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NFP Website Donation Page Research ‘Surprising’

17 March 2016 at 10:56 am
Lina Caneva
New research to benchmark what the online giving process is like for Australian donors has uncovered some initial findings that researchers have described as “surprising”.

Lina Caneva | 17 March 2016 at 10:56 am


NFP Website Donation Page Research ‘Surprising’
17 March 2016 at 10:56 am

New research to benchmark what the online giving process is like for Australian donors has uncovered some initial findings that researchers have described as “surprising”.

The initial findings of a longitudinal study by Parachute Digital Marketing have revealed that few charities offer direct debit options, many are not mobile friendly and most organisations don’t validate their donor data.

“To conduct our analysis, we made a $10 donation to 109 Australian charities via their website donation page between November 2015 and February 2016. Where we could, we looked for appeal donation forms as well as the generic website donation forms,” Parachute Digital CEO Shanelle Newton Clapham said.


“We identified 59 points of criteria we wanted to benchmark Not for Profit organisations against, such as content on the page, use of dollar amounts or dollar handles, payment options and processing, the number of form fields the donor needed to fill in, data validation, the user experience on desktop versus a mobile and how charities say thank you.

“With 59 points of analysis, our findings were immense and detailed, but there were a number of things that really surprised me.”

Newton Clapham said that only 10 per cent of organisations had “make a monthly donation” as their default setting.

“Given the strong strategic focus on regular giving for all medium to large charities, this was an interesting insight,” she said.

DOLLAR AMOUNT DONOR“Only one-third of charities use dollar handles to explain to the donor how their money could be used and most organisations are not validating the donor data that they’re capturing through their online donation form.”

Newton Clapham said that on average there were 19 form fields that donors are asked to fill in.

“And 15 of these form fields are mandatory,” she said.

“As well charities are not validating if the mobile number is 10 numeric digits, and they are not validating if the postcode and state match. Only 18 organisations validated the mobile number to Australian format and only seven of those validated the postcode against the state as well.”

The research found that out of 109 donation pages, only four website forms use video to tell their story.

“When it came to saying thank you, seven charities rewarded their donors with a video, but none were custom-made thank you videos, which is disappointing,” Newton Clapham said.

“Even more surprising is that only 31 organisations have an image on their website donation form. That means two-thirds of charities lost the opportunity to make a stronger emotional connection with their donor. So we can only assume that this would greatly affect their donation page conversion as well.

“With all the buzz about being mobile friendly, I was shocked that only six organisations gave donors a numeric keyboard to input all of the digits for their phone numbers, post codes, credit card numbers and the CCV. Some offered it for phone or for credit card, but not for all numeric fields.”

Another 28 organisations allowed donors to give by direct debit but only 17 offered PayPal as a payment option.


“If a donor doesn’t want to use their credit card, they have no alternatives available on over 80 per cent of charity websites. Perhaps this is less of a surprise as it is a clear indication of what must be improved,” Newton Clapham said.

“The first rule I was taught in fundraising was ‘give the donor options’ – the option to pay how they would like to is a pretty important one I think.

“I was saddened to see that even when a donation is made, most charities are not taking the time to say thank you well. Less than 20 per cent of donation thank you pages were personalised with the donor’s name and at least 10 per cent of organisations are still manually processing payments and sending receipts by mail.

“Finally, of the 109 organisations, only 10 followed up the research donation with a second ask by phone, email or mail.

Donation regular

“This is another missed opportunity.”

Newton Clapham said the next step in the  research would be to align the website donation experience with the donor conversion data.

“We are asking charities to assist us by providing this information. We will then cherry pick the donation pages that we believe give donors the best experience and compare that to the conversion data that will show how donors are responding,” she said.

“Then we will do one on one interviews with donors where they get to choose the charity they want to donate to and afterwards, we’ll ask them to tell us why.”

She said Parachute Digital Marketing would share the full research in September 2016.

“In the coming months the research will be overlayed on the website donation page findings with conversion results from charities who choose to contribute to the research as well as insight from donors themselves,” she said.

To contribute to the online donation conversion data, contact researchers at

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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  • Michelle Chadwick says:

    I can see that Parachute Digital are assuming charities can afford to have websites designed and operated as per their ideal standards. I’m sure there are some charities that can but I know through experience this is not the case for many charities. I am the director of a NFP health promotion charity that receives no funding. We are struggling to raise the funds for a decent website that does what we need it to do including having a decent donation page. The only offers we have had to do the job probono have been from people who we have fortunately realised are not capable of doing the job properly. And this is something that needs to be considered – there are no doubt many charities that have either accepted probono help or who have indeed paid a substantial sum of money expecting to get the best website possible for their needs and have instead ended up with a website that is well under par. It’s extremely difficult when you are not a website expert yourself. You not only have to look for the right person to do the job, not knowing what it actually takes to do the job, but you then have to trust that the person you choose will actually deliver quality work.

    Im actually surprised that parachute are surprised at what they found. I guess it’s possible that they are aware that the charities they analysed are well funded and can afford appropriate staff to ensure their website is the best it can be, otherwise I don’t think their findings are very helpful at all. Knowing your website is substandard and being able to do something about it is two entirely different things.

    • Juzz Franks says:

      Michelle Chadwick –
      get in contact with me and i may be able to help you. As a web designer that’s worked with churches and charities, i can possibly help with some ideas/ solutions. Juzz

  • Michael Woodhouse says:

    Excellent points Michelle. I’d add that many charities the level of online donation is so low basically all the donations go to paying the credit card processor and the web company, so the whole exercise is marginal. Also worth noting just how hard PayPal make it to establish a customer relationship when you are a charity. An omission in the research is use of third party donation processors such as Give Easy, I’d like to know how they are working out for recipients.

  • Robyn Downing says:

    I agree that Michelle has raised some excellent points. I run a small foundation, attached to a relatively small not-for-profit hospital (with NO government funding). We have 1 staff person, me, 2 afternoons a week, but we don’t have our own website – or indeed, any regular IT budget! Luckily all of our IT services are provided free by the hospital.
    We’re not likely to have our own website in the foreseeable future due to the cost; we do have some information pages on the hospital’s website, but no payment facility is able to be provided for foundation use – so we have set up a link to a payment facility through GiveNow, at no cost other than minimal credit card merchant fees.
    After 25 years in fundraising, I find it a little scary that people working within the fundraising industry, and as suppliers to it, can assume that it’s just a lack of knowledge on what to do. They should not assume that (a) every charity can afford to have a great website, (b) that they can fully control the design process and implementation, and (c) that the resulting site will encompass everything a supporter needs and meet best practice fundraising standards. Only large charities with substantial budgets can afford those whizz-bang websites!!
    Additonally, some very small charities run entirely by volunteers could well be the ones with incredibly needy and deserving causes, yet they face missing out on on-line support because they can’t afford the infrastructure start-up costs and on-going implementation.


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