Online Giving Form Checklist

This online giving form checklist is a tool to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table through a lack of functionality.

Would you have a phone line without an answering machine? We often forget about all the ways a giving form can help or hinder our fundraising results.

This list covers all the items I’ve been able to identify that will impact your bottom line.

Online Giving Form Security

These are basic requirements that you need to be able to securely process payments online:

  • Communication to and from the online form has to be encrypted with the https protocol. You can tell this is happen because the web address will start with “https://” instead of “http://”
  • The form has to be PCI Compliant. This is a standard enforced by credit card issuers and impacts all the places where credit card information is entered, processed, and stored.

Communications Capabilities

The online gift experience requires not only a gift form but the ability to generate emails and maybe even actual letters. All these communications reflect on your organization and impact the likelihood of a repeat gift:

  • Is the gift acknowledgement or thank you email fully customizable? Some systems will have hard-coded language that says “invoice” or “receipt.” Find a better system.
  • Will the system be able to generate reminders for pledges or recurring gifts? If someone is making an annual recurring credit card donation, a reminder beforehand will help you reduce attrition.
  • When credit cards expire, can the system handle asking donors for an updated number without human intervention?
  • Finally, for people that make multiple gifts online over a year (one-off or recurring), can the system easily provide data to send a tax-year gift summary?

Online Donation Tracking

You owe it to your donors to be as efficient and effective as possible in your online fundraising efforts. To do so, you must track the results of your fundraising efforts. Online giving forms provide ways to do it effortlessly:

  • Can you pass on data into the gift form through URL parameters? This could be an appeal code (a string of numbers and letters that will help you know what exact link the donor clicked on to fill out the form), or other useful data like campaign, user ID, etc.

Donation Form Payment Methods

In the US, credit card use is prevalent. In other countries, other systems that interface directly with your bank account are in use. Whatever the case, your form has to be able to handle all the ways that donors want to give to you:

  • The donation form must be able to allow recurring gifts.
  • If you choose to, you should be able to set recurring gifts as the default option.

Donation Form Conversion Optimization

As a fundraising operation, the form needs to make it easy for you to make on-the-fly changes and have flexibility for multiple uses while implementing conversion optimization best practices:

  • You should be able to change all the pieces of the form without IT support.
  • If you need different gift form setups for different campaigns, there should be a way to clone giving forms.
  • Support for multi-page forms is a usability best practice to deal with forms where you need to collect more info.
  • Of course, it needs to display well on all types of mobile devices.
  • A prevalent issue is “gift form abandonment” where people start to enter a gift but stop because they have a question or are interrupted. Your form should make it possible to collect their email toward the top of the form and give you this data to follow up with them. Even better if the system can detect these cases and send a nice email: “We noticed you may have had trouble with our giving form and wanted to offer to help.”
  • We know that an ask will be more effective if we present specific amounts we are asking for. On the other hand, not everybody needs the same ask amounts. The form should have a system to set these amounts variable depending on the user, link, or other factors.
  • Some large organizations have lots of projects or designations you can give to. You shouldn’t expect the donor to know them all, or even to have to choose among an enormous list of accounts. The form should allow you to “pre-designate” their gift according to the email they received or where they’re coming from on your website.
  • Finally, the giving page should not be the only place where you are able to display giving forms on your website. You need functionality to display a giving form (or the first step of your giving form) in your website header, in a popup, as a slide-in, and maybe even in an email!