Losing the donor relationship

Digital channels have certainly changed the ways we work with fundraising. But I wouldn’t say it has disrupted it. We’ve gotten new channels and new skills, sure, but largely we’ve been able to go on they way we always had.

However, I think losing “ownership” of the donor relationship has the potential to being our disruptive moment.

Facebook Fundraising (people have raised over $300 million in the last years on birthdays alone!) and other new payment channels are becoming immensely popular among donors. Charities raise a lot of money. But get little to no data.

Current fundraising practices rely on us knowing who the donor is, and creating a good, long relationship with them, where they give many times over a lifetime. But we can’t do that if we don’t know who that donor is.

These platforms / channels that are gaining popularity as payment processors put their users first. And they don’t necessarily agree that it is a good thing for the donor to have their data given to the organisations.

So we are facing a situation where potentially over time a huge chunk of our income comes from donors we do not have the ability to communicate with. In a sector where the business model is based on creating long lasting relationships with donors, losing this relationship would be fairly disruptive, I dare say.

There are mainly two things we can do about this:

  1. Fight to keep our old business model. Try to persuade the new actors that they need to share data with us. We need to be able to build relationships with our donors – and they want a relationship with us.
  2. Adapt and change our business model. Accept that (a lot?) fewer donors want or need a relationship with us. We must deserve their attention on a case-by-case basis.

We’ve seen other industries try the first option. It hasn’t ended too well for them. Of course, that doesn’t mean it can’t work for us (I’m not being snarky – I mean that).

The second option means changing the way we work and think – drastically. Are we up for it?

——–

Until spring of 2018, I always talked about how cases of fundraising gone viral wasn’t something you could plan for. It was luck; not professional fundraising. A really nice thing you should always be ready for, but not something you could put in a strategy.

I don’t think that’s the case any more. You still can’t plan on going viral of course, but our strategies need to adapt to make sure we deserve a top of mind spot with our chosen target audiences. We have to constantly prove our impact, being relevant, always ready to respond to supporters and give them a hand in helping us.

That’s harder to do when you can’t build individual relationships, and it’s sure to require different skills. Tomorrow’s fundraiser may look nothing like today’s.

Maybe they’re robots 🤖.

P.S.: I don’t think the sky is going to fall, and I don’t think paper will die in the foreseeable future. But I’d rather be ready and adapt than be caught off guard in a “Kodak moment“.


Hey look! There’s a two-day strategy session coming up in September – way up in the beautiful Norwegian mountains where nothing will disturb you except delicious local food (including the *best* cheese) and maybe some cows!  Come away with Simon Scriver and me, and infuse some energy into your fundraising program!


Can you get Facebook to work for you, or is it all a waste of time and money?

I read this blogpost today, over on Queer Ideas: “If Facebook isn’t the future of social marketing, what is?“. Now – the author of the post, Mark Phillips, is a brilliant, brilliant man, and normally I agree with everything he says – as should you. On this one however, I have to somewhat disagree.

Mark references a report from Forrester, that says most organisations (also companies, I believe?) do not get much engagement back from social networks such as Facebook and twitter. The report (as I understand from Marks words), sort of suggests that this is a waste of time.

I have no doubt that the research is correct and that most businesses do indeed not get much back from their social channels. It is the conclusions – that this is the fault of the channel – I absolutely disagree with.

You see, most organisations and businesses are completely doing it wrong.

How many organisations do you know, who work with a comprehensive publishing plan where each and every Facebook post has a goal that is then measured and analysed?

How many organisations do you know who re-write each and every Facebook post 5 times, and put as much care into these words as words in an ad?

How many organisations do you know, who has a defined personality of who they are in social channels, that makes them recognizeable?

Not that many I will presume. And that is why they are not getting much back from their social channels.

Shit in, shit out.

As Facebook grows, it is only going to get harder to get organic reach. With 500 friends and 1-200 pages people follow, there are tens of thousands of posts Facebook could choose to show in your newsfeed. It’s only going to choose the best stuff. The stuff you usually interact with and find interesting. How do you expect to be one of those top 1-2% of posts, if you are not putting in the time and effort? You are not the pictures of the very cute babies in their lives. So you have to work harder.

