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!


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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.

Sharing is caring is cash

(Read this post in Norwegian here)

Earlier this year I found a little research project that Eventbrite had done on their own website. It proved the value of a share – for example every share of a purchase for a ticket to a consert or charity event produces 12 new dollars of revenue. Now, those of you who have heard one of my talks since then, have heard my rant on how on earth we are content to just have that little “f” or “t” in a quiet little corner of our websites if we know that each time someone pushes that button it gives us 12 new dollars. Why then, are we not actively asking people to share?!

It has, until recently, however just been my hypotheses that a more active pursuit of sharing would lead to to more revenue. But lo and behold; it is now Myth Confirmed.

Turns out JustGiving read the same article as I did, or at least thought of the same hypotheses, and decided to turn theory in to practice with some amazing results. For some time now, they have given donors little nudges and encouraged them to share the fact that they have donated to their friends, and telling them that this increases the chances of raising even more money.

The first month after these features were rolled out saw a 50 % increase in sharing! That in it self is great, meaning that their message have been spread much further than before. But the other number, the real number, the one we all care about, is even more amazing. This increase of sharing lead to an increase of 150.000 pounds in donations. £150.000! In one month!! We are talking real cash here. My rants are only going to get worse from now on. If I catch any of you without a rather prominent sharing-ask, I am going to smack you on the head.

And there is no reason to believe that this only applies to concert tickets and charity. If you ask someone – in the right way – to post a photo of the amazing shoes they just bought in your store, I’m pretty sure they will. You would probably appeal to their sense of pride and wish to brag, rather than their concience, but you get the picture. You’re losing money not asking people to share.

This is a great infographic from JustGiving, showing in detail how the money comes from different social websites. It also shows some very interesting differences in the average amount donated from the different sites and across different platforms. I am particularly curious to see some more intel on why there is such a big difference on the different average amounts from facebook desktop, facebook mobile and facebook app.

And below you can see Jonathan Waddingham’s full presentation of the sharing-project, source of the facts I’ve stated above!

How real people use social media to make a real impact

Since the tiny little share-button on this blog is obviously not enough: Please show your friends how smart and knowledgeable you are by sharing this blogpost to your networks;)

a MASSIVE thank you to the delegates of IFC Holland!

(This blog is ususally in Norwegian, but given the number of new international twitterfollowers the past days, I might have to change that. Anyways; this is for you guys.)

It is friday, three in the afternoon, and I am in my hotel room winding down from three intense day at the International Fundraising Congress in Amsterdam. I just wanted to take the opportunity to send a MASSIVE thank you to all the delegates who attended my sessions on digital fundraising. You guys were amazing, and I am completely overwhelmed at the response and all the nice words from you. Thank you for participating and sharing your experiences, thank you for laughing at my stupid jokes, thank you for patiently sitting through my technical troubles – thank you for all the happy faces in the crowd, you guys make a presenter feel good. You have made my first time speaking at the IFC a blast, and I would definitly come talk to you guys again if opportunity arises.

And to all the brilliant people I have met these days; thank you for making the whole congress great, and for making the parties so fun that some of us got to bed quite a bit later than what you really should do when giving a presentation at 9 am the next morning….

To the other speakers; thank you for some great sessions – always something new and interesting to learn from you.

And to make up for killing the magic; I leave you with this very happy unicorn:

(by the way – never google “happy unicorn”. There are some seriously dodgy people out there, let me say no more. But I did it for you guys!). 

Happy unicorn

Happy, happy unicorn:D