Ask Nonprofit WP: How can I let my members make automatically renewing payments?

This post contains “affiliate links.” If you make a purchase using one, Nonprofit WP earns a small referral commission at no cost to you. Think of it as a way of saying “thanks for the free advice!” Learn more about affiliate links.

Sometimes people write in with questions about their specific situation. I don’t guarantee a response with free advice, but almost every email gets a reply. In hopes of sharing knowledge more widely, I’m going to start posting the questions and answers to the blog. Let me know if this post benefits you too!

We are a national non-profit club (Australia). We charge $10/yr for membership. We would like automatic membership renewal on our WordPress site, but I can’t find anything that doesn’t cost the earth!

Membership sites are tough! Since memberships can look really different between organizations, the perfect plugin for one doesn’t meet the needs of another.

Something as simple as the Jetpack recurring payments block could be enough, but it all depends on what information you need to collect and if you have other systems that you need to integrate your data with.

If you need a full-blown membership database, then it’s likely that a 3rd-party CRM tool (Customer/Client/Constituent Relationship Management) is probably the way to go, even with slightly higher costs. There is a huge benefit to being able to get started immediately and have all your needs met by a single tool.

There are tons of CRMs with wildly different costs and features. Some integrate into WordPress like JetpackCRM or MemberPress. Others are totally separate from your website like Little Green Light, Bloomerang, Neon CRM, EveryAction, and the behemoth Salesforce.

You can also build your own custom setup by combining well-known WordPress plugins. You can use Gravity Forms to accept recurring payments or WooCommerce with its Subscriptions add-on. If your memberships are technically donations, you might even look at Give which is a donation platform built for WordPress that supports recurring donations.

To figure out what’s right for you, I would start by making a list of the features you need to administer your memberships. That list might look like this:

  • Recurring annual payment of $10
  • Export member list to CSV once a month
  • Sync membership list with Constant Contact
  • Allow members to edit and update their information
  • Publicly display membership profiles on website

Then, find various products that might be able to fulfill those needs. Since I love a good spreadsheet, I would make my own product comparison sheet comparing each of the products I’m considering, and use it to figure out which one has the best combination of cost and features for my own needs.

Good luck with your site!

If you’ve found a good solution for your membership site or accepting recurring member dues, share it in the comments to help your fellow nonprofits!

#SaveDotOrg Wins! Sale of .org registry rejected

We did it! You may remember that the .org registry was at threat of being sold, and future .org rates and policies were at risk of changing at the whim of a private company.

Late last week, the sale of the .org domain registry to a private capital firm was rejected by ICANN. This is a huge victory of the global nonprofit sector!

NTEN, Open Media, EFF, and Fight for the Future all helped lead a campaign to collect tens of thousands of signatures from organizations and individuals who care about an affordable and community-managed .org domain. You may very well have signed on as an individual or organization to raise your voice. And it worked!

It’s been a challenging past few months for us all, and this is a wonderful bright spot! Congratulations and thank you! When we join together, we can make positive changes for nonprofit websites.

Take Action: Speak Up Against Potential .org Domain Price Increases

All .org domains are newly threatened by potential price increases because:

  1. Price caps on .org domains were removed in June 2019.
  2. The nonprofit operator of the .org domain registry is selling the rights to operate the .org registry to a private venture capital firm.

The Public Interest Registry (PIR) recently announced that it will sell the rights to operate the domain to a new venture capital firm, Ethos Capital. (Following the sale, PIR will also transition away from nonprofit status.)

Fuzzy on exactly what a domain is? Check out our page explaining the difference between a website domain and website host.

From a comprehensive article covering the sale:

…the Internet Society (ISOC) announced that it has sold the rights to the .org registry for an undisclosed sum to a private equity company called Ethos Capital. The deal is set to complete in the first quarter of [2020].

The decision shocked the internet industry, not least because the .org registry has always been operated on a non-profit basis and has actively marketed itself as such. The suffix “org” on an internet address – and there are over 10 million of them – has become synonymous with non-profit organizations.

