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  • Writer's pictureViktoria

The 10/90 formula for donation pages that convert.

I’ve been there: staring at a blank screen wondering how to build a convincing case for why my donors should pull our their wallet and give to our cause.

Do I lead with the big problem we’re solving and build my case before making the ask? Do I start by telling a story? Do I just put the form at the very top - will that feel too forward?

How do I know I’m not turning people away by writing too much, too little, or in the wrong order?

Oh the agony!

The great news is, the online marketing world has already figured this out and they have a winning formula for building sales pages - it's tested and proven. And a donation page is essentially your sales page.

And because for-profits usually have more funds and resources to test and get to the answers faster, it's usually wise for us non-profits to pay attention.

So what is this formula?

It’s called the 10/90 messaging hierarchy, and I learned about it from Joanna Wiebe - my hero in the copywriting / online sales world.

Here’s how she describes the 10/90 messaging hierarchy:

"Roughly the top 10% of the page is all about matching 1) the visitor’s stage of awareness and 2) the message(s) that led her here. The rest of the page is all about convincing her."

The 90% of your landing page that's supposed to convince your visitor to take action must answer these questions, in roughly this order:

  1. What do you do?

  2. Okay. Why should I care?

  3. Am I alone in caring – or do others (preferably others like me) care?

  4. You’re starting to win me over. But I’m skeptical. So show me: how do you do what you say you do?

  5. And if I believe you and your process / solution, how will my life improve?

  6. Okay, let’s say I believe you. Now what?

Think of yourself like a lawyer building your case in court. You want a logical progression that takes your visitor by the hand and makes a convincing case that takes her over the finish line.

Let's take a look at this formula in action on charity: water’s landing page for The Spring:

Top 10%

Match the visitor's stage of awareness The top picture, call to action and donation form let them know they're in the right place.

Bottom 90%

1. What do you do?

This is answered in the copy: "The Spring is a passionate and determined group of monthly givers on a mission to end the water crisis."

2. OK. Why should I care?

Because if you join, you'll be part of history, and you'll be making the world a better place.

3. Show me how you do what you say you do?

We send the 'Good News' email each month, and prove where the money goes. Also, here's an entire series called The Journey that shows our work up close.

4. Who else cares? Are they people like me?

Yes, here they are!

5. I’d like to believe you, but first tell me: why is it safe for me to believe you?

charity: water addresses this with the 100% promise, but this would also be a great place to insert a few accreditor logos like Charity Navigator or GuideStar, or reassure donors that you're a tax-deductible 501c3 and you use a secure credit card processor.

7. Okay, let’s say I believe you. Now what? Here's where you bring the whole thing back to a donation offer and present the donation form one more time at the bottom of the page. By now, people should be ready to pull out their credit card.

The human brain likes order, and a logical progression like this one just feels more credible. To the visitor, it almost has this psychic effect, like you're anticipating each of their thoughts a few seconds before they think them. It positions you as the guide - intelligent, trustworthy and wise.

If you're interested in storytelling and marketing to help you raise more for your mission, we talk about this and a lot more in my Monthly Giving Launch Guide course here.

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