THE NUDGE FORMULA: The Design Trick that Gets Donors to Give More

Design is the secret weapon of the best fundraisers. 

It is subtle, yet highly effective at getting us to take action without us even realizing it.

From the layout of emails to how we read online, design guides our behavior so that we can navigate the world we’re in more easily. It tells us where to go, what to do, and how to feel. 

In other words, design is powerful.

Think about this.

Your donors’ lives are busier than they’ve ever been. They are juggling a hundred things in their head at once. And their minds are exhausted from making decisions all day long. 

If you want to stay on their good side— while getting them to give bigger gifts — keep reading! 

I’m going to show you how to use a subtle design technique to increase the average gift size you receive from your donors and reduce the mental energy they expend while giving to you.

And it’s so simple you’d be right to be skeptical that it actually works so well. Luckily, it’s backed up by data!

Let’s look at how it works… 

The Old Way of Doing Things

When most donors go through the process of picking an amount to give, they usually reach a screen that looks something like this:

Online donation


This is, for all intents and purposes, typical of online donation pages. The amounts are listed in sequential order and we expect donors to give whichever amount they feel is best for them. 

"Just because something is ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s a good idea." 


This list of giving amounts might look fine from a traditional fundraising perspective but, from a design mindset, it has one major flaw: all elements are given equal priority.

In other words, the layout does nothing to guide a person’s behavior, which means that they have to exert extra energy in order to make a decision. 

This is the kind of thing that drives designers crazy. 

Because a donation form design that adds stress and work to a donor’s experience is a design that fails. You are adding an unnecessary burden on them. Not to mention the fact that, in addition to easing their giving experience, you could also be guiding them to donate bigger amounts. 

"Use design to guide supporters to certain giving amounts."


So how do we design the giving process better?

What can we do to increase the average gift size and make sure our donors’ have an easy and enjoyable experience? 

Let’s take a look…

Designing for Bigger Gifts

Now that we see the problem with a traditional design of giving amounts, we’re now going to walk through how to design an effective solution. 

As a quick recap, we have two main problems with the original design:

  1. The average gift size is small, since most people choose the lowest amount. 
  2. It doesn’t guide donor behavior, since all giving amounts are displayed with equal prioritization.

We want to make sure our new design solves both issues. 

Guess what? It’s going to!

Take a look at this:

Source:  EveryAction

Source: EveryAction

With a really inviting and smart use of color, this donation format highlights the $50 giving level. 

This has a really important effect.

Even though it is subtle, we are instinctively drawn to $50 in a way that if it was the same shade of blue, we wouldn’t be. By highlighting it with green, the organization is privileging this amount in our minds. 

The best part? This leads more people to giving more!

Study after study shows that when you implement a design that guides a person’s behavior in this way, there is a clear uptick in the highlighted option.

They can also combine design and copy to highlight a specific amount...

online donation form

What they’re doing is the exact same thing you can do with your designs — tell people what the right decision is so they don’t have to figure out the answer on their own.

Their overworked brains will appreciate it if you do.

And so will your organization.