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How to Optimize Your WordPress Site for Fundraising

Ira Horowitz of Cornershop Creative, a nonprofit web agency and a Pantheon partner, explores various methods for optimizing your WordPress site to drive doations.

Optimize wordpress site for donations

It’s all too familiar. You spend plenty of money and staff time on designing and perfecting your organization's website. But then, when it comes time to your donation page, you don’t have the time or technical resources. Instead, you resort to creating a simple form with platform defaults. 

Nevermore! Revisit your donation form and fundraising tactics regularly to make sure you’re following best practices for your nonprofit website. Here’s how to ensure success with your online fundraising efforts: 

  1. Provide your donors with clear paths to your online fundraising forms. 

  2. Optimize your donation form to convince your donors to give.

  3. Speed up your nonprofit website, so donors stick around.

Join Pantheon for an upcoming webinar on how to attract and retain donors in a virtual world. 

Provide Donors With a Clear Path to Your Online Fundraising Forms 

If you're hoping to encourage donations on your website, you need to make it hard for donors to ignore your ask by ensuring your donation forms are attractive and easily accessible. 

Make Donating Easy With a Clear Donate Button

If a potential donor has to hunt for where to make a donation on your website, chances are they won’t give. Just as you showcase the amazing work your organization does, be proud of your fundraising efforts that support that work. Adding your donation link as a part of your navigation and using a color that denotes action on your site is a great way to make donating easy. Our friends at Save the Children Action Network do a great job of this:


Put Your Donation Button EVERYWHERE

Now that you’ve made your donate button stand out, you don’t have to stop there. Make sure the opportunity to donate follows your user wherever they go on your site. While having your donation link in your navigation will mean it is always available, there are other creative ways you can engage your users and make donating easy. 

Our friends at Interfaith Alliance implemented a scrolling sidebar that literally follows you wherever you go. Click on it, and out pops an opportunity to both join their newsletter and donate money.

Interfaith Alliance

Reduce the Number of Clicks it Takes to Make a Donation

In our fast-paced world of 24-hour news, insta-everything, and Amazon Prime, don’t make your users jump through hoops to submit a donation.

Make the process as close to one-click as you can! We just rolled out a brand new nonprofit donation form for Lymphoma Research Foundation, where their donors can more easily enter their information, select their donation amount, enter their credit card information and submit. We broke the process into a three steps, so that not one step is too overwhelming.


Use Fundraising CTAs Throughout Other Content 

With a lot of website traffic now coming from social media posts on Facebook and Twitter, users are entering your site in many different ways and often through blog content. 

If a user is reading an article they find interesting, they are at their most captivated and committed to your cause when reading that article. Make sure there are follow up steps to your articles urging readers to donate. 

This tactic can also be done in the middle of the article. For our friends at Our Bodies Ourselves, we built a simple WordPress Gutenberg block that can be inserted into any page on the site. 

Our Bodies Ourselves

This callout reminds the reader that it takes people and money to write all this incredible content. 

Ensure You’re Easy to Find by Following SEO Best Practices 

Search engines want to serve quality content that is clear and authoritative. 

One of the best ways to increase traffic to your website and interest new donors is to make sure you’re following SEO best practices. 

  • Use a plugin like Yoast to make sure you’re including keywords throughout your content. 

  • Create quality content that is easy to read.

  • Make sure your important pages and posts all have clear meta descriptions. 

  • Write unique, descriptive titles that use 55 or fewer characters. 

  • Don’t forget to add alt text and use descriptive filenames when adding images. 

  • Use internal links with keyword rich anchor text. 

  • Build backlinks to your site through your friends and partners. 

  • Decrease bounce rates and increase time on site by improving the user experience on your site. 

  • Track results in your Google Search Console and use what you learn to address concerns. 

  • Ensure that content on your website loads quickly. We’ll cover this point in greater detail below.

Optimize Your Donation Form to Convince Your Donors to Give

Pay Attention to Your Donation Form Branding

Don’t just slap your logo on the top and assume people will trust your form is legitimate. Retain other elements of your site’s brand, including colors, fonts, button styles, and even images. Quality branding ensures your visitors recognize your organization and feel comfortable on your donation form.

Go one step further and remove your usual site navigation from your donation forms. This helps increase donor engagement, since your users are less likely to get distracted and wander off.

Some donation management and marketing platforms provide better features and control over settings than others. See what you can do to improve donors’ giving experiences by customizing images, text, giving levels, and form fields.

Strategically Select Your Giving Levels to Optimize Fundraising

Most people don’t give any thought to giving levels when setting up a donation form. They’ll often keep the default donation amounts, or they'll select random numbers that they like the sound of.

But these giving levels are actually very important! The amounts you select for your donation pages help your donors determine how much they should give.

keep oregon wild

In our experience, people most commonly select the second lowest donation amounts on fundraising forms. They want to go as low as they can without appearing to be cheap!

To determine which amount you should set as your second giving level option, you’ll need to do some research. Look at your past donations to find your average gift and review some benchmark studies, like the awesome studies from M&R Strategic Services.

