The Essential Elements Of An Online Donation Form

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

What Is A Donation Form?

A donation form is a key tool you use to collect information to process a donation. While some fundraisers don’t pay them much attention, a donation form is actually one of the most important elements of your donation page.

If your donation form is straightforward and user-friendly, your donors will likely have a great giving experience. But a chaotic form will just leave you with a bunch of frustrated would-be donors. And it definitely won’t do much to convert your current donors into lifelong friends of your organization.

“If your donation form is straightforward and user-friendly, your donors will likely have a great giving experience.” tweet this

For donors, ease of use matters—and it’s up to your nonprofit or charity to provide this.

It’s time to take a good, long look at your donation form.

Is it clear and easily navigable?

Do donors instinctively know how to access it?

Is all the information on your donation form necessary and applicable?

A “NO” answer to any of these questions is a good indication your donation form needs a revamp.

In this post, we’ve outlined all the essential elements of an online donation form, as well as some key tips for customizing your own donation form. Regardless of how you power your donation form and page (through CauseVox or some other medium), don’t forget to cover the following bases:

Think: Simple & Necessary

Donation forms should be simple and straightforward. Everything on your donation form must have a purpose in completing the financial transaction and capturing any pertinent donor data.

Any extra questions you’d like to ask your donors, such as their preferred communication preferences and philanthropic affinities, should be left until after the donation is processed.

Another bit of advice: Don’t ask the same question over and over again, such as requesting multiple phone number or addresses. Stick with the motto: “One and done!”

Keep in mind; simplicity starts even before your donor gets to your donation form. Your website, social media pages, and even the emails and direct mailings you send out should all include links that connect your donors directly to your donation page.

Then, once they’re on the donation page that includes your logo and other brand consistencies, they should be able to quickly begin filling out the donation form.

Customize Your Donation Form

Vital Fields

The first thing your donor should indicate on the donation form is their gift amount. If you prefer, give your donor suggested giving amounts, also referred to as donation tiers (I’ll touch more on this later).

From there, you must collect all the important data you need to process the payment. This includes:

  • First and last name of donor
  • Email address
  • Physical mailing address
  • Billing information (including credit card number, address associated with the card, etc.)

donation form

Payment Processor

Every online donation form uses some type of payment processor, which takes the currency from your donor’s account and transfers it into yours. Each payment processor option out there has its own list of benefits and disadvantages.

In the past, most nonprofits relied heavily on PayPal to process online donations. PayPal is a secure, well-known processor that charges a fee of 2.2%+ $.0.30 per transaction for nonprofits. When a donor makes a payment on your donation form using a PayPal processing system, they’re automatically directed to the PayPal site.

Another popular payment processor is Stripe. Stripe allows donors to stay on your donation page to make the payment, which means they aren’t redirected to a third-party site like PayPal. With no redirect, Stripe offers an easy donor experience. And, Stripe does not require donors to set up an account to donate through their processor, the donor only needs a credit card! Stripe’s nonprofit fee is also 2.2% and $0.30 per transaction.

When it comes to choosing a payment processor, weigh your options and give thought to donor experience.donation form

Never select a payment processor that isn’t safe and secure.

Donation Tiers

Sometimes, donors appreciate a little guidance, which is why we recommend adding donation tiers to your online donation form. The main purpose of donation tiers is to provide your donors a guideline for giving.

In many cases, nonprofits choose to equate a donation tier with the intended impact. For example, a $100 donation may equal 30 toys to children in need, or a $50 donation could provide meals to 20 food-insecure families, etc.

To keep the donation form short and easily navigable for donors (especially those giving on mobile), it’s best to use between 4-6 donation tiers. Then, simply add the suggested dollar amount and a short, to-the-point description for each value. The best way to determine the values for your tiers is to look at your donor data. Determine the average donation amount and use that to set the standard for the rest of the tiers. Try adding a tier right at your average gift amount and a couple above and below this average.donation form

For more donation tier best practices, check out our post on the topic.


To make money, you’ve got to spend money and naturally, fundraising requires some upfront costs. Even though the majority of services out there cater to the budgets of nonprofits, services cost something. Instead of always calculating the net donation amount you get from your donation page, make it easy on yourself and incorporate donation tipping on your online donation form.

Donation tipping helps cover the 2-5% fee charged to process the payment. Consider the cost of platform hosting, payment processing (such as Stripe and PayPal fees) and even the overhead costs at your nonprofit or charity and then add the suggested percentage to your donation form.

Don’t be surprised if the majority of your donors choose to cover their transaction fees with donation tipping. In fact, we found that 75% of donors choose to tip when given the option.donation form

Recurring Donations

Allowing donors to sign up for recurring donations is a good way to boost retention rates and secure funding month after month. While many nonprofits choose to run a separate monthly/recurring giving campaign, that’s not necessary in all cases.

When donors select to give a recurring donation, they’re pledging to give a certain amount of money at a regular interval (most often monthly).

This post is a great resource if you’re curious about running a standalone monthly giving campaign.

Tip for CauseVox Everyday Donation Page Users: To add recurring donations to your donation form, simply select the option “Enable Recurring Donations.”Donation form

Post Redirect URL

After your donor submits their gift, they encounter a screen. Instead of showing them a generic message, it’s always nice to redirect them to a website or page of interest, such as your nonprofit’s homepage, a special thank you page, or a donor survey.donation form

Donation Receipt

As you’re wrapping up your donation form, go ahead and plan your donation receipt. A donation receipt is usually sent automatically after a donation is made.

CauseVox and other donation page hosts often allow users to pre-write a standard donation receipt, which is automatically distributed when donors complete their donation.

A donation receipt doesn’t necessarily need to be long or complicated. In fact, some of the most effective donation receipts include these elements:

  • Directly address the donor by name
  • Recognize the gift amount
  • Include your organization’s name
  • Information on how the transaction will appear on their credit card statement
  • Tax receipt information, including organization contact information, transaction number, and date of donation (if applicable)
  • And, arguably the most important thing you can add: a THANK YOU. Let your donors know how much you appreciate (and can’t operate without) their support!

Tip for CauseVox Everyday Donation Page Users: Follow these support tips to create the perfect donation receipt. Then, customize your receipt as you see fit!donation form

By incorporating these essential elements of an online donation form, you are giving your donors a great experience and streamlining your end of the process at the same time. A great donation form is a win-win for everyone involved!

Get started using an online donation page by creating an account. It’s free and easy to get started.

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