Donations on your Church Website (Part 3): Influencing The Outcome

close-up of Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi

When you ask for donations on your church website, it matters as to how much you ask for. By pairing a suggested donation amount with a type of donation, you not only influence how many people give, but how much they finally give. I will explore methods and explain how they can be best utilized.

With the success of your donation program hanging in the balance, what are your options? You really have three choices, blank, locked, and guided. Below I will give the pros, cons, and my suggested usage of each method. But before I do, please know that these are not deceptive practices. You are not fooling a user into donating, you are using some simple tips to nudge them to make a choice that you hope is enjoyable for them and profitable for you.

Blank Donation Value

  • Pro: If you ask for a donation, and allow the user to input whatever amount they want, they may enter a lot of money. You limit them only to their generosity, and can be used for both one-time and recurring donations.
  • Con: With no suggestions, they also might enter a lower amount. Your user has no anchor point and you lose all possible influence over what level the donation might be.
  • Suggestion: Use for all kinds of donations, however, there is often no real suggestion your congregation can go on. Probably the best situation is a “fiscal year end giving” drive. Many churches have a push to meet their projected giving as are typically coming up short. The pastor may ask the church to help out with whatever they can; and this is the best way to leave it up to the individual.

Locked Donation Values

  • Pro: You can direct people to predetermined values that would best help your cause. Also, pre-selected values and design treatments can further nudge users to a particular amount. Plus in many cases, the more you ask for, the more you will get.
  • Con: If the donation amounts are considered too high, users will abandon the form altogether. Or worse, they wanted to give more but do not want to fill the form out multiple times.
  • Suggestion: These kind of “pick a donation” campaigns would be best suited for a goal-based project such as new construction. Often donors will buy an inscribed brick, or get their name in a program, or on a plaque. The level of the donation correlates to the level of recognition they receive.

Guided Donation

  • Pro: Can utilize elements of both conventions. You can offer locked values, one of them pre-selected, and a blank donation value if they wish to donate more or less.
  • Con: None really, this is a method that can utilize the best of both methods and eliminating the shortcomings.
  • Suggestion: As mentioned in the pro, use a combination of methods to create the best scenario for your campaign. If you have a series of increasing locked values; place the blank field next to the highest amount. This will nudge the user to offer more rather than less.

Action Item: Consider the types of donations you wish to ask for, then see how different conventions can nudge your members to give a particular donation size. Choose methods that best suit your situations before you select a service provider. You want to make sure the service you finally settle on can process the transaction you wish to initiate.

Note: This article was inspired by Paul Boag’s article titled “Nudge your users in the right direction“.

Photo courtesy of; and yes, Obi-Wan Kenobi is my favorite Jedi!

Author: Stephen Morrissey

I have been making websites since 1996, and using social media since 2006. My current profession is designing user experiences for corporate software, websites, and mobile applications. I started sharing my knowledge with the world in 2011, about a year after a revival in my faith.

One thought on “Donations on your Church Website (Part 3): Influencing The Outcome”

  1. Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the nice clear, concise way things are laid out. It’s indeed important to think through how people react to the options you give them and to pick your options accordingly.

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