The title of the article: Donation Levels: Creating Donation Tiers that Drive Revenue

Donation Levels: Creating Donation Tiers That Drive Revenue

From marketing to cultivation, it’s no small effort to drive supporters to your donation page. But when they get there, are they making the impact your nonprofit needs? If your average donation amount is falling short, there are strategies you can use to maximize support right on your donation page.

Donation levels are one of the most important factors in determining gift amounts as they guide your supporters into giving an amount that’s right for them and your nonprofit. When used strategically, they frame your nonprofit’s impact and encourage donors to increase their support.

To help your nonprofit better use donation levels, this guide will explore:

Let’s clarify exactly what we mean by donation levels before jumping into tips for how to create the best donation page possible.

Double your donors' giving at no extra cost with matching gifts! Download our free matching gifts guide.

What are Donation Levels?

Donation levels, also known as donation tiers, are suggested giving amounts that appear on donation pages. For example, a nonprofit might have donation levels of $20, $50, $100, and so on.

These amounts help guide supporters in how much to give when donating by providing examples of what is considered a low donation amount, a medium amount, and a high amount. Donation levels are especially helpful for first-time donors who may be unsure how much an average donation should be.

While donation levels can contain the gift amounts and nothing else, many nonprofits seek to increase donations by characterizing their donation levels with names, impact examples, and other descriptors.

What’s the Difference Between Donation Levels and Donation Types?

While the names are similar, “donation levels” and “donation types” are different concepts. Donation levels are suggested giving amounts on a donation form, while donation types are different kinds of gifts.

For example, donation types include major gifts, recurring gifts, in-kind donations, and corporate support. There is some overlap in that the donation types of low, moderate, and major donors may correspond to donation levels.

The donor pyramid, starting with prospective donors and going up to major donors.

For example, recurring donors may give $50 monthly or $200 monthly. A donor who contributes $50 and one who donates $200 are both recurring donors but at different donation levels. However, whether this is the case depends on your nonprofit and average gift amount.

5 Strategies for Creating Effective Donation Levels

Donation levels are easy to add to your donation form, but to use them to their fullest potential, follow these strategies.

1. Calculate average donation amounts.

Donation levels are not set at random. These amounts are strategically calculated based on average gift sizes, supporters’ giving capacity, and fundraising goals.

Your first step to setting your donation levels should be calculating your nonprofit’s average donation amount. When calculating this amount, it may be appropriate to exclude some donations, like gifts from major donors. While these contributions are certainly important, it’s unlikely a supporter using donation levels to gauge their gift amount will make a major donation right off the bat.

Additionally, consider dividing your donors into two groups: one-time and recurring donors. Most donation pages that use donation levels divide suggested giving amounts along these guidelines, creating two sets of donation levels donors can consider. In general, the amounts for recurring donations will be much lower than one-time gifts but add up over time.

Once your donation data is properly curated, calculate your donation levels by dividing the total amount of donations in a year by the number of donors. With this information, you now have to decide how your average donation should impact your donation levels. A few options include setting the average donation amount as:

  • A lower donation level. To increase your average donation amount, set the median donation amount as a lower level. This may decrease your total donors but make each supporter who does give more valuable.
  • A middle donation level. Setting your average donation amount as your median donation level should be considered by nonprofits looking to maintain their current levels of support.
  • A higher donation level. This is a more unorthodox option but may be useful for nonprofits looking to increase donor acquisition by making entry-level donation amounts more accessible.

Assess your nonprofit’s donor acquisition and lifetime donor value rates to determine which of these options best fits your unique situation. Then, create subsequent donation levels that follow a logical progression. For instance, if your average donation amount is $25 and you want to set it as a low-tier amount, you might make the following levels $50, $75, and $100.

2. Link donation amounts to specific outcomes.

When a donor is choosing which donation level to give at, they may ask what the tangible difference between each option is. After all, why should a donor give $75 over $15?

Your donation levels can answer this question by briefly describing the types of outcomes that will result from each donation amount. For instance, here are some hypothetical outcomes from the example nonprofit Cat Rescue Club:

  • $25: Enrichment toys and bedding to keep our shelter cats happy and healthy.
  • $50: A week’s worth of food for our shelter cats awaiting adoption.
  • $75: Support for our network of over 100 foster families.
  • $100: Adpotions for 10 cats, helping them find their forever homes.
  • $200: Lifesaving surgery and medical treatment for cats in need.

