8 types of donation friction and how to spot them

Aug 31, 2021

At Fundraise Up, it's our mission to eliminate friction in the donation process and convert more visitors into donors. But what exactly is friction and where do you encounter it?

Whether physical or technological, friction refers to the resistance of motion. During the donation process, a point of friction is where the flow has been disrupted which encourages donors to navigate away from the donation page, decreasing your overall conversion rate.

In order to avoid these disruptions, you must first be able to recognize them. Here are the eight types of friction donors experience:

1. Too many fields

Field number friction is related to the number of information fields on a donation form.

We understand that gathering donor information is necessary for a number of reasons, but our studies show the more fields present on a donation form the greater the chances the donor will abandon the giving process. In fact, requiring something as simple as a cellphone number can decrease conversions by 2%!

So, what is the solution? Get rid of any information that is not required to process a payment upfront. If you want to gather any additional information, request it after the transaction has been completed. By simply moving the order of events, you can increase your conversion rate while still gathering the data you need.

2. Poorly designed field layout

No matter the actual number of fields on your form, if it looks long and complicated to the eye the donor will think the form is long and complicated.

The simplest way to reduce field layout friction is to optimize horizontal spacing. By combining form fields onto the same horizontal line, you will reduce the amount of perceived work required.

Just implementing this simple design adjustment you can increase conversions by nearly 40%.

3. Error messages from missed mandatory fields

At some point, we have all encountered form-error friction. Perhaps you miss a required field and the page notifies you right away. Or, you get to the end of the page, click next, and are required to start all over again.

As with all friction, any disruption to the donation process leaves open the opportunity for the donor to abandon the giving process. So to avoid this, clarity is key.

Along with reducing the number of required fields and simplifying the layout, make it abundantly clear in the form which information is required. For example, consider adding an asterisk next to the mandatory fields within a form.

4. User confusion

Confusion friction refers to the presence of any web page items that distract or navigate away from the giving experience. This means eliminating confusing web items like navigation bars, competing calls to action, distracting links, or messages not related to the donor flow while a donor is in the giving process.

In fact, participants in a NextAfter study saw a nearly 200% increase in donations by simply eliminating the navigation bar.

5. Too many decisions

Sometimes too much choice means too much work. Front-loading decisions like covering the transaction fees, making a tribute donation, or leaving a comment can significantly stall the donation flow. By eliminating the majority of these fields, an organization can see a 107% increase in donations.

Here are some quick solutions:

  1. Make the donate call-to-action button clear in your navigation bar.
  2. Add two to three sentences in the donation and ask about why they should donate to your cause.
  3. Reduce the number of available gift options to four.
  4. Use default suggestions and social nudges to guide the donor’s giving decisions.
  5. Enable mobile payment options to provide the user with as many payment options as possible (in this case reducing the number of decisions since the donor’s preferred payment method will likely be present).

6. Too many steps

This particular type of friction refers to the number of steps it takes to complete a transaction. When a donation form is several pages long, load time — as well as field number friction — decision friction, and form error friction all come into play. It's a compounding effect that only serves to decrease your conversion rates.

Instead of multiple pages donors must load through, consider downsizing to one page. In addition, nix your confirmation page before the transaction is completed. Instead, when a donor completes their payment, go straight from the donation ask to the thank-you page. Organizations that cut their confirmations saw a 176% increase in donations!

7. Not optimized For mobile

Device friction is another design-oriented friction specifically in regard to mobile devices. When a page is not mobile-optimized, donors have to pinch and zoom to navigate your page and may encounter compounded issues that prevent or slow down the giving process.

Since 25% of online giving now happens on mobile devices (and growing by about 20% every year), it’s more important than ever to optimize your page for these devices. It's one extra step that can only mean more donors.

8. Long wait times

As referenced in many of the other friction points, waiting is the enemy of donations. The optimal load time for any donation page is less than five seconds, so spinning wheels and multiple pages simply discourage donors from completing their transactions. In fact, we found an 8% drop-off rate occurred each time a new tab or page opened, as compared to keeping donors on the same page.

The key to beating waiting friction is to take all other seven friction points into account. The faster the process, the better your conversion rate will be!


Making improvements to your donation page may feel like a daunting task, and we totally understand that! That’s why we want to arm you with the most up-to-date information so you can start raising more money.

Findings are based on 643 organizations coupled with data from our own experiments and research Fundraise Up and NextAfter Institute.

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