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December 17, 2010

Make Online Donations Easy

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Amazon Web Services
A Salvation Army bell ringer
It wouldn't be Christmas-time without a Salvation Army bell ringer.

It’s the Christmas season, and The Salvation Army volunteers are outside stores ringing their bells. I would hypothesize that most people either (A) walk right past them, or (B) give them the change from their pocket. Both of those options are easy decisions that can be made quickly.

What can we learn from The Salvation Army?

People don’t like to think. The question of “how much should I donate?” is an open-ended question that can be surprisingly hard to answer. I bet a lot of people ask themselves that question and then leave without donating anything. When you are accepting online donations, make sure to have pre-set amounts with (if possible) rewards for each donation level. Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site often used to fund artistic projects, does a great job with this. They also use a threshold pledge system, which means that donations are not processed until a specific amount is donated.

Kickstarter pledge levels
On Kickstarter, donation levels and rewards make it easier for the user to decide how much to donate.

A recent success story for pre-set amounts are text message donations for Haiti and Katrina. I didn’t hear many people complaining that $10 is too much or that they wanted to donate a specific amount. Most people donated $10 without question.

The restaurant industry has also figured out that people don’t like to think. I’ve been to quite a few restaurants that show automatic tip calculations on the bill. While calculating the tip is not very difficult, I’m sure the average tip has increased at all of those restaurants.

It’s very simple to add pre-set amounts to a donation form. They are especially effective if you want to attract a lot of smaller donations, while not scaring away the larger donations. Imagine if every Salvation Army bell ringer also accepted $5 credit card donations, and all they needed to do was swipe your card once. I think they would get a lot more donations…

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