These outcomes not only encourage supporters to move to higher donation levels but also increase their emotional investment in your nonprofit. After all, if they know they are providing essential support, donors are likely to stick around to see how their contributions helped, leading to increased retention.

3. Consider donor psychology.

Donation levels are ultimately a tool to guide donors’ giving behavior. While many supporters approach nonprofits’ donation pages with a clear idea of how much they want to give, many are also receptive to the cues and suggestions your donation levels provide.

When crafting your donation levels, try reading up on the basics of giving psychology. A few key insights to consider include:

  • Most donors will choose the second lowest donation level. Ultimately, donors are parting with their money when they give. As such, many want to donate an amount that doesn’t make them feel cheap, but they still want to be conservative about how much they spend. With this in mind, consider basing your donation amounts around the second-lowest donation level.
  • Low donation levels are encouraging to on-the-fence donors. This is useful for attracting new and first-time donors who are interested in but cautious about supporting your nonprofit.
  • High donation levels encourage loyal supporters to give more. However, this comes at the cost of driving away the on-the-fence donors.

Think of your donation levels as a general parameter of how much is acceptable to give. Donors who fall outside of that range are more likely to conform to the range (if they planned to give a higher amount than the highest donation level) or not give altogether (if they planned to give less than the lowest amount).

4. Name your donation tiers.

To help your donors develop a connection with your nonprofit, consider naming your donation levels. This can help donors to not only think of themselves as supporters of your nonprofit but as part of an exclusive group.

These names can reflect the hierarchical structure of your donation tiers. For example, you might name your levels bronze, silver, and gold. Or, instead, choose names that reflect your nonprofit’s cause. For instance, the Cat Rescue Club might name their donation levels Calico, Tuxedo, Tabby, and so on.

Nonprofits often employ this strategy during crowdfunding campaigns. These campaigns tie donation levels to specific rewards donors receive in exchange for their support. Naming these tiers not only helps donors form an identity related to your campaign but also makes organizing and distributing rewards easier since each category has a specific name rather than just a number.

You can also apply this reward strategy to your normal donation page, especially if your nonprofit has a membership program. For example, check out these tiers from Sarasota Orchestra:

Donor tiers from the Sarasota Orchestra with unique names for each level.

Names like “musician circle” and “maestro circle” not only reflect the benefits these tiers provide but also make higher-tier donors feel like a core part of the orchestra. 

5. Always provide a custom giving option.

In addition to your tailored donation levels, always add the option for supporters to write in and give any donation amount they want. While many supporters will default to using suggested giving amounts if they are provided, others will approach your donation form with a clear idea of exactly how much they want to give and they should be able to do so.

This also allows donors to give outside your donation range (on either the high or low end).

5 More Donation Page Tips

Donation levels are a key element of your nonprofit’s donation page, but they’re not the only element!

To ensure your donation tiers are as effective as possible at driving valuable gifts and acquiring donors, here are a few more donation page tips.

1. Promote matching gifts.

Envision a world where you double all of your donation levels and supporters can contribute those increased amounts with no issue. With matching gifts, this world is possible for at least some of your donors.

Matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program wherein businesses match employee donations to nonprofits, usually at a 1:1 rate. However, many supporters are unaware of these programs, let alone how to participate in them.

Use your donation page to market matching gifts by:

  • Providing a brief explanation about matching gifts. For supporters who are unfamiliar with matching gifts, a one or two-sentence explanation on your donation page can encourage them to check their eligibility and submit a match request. This explanation can be as short as something like: “You may be able to double your impact. Check if you’re eligible for matching gifts with your employer.”
  • Adding a matching gift search tool to your donation page. Consider investing in matching gift software, which allows you to embed a matching gift database search tool right into your donation page. Supporters can use this tool to check if they are eligible for a matching gift during the donation process.
  • Encouraging supporters to check their matching gift eligibility on your confirmation page. If supporters opt not to interact with your matching gift search tool while donating, give them one more chance to start the matching gift process by adding a message to (or even embedding your matching gift search tool) into your donation confirmation page. Using our hypothetical nonprofit example from above, consider what a matching gift database tool might look like on Cat Rescue Club’s page:

A donation confirmation screen with a matching gift search tool embedded.

