The need for intentional donors

It’s nice to get an accidental donor, one who happens to be trolling the Web and finds a cause or organization and makes a snap judgment to give.

It’s nice, but it’s no way to build a fundraising effort, according to Steve McLaughlin, director of the Idea Lab at Blackbaud in Charleston, S.C. Rather, an organization should focus on intentional donors, those who are specifically visiting a site to learn more or to donate.

To do that, a nonprofit must optimize the paths that donors use online. Once donors are online, there are several best practices McLaughlin recommends to get higher conversion rates on donation forms. He breaks them down into Do and Don’t lists.


  • Make it easy to find.
  • Make it look like the organization’s Website. Consistent branding reinforces donor confidence.
  • Ask the right questions, but not too many. Keep the required fields to a minimum.
  • Test early and often. It’s the only proven way to produce results.
  • Make it more mobile friendly.


  • Require a lot of clicks. Keep it simple.
  • Use just one donation form. Target the right forms to the right donors.
  • Use an empty box for giving amounts. Suggested ask amounts increase average gift size.
  • Require donors to register. Don’t put an obstacle in front of them.
  • Force donors to scroll, scroll, scroll. Don’t waste their time with long forms.