A coworker forwarded me some feedback she had come across during an annual giving network discussion regarding website design for online giving websites:

I'm jealous of this https://giving.sc.edu/givenow.aspx even better is their main page http://giving.sc.edu/ which features not a click to give button, but rather, a box to start writing in the amount of your gift!

On our own website, we have a prominent "Donate" button that brings users to a form, which starts with an introduction about what the donation will be used for. Additional fields on the form make it clear to the donor the level of control they have over what the donations would be earmarked for.

I'm concerned that if we implemented a system where the dollar amount was the first thing entered, before any context would be given, that no matter how convenient it seemed, it might discourage potential donors. It would also seem to eliminate the possibility of upselling to a larger donation amount, if the first step is to put the amount of the donation.

Is it better to start with a dollar amount, or provide more context for the donation before asking for a specific amount? Will one strategy yield a higher conversion rate, or potentially a higher donation amount?

If it is relevant, our donor demographic is generally affluent senior citizens, with very few of our donors being under the age of 50.

5 Answers 5


This kind of change typically need A/B testing before making a decision.

First thing, some people simply do not give, so do not lose time with them. Therefore you have to focus on people that donate.

Help them ! Give them 4 choices and a pre-selected one :


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

People who want to give can find a hindrance in choosing the right amount. So by giving them choices you help them evaluate and compare their donation (there is a case with FT subscription pricing about that but I cannot find it), pre-selection is also a way to help them make a choice.

  • +1 nice focus on preselection as helping people make a choice
    – JohnGB
    Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 19:14
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    +1 for providing options while still placing the user only a click away from donating. I'd reverse the list order though, putting the largest amount first to establish an anchor. It's probably also a good idea to set the preselected default amount to slightly larger than your current average donation. Commented Apr 26, 2013 at 21:23
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    @3nafish I wouldn't reverse the order. Having the list in ascending order would make me feel good about donating a small amount and would make me feel better (and better, and better) about donating a bigger amount. Getting donations is about making people feel good about donating. List in reverse order would me feel like less good for "only" being able to donate a small amount. That may actually lose you donations as people may choose not to donate at all over feeling like they are "small potato" contributors because they can't afford more. NEEDS TESTING THOUGH. Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 10:39

My immediate reaction is that it greatly matters on subject matter, presentation, audience and all manner of other things, and that your best and most informative method of research is A/B testing in the real environment.

We can make all the suggestions and recommendations we like on here, but without putting it into practice you won't know what the real impact is in situ.

If you create a version of the 'dollar first' option that is easily switchable back to the current version, you can A/B test as little or as much as you like, when you like and for as long as you like (maybe even where you like) in order to reduce risk of lost donations.

For what it's worth - it's not an uncommon tactic, being supported by some popular online payment methods. Some examples:

Eunice Bennett Ministiries using WePay

NY Classical Club using Google Wallet


If you want to optimise conversion rates, use A/B split testing. This way you can test several approaches and measure the results. For Example:

  • A simple button that links to a payment page where the user can control amount and what it's used for


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • A choice of multiples like @Gildas Frémont suggests (great idea by the way)
  • Or maybe something like this:


download bmml source

I'm sure if you brainstorm a little there are more possibilities that could be more engaging. A/B testing would obviously also allow you to test different wording etc.

There are plenty of great resources about A/B testing out there so it's easy to get started.


A couple things I have noticed:

  • Many websites have multiple donation prompts on the home page. A button up top and a quick donation widget on the bottom (maybe below the fold). Just saying that you can have both the techniques in different locations.

  • If you are going with a donation widget (i.e. radio buttons with donation amount) enter image description here

A couple notes about the ordering and default selection:

  • Ordering from higher to lower amount is done in accordance to the reading pattern (top to bottom) or (left to right)
  • While default selecting an option, rather than selecting the largest option, I would select an option which is a bit more than the current average donation or some similar parameter. eg: If current average donation (most number of donations) is $35, I would select $50 as the default.

Finally, like others mentioned, always test what your audience is responding to.

  • Not sure about the order in which the amounts are shown. See my comment under Gildas' answer. Would you happen to know of any research on the effect of listing amounts in ascending or descending order? Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 10:41


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

No data or research to back this up, but my intuition is this:

  • As with all UX, you want to make the whole action as and fluid easy as possible. This will increase conversion and more importantly, make your users happy.
  • This means that if you can make a reasonable guess at a default amount, you should enter it, and let people change it if they want.
  • My experience with default donation amounts is that if you overestimate, people will move away. If somebody suggests a donation of 25 dollars, when I was considering 10, I will feel like my donation isn't good enough, despite the fact that I'm actually giving away my money. Bad vibes. So go for the smallest amount that everybody will be willing to donate.
  • For the same reason I wouldn't give a choice of multiple amounts (10/100/1000), since the people donating small amounts will just feel like they're at the bottom rung. And it's the people donating small amounts, that make up the bulk of your donations. The occasional 10k is nice, but the small change adds up to a lot more.

I would not put the money in a text field. No suggestion that the user has any obligation to increase the amount. If somebody is willing to donate 10 bucks, they'll change the amount. It's the people that will donate $1 but not more that you need to worry about.

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