Should you ask donors to cover processing fees for their donations?

Asking donors to cover credit card processing fees (usually 2% to 3% of the donation) is often marketed as a clever way to squeeze a little more revenue from your online donors.

Does it work?

Not in this experiment reported by NextAfter: How introducing “donor fees” impacts conversion.

The test was very simple. A landing page tested the inclusion of this statement:

Processing fee

Everything else was identical for both versions.

Results to conversation rates:

  • Control (no mention of credit card fee: 12.0%
  • Test: 7.4%

That’s a 38.5% drop in conversion rate. About 60% of donors opted to cover the fees. This drove up the average gift by 3%. But overall revenue was 20.5% lower.

Small win, but big loss.

The hypothesis is that bringing in transactional language about the fees short-circuited the highly emotional act that charitable giving is.

There may be other tests with different results out there, but think twice before you put this one into action on your website. It may look like free money, but it might not work that way.


Comments

6 responses to “Should you ask donors to cover processing fees for their donations?”

  1. David Paul Himes Avatar
    David Paul Himes

    This is similar to asking donor to paying th cost of processing a check. Who would do that?

  2. David Paul Himes Avatar
    David Paul Himes

    This is similar to asking donor to paying th cost of processing a check. Who would do that?

  3. Michelle Tribe Avatar
    Michelle Tribe

    Interesting! I do wonder though, as the test was on a conservative organization’s website, if there’s a difference in the type of donor. If I can find time, I might do some tests on my donors. Too bad NextAfter can’t repeat this for a left-leaning cause!

  4. Michelle Tribe Avatar
    Michelle Tribe

    Interesting! I do wonder though, as the test was on a conservative organization’s website, if there’s a difference in the type of donor. If I can find time, I might do some tests on my donors. Too bad NextAfter can’t repeat this for a left-leaning cause!

  5. Our donors are all about making their gifts go further and we have had no push back. Not sure why you’d risk getting those fees donated by “testing” it. That doesn’t make sense to me.

  6. Our donors are all about making their gifts go further and we have had no push back. Not sure why you’d risk getting those fees donated by “testing” it. That doesn’t make sense to me.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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