You have to take the time to reply to those who do something for you. Even if there are 20.000 of them over a two week-period. You have to make sure you don’t talk like a robot. Like a press release. You have to make sure you don’t bore people to death. You have to become a personality. You have to plan, and work on it, and for the love of [insert your deity], you have to send people to good landing pages! Most landing pages are not prioritised, they are not user friendly, and they are not adapted for mobile. And from Facebook, most of your visitors are mobile. You have to do the work.

If you do, Facebook is one of the most rewarding channels. The Norwegian Cancer Society regularly gets a return on investment of about 8 when they advertise on Facebook. Most of that from donors who are new to the database. Those results are possible because they have done the ground work. I have worked with clients where we have increased organic reach tenfold just by paying closer attention to what is put out there.

I’m fairly certain that if you sent out a piece of direct mail that was a first draft, with a return form made of toilet paper, without a return envelope, where half the text was hidden behind another piece of paper – to people who do not know a single thing about what you do – that wouldn’t work so well either.

So that’s it. Fix your website, and put in the time and work to the social channels. Realise that just like not everyone opens the envelope you send them in the mail, not everyone is going to see your every facebook post. That’s okay. That doesn’t stop you from trying.

Do that, and I’m sure Forrester will have different results later on. 

Stop hating on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, you bitter people.

I thought I was done ranting after writing about how slacktivism is a really stupid term that’s not real and should be stopped immediately. But there have been so much weird and bitter criticism for the Ice Bucket Challenge this past week, that I have another rant coming on.

Here are some of the, to me, baffling pieces.

Just to mention a few. Well. I really don’t see how you can criticize something that has raised an astounding $41 $53 $70,2 million at the time of writing. I have so many issues with this, that I don’t even know where to start. So the following is in no particular order of annoyance – just the order they ranted their way out.

The narcissism-argument

Who CARES if people give for narcissistic reasons?! As long as they are giving, it certainly does not matter to me. And guess what? We’re all narcissistc in some way or other. And we all have different reasons for giving. Please read this great piece by Lesley Pinder for a nice write-up on all the different reasons we give. The narcissism is what keeps the phenomenon moving. If people just gave, and didn’t tell anyone about it – guess what, far less money would be raised. Use it, don’t hate it. You wouldn’t spite a major donor with a plaque on the wall for being narcissistic – it’s no different when a teen posts a video to instagram.

The “slacktivism”-argument

For a complete debunking of the slacktivism-myth, see my previous blogpost for all the facts. So there’s that out the window. But even if some people do just to the online thing (also know as clicktivism, hashtag-activism and other derogatory terms) – that also helps move it all forward! Seth Godin has written a very good piece on this: There have always been those who just talk and don’t do – there still are. But they help get the word out. They normalize the behaviour.

The “these people don’t really care about the cause”-argument

Well again – who cares, it’s 72 million to cure a horrible disease! While technically, I think the argument has some truth to it – I don’t see why that should make a difference. If people can give because it’s fun, that is just as good a reason to give, if you ask me.  It’s like some people think that unless you truly care on a personal level, you shouldn’t give. I do not agree with that.

The “these people will never be loyal donors”-argument

Well, first of all: you don’t know that. Even if just a fraction of the 600.000 (or so) who have donated become regular donors, it means a lot of money for the ALS Association.  But even more important, I think we should be less afraid to let people go. Yes, it might be true that these people won’t become loyal donors of the ALS Association. And they might move on to some other cause for the next viral craze. Then let them. Trust that they will be back next time you have a moving story or fun activity. Trust in your own ability to reach people again later.

Also: If this had not happened – ALSA would not even have the chance to TRY to convert these people. These are hundreds of thousands of new leads for them to thank, steward and tell about their cause (that they have now even heard of). If ALSA does this well, the next time these people see an ALSA ad, they might just respond.

The “these money are stolen from other charities”-argument

This is the most bizarre to me. I haven’t really seen any stats on it, other than the author’s claim that half the money they raise would have come in anyway. And that somehow, that means that the challenge is now eating out of the half that it is possible for all charities to raise money from. I do not believe that for a second. Looking at the numbers from our own Cold Water Challenge that raised a lot for the Norwegian Cancer Society this spring, almost all donors were new. I don’t just mean new to us, they were probably  new to the act of giving too, bar dropping a few bucks in a bucket here and there. Most of them were 18-30 year olds. As any fundraiser know, these are not the staple of your average donor database.