This comes on the heels of a policy change by ICANN—the organization that oversees all website domains—in June 2019 to remove price caps on .org domains. That change was made in spite of overwhelming public opposition to the rule change. This looks especially bad because the person who oversaw the pricing policy change is now closely linked with the company purchasing the domain rights.

This sale potentially poses a threat to the affordability of website domains for almost every nonprofit organization. And importantly, where previous decisions about management of .org domains were made in good faith in conjunction with the nonprofit sector, that commitment is being jettisoned in favor of profit.

Speak Up: Sign the Petition

Save dot orgA number of large nonprofits and nonprofit technology organizations such as Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Girl Scouts, The Y, Volunteers of America, TechSoup, and NTEN are now collecting signatures on a petition opposing this sale. I encourage you to sign it.

Speak Out Against .org Domain Registry Sale

Renew Your Domain

Even if Ethos Capital is to be believed, prices will be going up at least $1 per year. (Raising the cost of a .org domain $55 over 10 years.) So while the impact of the sale is still unclear, you should strongly consider extending your domain’s registration immediately for many years into the future at your current rate.

Despite the uncertainty, there is little downside to doing this because:

  1. Unlike web hosting, your domain registration renewal will travel with your domain wherever it goes. If you change registrars in the future, any remaining years will carry over.
  2. If you move your site to a new domain in the future, you should still own your current domain indefinitely so you can redirect old traffic there (an SEO and user benefit) and prevent someone else from purchasing the domain—either innocently or maliciously—and putting a new website up in place of your old one.

This is a terrible situation, and goes against the values of a free and open internet along with the nonprofit sector’s ethos of unselfishly strengthening society.

I encourage you to first speak up for the good of all nonprofits and then act to protect your own website’s domain.

Frequently Asked Questions about WordPress 5.0 and the new Block Editor

With the big update to WordPress 5.0, site owners have reasonable questions about the new features and the impact on their site.

Here are some of the most common questions and to-the-point answers to help you move forward!

What is the WordPress Block Editor?

The first step in the future of WordPress.

The “block editor” is the biggest part of a total overhaul of the “Edit” screen in WordPress. It’s a major departure from the old interface. The way you edit words, pictures, and other “rich media” has changed forever.

The project leading to these changes was code-named “Gutenberg”, so you’ll find numerous references to Gutenberg when reading recent information about WordPress. However, the “block editor” was the result of Phase 1 of Project Gutenberg and future phases will replace or augment other parts of the WordPress admin. Phase 2 will address widget management, and future phases will tackle other improvements to “site building” such as managing content  in different languages and defining layout templates for pages.

The demo of the new block editor
The WordPress 5.0 editor. This screenshot of the new editor includes a screenshot of the new editor. 🤯

Do I have to update to WordPress 5.0 right now?

Yes! Updates aren’t just about the big changes you can see.

Keeping your site up-to-date is critical for your site’s health. WordPress 5.0 and all future updates will include bug fixes, other improvements, and important security patches.

However, you can upgrade and still not use the new editor immediately…

Do I have to use the new block editor?

For now? No. Eventually? Yes.

Sites that are incompatible with the new editor or users wanting to use the old editor can install the Classic Editor plugin to block the changes to the editor. However, all sites must update in the next few years. WordPress will eventually stop supporting the Classic Editor and many plugins and themes may abandon support even sooner.

Many sites can upgrade with few problems, but read this blog post first on how to safely upgrade to WordPress 5.0.

How is the block editor different from the “Classic” editor?

Your pages and posts are now made of many “blocks.”

In old versions of WordPress, when you wanted to edit a standard page or post, you typed all your content into a big box with some formatting buttons. Moving forward, your content will be subdivided into many “blocks.” Each block can have it’s own set of settings, formatting options, design, and special features. Some of the most common blocks are:

  • Heading
  • Paragraph
  • Image
  • Blockquote
  • Tweet
  • YouTube Video
  • Button
  • Spacer (empty space)
  • Divider (aka horizontal rule)

You’ll benefit greatly from starting to think in terms of blocks and develop a “block x-ray vision” when looking at your post.

