Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When Form Follows Function - And Puts Donors Off

Image via Destiny Assoc.
As my friends from Twitter know, I am a Digital Flaneuse (thank you, Dr. @AmyPalko). While I was flaneusing around Twitter, I came across this post by Patrick Woods about a survey he made to show that people respond better to requests for donations if the request is graphically appealing. (Note: Patrick's post was in support of his product, 5MinuteFundRaiser.) Having been in UI when digital graphics were still made up of @ signs and the like, I commented that the user experience should always be uppermost when designing a donation form (online or hard copy). This is not something that usually happens.

The Usual Suspects Form

Most nonprofits are primarily concerned with getting the details right. Because of transparency and laws affecting their reporting and actions, it's important that any donation be clearly understood and applied as the donor wants it to be. But this can lead to an - unfortunate - bland, unengaging and even off-putting appearance:
Yikes. One wants to do good, but why do some places make it more difficult than it has to be? Tiny buttons to be checkmarked, cramped lines of text to be filled out, seemingly miles of information to be read, understood and dealt with.

"The Lord Loveth a Cheerful Giver" but this would make a cheerful giver sigh. And possibly put off the task. Then who knows when they would get back to it. If ever.

Here's another one:
A Nice Background Is Not a Substitute for Usability

It's rather pretty in a subdued, purply kind of way. But it has the same problems: cramped spaces and tiny boxes, lots and lots of detail. People with diminished eyesight will not thank them for this. It gets credit for making their mission clear, but that's not enough to save it from being meatloaf at a prime rib banquet.

Now For Something Completely Different

How nice is this? Once again, the Red Cross shows us how to get the job done, cleanly and invitingly. Oh yes, the donor will end up filling out the necessary information, but it won't seem like so much of a chore because the tasks are broken up into smaller jobs and the text to be absorbed on any one of the pages won't be so daunting. And here's a mobile version of a donor form:

Electronic Versus Hard Copy

This seems to be to be the heart of the problem with donation forms. When you're using an electronic donation form, you can afford to be generous with white space and graphics and color. All of those things add up to extra cost when you have to print and mail.

Naturally, I'm not going to suggest that you go totally digital, unless you've done a survey of your constituents and the results merit it. That day is probably coming, though. With most on Facebook and at least connected to the internet, paper donor forms are in the twilight of their usefulness. In the meantime, you can still look at your paper form and see if there are areas that could be addressed. For instance, instead of listing out all your programs, you could have a line titled "Instructions". It's been my experience that if a donor wants their money to go to a specific program, they have no problems with writing that out in a note or in the check memo line.

And why not encourage your donors to move to online donation by highlighting your online presence in your hard copy materials? You - are - highlighting your presence on FB or Twitter or other social media sites, right?

Beauty is Skin And Pixel Deep

In the tech world we used to say "it's all about the user." Same here, only substitute 'donor' for 'user.' People want to identify with your mission. They want to support it. Make each avenue for doing so as attractive and pleasant as possible.

Tool of The Week: BookmarkQ

I often like to share quotes or pieces of information I come across while being a Digital Flaneuse. This bookmarklet gives me an easy way to do that. All I have to do is highlight the quote I want to share and click the bookmarklet button. I then get a short url that leads directly to the quote or I can choose to share via FB, Gmail or Twitter. Check out BookmarkQ here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What and Who You Love - Emergency Succession Planning

Via Hubcap at

I've been spending the last couple of weeks in reflection since my nephew was killed in an accident. This is my habit when someone close to me dies; to think about what they meant to me and how they affected my life - to recognize their contributions and express gratitude and to learn what I can from what has happened.

In some ways, losing someone in an unexpected way is more horrific than having to let go of them slowly. Regardless of when or how it happens, you can never really be prepared for it. I was just as shocked by my father's death from cancer as from my nephew's death from a freeway accident, even though I knew my father's condition was terminal. But at least with an illness you may have a small window of opportunity to prepare, to take care of some things ahead of time. With a sudden death, you don't even have that.

Everyone is a Hostage to Fate

My point is that, despite all your planning for the future, your destiny is not assured. I doubt that my 29 year old nephew had a will or a large enough insurance policy to cover his wife and children, though he may have - he was a rather forward looking and dependable man. This post is not about urging you to do those things. Your decisions regarding your private life and family are your business alone. But if you haven't thought about how your small nonprofit would fare should something happen to you or a key member of your small staff, you ought to.

Lives may stop for a while, but the mission your small nonprofit was created to serve, will go on. And staffers, board and constituents will all be able to do so more confidently and easily if a sudden loss of a key person has been planned for.

  • How will people be notified?
  • Who will succeed in the role, at least temporarily and how will duties be parceled out in the meantime?
  • What areas will be most affected and how?
  • If the person lost was driving strategy, is there someone else who knows his/her plans or where to find them?

I'm sure there are other questions that will occur to you once you start thinking about this in relation to your own nonprofit, including what information you consider vital to be passed on should the lost person turn out to be you.

This is where I add the obligatory insurance/mortuary business line about how we all hope such preparations won't be needed, but for the sake of your loved ones' peace of mind... only in this case, it's your nonprofit. It's important to you - you've devoted a lot of love and energy to it. And don't think that the brain fog won't happen if the sudden loss is someone else or someone close to someone else, either. People who work closely together develop a symbiosis - what affects one will affect the others. Do them and your small nonprofit the favor of planning ahead of an emergency and review your plans on a regular basis. If you do, you can continue to help them even if you're no longer there.

Tool of the Week: Google+ and GoDropBox

You'd have to be under a rock in the social media world to not know that Google has rolled out Google+. So far, I like it but how useful it really is remains to be seen. Early days yet, for sure. Still, if you're wondering about it and how the roll out may affect your small nonprofit, check out this post by Amy at NTEN as she looks at the privacy context of Google+ and which of the new SM platform's features might be useful to nonprofits.

GoDropBox may be useful to you if you're already working from the Google Docs cloud and find you sometimes need to review large files in concert with a small group of other people. Check it out here.