So not only is this money from people who wouldn’t normally donate (and thus cannot be stolen from other charities) – these people are now being exposed to giving as something “expected and normal to do”, as Seth says in the previously linked blog post. How great isn’t that?!

And lastly..

We always talk about how we can find ways to interact with a younger audience. And then, when a younger audience engages with our world – raising more money than any of us have ever managed, without us even helping them – we look down at the way they choose to do it?? That is just so rude, un-grateful and short-sighted that I don’t even know what to say.

Don’t be that guy. Stop raining on someone else’s parade. Get with the program.  

I hate the term Slacktivism.

I really hate the term slacktivism, and it’s been coming up quite a lot lately. You wanna know why I hate it so much? BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING!!

I’m starting to suspect that the only ones who need that term, is someone who wants to feel good and snooty about not participating in something “viral” and “folksy”.

The term is meant to describe the notion that people “nowadays” (because as we all know, everything was so much better before), “just click like and share and never do anything of real value and only want to be seen in social media and blah blah blah.”

Guess what? That is simply not true. And there are so, so many examples to back that up.

Because you know what the actual facts – the numbers – say?

They say that the Ice Bucket Challenged has raised $2.3 million for ALS $10 million for ALS $22.9 million for ALS $31.5 million for ALS $41 million for ALS $53 million for ALS $62,5 million for ALS $70.2 million for ALS $88,5 million for ALS. Not to mention the insane amount of press and attention. Yes, that is what is known as awareness. And yes, that has value.

They say that #Nomakeupselfie raised £8 million for Cancer Research UK, funding an extra TEN clinical trials!

They say that the Cold Water Challenge raised 3.5 million Norwegian Kroner for the Norwegian Cancer Society. Just by people jumping into cold water and posting about in in social media.

They say that on JustGiving, a person take “some sort of social action (i.e. share) are 4 times more likely to donate“.

They say that a share of a fundraising event on eventbrite is worth $12 more in ticket sales.

They say that making people share more, increased donations given on social giving platform JustGiving, with more than £150.000 in ONE month.

They say that the so-called “slacktivists” (i.e. people who post about social action in social media) are:

  • As likely as non-social media promoters to donate
  • Twice as likely to volunteer their time
  • Twice as likely to take part in events like charity walks
  • More than twice as likely to buy products or services from companies that supported the cause
  • Three times as likely to solicit donations on behalf of their cause
  • More than four times as likely to encourage others to sign a petition or contact political representatives.

I hereby forbid any and all use of the term from here on out (permissions to use term granted to people who dislike it as strongly as I do and want to use the word only to destroy it).

Sharing is caring. Case closed. Rant over.

Cold-water-challenge raises heck-load of money: Number bonanza!

Sometime around May 1st, the good people of Norway started jumping into the cold water, naturally daring their friends to repeat the feat or suffer the consequences. Consequences started out being owing someone a beer, a bottle of wine or a dinner. But then, somehow, sometime, someone thought: “well this all seems a bit selfish, I cannot in good conscience tell my friends to freeze or pay me. But hey! I can ask my friends to freeze or pay THE CANCER SOCIETY!”.

And, lo and behold, pay the good people of Norway did. In a couple of hours, I went from vaguely registering that “hm, perhaps there is quite a bit more donating going on today than usually”, to being blown away an avalanche of good deeds.

obligatory cat-gif of surprised cat

This is me. Surprised by an avalanche of good deeds.

Over the course of two weeks, 3,5 million NOK  (approx. US$600.000, €430.000 and £350.000) was donated to the Norwegian Cancer Society alone. Keep in mind that there are only 5 million Norwegians all together, and quite a few of those are bound to be infants or very, very old. So this is a momentous amount, actually more than 10% of what we raise in our annual two-week fundraiser Krafttak mot kreft, which takes a year to plan and has 20.000 people knocking on doors.

This amount of “random” money suddenly flowing in is flat out insane. But lordy-lord we’re happy about it! Actually we’re so happy that we too jumped into the cold waters of Oslo, at 850.000 NOK (we thought we were at the peak. We were oh-so-wrong). I’m in this bunch of my colleagues jumping in. I’m aqua-phobic (and it’s COLD), so I expect high praise for this, I’ll have you know.

