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On-Line Giving
On-line giving
On-line giving forms are some of the most difficult to design. They must be comprehensive enough to record as many characteristics of a gift/pledge as possible while still being simple enough to use as an on-line form.

At the onset, it's always good to have the appropriate staff participate in the design of the form and the associated business processes so that essential information is captured and transmitted in a way that maximizes efficiency.

Directing Users to On-line Giving

Links to an on-line giving form should be on a prominent area of the institution's web site, and as a standard menu item within the Alumni/Development and related pages. Count the number of clicks it takes to get from the main page to the on-line giving form.

There should also be a link to/from a compelling case statement, or some indication on the page where users can be educated about the value of giving to the institution.

The use of the form should be marketed continually in all publications, pre-mailings and by the telemarketing staff during calling.

The User Experience

User ExperienceInstructions for filling out the form should be clear and required fields should all be noted.

In addition to clear instructions, the form should be designed in a way that steps the user through the giving process in a logical fashion, particularly if a multi-page form is used.

As with other on-line forms, ask the essential questions rather than all the questions you may wish to ask of someone using the form.

The form should have a contact phone number and email for help or to request additional giving information, or direct links to other development areas such as planned giving.

If you do have links out of the form, remember that if a user has partially filled out a form, that the fields do not automatically clear when the user goes back and forth otherwise they will have to fill it in again.

Designations are also tricky. You have to allow enough choices, but you can't offer the whole chart of accounts. For school with multiple colleges or divisions, you should have custom forms with a targeted case, logos, campaigns and designations. They can be built using templates so your maintenance effort is minimal.

The form should be designed to to collect information for all gifts and pledges and should allow for all  payment methods used by the institution. Make sure you accept all credit cards as you will find that some will have larger average gifts than others.

Ideally, credit card verification and billing to the donor's account should be automated, but some sites may wish to start with a form that emails all of the information to a donations management area where credit card billing is done manually. This also allows you to make an additional follow-up or phone call to the users and add a personal touch that might not otherwise take place, although depending on your volume of on-line gifts you may wish to do this regardless of automatic verification.

Since matching gifts are an important component, some forms will have an additional search component that will list matching gift companies and allow the user to select their own firm and automatically populate this information on the form.

Some of the search engine toolbars and browsers now come with the ability to automatically populate certain form fields with name and other information providing you have the field names that match, so also consider this in the design and creation of the form.

If you're using cookies as part of the technology of your alumni and friends online community, you can also use some of this information to pre-populate the form to make it easier for users to complete and make their gift or repeated gifts.

The tendency in form design is to not have the user scroll, but to use multiple parts for a form so the user can click through the forms in a logical and organized fashion.

Security and Privacy

SecuritySome users may still not be comfortable with an on-line form so make sure that a link to printable form is also included. You may wish to include both a PDF and a Word version. The printable form should also have the same dropdown boxes and selection criteria that the online one does.

You should have a link to your organization's privacy policy which is actually required in some jurisdictions.

There should be a link find out about security, but the security link should not brand the form to the security company by displaying logos too prominently. This information is best presented by some short explanation with a link to drill down and find out more.

If you don't have a secure form it goes without saying that you shouldn't take any credit card information through the web.

Don't take chances with security. Forms should automatically interface with your credit card vendors and banks, but you shouldn't store credit card and other sensitive information on a database on your web server, which may be subject to attack.

Instead, get this information sent directly back to you from the vendor for the secure services and then upload or enter on your advancement system if you need to.

Forms With Login Requirements

Forms with Login RequirementsIf you want to populate the form with information you have on a database, then the user will have to log in at some point with a password. If you're going to do this, have the login as an option on the form, so a user could still fill out and submit a gift without having to log in or even have a second form that doesn't require login.

A form that is populated from your database will give a richer experience to the user and will allow them to change and modify their information much easier. For example, you can provide them with a history of their giving, custom drop down lists of accounts, allow them to make a specific payment on their pledge schedule, display custom messages after they login and direct them to other areas of your site after their gift is confirmed, such as a reunion page if they are in their reunion year.

You'll have to weigh the balance between the user experience and the administrative trade offs of maintaining a password system for your online giving form and also maintaining all of the data presented on the form in a way that the users will understand. It will also force you to do additional data cleansing.

However, if you already have an alumni community, this will be less of an issue since alumni communities already have the facility for managing passwords.

Monitoring is Important

Monitoring is ImportantRegular monthly statistics should be kept of the number and amounts of online gifts received though the use of the form, and also the click through behavior of users to and from other areas of the site that the form is placed on.

Try repositioning the links to the form and have the link on more than one page on your site. Again, a link to giving will be on the header of every page of your site, and will be prominently displayed on the institutions main page.

Work with your divisions and department and request that links to the form be placed on their pages since you are trying to raise money for them. This will also help to increase traffic to the form and ultimately, your online giving.


Remember that the easier the form is to fill in and submit, the more likely the user will submit their gift online.

It's also important that on-line giving is not an end in itself, but a supplementary service offered to your donors and prospects for convenience that should not be used as a replacement for personal contact.

The following sample of a form is not a comprehensive example but suggestive of some of the information you may wish to collect. It could also be presented in a tabbed format or be separated into logical steps with the method for the user to navigate between the screens.
Personal and contact information:
First name:Required
Last name:Required
Contact information is for: Home Work/business
Best times to
contact me:
Postal code/zip:Required
Your commitment ...
Gift/pledge amount:Required
I wish to designate my gift to Unrestricted Other (please specify below).

Enter any information on other designation including school, division, department..

As a small token our our appreciation, may we list your name, graduation year if applicable, and city of residence in our annual report of donors? Note that we don't list individual amounts.
Yes (recognition name filled out below) Please do not list me in the annual report

Recognition name:

I would like this gift/pledge to be recorded in
in honor of ...in memory of ...

Name of in person I wish to pay tribute to:
Payment methods ...

Complete this form, print 2 copies and click the submit button.
Send a copy of the form, and your check (made payable to _______________) to:

     School Name
     School Address
     City, Province/state Zip/postal code

Credit Card:
Name on card:
Expiry date:
Other payment types:
Please contact me regarding direct deposit, transfer of securities or property, gifts in kind, life insurance, inclusion in a will, or other payment types.
If this is a pledge ...
Please send me a reminder:
First payment starts on
Amount of each payment:
Number of payments:
Increase your impact by having your gift matched
My employer:

My employer's matching gift form:
is enclosed.
will be mailed later.
Please help me determine if my employer will match my gift.
My spouse's employer:

My Spouse' s employer's matching gift form:
is enclosed.
will be mailed later.
Please help me determine if my spouse's employer will match my gift.
Comments, questions or observations?

Please send me information on the following:
Planned Giving Brochures.
Copy of Annual Financial Report.
Campaign Progress Report.

More Information

Additional Hints and Suggestions on Creating Effective Web Forms

Some Samples of On-line Giving Forms

Cornell University - http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/online_giving.htm
Southern Methodist University - http://www.smu.edu/giving/search_fund_category.asp
Syracuse University - http://givetosu.syr.edu/
University of Virginia - http://www.virginia.edu/supportuva/give.php3, http://www.virginia.edu/supportuva/giveCC.php
University of Wisconsin - https://www.uwfoundation.wisc.edu/giving/giving2.nsf/jsCheck

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