Outlines of sections of a WordPress post. Different blocks are outlined. In order: paragraph, gallery, button, paragraph, spacer, heading

What are the best new features in the block editor?

More visual control. Use it wisely!

Some of the most obvious new features are controls for font size; text and background color; and more visual blocks like buttons, “cover image” (text over an image), and columns. Beyond first sight, certain power-user features like magic embeds still exist but are easier to find now with dedicated “blocks”. A few of my personal favorite features are warnings for misusing headings or using a text color that is inaccessible.

These features make it much easier to format and lay out a page, but proceed with caution! Some people will find themselves quickly carried away with the visual tools and forget the fundamental purpose of your site: communication.

What if I don’t like the new block editor?

Have patience. Make the best of it.

Whether we like it or not, this is the future of WordPress, and trying to avoid it isn’t a long-term strategy for maintaining a healthy website. The foundation laid by the editor will allow new exciting tools in the coming months and years.

That said, don’t pressure yourself to master it immediately. Use your first few months with the editor to learn on the basics.

Just as you should have been doing before, focus on writing useful information for your visitors and adding engaging images and videos. Once you feel more comfortable, you’ll be able to start exploring more advanced features and using the full scope of the editor.

If you’re looking for a way to transition slowly, consider using the new editor but only working in the “Classic” block that you can add to any page. That block is more or less the old editor embedded into the new one and it provides a way to convert your work to the new editor when you’re ready.

If you still don’t like it, feel free to write your words in a different program and then copy and paste them into the block editor. A tremendous amount of work went into making that work for countless programs like Word and Google Docs. While it’s not perfect, it’s good enough that you can do most of your simple content creation outside of WordPress.

Where can I learn how to use the block editor?

Lot’s of places!

One of the best things about WordPress is that there are so many amazing sources of information. Your favorite resource will depend on your learning style. Here are just a few of the options:

The official “User Handbook” is still in the works, but will also eventually be available to help you out, and Nonprofit WP will have more tips coming on the blog and Enter Your Content section soon.

Got another question? Leave it in the comments for an answer!

How to Safely Upgrade to WordPress 5.0

WordPress 5.0 is here!
This post was written with it.

It’s critical that you always keep your site up-to-date so it remains healthy and secure. That’s a little more complicated with the update to WordPress 5.0 because it contains a major new feature that may not be compatible with every plugin and theme. But you can do it! Here’s how.

If you don’t know about WordPress 5.0, take a minute to read the last post that included a brief primer on the new editor feature in this major update.

Install the Classic Editor Plugin

At this time, it’s likely that you may want to avoid using the new editor or at least choose to use it selectively. Even if you’re eager to use the new editor, it’s prudent to wait for at least a few bug fix versions to arrive like 5.0.2 and 5.0.3. If you want to be extra conservative, wait until at least version 5.1.

To defer or limit your use of the new WordPress editor, install and activate the Classic Editor plugin before you update anything else.

With the Classic Editor plugin, you get to continue using the same text editor you’re used to. Once installed, you’ll get two new options on the Settings > Writing screen of WordPress 5.0:

New options for "Default editor for all users" and "Allow users to switch editors"
The current settings for in December 2018.

Research Compatibility

Even 30 minutes of research can quickly help you determine the likelihood of problems when you upgrade.

First, check the site where you downloaded your theme. See if you can find information about WordPress 5.0 support. Look for mentions of “Gutenberg” or the “block editor” which are the same thing. If you can’t find anything, write to the theme author or post in the support forum.

The Jetpack plugin shows it has compatibility for WordPress 5.0.

