suggested donations

The power of suggested donations

If you’re accepting donations on your website, you may have realized that encouraging visitors to donate involves more than just UX or payment options.

For example, in the Charitable Donations and the Theory of Planned Behavior, findings suggest that greater conceptual work is needed to accurately reflect the determinants of people’s actual donation decisions.

To promote public donations, charities can benefit from an understanding of the psychological factors of charitable donation behaviors.

How to ask for a donation?

What is an appropriate donation amount to ask?

How to increase visitor responsiveness?

Suggested donation is one of the fundraising strategies where nonprofits recommend one or multiple predefined donation amounts.

What is a suggested donation?

Suggested donations are a strategy where you recommend a specific amount for donors to give. You usually base this amount on your funding needs, the cost of your programs, or what’s typical for your donor base.

The idea is to give donors a guideline or starting point for their contribution, making the decision process easier for them.

Suggested Donations Benefits

Needless to say, you can’t force your visitors to donate a certain amount, however, it’s amazing how suggested donations can drive conversions.

These suggested donation amounts serve various purposes and key benefits:

Flexibility: While you suggest a specific amount, donors aren’t obligated to give exactly that. They can choose to donate more or less, based on their ability and willingness.

Guidance: Suggested donations help donors understand what level of contribution you consider helpful or meaningful.

Efficiency: By providing a suggested amount, you can streamline the donation process, making it quicker and simpler for donors to decide how much to give.

Psychological impact: Suggested donations can anchor donors’ perceptions of an appropriate donation amount, potentially leading to higher average contributions.

Customization: You can offer multiple suggested donation levels, each associated with a specific impact or outcome, helping donors feel more connected to the cause they’re supporting.

The Psychology of Donating: Understanding the Factors Behind Online Donations

Learn how to accept donations on your WordPress site with WP Full Pay.

There are so many factors people consider prior to donating on any website. They have to consider their current financial situation, how much they care about the given cause. Also, donors have to understand how their donation would support that cause, among many others.

People tend to make decisions based on other people’s behavior, it’s all about conforming to the group. And this is just as true when they shop in a brick-and-mortar shop, or donate on a website. 

When people are willing to donate online, the most difficult question they have to face is “how much should I donate?” If they donate a small amount, they might feel less satisfied compared to when they go with a higher amount. This dilemma can drive them away from your website, leading to abandonment.

Matching Grants

“Does price matter in charitable giving?” study suggests that matching grants can increase donations because they create a perception of increased value for the donor’s contribution (Karlan and List, 2007; Meier, 2007).

For example, if there is a 1:1 matching grant, for every dollar your visitor donate, the matching donor will also donate a dollar, effectively doubling the total contribution to the charity.

When donors feel that their donation is “worth more” because it will be doubled, leading to a larger total contribution to the charity. This perception of increased value can motivate more people to donate or to donate larger amounts.

Donation Amount and Perceived Impact

In the same study by Karlan and List (2007), it’s found that donors are more likely to give when they believe their donation will have a larger impact. This can be related to the price-quality heuristic, as donors may perceive a larger donation as having a greater “quality” in terms of its impact.

Transparency and Trust

Testing mechanism for philanthropic behavior” Research by Bekkers and Wiepking (2011)  shows that donors are more likely to give when they trust a charity and can see how their contributions are used.

Transparency in charitable giving refers to how openly a charity communicates about the use of donations, including financial statements and program outcomes.

Donors are more likely to give when they trust that their donation will be used effectively, which can be seen as a form of “quality assurance” for their contribution.

Donor Recognition

Studies have found that recognition for donations can motivate giving (Harbaugh, 1998). This is related to the concept of prestige sensitivity in the price-quality heuristic, where people are willing to pay more for a product that confers status or recognition.

Donor recognition, such as public acknowledgment or exclusive rewards, can create a sense of prestige and social status for donors. This sense of status can be a powerful motivator, as individuals may be driven to donate not only for altruistic reasons but also to enhance their social image. In this way, the desire for recognition can be leveraged by charitable organizations to encourage more generous giving and foster a culture of philanthropy.

How to Suggest a Donation Amount?

When suggesting a donation amount, you should keep the balance between understanding your audience’s capacity to give and the needs of your organization or cause.

Learning how to ask for a donation is not only about monetary but psychological factors.

Here are some steps for suggested donations:

#1 Test Different Suggested Donation Amounts

It’s crucial to experiment with your suggested donation amounts periodically. By testing various donation amounts help you determine which combination maximizes contribution. 

While suggested amounts can encourage people to donate, they also influence the number of donations received. Higher suggested amounts may decrease the number of donations but increase the total funds raised.

On the other hand, lower amounts might boost the number of donations but decrease the overall value.

#2 Determine Suggested Donation Amounts

Setting the right suggested donation amount can be a challenging task. Although suggested donation amounts influence your visitor’s responsiveness, you probably won’t get the amounts right for the first time. A best practice is to look back and see what was the average donation amount on your website if you have been accepting donations.

If the average donation amount was $50, don’t go way higher or lower as people usually won’t donate more than what they had in mind just because they see suggested amounts on their screen.

On the other hand, if someone donated $50, they would probably be willing to donate $55 the next time. If you know your audience, it makes it easier to get the suggested donation amounts right.

If you just started your donation platform, try suggested donation amounts that you feel comfortable with. You can always change them later according to what’s worked best.

#3 Keep Donation Preferences in Mind

Your donors typically fall into two groups: those who can donate more, and those who can contribute less.

Let’s say your website suggests donation amounts ranging from $20 to $150. Seeing the minimum amount, donors will be more likely to choose the smaller amount.

However, what about those willing and able to contribute hundreds of dollars? For these generous donors, the highest option of $150 on your page might seem limiting, even though they’d be happy to give more. The solution? Create a dedicated landing page for larger donations.

Below your suggested amounts, consider placing a link with a call-to-action, such as “Would you like to donate more?” This landing page can then offer starting amounts from $150 up to around $500. Donors capable of higher contributions will appreciate this tailored experience and are likely to donate more generously.

Furthermore, allowing donors to choose their own donation amount is crucial. Without the option to enter a custom amount, potential donors might leave your page without contributing.

According to the “warm glow” theory, people derive satisfaction from the act of giving itself, regardless of the amount and impact of their donation. 

#4 Emphasize a Donation Amount

Have you noticed how some donation pages have one donation amount that just pops out at you? That’s because they’re using a clever trick known as anchoring.

By spotlighting a specific amount, it grabs your attention first, which is highly effective. This method plays a big role in helping your visitors decide how much to donate.

Most of the time, donors end up giving the amount that’s highlighted or something close to it, treating that figure as their go-to or default value for donations.

#5 List Your Preferred Amount in the Second Place

Ever notice how you rarely pick the cheapest option when shopping or grabbing a coffee? You usually opt for something a bit pricier, believing it offers better value. This mindset isn’t just for shopping; it applies to donations, too.

Most people don’t want to appear stingy by choosing the lowest amount, but they’re also wary of spending too much. That’s why placing the donation amount you hope to receive most as the second option is a smart move. It naturally attracts donors who are looking for a middle ground—generous but reasonable. Many businesses use this tactic, and it’s equally effective for donations.

So, next time you’re setting up your donation options, remember to slot your preferred amount right in that sweet spot: second place.

You might also like to read: 9 donation page best practices to fire up your fundraising