Are charities making it easy to donate via mobile?

As readers of this site will no doubt be aware, digital has a massive part to play in the future growth of charities, but are charities doing enough to make online donations easy? In this post, I’ll focus on the use of mobile websites from charities, and how easy it is to donate using these […]

| 21st Sep 16

As readers of this site will no doubt be aware, digital has a massive part to play in the future growth of charities, but are charities doing enough to make online donations easy?

In this post, I’ll focus on the use of mobile websites from charities, and how easy it is to donate using these devices.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Mobile is big, and getting bigger. Mobile web use overtook that from desktop last year, and will continue to grow.
  • Second screening. People are glued to their mobile phones like no other device. According to Accenture, 87% of people use a mobile device while watching TV. 
  • Ease and speed of response. If someone is persuaded by an ad or charity appeal to donate, then mobile is often the quickest way to respond. A smooth mobile donation means that people can donate while they are minded to. Any delay reduces this opportunity.

In addition, Google’s drive towards mobile optimisation through its mobile-friendly algorithm means that a mobile site is now essential for SEO, as well as for users. To out it simply, a charity’s site wil be less visible in search if it hasn’t optimised for mobile devices.

The mobile opportunity for charities

According to CDW stats, 18% of donations come from mobile devices, while users are responding to emails and registering via mobile.


The question to ask here is whether that figure is high enough. If the vast majority of people own and use a smartphone, surely there is potential to increase the number of mobile donations.

Indeed, a survey by Barclay’s from last year suggests that many charities are simply not doing enough to drive online donations in general.

It found that:

  • Almost 80% of charity donations still take place offline.
  • 38% of charities are unable to accept donations via text.
  • One in five charities don’t have the facilities to accept online donations.

The last stat is surprising. The survey was restricted to charities with an annual turnover of £3m or more, so the lack of online donation systems seems a real missed opportunity.

It feels a little like ecommerce around ten years ago. While some retailers were making money online, others were slow to respond and grasp the opportunity. Few retailers would now deny the importance of ecommerce, but it seems some charities have work to do here.

What makes it easier for mobile users to donate?

In a nutshell, it’s about providing as good a user experience as possible. If people come to the site minded to donate, it’s really about ensuring that no obstacles are placed in their way.

  • The mobile site is easy to find.
  • A well designed and easy to navigate mobile site.
  • A site which has been optimised for mobile devices i.e. text can be read easily and users can load the site quickly.
  • Clear calls to action to make it obvious how to donate.
  • A smooth checkout process which makes it easy to donate.
  • A range of payment options to appeal to donors.

Here’s an example from WWF. It regularly runs TV ads asking viewers to adopt a snow leopard or some other endangered animal.

In response, mobile users may well head for Google to find the WWF site. It is easy enough to find, though it seems unnecessary to have two PPC ads when the charity is top on Google for its own name.

It’s likely that WWF is paying for clicks on the site which would otherwise have been free.


The homepage has a very clear call to action to donate. The colour and its position on the page help it to stand out and it gives a clear direction to users heading online with the intention of donating.


WWF does well up to this point, but the pages explaining donations could be better optimised, as could the payment forms. They aren’t impossible to use, but could be improved.


In terms of clarity, Oxfam’s mobile site provides perhaps a better example. As with WWF, the donate call to action is clear on the homepage, but the subsequent ‘journey’ provides a smoother experience.

I’m in two minds about this page though, which users are taken to after clicking ‘donate’.



On the one hand, the options are good and the call to action seems clear, on the other however, it seems that Oxfam is trying to push users towards monthly direct debits.

It isn’t immediately obvious that all of the options above are for monthly donations, and that you need to click the word ‘single’ to change the options. If you don’t notice that, then you head to a page where you’re asked for bank account details to set up a monthly donation.

Now I can see why charities prefer this more regular source of income, but pushing users towards the ‘wrong’ option (for them) may deter them from donating altogether. Being upfront and clear is best.


Having selected the type of donation, the rest of the process is clear and straight forward.


Forms are well-designed, and little touches such as including a postcode lookup tool and defaulting to the most useful smartphone keyboard (in this case the numerical keyboard for phone number entry) all help to ease customers through checkout.

oxfam-4 oxfam-5

In summary

Mobile payments matter, and will be increasingly important to charities as mobile use grows. It should become one of the biggest channels for donations as mobile use is only going to increase in the next few years.

The key is to ensure that your site can serve users’ needs and make the act of donating as easy as possible. Merely accepting mobile donations isn’t necessarily enough, a smooth and well designed donation process can make a big difference to fundraising efforts.