Next, review the site for each plugin you have installed. Again, look to see if there’s any mention of WordPress 5.0, Gutenberg, or the block editor. If you’re looking at the public free plugin repository, check the “Tested up to” version and click the “Developers” tab of a plugin to see it’s “changelog” of recent updates.

Back. Your. Site. Up!

Another pillar of website health is having backups that you know you can restore.

Do not upgrade to WordPress 5.0 without backing up your site files and database first.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to back up your site:

  • Your Host – Both recommended hosts on Nonprofit WP—SiteGround and WP Engine—provide tools to backup and restore your site.
  • Plugins – There are lots of backup plugins including the recommended BackupBuddy (paid) or BackWPUp (free).
  • Backup Services – The backup service from Jetpack is both affordable and independent of your hosting and web server.

Even if you think you have backups, confirm that and how to restore one should something happen.

Make a Copy of Your Site for Testing

Now it’s time to test the update on a copy of the site. A copy of your site used for testing is often called a “sandbox” (fun but messy!) or “staging site” (where you prepare to launch). While there are free plugins to set up staging sites, I recommend either relying on your host (again SiteGround’s GoGeek plan and WP Engine offer staging sites) or using a paid service like WP Stagecoach.

If you use a plugin to create a staging site that is on your website’s server (e.g. your site is and your staging site is, it is important that you either keep that site up-to-date for as long as it’s live or delete it once you’re done testing. A hosting account is only as secure as it’s least-secure site. This isn’t an issue with how SiteGround, WP Engine, or WP Stagecoach work.

Once you have a copy of your site, you can update all plugins, your theme, and WordPress itself in that order safely on this new copy of your site. Many popular plugins like Yoast SEO, Jetpack, Advanced Custom Fields, and WooCommerce will work well with WordPress 5.0 but only if updated to the most recent version.

What & How to Test

Now it’s time to see how things went. You should generally explore your site as a visitor would and try to edit the key features of your site as you look for problems. You should test with the Classic Editor plugin activated and deactivated so you learn about the new editor.

Here are some specific tests and things to look for:

  • Any visible errors or warnings. You may see scary looking code or notices in the WordPress admin. Investigate each one to determine if it’s a problem and how to resolve it.
  • Visit the “front end” of your site as a normal website visitor would. Specifically look for pages that are visually broken.
  • If you are using the new editor:
    • Create a new page or post. To start, copy and paste this blog post into it! Once you publish the new page, does it look right?
    • Now write a new page yourself. Are you able to make paragraphs, links, lists, headings, images, etc.? Test every common type of formatting you’re used to.
    • Finally, open an existing page made before the update in the new editor. Is it properly converted. When you save it and view it, does it look the same?

Update Your Live Site

Once you’ve completed testing, chances are that you’re ready to update. The bigger question is how much of the new WordPress you’re ready to use. (Only testing can tell you that for sure.)

Thanks to the Classic Editor plugin, if the new features aren’t for you or cause problems, you can avoid using them for at least the next few years. Everyone should have a plan for how they will eventually use the new editor though!

Assuming you don’t identify major problems, try to at least use a hybrid approach, using the Classic Editor for all your pages but the new “block editor” for all new blog posts.

Good Luck!

Feel free to ask questions in the comments and share how this process works for you!

Once you see the new editor, you’ll experience the future of WordPress and realize the photo at the start of this article is the old WordPress editor! 😜

WordPress 5.0 and How Nonprofit WP will Help You Through the Biggest WordPress Update in Years

Until a quiet announcement last week, WordPress 5.0 was scheduled for release today. If you haven’t heard of WordPress 5.0, though, now is the time to pay attention.

The New “Block Editor” in WordPress 5.0

WordPress 5.0 isn’t a normal new version of WordPress. Instead it includes a brand new way of editing your Posts and Pages.

This new editor—code-named “Gutenberg” during its development—is best referred to as a “block editor”. Instead of writing all your content in one big chunk of text and media, each paragraph, image, and everything else is a separate little “block” with its own powerful formatting and functionality options.

