Key mistakes charities make with forms

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Designing the perfect online donation form can be a tricky thing. Trends and fashions change, technologies move forward and supporter behaviour shifts. But there are some common errors that we see a lot of charities making that can and should be fairly easy to fix.

Tell me everything!

There’s a temptation to collect everything you want to know about your supporter in one go – this might be your only chance, right?


In reality, supporters will drop away in droves if you ask too many questions, especially if you make those questions mandatory fields. Take some time to take apart the data you receive from the forms – split the fields into:

  • what you need to know to process donations
  • what you’d like to know to enhance your understanding of your audience (for example, how they have heard of you)
  • what you definitely do not need to know

Check with your data team what the minimum amount of data needed is – you may be able to take away a county field, for example, if postcode is mandatory. Take away the unwanted fields, and try to think more laterally about how you might collect the information you’d like to know. Could a supporter be asked the information you’d like in a follow-up email, for example? Could you infer from tracking where they may have come from and therefore what channels are driving the most donations? Make sure any data you are collecting is being used to inform your digital fundraising strategy and planning.

Test and learn

Repeat after me: I am not my audience.

Do you know how and why people give to you online? More importantly – do you know why they don’t? Your Google Analytics can tell you how long people are spending on the form, if they’re dropping off, and how far along they got..

There is no one magic form that works for everyone.. What works for you will be specific to your cause, brand and audience. Multiple pages of forms so a user doesn’t feel overwhelmed by fields? Works better for some, whereas other charities will see a one-pager produce more donations. Green buttons or red buttons? Font size, order of fields, how you position your Gift Aid statement – these are all things you can only know if you set up a programme of testing.

Know your current performance before launching any tests so you can see any differences easily, and A/B test if your web traffic allows that to be viable in the timeframe you have – this will make the test more fair and remove any other variants that might happen if you test one after another.

Look over here!

Once someone has started on a donation process, it is best to focus their attention on that and only that. Strip away all navigation if possible – remove the usual menu headers. Be clear on one call to action and try not to divert them away from that at all.


If you are not sure what sort of donation someone may want to make (one off gift, regular gift or paying in a collection from a fundraising event), try to split forms at the first page. That way, you can also be really clear on the fields you need to collect, which may vary for the different types of donation.

Be where they are

With around 40% of online browsing happening by mobile last month

you need to make sure that your form doesn’t just display correctly on mobile, but that every effort is made to make donating as easy as possible wherever someone is.

Your form needs to look good on mobile – bear reduced screen sizes in mind when it comes to adding any images. Try to offer a range of donation methods that include Paypal, Apple Pay or Google Pay – that way, spontaneous donations can come from supporters who may not be holding their wallet in their hand at the moment they wish to donate.

Ultimately, improving your donation forms can bring substantial gains, especially in terms of audiences that you are already driving to your site. Some small changes can lead to big differences in income.

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