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!

NonprofitWP.org Now More Secure & Faster

All future visits to NonprofitWP.org will now be encrypted with an SSL certificate and visited at httpS://nonprofitwp.org.

Browser URL bar with Green Lock

That little green icon means a few different things:

  • The traffic between your browser and this website is now encrypted, so all site visitors have more privacy.
  • The site is now served using HTTP/2 which requires HTTPS and is much faster!
  • The site may rank better in search engines since at least Google considers sites with HTTPS to be more secure.
  • The site is more secure, for instance, by better protecting my admin password when I sign in to edit the site.

While I won’t take the time right now to explain the steps required to make sure WordPress works correctly with HTTPS, it’s not too hard for someone with a little technical savvy and if enough people request it, I’ll add a page to the guide.

Thank You SiteGround

Until recently, doing this would require an $80+ “SSL certificate” from my webhost. Luckily, my host SiteGround was one of the very first shared hosts to offer both HTTP/2 support and free SSL certificates via the Let’s Encrypt initiative.

Over the next few years, I expect most sites to move to HTTPS for the speed, security/privacy, and search engine ranking benefits now that there is a way to do so for free. What used to be used to just protect sensitive information like credit card numbers is becoming more available to protect all our web traffic and with added benefits!

What people are saying about Nonprofit WP

It’s been a great first couple weeks for this site as it’s garnered some positive feedback from both nonprofit techies and WordPressers alike. Hopefully that’s a sign of great nonprofit WordPress websites to come!

As always, I truly appreciate the positive words and am always looking for feedback with ideas of how to improve the site!


“Mark Root-Wiley Publishes Free Guide for Nonprofits That Use WordPress” on WP Tavern

“NonprofitWP: How to Build a Nonprofit Site from Start to Finish” on Torque Mag

Guía y recursos WordPress para organizaciones sin ánimo de lucro


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Welcome to NonprofitWP.org!

Welcome to NonprofitWP.org! I am so excited that you’re here.

For years, I’ve known that the limits of my time and energy capped the impact I could have helping nonprofits improve their websites and increase their technical capacity in support of their missions.

This website is the culmination of years helping nonprofits achieve their missions with excellent WordPress websites.

For nonprofits with a small website budget and hoping to use WordPress, this website can walk you through all the major phases of building a new WordPress website. It’s these early decisions that can make or break a website project, and I want to help every organization get the best site possible.

  • If you or your organization are about to start a website project, then get on with it and start with “Before You Get Started!”
  • If you know of people and organizations that could benefit from this website, please share it with them!
  • If you use this site, please let me know what you think and how it can be better.

Over time, I hope to refine and add to the information on this site. I’ll use the blog to post time-sensitive opportunities, events, and updates about content on the site.