It’s easier to show rather than tell, so take a moment to play with a public demo of the WordPress 5.0 editor or watch this brief video introduction:

Note: This video shows an older version of the editor. The final version will differ in a number of small ways.

Upcoming WordPress 5.0 information on Nonprofit WP

Luckily, most of the information on this site remains as true as ever. The structure of WordPress isn’t changing, nor are the principles for finding a plugin, choosing a theme, hiring a consultant, or publishing a vibrant blog! If you’ve followed best practices, your site is less likely to break and you’ll have options to take advantage of the new tools.

But that doesn’t mean this update won’t have a huge impact on how you use WordPress. Content editing is probably what you spend most of your time doing in WordPress, and that’s what this update impacts. To that end, you can expect a few new articles and pages on this site in the next month or two.

Specifically, you can expect critical information about:

  • Testing your site with the new editor before updating.
  • Best practices for getting started with the new block editor.

Don’t miss out these important articles! Sign up to follow Nonprofit WP via email:

Things to Do Right Now

Even before testing your site with the new editor, here are a few actions to take and key pieces of information to know.

Install the Classic Editor plugin now to keep the old editor

For at least the next 3 years, you will be able to use the old WordPress editor you’re used to it. To defensively prepare for WordPress 5.0 and defer use of the new editor, install the Classic Editor plugin immediately.

Don’t plan to rely on the old editor forever, but it’s probably a good idea to wait at least a few months after WordPress 5.0’s launch before using the new editor.

If You Use WooCommerce…

For those of you using WooCommerce to power an online store, you’ll need to be extra careful. Your site must have WooCommerce v3.5.1 installed before upgrading to WordPress 5.0.

Review Your Plugins & Theme

This is a great moment to review your plugins and theme. Head back to where you downloaded them and see what you can learn about support for “WordPress 5.0” or “Gutenberg.” Don’t hesitate to contact the authors directly so they know people care about compatibility with this version!

Thanks for Trusting Nonprofit WP

Nonprofits do amazing work to make the world a better place. Helping you get the most from your website is the small contribution Nonprofit WP can make to help you be more efficient and effective. Thanks for reading Nonprofit WP!

Save Your Nonprofit’s Budget with Cyber Monday Deals for WordPress Websites

Here at Nonprofit WP, the needs of nonprofits are paramount! Among those needs: Keeping costs low!

If you’ve considered moving to a new website host or buying a plugin to improve your site, do it NOW! To help you save some money, you’ll find sales and discounts for things recommended year-round on this site below:

  • SiteGround Website Hosting
  • Hosting
  • WP Engine Hosting
  • Jetpack
  • WooCommerce
  • The Events Calendar

Remember: Don’t buy something because it looks cool! Focus on spending money on tools you know will improve the experience of or better serve your website visitors.

Nonprofit WP only lists tools and services I have personally used or have been vouched for by a very limited number of people I trust. When you make a purchase with certain links, I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Think of it as a small way to say “thank you” for all the free content, and know that I take the responsibility of recommending tech to help you seriously.

Website Hosting Deals

You should consider changing your hosting if you have a simple website that runs slowly. Upgrading from hosts like Bluehost, GoDaddy, Network Solutions, HostGator, or InMotion will probably make your site faster. And as a benefit, if you move your site, you can often get and lock-in a sweet introductory price.

SiteGround Website Hosting: 75% off


SiteGround is the #1 recommended website host for nonprofits here at Nonprofit WP. In fact, it’s the host of this very site!

Why switch hosts? SiteGround offers some great custom “caching” tools to make your site fast, provides better than average support, and will transfer your site to your new account for free!

The Deal: 75% off SiteGround plans for up to 3 years.
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: No coupon needed!

Get SiteGround Nonprofit Hosting NOW! 30% off

Orange WordPress Logo offers a great way to try out WordPress or run your small website until you need the control offered by self-hosted WordPress. If you’re unclear on what exactly is, this article on the difference between self-hosted WordPress & will set you straight.