Number one stat you need to know: Without mobile, you’re toast

More than 70% of all donations given came from a mobile phone – not even counting tablets. This includes text-donations and credit card donations from a mobiles browser. I will say that again, as it needs repeating. I shit you not:

More than 70% of all #Hoppihavet-donations came from a mobile phone!

Have a look at this beauty of a pretty stacked graph:

Graph showing biggest number of donations came from text and mobile web.

Number of donation by medium. Text is pink, web-donations (credit card) split into mobile (green), tablet (purple) and desktop/laptop (blue). Note how Eurovision Song Contest-day makes a noticeable dip in donations!

That ginormous pink slab, is the number of text donations. And we’re not talking micro donation texts, the majority are 200 NOK (US$34, €25, £20) a piece. Add to that the green slab which are donations made by credit card on our website in a mobile browser, and you have 70-75% of the pie. On mobile phones. In other words; money that would not have come had we not been optimized for mobile.

Looking at the beginning and the end of this graph, where the blue desktop-line is the dominant one, tells you a lot. That is the status quo of everyday donating. But as soon as spur-of-the-moment takes over, as soon as donating becomes spontaneous, mobile is the absolute go-to-medium for most of us. Again we see that context is more important than device.

More than half the donations came from text

More than half the donations came from text

When donating becomes spontaneous, mobile is the go-to-medium.

Our webpage is responsive, and thus easy to navigate on a phone. Our donation forms are available to mobile users. Our text-to-donate codes are easy to find. If this was not the case, we wouldn’t have gotten half the donations we did.

Fun facts and sums:

  • On the busiest days of this absolute banana-fest of giving, more than 10% of ALL visitors to the cancer society web page made a donation. I cannot begin to stress how out of the ordinary that is. Our site is made primarily for patients and next of kin. Most come to check out symptoms etc, they do not come to donate.
  • For the first two weeks of May, The “Thank you for donating”-page (that you only get to after giving) was the fifth most viewed page on the entire Cancer Society website.
  •  The busiest days saw 1 donation pr minute on average (counting all 24 hours).
  • The busiest hours saw roughly 4-6 donations pr minute
  • 70% of mobile views came from an Apple product (no surprise)
  • 100% of the 1 person who visited from a blackberry donated. Thank you!
  • Eurovision Song Contest (May 10th) made a more noticeable dip in donations than Norways Constitution Day (May 17th), see graph above.People were apparently too busy voting for Conchita to donate.
  • 57% of web conversions came from google. Which means that even as people sit down to make a donation to the cancer society, which has a URL exactly like our name, people still google the task and come in that way. The second biggest source are the 18% who came directly by typing the url, followed by 13 % who came from facebook. Of donors who came from facebook, 70% where from the mobile view.

What can we learn from this?

Well, if you’re looking for advice on how to create some viral trend that makes the money roll in, I can’t help you. We didn’t start this, people did. And that’s why it worked, in my opinion. Just like the #Nomakeupselfie that got so big in the UK, the charities who benefited had nothing to do with starting it. That is one of my favorite things about digital fundraising; it’s utterly unpredictable and all you can do is be prepared. Paul deGregorio has written a beautiful little piece on these trends. I recommend you read it.

Here’s what I think are the important parts of what we do to be ready:

  • Near 24/7 social media surveillance. This means we pick up on emerging trends early, and can start to get ready as soon as we see something that has the potential to go big.
  • Knowing our numbers. Once we noticed something brewing i social media, we could immediately look at our analytics and confirm the trend. We could in a couple of minutes find out exactly how much (more than usual) had been given.
  • Information sharing. As soon as we picked up on this, the information about what, how much and relevant statements were sent out to all internal stakeholders. This way, we were ready to answers any questions from the press or public.
  • Being ready to jump. Don’t think that there is any way you can throw gas on these flames; you can’t. But if you’re good and lucky, you might be able to fuel it with some kindling. I think we managed that, by quickly acknowledging the trend in our social channels and in the press, keeping people updated on the amounts donated, thanking people in social media, and of course, by showing genuine joy and appreciation and jumping into the water ourselves.
  • Being ready for mobile! This one deserves an exclamation mark.
  • Sit back and let the people have fun. There’s not much you can do to make these things happen. So don’t try – you’ll only embarrass yourself. Be the facilitator when someone wants to do something for you, and be happy when you’re the benefactor of something amazing.

Let us all take a moment to reflect on the fact that PEOPLE ARE AWESOME!