Try setting your second highest option slightly above your current average. This way, you end up with one giving level below your average and several that are above your average. For example, if your average gift is $120, then your giving options could be $50, $125, $250, $500, and $1000.

Use your current data to make your form work best for your donors. If, for example, no one has ever given $1000, remove that option. If people are happily giving $125 and $250, try increasing your second option to $150.

Recurring Fundraising Strategy: Customize Your Donation Amounts by Gift Types

You should always customize your donation amounts for one-time and recurring gifts. Why? Because it’s rare for someone to give $125 — or even $50 — monthly. Having larger asks for monthly donors could scare them away from making any donations.

Many fundraising platforms allow giving level customization, though some may need to be customized with JavaScript. For example, you can see how we updated WildCare’s fundraising form to display different amounts for a one-time versus monthly donation selection.

Donation by gift

Pay attention to the amounts you choose, and you can increase giving and inspire new donations for your organization.

Show How Donations Will Impact Your Work

Showcase your work with strong images to ensure your donors feel committed and connected to your mission while they complete the donation process.

We helped our friends at Water for People build a custom donation form template on the Engaging Networks platform. As donors move through each step, a different image shows the impact the donation will have on people around the world.

 Water for People

Ask for Smaller, Recurring Gifts With a Recurring Pop-Up

Here’s an easy way to get more donations: Ask for a smaller, recurring gift, instead of a larger one-time gift.

Why? Monthly giving program data consistently shows that donors who sign up for recurring donations result in more donations over time than do those who give individual donations.

When donors complete the donation form and click on the submit button, they are prompted to either update their donation to a monthly gift or continue with processing a one-time donation. Both of these options are given equal prominence, presented in an elegantly-designed lightbox.

A recommended monthly donation amount is calculated using a script that checks the original one-time donation amount. Then, a pop-up panel presents a monthly gift amount option that’s approximately 20 percent of the original amount.


We helped Friends of the Earth and Jewish Voice for Peace expand their monthly giving programs through the use of a customized “lightbox” that overlays their donation forms.

In tests with Friends of the Earth, we saw a 4.3 percent conversion rate of people who chose the recurring option. This accounted for an increased “annual” gift from $100 to $240. Based on their average gift of $70 and this 140 percent increase from the extra revenue from the recurring gifts, Friends of the Earth is receiving an average addition of about $5,300 per year!

Jewish Voice for Peace was even more successful with a conversion rate of 10.53 percent and a 140 percent increase in annual amounts. Considering their average gift of $59 and total number of donors during a year, they stand to net an additional $11,886 by using the lightbox for a full year.

Fundraising Doesn’t Need to Rely on Credit Cards

Can’t find your credit card? No problem! There are ways you can still invite your supporters to donate without the hassle of entering a pesky credit card number.

Many online fundraising platforms are starting to support online payment vendors like PayPal, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, MasterPass, and Amazon Payment, where payment information is securely transferred from the vendor to the payment recipient. While these services do have a processing fee like other merchant gateways, they are trusted by users and make giving even easier.

Speed Up your Nonprofit Website, so Donors Stick Around

The health and stability of your nonprofit website is just as important as the content you publish. 

If your site isn’t ranking well in Google, your website will be hard to find. If your site loads slowly, donors will be less likely to stick around and submit a donation. 

Ensure Your Web Host Can Handle Your Website Traffic

If you’re looking for a WebOps platform with some of the highest levels of security, performance, and speed, Pantheon is the best option. Cornershop is hosted on Pantheon, and we frequenlty use the platform's Multidev tool, which allows us to build and test new features in a development environment, preview updates on a staging environment, and then easily push changes to our live site once they're perfect.

This makes it easy to respond to user behaviour with new functionality and design, and means we're constantly iterating and optimizing our clients' sites for the best fundraising results possible.

Improve the Overall Speed of Your Website 

Search engines want to send visitors to the fastest sites on the internet and site speed is one of the rare factors in their search algorithm that isn’t directly related to your published content. 

Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to test your page speed. 

This great tool will analyze your site and provide recommendations for improvements. To improve your speed score, we often recommend starting with: 

  • Implementing AMP on Google, a framework for building fast websites.

  • Serving images in a next-gen format.

  • Removing unused CSS.

  • Properly sizing images.

  • Using lazy loading techniques for images.

Another great tool that we use for testing site performance is GTmetrix. GTmetrix provides scores from both PageSpeed and YSlow, as well as additional information about how your site is performing. 

We recommend that you start by reducing the number of requests and total page size, instead of worrying too much about scoring a specific score. 

Ready for Some Donation Form Updates? 

You’re sure to see an increase in donations when you optimize your nonprofit website for fundraising. And of course, whether you need help with updating your form designs or increasing your site speeds, we’re here to help. Contact Cornershop today, and we'll follow up. 

Join Pantheon for an upcoming webinar on how to attract and retain donors in a virtual world.

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