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.

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