 

Will people donate from their mobile browser?

This is an easy one. The answer is “H*** yes!”. That is, if you let them.

The Christmas appeal of the Norwegian Cancer society was done on our responsive design platform that adapts to all screen sizes. We saw astounding conversion rates, on all devices. Now, conversions were high here all together, but the most important statistic to me, is how little mobiles are behind desktops. And how far ahead tablets are!

Conversion rates overall: 13,5 %. Tablet: 16,67%. Desktop: 14,40%. Mobile: 10,36%

Conversion rates on the Christmas appeal campaign site

What does this tell us?

Looking behind these numbers, you can make some assumptions. For example; we know in the fundraising world, that women 40+ are most likely to donate. This coincides with the group that are likely to use a tablet. Norwegian numbers show that while men are in the majority when it comes to buying/owning an iPad or similar, women are more likely to have it as a preferred device. (Very) oversimplified; men use their laptop – women use their tablet. So given that your most likely group to donate are using tablets – we should let them use that device to donate, don’t you agree?

There are two big lessons here, in my opinion.

Adapt to mobile browsers

For the love of [insert your deity] make sure that your donation pages are adapted to mobile browsers. If mobile browsers are not able to make a donation – look at what you’re missing out on! I mean, it would be ridiculous to tell all those people that you don’t want their money.

Less is more – can you skip some info?

As anyone who has heard me speak knows, I think we sometimes have to make the choice between gathering data, and getting the donor in at all. This is particularly true when you are working with small screens. The proof is quite clear from the Christmas appeal results. We have a very stripped down donation form, only asking for your name, email and donation amount. We can see that the conversion from small screens is higher here, than they are on our regular donation forms where we ask for more information.

To me, the morale is that sometimes it is better to just accept the donation for what it is – a one time donation – if you cannot later “upgrade” them to a better relationship. After all – isn’t it better to get someone to feel so passionate as to donating right now, with the hope of extracting more data later, than to ask for so much data in the first place that you scare them off?

I’d love to hear from others with experience in mobile adapting. What are your findings? 

“From good intentions to more web donations”: Video talk

Here’s the talk I did in Madrid earlier this fall. The talk takes you through the basic principles of the redesign we did of the Norwegian Cancer Society website. Enjoy:)

P.S. 1: If the embedded video doesn’t work, watch it directly on youtube.

P.S. 2: If you can’t watch the video right now, you can read the blogposts on this topic by following the “All about the redesign”-link in the top menu).

Blogpost by Gerry McGovern and webinar about Cancer Society webpage

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you know that you should check out this blogpost by content guru Gerry McGovern: “Putting people’s need first”. Gerry is the man behind, among other things, the tool “Customer Carewords“, which we used when designing the new page. He’s known for his strict focus on user needs and content management. In the blogpost, he talks about the approach we had when making the new cancer society website. Through strict focus on people’s needs, we have yielded some astonishingly great results, among which are:

  • A doubling or more in all kinds of online income (one-off donations, recurring gifts, members, in memoriam gifts etc)
  • 20% increase in inquiries to the cancer help line (chat and phone)
  • People who contact the help line are more informed – they ask more advanced questions because the basic information is more available.
  • Big increase in website being used as a direct source in the media.
  • Almost a doubling in monthly visitors to the site. At the same time other web analytics indicators are positive, the quality of these visits are good.

And when you have checked out Gerry’s blog post, you should sign up for the webinar myself and interaction designer Ida Aalen are holding November 27th, talking through this case. There are two times offered, so as to cover as many time zones as possible. Join us!

P.S.: To see more results and learning points from the redesign, check out the other blogposts I’ve written about it.

Key elements in making a good donation form

I never knew how big a difference tiny details in a donation form make. I thought a clean, nice form was enough. Turns out, I’m wrong. Over the past few years as I’ve had the pleasure of working with prodigy interaction designer Ida Aalen, I’ve learned a lot about basic form design. It all has in common that it makes a lot of sense once you know it. And that it makes a world of difference to the number of people who actually fill out your forms. 

Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned, taken from a presentation by the aforementioned Ida. Making the forms easy to understand, is key. Now, this might be very basic for those of you who are all ready well versed in interaction design. If so, move along to something more interesting. But if you, like many charities I know, don’t have the form design expertise, and your form provider does not either – I hope this can be as educational to you as it was to me 🙂

This is what I would have thought was actually a quite good form.

