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February 21

Higher Ed Donation Pages: How to Optimize Them


Almost every college or university depends on the generosity of their alumni and friends to help advance their mission. Unfortunately, many higher ed donation pages can be uninspiring, or worse yet, confusing or intimidating for users.

Any kind of negative experience or obstacle they run into is another chance that they’ll bounce off your page and go somewhere else rather than giving a gift.

Here, I’d like to share some helpful insights that I and my team have seen work when it comes to optimizing higher ed donation pages for conversions.

Clarify the Unique Selling Proposition

Every education brand has a unique selling proposition.

That is, every school has benefits for prospective students that only they have to offer.

These are the things that make you special and unduplicatable.

Your location, faculty, programming, technology, corporate values, and student life program are all different parts of your school that offer benefits to prospective students.

Perhaps the bucolic setting of your campus offers a safe place where beauty will inspire students.

Or maybe your professors have won awards in their field, thereby offering students a quicker pathway to success.

In the same way, you should define your USP for potential donors.

There are benefits to giving. Otherwise, fundraising wouldn’t work.

Alumni and donors give for many reasons:

  • Pride in their alma mater
  • Sense of obligation
  • Desire for recognition
  • Desire for exclusive access to top executives
  • Fear of losing an important academic program for the world (e.g., cancer research)

Donation pages should distill these benefits into bite-sized chunks that can be explained clearly and compellingly.

If you’re raising funds for a first-generation student scholarship, what is the unique selling proposition for that fund to the donor?

Perhaps it is that they’ll be a part of driving diversity in the workforce.

Or, maybe the USP is that the donor can leave a legacy for future generations.

Whatever unique benefit a donor will receive by giving, the donation page should zero in on that benefit in the copy.

Don’t Be Afraid of More Copy

If the unique selling proposition needs more copy to make a compelling case for giving, then write more copy.

How many words should you write on a donation page?

Those who advocate for short higher ed donation pages will tell you that attention spans are short, people are too busy to read more words.

But we’ve found that if the copy is written well, users will stay to read it.

The word count of successful higher ed donation pages depends on the nature of the USP and the amount you’re hoping to raise per gift.

Some value propositions need a little more explanation to be compelling.

If you want a higher average gift amount, you need more copy, generally speaking.

Clear Away Distracting Elements

Resist the temptation to place widgets, banners, sliding photo carousels, and other kinds of website elements which can lead the user to click away.

Higher ed donation pages should narrow the choices for the user to either giving or returning to the home page.

In my opinion, there should be only a few elements on the donation page:

  1. School logo at the top that links to the home page
  2. Copy
  3. Image or video (sometimes optional)
  4. Giving form

With only these elements on the page, users are given two options: 1.) Give, or 2.) Return to the homepage.

This way, the donation page eliminates distractions that can cause the user to forget the reason they clicked through to the landing page in the first place.

Only Ask for What You Need

This is a great rule to follow for all landing pages.

Whether you’ve designed the landing page for online fundraising or enrollment marketing, only request that the user give you the information that you really need to move the user to the next step of your relationship.

For example, if all you need is an email address, don’t ask for their home phone number and mobile number.

If all you need is their name, credit card info, and an email, refrain from asking them for more.

Giving forms should be as short as they can be.

Fields asking for demographic information such as age or birthdays should be used sparingly.

If you must ask for this kind of data, be sure to tell the user why you need it in the giving form.

Asking for this kind of information adds to the number of requests you’re making to the prospective donor.

As the requests for information pile up, it can be overwhelming and off-putting.

Worse yet, when you ask for too much information, the donor can feel suspicious.

In other words, “Why do you need to know?”

Minimize Fund Choices in the Giving Form

Related to the idea of asking for only what you need is to limit the amount of decision-making that has to be done when filling out the giving form.

There are many support-worthy needs on campus, and there’s a fund to help each one of them.

Naturally, advancement officers want the donor to know about all of these funds and have the option to give to all of them.

But if you place all of the funds that are available for support in a drop-down menu in the giving form, it overwhelms prospective donors.

Having that many giving options is also confusing.

You know what each of these funds are intended to do, but your prospective donor doesn’t.

Seeing all the names of your funds in a drop-down menu or radio button array will likely result in them not giving at all.

If you’ve ever been to a restaurant with a large menu, you know this feeling.

Too many choices leads to paralysis or worse yet, clicking away from your higher ed donation pages.

So, my strong advice is to create a separate donation page for each different campaign you launch.

If your campaign goal is to boost support for scholarships, only give the option to donate to your scholarship funds.

Likewise, if your campaign goal is to raise funding for a building or general support, create a separate landing page that only has the option to give to that specific fund.

Landing pages are one of the most common elements of a good digital marketing strategy.

For any content marketing or inbound marketing approach, you’ve got to create the right space for your target audience to land on after clicking on your email, social media post, or scanning the QR code on your print piece.

Crafting successful higher ed donation pages is critical to advance your marketing team’s mission.

So if you need any more help boosting your conversion rates on these landing pages, please contact us today.

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