The Deal: 30% off
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: Use the code BLACKCYBER2018


WP Engine: 35% off

WP Engine

If your site has outgrown smaller hosts, the next place to turn is WP Engine. They offer WordPress-only hosting that can handle much more complicated and high-traffic sites. Their support is excellent given their WordPress-only focus.

The Deal: 35% off
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: Use the code cyberwpe2018

Get WP Engine Hosting

WordPress Plugin Deals

Jetpack makes your site just work: 30% off


Jetpack gets mentioned all over the place on the recommended plugins page. That’s because it’s packed with awesome free features that “just work” like cool image galleries, the powerful widget visibility customizer, and related posts functionality.

Paid Jetpack plans, starting at $40/year include even more useful features, none more so than daily automated backups and spam filtering. Don’t miss this chance to protect your site for $28 this year.

The Deal: 30% off
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: Use the code BLACKCYBER2018

Buy a Jetpack Plan

WooCommerce for your online store: 30% off

If you want to run a store on your website, it’s hard to go wrong with selecting WooCommerce. It’s one of the recommended plugins for ecommerce on this site. While the basic plugin is free, there are tons of add-ons that let you customize and improve the way shipping, tax, orders, and more are managed. You can even use WooCommerce to accept donations. If you need to improve your store, now’s the moment to grab the plugin to do it! Heck, maybe one of the free ones will do what you need!

The Deal: 30% off
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: Use the code BLACKCYBER2018

Browse WooCommerce Extensions

The Events Calendar: Up to 30% off

The Events Calendar

The Events Calendar is arguably the best way to feature events in WordPress and it’s free! What’s not free are their add-ons that support complex features like recurring events, paid ticketing (via WooCommerce!), community-submitted events, and more.

The Deal: Up to 30% off depending on what you buy
When: Now – Monday, November 26
How: See site for multiple codes

Buy The Events Calendar Extensions

Don’t wait on these deals, and check back again in case I learn of other sales for already-recommended hosting, plugins, or services.

New Nonprofit WP Pages Focus on Beginners

Over the past few weeks, Nonprofit WP has gained a few brand new pages filled with more WordPressy goodness.

Images, Media, & Embed

First to launch was “Images, Media, & Embeds.” This page accompanies the “Enter Your Content” section to make sure your pages aren’t just informative but are also beautiful and engaging:

Images and video are the quickest path to a beautiful and engaging website for your constituents, and WordPress gives nonprofits amazing tools to manage media. Knowing how to use the Media Library and is key to getting the most out of your site and keeping it easy to manage.

Like many pages on this site, the goal for Images, Media, & Embeds is to help new users start using WordPress with good habits. Like so many things, the technical skill can be learned, but media in WordPress requires careful application and forward thinking to be most effective.

The third section on Embeds includes one of the very best magical awesome amazing features in WordPress. (Hint: It’s the one used to make a social timeline without a plugin!)

Two New Beginner-Focused Pages

While all of Nonprofit WP targets new-to-WordPress users and less-experienced DIYers, the next two new pages focus on beginners still figuring out exactly what WordPress is at all.

WordPress 101 for Nonprofits

First, “WordPress 101 for Nonprofitstries to answers the question asked by WP Tavern, “How Do You Educate People New to WordPress?” While the website planning phase can’t be skipped, some people will want to start with a broad technical overview of WordPress. This is that overview.

The Nonprofit WP WordPress 101 page gives visitors an high-level look at the component parts of WordPress. Since this site walks users from start-to-finish of a WordPress website project for their organization, most sections of the page correspond to other whole pages of this site with deeper information. WordPress 101 for Nonprofits is so great, it’s now the first item in the menu!

WordPress & Website Glossary

Second, the “WordPress & Website Glossary” aims to help anyone who encounters a term they may not know or fully comprehend. Other visitors may choose to scan the entire page as a way to get a different type of high-level overview than the one provided by WordPress 101. This glossary came directly by request from someone who wished there was a single page just listing common terminology that may be unfamiliar to people new to WordPress or web design.

