According to multiple studies, 50 to 70 percent of online donation attempts end before completion.
Let’s put “donation abandonment” into real-world context. We pour precious resources –money, time and creativity – into finding like-minded donors and convincing them to view our website. These potential donors then click the “Donate” button, saying in effect, “Yes! I want to share a portion of my wealth to help others through your organization. I believe in what you’re doing!” However, at some point during the donation process, we convince more than half of them to change their minds, close the page and do something else!
If our donation process nullifies a donor’s initial excitement before they complete their first attempt to help, how can we reasonably expect our organizations to grow? Also, consider donation abandonment in terms of return on investment (ROI). If your abandonment rate ranges on the low side of normal at 50%, resolving the issue can double your online revenue!
As I studied the issue of online donation abandonment in depth, I identified five factors of donor psychology that, when addressed with specific remedies, virtually eliminated the problem. Here are those five factors:
Factor 1: Continuity
Continuity is the perception that the donation process flows naturally from the value proposition and call-to-action. When a potential donor lands on a donation page that bears little resemblance to the appeal page, he or she questions the validity of the sudden transition and will likely abandon the giving process.
Let’s put “donation abandonment” into real-world context.
We have just a few seconds to reassure the user he or she has landed in the right place. And, by choosing the right language and images, we must assure the donor that the money will be used as promised in the promotional copy.
Factor 2: Friction
Friction is the cognitive resistance to any element of the online transaction process, and usually manifests itself as confusion. To reduce friction, give the donation form a simple, straightforward appearance with an orderly, predictable layout. Minimize the total number of clicks necessary to find the donation form and then complete the entire process. And above all, be certain your giving page is mobile-friendly.
Factor 3: Anxiety
Anxiety is emotional resistance to any element of the online transaction process, usually presenting itself as concern.
Here is the difference illustrated:
Friction: Requiring the user’s high school locker combination. That’s a cognitive difficulty I cannot overcome.
Anxiety: Requiring the user’s social security number. That’s an emotional difficulty that creates concern.
The remedy for the problem of anxiety is trust. On the donation page, increase trust by assuring the donor that information will be held in confidence, that the transaction is secure, and that your organization is trustworthy.
Factor 4: Momentum
Momentum preserves the feeling of ease or effortlessness throughout the online donation process.
Frontload any decisions the user must make, such as donation amount, one-time versus recurring and payment method, while excitement remains high. The remainder of the donation process should be a matter of supplying routine information as we affirm the donor’s wise decision. Use “thank you,” and rewarding language, throughout the process.
Then, keep the momentum going toward a subsequent gift. Thank the donor promptly and confirm that the gift has been set to work as intended.
Factor 5: Cognitive Bias
A cognitive bias is an unconscious – and often non-rational – mental shortcut in decision-making. For example, a 2009 Cornell University study found that diners in upscale restaurants spend less when menus contain the word “dollars” or the dollar symbol “$”.
“Anchoring” is another cognitive bias that can affect the donor’s perception of your value proposition. Pay attention to numbers that appear on screens prior to the donation page. Users may be unwittingly biased when selecting a donation amount. When using a gift array, pay attention to the smallest amount and how it may bias the user’s perception of your value.
Measuring for Results
Connect with your Web development team and have them begin measuring donor abandonment. With Google Analytics, this is relatively simple, even for novice developers. Count the number of times users click any of your “Donate” buttons, and then compare that number to the number of online donations received.
Track these two numbers on a weekly basis, and consider making donor abandonment a key metric in measuring the effectiveness of your marketing, communications and Web-development teams.
After a fifteen-year career as a mechanical engineer and project manager, Mark W. Gaither graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. In addition to writing and teaching, Mark serves as Director of Donor Experience with Buckner International, which serves vulnerable children.