How we doubled our website fundraising

There is this stubborn myth in fundraising that surely, i someone has decided to go onto a charities website to support them, surely surely they’ll put up with an extra field or two in the donation form. But this is simply not true!

If charities were webshops, solely relying on the income generated by our websites, we’d (almost) all be broke and out of business. But because we have other, bigger, legs to stand on – we don’t see all the money we’re NOT getting. All we see is that “we’re not making that much online, why bother”. And it is this attitude that keeps the stubborn myth alive. I hope that this blogpost can kill it off, once and for all.

Through three simple principles, the Norwegian Cancer Society has nearly doubled the income that comes from our website kreftforeningen.no in the year since we re-did our website with the help of awesome agency Netlife Research (who used to publish the wonderfully geeky and hilarious “Bad Usability Calendar”)

  1. Focus on good interaction design.
  2. Focus on making hard priorities, and putting content first
  3. Focus on good fundraising principles.

A week ago, myself and interaction design prodigy Ida Aalen gave a presentation at the Norwegian Fundraising Conference describing the process and the results. *

Results so far

  • Signed up monthly direct debit donors: up 88 %
  • “One-off”-donations, total amount: up 72,8 %
  • “One-off” donations, nr of donors: up 70 %
  • New members: up 8,5 %
  • Average donation: up 20 NOK ($3.30, €2.50, £2.1) – so far

These increases are without us doing more to increase traffic, this is more or less pure increase due to a better web page. It should also be mentioned that fundraising is in no way a top priority for the cancer society webpage at large. So this is not the result of suddenly fundraising being all over the website. Quite on the contrary.

How we did it

The user is confused by the many choices we present

The user does not know what we prefer him/her to do.

By making the choices clearer, the user knows what to do and is more likely to make any choice at all

By making the choices clearer, the user knows what to do and is more likely to make any choice at all

These are the top actions taken responsible for this increase:

  • Priorities. We’ve made the hard choices for the donor of what way s/he should support us. No more paradox of choice. The donor shouldn’t have to figure out if s/he should make a gift, a recurring gift, become a member, a fundraiser, a volunteer or follow us on facebook. We made the choice for them.
  • Simple UX which follows good interaction design rules.
  • Stripping down the necessary data. We don’t ask for more than absolutely necessary. Every extra field on your form hurts conversions.
  • Clear, friendly, conversational language. Not an interrogation of the donor. And you’ll find no “database-speak” in our form. Adress2 go home!
  • Fundraising techniques such as defaults and amounts. We’ve played around with this a bit, with some very fine results.

I will come back to these results and the techniques used in more detail in following blog posts. But for now: Please stop saying that surely people will fill in that extra field! They won’t.

*These are the one year-results. In times of the year where we have a big amount of “drop-in” visitors, such as christmas, the increases are even higher – last christmas as high as 250 % in amount. The more drop-in traffic you have, the bigger the difference your form makes.

The presentation can be seen below, for those with a keen understanding of Norwegian or a quick google translate-hand.  

* This is part one of a series of posts chronicling this case study.
Read part two: How adjusting the default really impacts online fundraising
Read part three: Eliminating the paradox of choice in online fundraising

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13 thoughts on “How we doubled our website fundraising

    • Thank you Rose 🙂
      I was amazed at just HOW much impact this change had myself. It will be really interesting to see this years christmas season, and see if the results will be the same as last year.

  1. Pingback: How adjusting the default really impacts online fundraising | Beate thinks out loud

    • I really hope so Laura 🙂 I frequently rant about donation forms whenever I give talks, and now I really have some numbers to hammer the point through. Hopefully people will find this inspiring 🙂

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