To promote easy browsing, the Glossary is divided into three sections, “WordPress Terms,” “Web Hosting & Software”, and “Websites and Web Design.” While the WordPress-specific terms are most relevant for this site, anyone building a website will want to know most of the other words and phrases as they build out their site (especially website hosting).

Finally, the new glossary helps readers distinguish terms with different meanings when used in the context of WordPress.

Pop Quiz!

If you think this sounds boring, see if you know the answers to these three questions:

  1. Do you know the difference between a “sticky” header in website design and a “sticky” post in WordPress?
  2. What’s the difference between an “archived” website and “Archive” in WordPress?
  3. Are “header” and “heading” interchangeable?

Not so sure? Better go review your WordPress, CMS, and website lingo!

What’s Next?

There are a few other pages coming down the pipeline, but a good suggestion from a Nonprofit WP user will always take precedence. If there’s a WordPress topic or skill you wish this website covered, please make your request through the contact form!

Nonprofit WP aims to be comprehensive without becoming overwhelming. Hopefully these new pages do just that.

On Small Donate Buttons & Contextual Requests for Support

When I’m building a website for a nonprofit, it’s common for the organization to ask me to make their donate button:

  • bigger
  • brighter
  • higher on the page
  • anything else to make it “stand out”

Donate Buttons Don’t Cause Donations. You Do!

I always want to please the client—and I definitely want all nonprofit websites to raise more money for the organizations they support—but this request always comes with an “ok, but…” response:

I’m happy to make this change, but a donate button—no matter the size, color, or position—has never compelled someone to donate on its own. Donate buttons just need to be easy to find once you’ve convinced someone to make a donation.

This seems obvious when you say it out loud, but it’s an important point. It’s the work your organization does and how you communicate that which leads to donations.

Why Donate Buttons Matter

One of the preeminent website usability research organizations Nielsen-Norman Group shows when you do need a well-designed donate button in their research-backed article “5 Tips to Get Donations on Nonprofit and Charity Websites”:

When users were ready to make a donation, they wanted to get to the donation process quickly and easily. Unfortunately, many users spent too much time looking for a way to donate when they were ready to do it. In fact, about 25% of the homepages included in our study failed to provide a Donate call to action. [original emphasis]

Those 25% of websites did need a more-prominent donate button, but they only needed it once their website visitors wanted to make a donation.

In order to generate donations, Nielsen-Norman Group recommends that you “clearly explain what [your] organization does,” “disclose how donations are used,” and “display third party endorsements.” If you haven’t done those three things on your website, it’s premature to worry about the color of the donate button.

Beyond the Donate Button

The fantastic web publication about making websites A List Apart offers an amazing example of how you can increase donations on your website with contextual requests in appropriate website content. In the article “The Core Model: Designing Inside Out for Better Results,” we learn about a Norwegian cancer organization that increased their donations.

[M]any users…look for general information on cancer research, and in this context, we can frame [a request for donations] more specifically: “If you think cancer research is important, you can help us by donating.”

Once they added these contextual, integrated donation requests to their websites, they increased the amount of online donations 398% in the first full year of the new website.

This was in spite of having fewer flashy requests for money on the website:

The previous NCS homepage had several banners and menu items pointing to different ways of supporting the NCS. Today, there’s just the “Support us” item in the menu, and the banners are gone.

This makes sense, right?

“Give me money!”

Ask any communications or development person and they’ll tell you that isn’t a particularly great message to raise money for a nonprofit. Yet, that’s all a “Donate” or “Support Us” button has space to communicate.

So remember:

  • The donate button design and placement is important, but not until you’ve convinced people your organization is worthy of support.
  • Don’t rely on your donate button to drive donations, integrate appropriate requests within the context of other website pages that emphasize the reasons for and impact of a donation.

Luckily, WordPress makes it easy to edit a website, so you can hopefully go make some changes right now!