In a donor experience, everything is Love or Lost

Mar 6, 2024
Salvatore Salpietro 

In 2023, I had just returned from the Netherlands where I had attended the IFC conference organized by The Resource Alliance. A fantastic event where changemakers come together to discuss how they can improve the world through better tactics.

My speaking session was titled “Leveling Up: Transforming Tech into Love” and it aligned perfectly with the 2023 Digital Outlook Report. Download it—even if only for the AI-generated artwork!

The premise of the session: everything in a donor journey will contribute to increasing the love a donor has for the organization, or contribute to losing them forever. The expectation for what that experience should be like is set by other companies and businesses where that donor, i.e. consumer, makes transactions and decides to give up some of their wallet share.

Keep in mind that I’m referring to individual giving through digital channels.

As part of the session, with over 100 fundraising professionals in attendance, we all played an interactive game show called… you guessed it: Love or Lost.

The game showcased eight donor experience elements, and the audience was asked to respond with their mobile device (within 10 seconds!) if they believed that it contributed to increasing donor love for the brand or would contribute to losing the donor.

Instead of going over all eight, I’m going to pull out the two most controversial to highlight the gap many nonprofits have in their digital experiences.

But, before we get too far, let’s define “love” and “lost.”


This term turned out to be more controversial than I anticipated. Some feel that we are not in this to earn donor love. Much as a company may say it’s not a family, but a team. Really, we’re talking about semantics. Love can be a stand-in for satisfaction, loyalty, etc. just as a consumer brand may work to earn the same for their products. For nonprofits, our product is the experience and impact, which are less tangible than a pair of shoes or a cup of coffee. I use the term “love” only because it’s easier to compare and square up our objectives in the mind.


The threshold for losing a donor is lower than the consumer space because there’s no tangible product. Any negative factor in a donor's experience contributes to abandonment. This is the same for any transaction—but more sensitive with giving.

Let’s consider how, and when, a donor gets their serotonin hit.

The “hit” happens when the donor clicks Donate on your website, in the email or text message they received. When a donor decides to give, and they take action, they’ve scratched their itch. They are a good, generous person. But if your donation form fails, that’s on your organization.

Your donation experience may:

  • Have limited payment methods (digital wallets account for 49% of transactions online… why don’t you offer them!?)
  • include unclear error messages
  • Require the donor to enter their entire mailing address (when’s the last time you did this anywhere online?)
  • Not be mobile responsive
  • Be nonfunctional

Even if the donation doesn’t complete, the donor still feels good: they’ve had their serotonin dose. They tried. They don’t need to finish the transaction because they’re not receiving a pizza, Uber ride, shoes, or anything tangible.

Now, let’s get to the two most divided issues that came up during this session, and explain with data—not opinions—the reasoning.

Provide donor with the ability to easily cancel their regular donation

This was really mind-blowing. I asked the audience to vote Love or Lost on providing donors with the ability to easily cancel and manage their recurring/regular donations. Seems basic: I’m giving you my money, and I need to be able to control it. If I cannot, and it’s intentionally difficult, you lose my trust.

The majority of the audience, 87%, voted that they feel that by providing this ability, we earn more donor love and loyalty. The data supports this.

However, almost as many that voted Love (87%) do not provide this ability to their donors! Meaning, 87% know that providing donors with gift management is good, yet they don’t do it.

The point is: if you hide the path to gift management from donors you burn trust. They feel like they’re being taken advantage of.

In fact, looking at internal data at Fundraise Up, (where we provide donors with a big, bold, visible Cancel button) we see that the 96% that click the button do absolutely nothing – they just want to know they have control. And that builds trust. Email me to find out what the other 4% do. My word count is high at this point.

Ask donors to cover transaction costs

Do we, or do we not ask donors to cover the processing fees for a donation? For this question, the majority of fundraisers felt this is a bad move at 68% of the room. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the data says otherwise.

Adding transaction costs, or service fees, to a transaction is now commonplace in our lives. When you buy tickets to a show, there are convenience fees. Uber adds a Safety Fee. Food delivery has additional charges. As consumers—where our expectations are set—we expect these charges. And, as a donor, we usually are happy to do this.

At Fundraise Up, we employ a large, bold, blue ask to cover fees. We use gamification by showing gold stars when I choose to, removing them if I do not. We go further by leveraging AI to know when to pre-select the box and when not to.

Data shows that donors that cover fees are also retained longer. The bond is stronger with the mission and brand. As a donor, you’re all in. The global average of donations where the donor chooses to cover transaction costs is around 90%.

We’re leaving so much on the table.

Not only the $20,000-$30,000 per million raised that donors are willing to cover for us, but we’re also forgoing the opportunity to create deeper bonds and connections with our donors by providing them with micro-opportunities to help more.

Want to know exactly what the fee coverage averages are by country and currency? Email me. I’ll share.

In summary

Every single field, pixel, word, checkbox, payment method, or lack thereof is going to be a negative or positive contributor to the donor experience. Please keep this in mind as you design your donor experiences. I know from my daily work that nonprofits adopting technology that employs these best practices are seeing 2-3x the revenue.

From donors to nonprofit teams, to beneficiaries of the mission you work so hard to impact, the impact is real and tangible.

Learn how Fundraise Up can elevate your organization’s donor experience.

Salvatore Salpietro is the Chief Partnership Officer at Fundraise Up, and a board member at Asia Wild. He has over two decades of experience with digital marketing, startups, and nonprofit digital practices. E-mail:
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