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5 Reasons Donors Choose Not to Give

Woman bites pencil while looking at laptop in frustration

It’s tough to think about, but the reality is that 98 to 99% of the people who visit your website will not make a donation. 

Beyond that, somewhere around 80 to 85% of the people who click on your “Donate” button are not going to complete their gift. 

So we need to ask ourselves, why are people choosing not to give? 

Oftentimes, we look at the fact that someone would click the donate button as a huge win. 

But the reality is, we have to help them complete the action they initiated. 

Namely, they want to make a donation. 

My good friend and colleague Jeff Giddens from NextAfter once put together a list of five reasons donors choose not to give. 

In this blog post, I’d like to give my take on this list.

1. Too Many Decisions

The number one reason why donors choose not to give after they’ve clicked the donate button is that we forced them to make too many decisions.

For a donor who’s already decided to give, having to make another decision along the way is friction getting in the way of the gift.

Asking about matching gifts, stocks, mutual funds, donating your vehicle, incentive offers, designations, tribute gifts, or making a biannual pledge…

confused love actually GIF

All of these can be friction stopping your donor from making their gift.  

Truth is, we have so many options, so much technology available to us at the click of a button, that oftentimes we overwhelm our donors with choices. 

It’s not that those individual choices are bad, 

It’s that when we overwhelm our donors, we stand in the way of the decision we want them to make. 

To make a donation. 

2. Difficult to give

So this list item is a bit more nerdy than the rest.

In this step, we look more at the giving form to understand what’s going on and why people might be turned away from giving their gift.

Let’s list some common causes of friction that come up in a lot of giving forms.

  • Field number: Having too many fields to fill out feels a lot like work. Most donors bounce off the page rather than spend 20 minutes of their time filling out fields.
  • Field layout: Sometimes the order of the fields causes friction. Start by asking for simple and easy information that doesn’t require them to look anything up. Also, I recommend stacking forms in one column rather than having two columns that make the giving form more complicated to fill out.
  • Form error: Giving forms should work seamlessly. If an error message pops up (even good intentioned ones, like improper address errors) your donor is likely to abandon their gift.
  • Confusion: Avoid confusing labels. Write clearly what you want the donor to provide in each field. If it’s too confusing, consider deleting the field. 
  • Device error: If a giving form will not work on mobile devices or on different browser platforms, that will deter many of your donors from giving. Forms should work on all major devices and platforms.
  • Multi-step forms: Having multi-step forms can be discouraging. When the donor finishes the first one, they think they’re done – and yet another form pops up! Try to put all your forms onto one, easy step.

Keep in mind that friction happens in the mind of the donor. 

Friction doesn’t happen on the screen. 

It happens in the way a donor reacts, or the way a donor feels, when they look at your form, when they read the content in your form, or when they look at the image on your form. 

These are creating feelings in the mind of the donor. 

And when the donor chooses not to give, then the donation opportunity is lost. 

We’re optimizing the mind of a donor, the decision-making sequence. 

3. Talking like marketers instead of real people 

Philosophically, this one is so easy to fall into. 

As fundraisers we have a trade – we have a craft – we’re trying to apply. 

But in fact, a lot of times the way that we look at a form is not the same way a donor looks at the form. 

We look at things and think “Oh, that’s clean.” 

Yet the donor just sees noise. They see breakdowns of costs, program details, office admin talk, etc. 

Ellie Kemper Nerd GIF by The Office

They see things that do not make them want to give away their hard-earned money. 

For us, all the transactional and organizational details are important. 

But that’s not always the case with your donors. 

Give them the big picture. 

Show them your value proposition. 

Arrange the technology so that it disappears into the background.

Real people asking their friends to give to causes don’t talk about the administrative details. 

Neither should we. 

4. Weak value proposition

If you only had one thing to work on for your donation page, it is this! 

Most of the time, donors abandon giving because our value propositions are not clear and compelling. 

From beginning to end, our donation pages should be answering the following question.

Why should I give to you rather than someone else… or not at all? 

Answer that question clearly, and your donors will start to convert at a higher level. 

5. Forgetting what it’s like to be a donor 

This one is like number three when we talk like marketers speaking about the technical stuff that matters to us rather than to the donor. 

But there’s another way that we talk that can really turn off donors.

Too often, we tend to talk a lot about ourselves. 

Unfortunately, we tend to talk about the organization rather than the cause or the impact a donor will make with their gift.

Frankly, that’s a turn off.

We need to put the donor at the center of the conversation that we’re trying to have.

I mean, we are asking them to give up their money to help a cause. 

They don’t necessarily need to know about the history of your organization.

They don’t need to know about your five-star rating at GuideStar. 

Those things matter, but they are not what we lead with. 

And ultimately, those aren’t the reasons why a donor is going to choose to give. 

Donors give because they feel connected to a cause and confident in your organization. History, ratings, and other details only reinforce their confidence in the decision that they are hopefully about to make to give, not drive it. 

So those are the five reasons why donors choose to abandon giving on donation pages.

For help avoiding these missteps and optimizing donors to give more, contact us today

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