back

Gifts that give back donation page, Women for Women International.


The final example shows an appeal based on concentrating the story on one person, Purita, age 2, on the Save The Children website. The page also contains a goal meter that shows how much more money is needed to meet the overall financial goal.

Save The Children

Save the Children website concentrates on the story of one child


Kathleen Fealy
Kathleen Fealy
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