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.  

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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!

 

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.

How adjusting the default really impacts online fundraising

Playing with the default donation amount has been really important in our new website, and it turns out it’s really effective.

In a previous post, I shared the fundraising increases resulting from the new and improved website, some quite astonishing numbers. I want to tell you a bit more about the work that we’ve done, and I’m starting with the defaults.

So here’s an interesting graph:

graph showing development of donations given.

Development of donations given for two given amounts, as a percentage of total donations given (online)

The black line represents donations to the amount of 250 NOK ($42.2, €31.74, £26,7). and the green line represents donations to the amount of 500 NOK ($84.4, €63.4, £53.4). The graph shows how big a percentage of number of given donations each of them has compared to the other. (Note that Norway is a high-cost country, so these one-off donation amounts are not as high to us as they might seem to some of you from other countries)

When we first launched the new site back in september 2012, the default amount – our suggested donation – was 250 NOK. Not a bad donation at all, and definitely not anything that would scare anyone away. Other suggested amounts in the drop down-menu in the donation forms were 500 NOK, 1.000 NOK and optional, but 250 was the one visible without pressing the drop-down.

DOnation form wiht 250NOK default

Donation form

As you can see, for the first few months the two amounts 250 and 500 danced around each other in a fairly even share of the total. But in January, we saw the number of 500-donations go down. In hindsight, I believe this to be because the first couple of months were leading up to Christmas. I believe we had a lot of visitors who gave larger donations, because they felt generous at Christmas, and wanted to make a “real” contribution “this once a year”. But when Christmas was over, people reverted to giving our suggested amount – 250 NOK.

Ask for more?

It’s a really scary thing to ask people for twice the amount you’ve previously been asking for. But with, among other things, Adrian Sargeants research on donation amounts, his cases about radio fundraising, inspiring us – we wanted to se if we could indeed ask for more. And we could see from our data that some people were still giving much large donations, while those we hypothesized where “drop-in”-traffic were giving the default suggested amount. So we took a leap of faith and put the default at 500NOK in May of 2013.

I was petrified. I feared angry phonecalls from people wondering who we thought we were demanding outrageous sums from people. I feared conversion rates sinking through the floors. I feared putting people off and chasing them away. I listened for the sound of the approaching stomping feet of a hoard of donor care representatives, demanding my head on a stick.

But lo and behold.

graph picturing the percentage of 500NOK gifts shooting up when the default is changed.

Look what happened when we changed the default

Nobody noticed.

Yes! Ask for more.

Instead, they started giving the now suggested donation amount. The green line soared like a very pretty donation-eagle on it’s way to deliver more money into the hands of cancer researchers.

We’ve been monitoring the numbers closely since the change, seeing if maybe other amounts are dropping as a result. Maybe someone not willing to give 500 would now give 100 rather than 250. Maybe someone wanting to give more than 250 would now give 500 rather than 750. But that does not seem to be the case. The only thing this does indeed seem to be impacting, is the amount those who choose the default give.

If you haven’t tested your suggested donation amount in a while, I urge you to do so. Take a look at your data, see what people are giving. Find out what your optimal suggestion is. It’s probably more than you think. Remember that people online for some reason seem to give higher average amounts than offline.

Test it. Monitor the result. And raise more money for doing good in the world 🙂

P.S.: I want to say again that amazing web agency Netlife Research are the ones responsible for our new website They are truly the best at what they do, and I love working with them. Their design expertise combined with our fundraising knowledge is a great combination!

* This is part two of a series of posts chronicling this case study.
Read part one: How we doubled our website fundraising
Read part three: Eliminating the paradox of choice in online fundraising

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

My interviews from AFP Toronto

I had such a blast speaking in Toronto at the AFP in November. One of the things I got to do was to feature on STTV with some thoughts from my session “Making a website for the future”. And here it is:)

(P.S.: Watch this space. In a few weeks I’ll be sharing some numbers from when we redid our website a few months back. Let’s just say the numbers blew my mind. And from now on, whenever I yell at people for not doing enough work on their donation forms, I’m going to yell even louder. Because as you will se – my God you can do a lot by working on your forms).

Anyway – here are the interviews: