How to Use Donation Tiers or Giving Levels to Boost Online Donations

Adding donation tiers to your donation form helps target all donor groups and increases your chances of getting more donations for your cause. But what are the best practices you should follow - should you add impact information to each tier and what else can you do for the best results? Get tips and examples in this guide.

9 minutes read
How to Use Donation Tiers or Giving Levels to Boost Online Donations

Imagine Anna. Anna is a thirty-something woman who works in an art gallery. She’s always loved animals and spends a lot of time with her three dogs in the nearby park. During one of their walks, Anna saw an abandoned cat. She immediately acted, rushing the cat to the nearest animal shelter. The shelter had their hands full and didn’t have the resources to take care of the cat, so Anna had to take the cat to a different one.

That same evening, Anna couldn’t stop thinking about what she saw at the shelter. Without sufficient resources, the shelter struggled to meet the needs of all the animals that needed care. Anna immediately went to their website to make a donation. She had initially planned to give $20 and then give again in the future. However, when she started filling in her information on the donation form, she ended up giving $70.

Why is this the case?

That was the suggested donation amounts or giving levels or donation tiers, or whichever name you’d like to call it by.

In this article, we’ll discuss what giving levels are, why they work, how to set these amounts, and more.

  1. What are donation tiers and why do they work?
  2. How to set donation tiers? (9 tips and insights)
  3. 3 excellent examples of giving levels for nonprofits

What are Donation Tiers and Why Do They Work?

Donation tiers (or giving levels) offer donors choices in the form of pre-determined amounts (e.g. $25, $50, $500). Rather than leaving a blank space for the donor to enter an amount, donation tiers provide benchmarks. They are essentially suggested levels of giving that allow donors to choose how much they should give.

Next to each suggested amount, there is usually a description of what that amount will accomplish. These benchmarks can influence a donor’s decision about how much to give.

With Donorbox, you can easily add suggested giving amounts along with a description of each amount to the donation form. You also have the option to set different amounts for one-time and recurring donations. Which is a great fundraising strategy if you want to convert more one-time donors into recurring donors by suggesting lesser recurring donation amounts.

Here’s a live example to help you understand what donation tiers or giving levels are.

donation tiers on donorbox

Get Started with Donorbox

How to Set Donation Tiers? (Tips and Insights)

1. Gather data

To set giving levels that are right for your organization, take into account your average gift size. What is the amount most of your donors give? If a large portion of your supporters gives gifts less than $20, don’t have the lowest suggestion be $70.

This works the other way around too. If most of your donors make gifts of over $200, don’t lead them into contributing less than they normally would by setting the highest donation level at $150.

Knowing the average amount that your donors give can help you determine your lowest and your highest donation amount. You should have about four to six donation tiers in total. So do your research on your available donor and donation data accordingly.

Donation tiers must be researched, realistic, and relevant to an organization and its goals in order to be effective. Donorbox lets you segment your donor (shown below) and donation data stored in its database and gather insights into donors’ giving abilities. This analysis will further help you add giving levels to your donation form.

donor segmentation on donorbox

Donorbox Donor Management - Learn More!

2. Push, just a little

While it’s important to avoid discouraging donors by suggesting an amount that’s too high, you want to push the donation levels, as well as the suggested pre-selected donation amount a little bit higher than your average gift size.

The vast majority of the top 100 nonprofits used an approach that included 4-5 suggested donations paired with the option to enter a custom amount. Around half of these organizations highlighted a default suggested value (usually the 2nd or 3rd option).

Lowest values: Most commonly $25-50

Highest Values: Most commonly $1000, but ranged from $250 to $5000

3. Include an “Other Amount” option

Don’t forget to include an “Other Amount” option.

Giving your donors the opportunity to decide to enter their own amount helps avoid them being overwhelmed with their options. It also gives them the freedom to select an amount that isn’t suggested in the form, and that might work better for them – for whatever reason.

On Donorbox, by default, custom donations are enabled (see an example below). You also have the option to disable this on your form. But it is advisable to keep it as it is, so donors can give however they want.

custom amount in donation tiers

4. Tie donation tiers to specific outcomes

Donation levels will work best if you tie them to specific outcomes.

To each donation tier, add a sentence about what this donation will “buy/provide/supply.” Five families with shelter? One week of school for one child? School supplies for 10 children for a month? Doing this makes these gifts more tangibly meaningful to the supporter. It can also encourage them to donate more when they see the impact their dollars will have.

These, however, need to be honest representations of a donation’s value to your organization’s overall mission and long-term impact goals. Check out how Sentinel Media did thorough research on how each suggested donation amount will help their journalists and investigations and used the below Donorbox form to showcase that.

donation levels with impact information

Create Giving Levels on Donorbox

5. Have your donation tiers “make sense

The average giving amount shouldn’t be the only thing informing your decision. For example, if your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy targets first-time or lower-level donors, you might want to list dollar amounts from $20 to $100 working to elicit lower-level gifts.

If, on the other hand, you’re addressing higher-level donors, you might want to list amounts from $100 to $10,000 implying an expected donation of much larger sums.

The donation tiers and the pre-selected amount will also depend on the fundraising campaign in question. For example, you might want to set up lower donation levels for a walk-a-thon than for a gala fundraiser.

Pro tip: You can also brainstorm donation tier names for your nonprofit – don’t be afraid to get creative! Just as importantly, don’t go crazy or spend too much time on this!  Donation tier names can add to the experience, but they are not the most crucial factor in your fundraising success.

6. Suggest recurring donations

Donor retention rate is one of the most important metrics for a nonprofit. Recurring donors are incredibly valuable to nonprofits. Not only do most donations trickle in from existing donors, but acquiring new donors is always more costly than cultivating existing ones.

While there are numerous best practices for boosting donor retention rates, one of the easiest is to offer recurring donations as an option on your donation page. When you offer recurring donations on your giving form, you not only make it easier for donors to give again and again (boosting your retention rate) but, on average, donations increase.

Very few donors will log back on to donate every month, which is why automating the process makes all the difference.

With Donorbox Recurring Donations, you can add daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly intervals to your donation form. You can set your default and recommended intervals. Which helps boost your chances of converting more donors. It’s also very easy for your donors to use – their donations will be automatically deducted at the chosen interval. But they also get their own donor accounts where they can manage their recurring plans (pause, resume, upgrade, or cancel) and download donation receipts.

See how Make-A-Wish Ireland has utilized Donorbox’s recurring donation form by embedding it in their website and adding suggested giving amounts.

make a wish ireland recurring donation

7. Use the right fundraising software

You might have read through the article and seen plenty of examples so far, ending up getting excited about trying to use donation tiers in your own donation forms!

Only then…

You found out you can’t adjust or edit your current donation forms. Frustrating!

Choose an online donation platform that lets you customize your forms, add in donation tiers, prompt for recurring giving, and more.

Donorbox is a powerful and efficient fundraising platform that will help you fully customize your donation forms with recurring donations, giving levels, and more.

  • Add multiple recurring donation intervals and let recurring donors have access to their accounts.
  • Add custom giving amounts and add impact details for each, thus creating effective giving levels on your donation forms.
  • Donation forms meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) at level AA and they are optimized to function well on all devices.
  • Add multiple options like donation designations, tribute donations, company donation matching widget, and more to boost donations.
  • Collect donor information and have Donorbox store data securely in its database.
  • Accept digital wallet payments with PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, Apple Pay, etc. via Donorbox UltraSwift™ Pay.
  • Create unlimited fundraising pages and forms as well as use advanced fundraising tools like Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, Events, Memberships, and more.
  • Let one-time donors save their precious information and log in to their accounts later to use QuickDonate ™ to repeat their donation to your campaigns.

Ready to get started? Watch the below video to learn the 4 simple steps and read this step-by-step guide for more information.

Start Fundraising with Donorbox

8. Use distinctive donation tiers for different donor levels

A pro tip in its own regard, if you aren’t using different donation forms for different donor segments, you’re missing out.

Say you are sending out an e-mail to promote a new fundraising campaign.

If you segment your donors before sending the e-mail out, you can create separate forms and adjust the default donation tiers to correspond with donors’ previous giving histories.

For example, let’s say you divided the list into three sections: higher-level donors, mid-level donors, and lower-level donors. How you define which donor goes into which donor level will depend very much on your nonprofit. For example, for one nonprofit a ‘major donor’ might be one with an average size of $200 and for the other $5000.

The call to action in each email would lead the donor to different donation forms, suggesting different donation tiers.

9. Test and adjust donation levels

Keep testing out different giving levels on your donation form to try and push your average donation size up.

With limited resources and stretched budgets, few nonprofits or charities have time to constantly A/B test their pages, but doing so – especially at the start – is likely to pay off in the future.

Constantly keep track of how your forms are performing and adjust donation tiers as necessary.

When looking at your results and coming up with donation tiers that make sense, keep in mind things that might skew the data. For example, if you’re counting on donations received through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, your average might be lower. This is because many of the donors acquired via peer-to-peer fundraisers are new to your organization and are participating in a joint effort, so they tend to give at a lower level.

Likewise, the average gift size essentially doubles in all categories during the month of December. So, it’d be smart to exclude December data too.

Pro tip: It’s also a good idea to keep checking if your average online donation is beating the benchmark. If not, then it may be time to tinker a bit with your giving levels. Perhaps you set the default giving levels too low or too high? Try recalibrating your donation tiers.

3 Excellent Examples of Giving Levels For Nonprofits

We’ve rounded up a few more examples of nonprofits that use donation tiers to enhance their donation process.

1. Empower Work – website donation page

Empower Work has embedded Donorbox’s donation form on its website to accept online donations. Their form is customized to include 5 giving levels targeted to their various donor groups. From their range of donation amounts, the depth of their data research is quite clear.

Each level of giving includes impact information that is bound to establish trust among donors and encourage more donations.

giving level examples

2. unfoldingWord – “The Gathering 2022” campaign

This donation form is clean, simple, and effective. The giving levels grabbed our eyeballs instantly with the way the amounts have been chosen.

unfoldingWord uses just 3 giving levels on their donation form but they still manage to cover a wide range of donor levels with them.

The impact information that comes with each donation amount is detailed yet to the point. Using fewer donation levels ensures that they have a short and simple form that doesn’t overwhelm campaign visitors and donors.

fundraising campaign donation amounts example

3. Ukraine Aid Ops – “Ukraine Air Operations” campaign

Ukraine Aid Ops‘ campaign page includes 10 donation tiers that progressively and almost exponentially increase. With levels as low as $20 to as high as $12,500, the nonprofit offers a wide range of giving levels to choose from – allowing donors to choose a level that works best for them.

We also love the strategy they’ve adopted for adding the impact information only to higher donation levels. This ensures a neater look for the form, as well as helps their higher-level donors understand the impact of their gifts. This also helps convince someone with the giving ability to donate more than they otherwise would.

If you’d want to avoid a longer form like this, it is advisable to create two separate forms and target specific donor segments. However, for an emergency relief campaign, this might be difficult to manage. The choice is yours but this method has proven to be equally efficient for the organization.

donation tiers example

Moving Forward

How you choose to set up your donation tiers will depend upon the nature of your nonprofit, the giving behavior of your typical donor, the fundraising history of your organization, and the context in which you are asking for the gift.

There’s a lot of room for different approaches, including the one where you choose – for whatever reason – to not use donation tiers. However, if you choose to do so, we hope these general principles and best practices helped guide your thinking as you go about choosing the donation tiers for your nonprofit.

Donation tiers are an effective fundraising boost because they help tell a story, they take the guessing game out of the picture, and they capitalize on the human need to fit in.

They make it easier for potential donors to relate to your work and understand how they can make a difference. This clarity incites action and helps you raise more money for your cause.

At Donorbox, we prioritize solutions that help our nonprofits increase their donations. We know that donation tiers and recurring donations are a vital part of nonprofit sustainability, so we built a solution responding to that need. We also made it simple and user-friendly, ensuring a no-hassle process for everyone involved! Learn about Donorbox and its powerful features on our website.

Check out our Nonprofit Blog for hundreds of blogs, free resources, and guides on fundraising, donor management, leadership, starting a nonprofit, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter to have us send a curated list of our best resources to your inbox every month.

Ilma Ibrisevic is a content creator and nonprofit writer. She’s passionate about meaningful work, sustainability, and social movements. If she’s not working, she’s obsessing over coffee or cooking. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

  • twitter
  • linkedin
  • url

Join the fundraising movement!

Subscribe to our e-newsletter to receive the latest blogs, news, and more in your inbox.

Take your donor experience to the next level!
Join the 50,000+ nonprofits already raising funds online.
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join Our Newsletter
Get a monthly curated round-up of our best posts and feature updates. (You can unsubscribe anytime.)
Join a 30min Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!
Join a 30min Live Demo to see how Donorbox can help you reach your fundraising goals!