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Navigation Station, Part 2: The Give Button
Navigation Station, Part 2: The Give Button


Navigation Station, Part 2: The Give Button

Feb 22, 2021By Kaycee Woodford

The Give Button: No Longer an Afterthought

Any higher ed marketer worth their salt knows the importance of calls to action (CTAs). Critical elements of your marketing strategy, CTAs drive visitor flow on your website, help you reach goals, and convert students. If you do them well, your website will be easier to navigate and you’ll see improved results for your goals and conversions.

Higher ed often focuses on the prospective student audience — and rightly so. Colleges and universities would be tough to operate without students, after all. The majority of the time, .edu CTAs direct prospective students to “Learn More,” “Request Information,” and “Apply Now!” But we all know that multiple departments vie for space on institutional websites, making those clear, direct CTAs even more important.

One of the most popular CTAs in higher ed is the Give button. Where should it go? Should it say “Give” or “Donate”? Do people actually click it?

These are the lingering questions many of our clients face when trying to decide how to handle the gateway to giving. Where to place and how to format the Give button can feel like a balancing act of trying to generate revenue while also staying true to the primary audience: prospective students.

Luckily, mStoner has performed an analysis that offers insight into just how much the placement and label of these buttons factor into engagement.

Common Placements

Let’s take a look at some of the most common places we see the Give button on institutional websites.

Header navigation 

Often, the Give button is located in the header navigation, either on the left or right side of the screen.

example of header navigation with the give button

Footer navigation

The footer navigation is perhaps the most commonplace for a Give link. Usually, it’s a simple text link or in the form of a button.

example of footer with the give button

Means and Methods

We used Google Analytics as our data source and analyzed 24 educational institutions for this study. For sites that have been live for one year or more, we looked at the data between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020. For sites that were launched after June 1, 2019, we adjusted the start date to align with the launch. And, for this study, we focused on data for desktop viewports.

Our primary data point was percent of pageviews to the giving page. We measured the percentage of users who come to the giving page from the Give CTA versus those who come from other sources, such as marketing emails, organic search, or social media campaigns.

In our analysis, we also wanted to interpret the data from multiple angles. Knowing the questions we wanted to answer, we thought it was important to look into how both the location and label of the Give button affect the metrics.

  • Location of button: We wanted to see if having the button in just the header or footer had less of an impact than having it in both locations.
  • Link label: We wanted to determine which labels saw the most and least engagement.


Our findings:

  • Location of button: In terms of the percent of pageviews to the giving page, we found that there wasn’t much difference in having the Give button in both the header and footer versus having it in only one location.

bar chart illustrating pageviews to giving pages button location

  • Label: Looking at various labels for the Give button, we see that variations of the word “Give” see the most engagement, whereas variations of “Donate” see the least.

bar chart illustrating clicks to giving pages vs footer labels

What Does It All Mean?

The data we’ve uncovered offers a simple solution to the giving conundrum: Users will find a way to give if the option is easy to find and clearly labeled.

  • Location: Given that the data shows no clear benefit to having links in both the header and footer navigation, where to place your Give button boils down to strategy rather than a guarantee of engagement. If your institution is entering campaign season, then you may choose to prioritize the button in the header, knowing that more potential donors will be visiting your site. Conversely, if you’re in a quiet period, you may be content with having a simple call to action in your footer. Most important, though, wherever you decide to place the call to action shouldn’t conflict with the needs of your primary audience. This is especially important if the link is going to live in the header navigation. In this case, you’ll need to ensure that the link is secondary to the main site nav by avoiding overstyling (for example, a big red “GIVE NOW” button) and ensuring the placement isn’t competing with more important navigation.
  • Link label: Where we do see some clarity is in the label of the Give button. With the data showing more engagement with variations of “Give” or “Giving,” we can surmise that the language feels more appropriate to the user. This is understandable, because the alternative of “Donate,” or any variation of the word, feels more in line with charity organizations than educational institutions.

However you decide to display your Give button, be sure that it’s reflective of your institutional strategy and takes into account your primary audience.

Additionally, it’s essential that your advancement team includes the button as part of your larger campaign strategy. By understanding how potential donors are entering your site, you’ll be able to make well-informed decisions about how and where to prioritize the button. We recommend digging into your own data to weigh exactly where key donor audiences are coming from (such as email, social, or direct) versus how much engagement your current button sees. When you’re able to rank the effectiveness of these pathways, you’ll be able to make well-informed decisions about placement, labeling, and styling of your site’s Give button.

This is the second post in a three-part series about organizing your navigation for the optimal user experience. Read Part 1: Finding Your Navigation Style, and stay tuned for the final post, coming soon! 

  • Kaycee Woodford Director of UX As Director of UX, Kaycee Woodford translates research, analytics, client goals, and customer needs into solutions that deliver results.