Eliminating the paradox of choice in online fundraising

I believe the most important thing we did on our new website, was eliminating the paradox of choice. Giving the donor more choices, doesn’t make us more money. It makes us less.

There are many ways to support a charity. As for us, you can either:

  • make a one time donation,
  • become a regular donor (direct debit),
  • become a member,
  • make a gift in memory,
  • make a gift in celebration,
  • find out about legacies,
  • fundraise for us,
  • become a volunteer (which has its own set of variables even),
  • donate to one of our campaigns like the pink ribbon or others,
  • or the inevitable “follow us in social media”.

Should be something for everyone, right? I’m sure it is too. But for Ordinary Joe, this all just gets confusing.

The paradox of choice

The theory of the paradox of choice is that in some cases, having more choice actually makes it less likely that you will make any choice at all. Thus more likely that you will make no choice, and just leave. Now, while the theory had had some critique, it stands to reason that when we give no clear indication of what we want the user to do, the user gets confused.

On our old website, the user would be presented with all of the choices above more or less presented equally. So we left it to the user to decide how he could be of most help to us. 10 different choices to consider, it is just too complex.

Hard priorities

Screenshot from our website with donation form on top, menu underneath

Donation form, front and center. All other options still available below

The whole website is in responsive design, so we had to think of the mobile users first. This, as anyone who has done it knows, means making hard priorities. Our agency (the brilliant Netlife Research) made us decide which of all the things above we would put up if we could only put one choice up. It was hard. It was gruelling. There were tears, and fights broke out. Broken bones and broken hearts. But by golly, we did it.

We decided that the drop-in user, who could be persuaded to support or cause, would be most likely to make a donation. Hence, we put the donation form up front and center. We chose to put the form directly on the page, while all other ways of supporting are shown as links. All the other choices are still there, but we give you a clear indication of what we want you to do if you haven’t already settled on some other way of supporting us. I believe this to be one of the strongest contributing factors to the success of the new pages.

Dedicated landing pages

Another way we have eliminated the paradox of choice, is by making the donation form(s) “portable”. A common online fundraising problem, is that a user would watch / read a piece of communication that would make them inclined to support a cause. They then had to either locate the donate now-button (which they don’t see because of banner blindness), or the “support us”-section of the website, and then make their choice of how to support. All the while, the user does not know which way of supporting would be most effective to help with the problem they’ve just become engaged with. This means going into rational thought-mode. We have lost the emotional connection with the donor.

Example of content page telling a story about the research  being done, with the donation form underneath it.

Example of content page telling a story about the research being done, with the donation form underneath it.

With our portable form, I can paste the donation form onto any page I want. This means that if I want to present a story of a scientist who has done some remarkable work, I can put a donation form directly underneath it. This means that if someone is sufficiently moved, angered or otherwise convinced by something we post online, we can keep them in that state of mind while they make the decision to donate, and go through with it. I can decide which action I want them to take (donate, become a member, buy something), and show them that option on the same page. Having the ability to create dedicated landing pages in just a few minutes makes a digital fundraiser very happy 😀

This is the third blog post in my ongoing case study on the Norwegian Cancer Society’s new website that doubled our online fundraising.

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2 thoughts on “Eliminating the paradox of choice in online fundraising

  1. Pingback: How we doubled our website fundraising | Beate thinks out loud

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

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