A good looking contact form, but we can improve it

I fairly good-looking form!

But there is a lot we can to do improve on it. For instance, I used to think that people actually read the helpful little instructions we wrote for them. But it turns out we’re all lazy bastards and we can’t be bothered. Instead, we use visual clues to tell us what should be where in a form. And so adjusting the length of each individual input field to fit with the information that should go in it, really helps our eyes and brain easily figure out what to do. So:

1. Use input field lengths to hint about what should be filled in

Field lengths should be adjusted to their intended content.

Field lengths should be adjusted to their intended content.

Here, the shorter length of “zip code” tells your brain that this is where the short (usually) number-based zip code goes.

2. Fields that go together should be grouped together

The second trick to letting your brain more easily “see” what information goes where without actually reading it, is to group fields that go together. First name and last name are information that goes together. All aspects of your adress likewise. Electronic contacts like mobile numbers and e-mail go together. So:

Spanish Fundraising conference - from good intentions to more donations UTEN BYGG.022-001

Already, this form is putting much less cognitive strain on your brain while you’re filling it out. But let’s take out the big guns.

3. Buttons must clearly state what they do

This may seem obvious, but your buttons need to clearly state what they do! This should be such a no-brainer, but still we see forms using buttons that say “ok”, “send”, etc. The actions probably seem so self-explanatory to you the owner, that you don’t think that anyone else could misunderstand them. Usually, they can.

Buttons that clearly state what they do

Buttons that clearly state what they do

It could be a good idea to bring an outsider in and ask them what they think the buttons do. The answer might surprise you. Particularly if you bring in an outsider that is less than used to sitting in front of a computer.

4. Remove buttons that hurt more than they help

So, who amongst you has a “reset”, “cancel” or “clear form”-button on your donation form? If you do, don’t put your hand up, because SHAME ON YOU! Why would you want to HELP someone stop the donation they’re about to give you? And really, chances are most people who click that button anyway didn’t mean to, and then has to go through the action of filling out your form all over again. If for some reason you DO insist on having a cancel button anyway, at least make it much less prominent, and place it to the left – people are used to the right button being the “move along”-button.

Remove buttons that hurt more than help

Remove buttons that hurt more than help

The grim example below is from a hotel I stayed at. Their log-on screen for the wifi had several steps. All of them  had “cancel”-buttons – even steps that had no chance of incurring any fee on me. Both buttons were the same color. To make matters worse, they had reversed the positions of the “connect” and “cancel”-buttons from the normal. Usually “cancel” is placed left, and “go” right. I clicked the cancel-button SO many times erroneously, everytime I tried to log on. My brain never learned. To make matters EVEN worse, the page was not mobile friendly, so when I logged on from my phone, the only button I could see in the screen frame was the “cancel”-button. Which, of course, I clicked erroneously even more times. Gaah!

Picture of hotel log-in page with badly placed "cancel"-button

Picture to the left is how the screen looked after the page zoomes in when you tap a typing box. you had to manually zoom back out in order to get the “connect” button in the frame at all, as in the picture to the right.

5. Error messages that actually help

How often have you clicked a “submit”-button and then having nothing happen, and not understandig why? After meticulous scrutiny you might find a tiny asterisk indicating that you filled something out wrong. But it migh still not tell you WHAT you did wrong, or how to fix it. Your error messages should be clearly visible, communicate what’s wrong and how to fix it, and be placed with the field that contains the error. Your screen should automatically move to put the error in the users view.

The field containing the error is clearly marked with a red box, and a text explaining what's wrong.

The error message is clear, placed on the offending field, and clearly indicates what’s wrong.

And that’s it – a much, much improved form through seemingly small changes.

There you have it – these are some of the key elements to improving your online donation forms – explained by me, masterly taught by Ida Aalen of Netlife Research,  the “coolest UI/UX consultants in Norway”. If you want to learn more about form design, Ida highly recommends you check out Luke Wroblewski’s book “Web Form Design” and presentations.

Any other thoughts? Please share in the comments 🙂

(P.S.: Don’t forget to register for the webinar Ida and me will be holding November 27th, talking through the redesign of the cancer society web site. You can read all about it and register at Gerry McGovern’s blog.)

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.