These gifts come from donors’ employers, meaning you can earn twice your regular donation levels at no extra expense to your supporters. Be sure to emphasize this and the potential impact these additional gifts can have when promoting matching gifts to supporters.

Become a matching gift expert by downloading our free guide for nonprofits.

2. Encourage recurring giving.

Donation levels apply to both one-time and recurring gifts. All of the strategies we’ve discussed so far apply to both categories, but let’s dive deeper into tips for encouraging recurring giving now:

  • Adjust your recurring giving donation levels. Your donation levels should be less for recurring gifts than the corresponding ones for one-time gifts. For example, if your lowest donation level for one-time gifts is $25, you might make the recurring donation level $10. While this amount is less than half of the time-one gift, it will outpace it in three months’ time, and more than quadruple the amount in a year.
  • Display recurring giving and one-time donation options next to each other. Position your recurring giving and one-time donation tiers next to each other or allow supporters to easily toggle between them. This allows donors to make a direct comparison when deciding what to give. Plus, recurring gifts are less of an initial commitment, which makes them seem like a better deal to donors when placed next to high one-time donation levels.
  • Update any relevant text. Recurring gifts impact nonprofits differently than one-time gifts, and your donation levels should reflect this. If a one-time donation level promises to support a certain number of beneficiaries for a week, consider how the impact changes when it’s a smaller recurring gift.

To calculate your recurring donation levels, use the same strategies as discussed earlier, only this time, focus on just your current recurring donors. Additionally, of the strategies discussed, consider adding donation tiers below your average recurring gift amount.  Recurring donors are likely to stick around long-term and you can persuade them to increase their donation amount over time once they commit to making their first gifts.

3. Keep your donation page short.

When trying to include all of these tips in your donation page, it’s easy for your page to bloat in size. However, lengthy donation forms are likely to turn off potential donors, especially the new and on-the-fence donors we discussed earlier.

When designing your new donation page, consider how to keep each element concise and easy to understand at a glance. For example, if you want to go with a button approach to donation levels, you might try a page layout like this:

Detailed donation levels that include pictures and info about how each donation level supports the nonprofit.

Or, if you want all information to be visible for easier comparison, an approach like this maintains a minimalist design:

Button donation level for one-time and monthly giving from the Cat Rescue Club nonprofit.

4. Brand donation page to your nonprofit.

Your donation page is arguably the most important page on your website. Ensure supporters who land on it—especially those who navigate there from an external source like social media—know without a doubt that it belongs to your organization.

You can accomplish this by maintaining consistent branding across your website and ensuring your donation page specifically has a few key visual brand elements. These include:

  • Your logo
  • Brand colors
  • Key brand visuals

From the mobile version of your donation page, consider how you can ensure brand elements are present but unobtrusive. For example, you might remove key brand visuals, such as a photograph of beneficiaries, but keep your logo. This minimizes scrolling for mobile users without sacrificing branding consistency.

5. Continue adjusting your donation levels.

Your audience, donors’ giving behaviors, and economic circumstances change, and so should your donation tiers. To determine your donation levels’ effectiveness, keep an eye on key metrics, such as: 

  • Average donation amount
  • Donor acquisition
  • Donor lifetime value
  • Total number of donations

Analytics tools can help you track these metrics and specific donors’ behaviors over time. After implementing new donation levels, take note of new trends in donor engagement. Additionally, consider experimenting with different donation level amounts by creating unique donation levels for various campaigns. For example, you might set lower donation levels for a crowdfunding campaign to encourage new donor participation.

More Donation Level Tools and Tips

Your donation page is an essential tool for earning the funds that keep your nonprofit going. With donation levels, you can encourage more donors to give and increase donation amounts. To get started, calculate your average giving amounts and make strategic decisions about your donation goals.

For more information on how to attract and retain donors, explore these resources:

Learn how your monthly giving program can raise more through matched gifts by contacting Double the Donation.