A non-profit organization is selling tickets to an event. I suggested they add an opportunity to make a tax-deductible donation line along with the ticket purchase, like:

2 Tickets .... $45

Make a donation!

Your tax deductible donation blah blah

Suggested donation

[$10] [$20] [$50]

They liked the idea but insist that the buyer fill in a dollar amount instead of clicking the suggested amounts cause

Its not about what is easy. Its about stewardship of relationships and this is not the place to make a formal "ask". We're simply offering the opportunity in case they have the money or the inclination to donate to us.

I don't understand their point. From a "sales" point of view, I would think being able to just click a button is more enticing while entering a value is just more work on the user's part.

  • 6
    I can understand their point of view: get the amounts on the buttons wrong and you'll put people off donating altogether and maybe even turn them away from the organisation, but allow them to fill in their own amount and it will always be just right. I can also see you point of view: making it easier for someone to make a donation increases the chances of them doing so. I would be prepared to bet that this would require some research - I'd love to see the results! Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 13:15
  • That linked question doesn't appear to me to be a duplicate. It asks about whether to give a reason for donating before asking for a donation. This question here asks whether to give a suggested amount or a free-text field. Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 16:00

5 Answers 5


Based on work by Sam Ham with the Galapagos Conservation Fund and elsewhere, and my own unjustified opinion, I'd estimate that you'd take more money from suggested amounts rather than a pick-your-own-amount field.

However, it sounds like they're trying to protect the reputation they believe they have with the ticket buyer. They may assume, probably rightly, that if they're always nagging for money, they will eventually drive away regular donators, which would end up costing them more in the long run.

There's something to be said for setting an anchor value though. That's the sort of thing that can make big differences to donations.

Maybe try a proposal like this:

Initially the user sees a single button asking if they would like to donate.

On clicking the button, a panel slides into view with a couple of suggested amounts, and a choose-your-own-amount box.

That might appeal to their inclination to not appear greedy or demanding, whilst still letting people donate if they want to.

Bonus feature: one of the suggested amounts could be "round up to the nearest $10" or something like that... e.g. If the ticket price is $23, suggest:

( ) round up to $30 ($7 donation)
( ) add a $20 donation
( ) add a $50 donation
( ) donate another amount: [________]

Obviously the specific amounts should be considered carefully.

  • 12
    +1 for round up option, because that saves me of writing an answer myself.
    – Crissov
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 14:40
  • 2
    I've seen additional comments when you input an amount like: this allows us to finance bla-bla, written in a serious tone. While in some places you also get let's say funnny explanations like: this will finance the ventilation duct security on our death star. It's worth a thought at least, it isn't appropriate in every circumstance of course.
    – WalyKu
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 15:12
  • 4
    @Kurtovic pittsburghfoodbank.org does something like this; says things like "$50 feeds a senior for three months" when you mouse over the $50 donation amount. It's a nice way to augment this solution.
    – Brendan
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 22:23
  • I originally really liked the "round up" option, but the more I think about it, the less I do. Correctly or incorrectly, I assume that the price I would pay includes some amount above the actual cost, so the round up option begins to strike me as somewhat greedy. Plus, it makes tax time a bit of a burden.
    – Michael J.
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 21:04

As a potential donor, it always annoys me if I cannot change the suggested amount to my own preference. Don't try to tell me what my charitable donation should be.

I don't mind the suggested donation amount being there, but I just wouldn't make the purchase if I couldn't change it or remove it.

It also annoys me if I cannot donate to (or buy) things via PayPal - I can't be bothered to fill in my credit card details all the time. I'm fine with Amazon using my credit card details because I trust them and I don't have to re-enter the details.

This article - 7 Online Donation Page Mistakes To Avoid - suggests that you should include suggested donation amounts, and an option to make the donation recurring. (Personally I would give more for a one-off donation, and a smaller amount per month for a recurring donation - so that's another reason you need to allow people to change the amount.)

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding sites give different levels of reward for different donation amounts.


  1. In general, humans are motivated by “social norms” when making choices.
  2. There is a significant increase in average donation amounts when donors are given normalizing social information (like suggested giving levels!) on a donation form.
  3. Giving levels must be researched, realistic, and relevant to an organization and its goals in order to be effective.
  • 1
    Like the PayPal point, though personally I prefer the few sites that let me pay with Amazon, it's a smother experience. Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 2:28
  • 3
    Oh I haven't seen that, but it sounds really useful ...hope it is smoother rather than smothering though :) Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 10:48

I'm used to the solicitations that prompt a move to a higher level of giving, if I donated, say $100, a year ago, it will say "Won't you please donate $125?" It might then offer my last year amount along with both higher, and a blank space.

This is what I had in mind - (note, I left identifying info off)

enter image description here

My example was paper, for repeat donors. In the case of a web page, I'd suggest this approach -

Create the amounts that pay for levels of spending. e.g. for an animal shelter -

$25 will feed fido for 30 days. $50 will pay to neuter 1 dog. $100 will take 20 dogs to the opening release of "All Dogs go to Heaven"

I have a School for the blind on my short list of charities, and this approach is what got my attention. They don't use fundraisers, and my donation provides something tangible, I can literally say " I bought the school this number of books/training material."

In my opinion, this helps create a sense of connectedness with donors. And the numbers have meaning.


If the organization wants people to donate freely, without guilt or coercion, and not just because its easy, then having no suggested donation immediately visible is better.

I think the organization is looking for donors who are so pleased and satisfied with what the organization is doing that donors find joy in donating money to the organization. This is what I think they mean by "stewardship of relationships". The donors they ideally want will seek out the donation field and give big, and do so freely.

On the other hand the organization has financial needs. I think the strategies suggested by @Daniel Baird's answer are a good way to both increase the money flowing in while maintaining a free relationship with donors.


I'm not sure if this is helpful, but here's an article on some user testing done for the Obama campaign. They used pre-filled options.


  • 1
    In order to qualify as a proper answer in the SE sense, you'll need to include a summary. Link-dependent answers don't work well here. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 0:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.