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UX Design for Fundraisers

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Maybe it’s because I read some tech-leaning blogs but in recent years I’ve come across the terms user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design more frequently. These terms are often discussed in relation to usability of websites, apps and other software.

When I saw this blog post by Jakob Nielsen, !0 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design, it struck me that so much of fundraising is about managing the “user” experience. Even though his original post is almost 20 years old, it still has relevant applications to much more than just software.

So here is my list of fundraising analogies for each of Nielsen’s 10 heuristics:


1. Visibility of system status

Send donation acknowledgments within 48 hours. It’s mind-boggling that so many organizations still don’t do this at all much less in a timely fashion.


2. Match between system and real world

Are you asking people to make fiscal year-end gifts? Most donors don’t think that way and have no idea what you are talking about or why it’s important. Give folks another compelling reason to donate because this one ain’t.


3. User control and freedom

Provide options for donation methods. We need to meet our donors where they are comfortable and that will depend on your particular constituency. Online forms are mainstream now but some still prefer to give by phone or snail mail. On the other hand, text donations are becoming increasingly popular. Do some market research and find out what mix works best for you.


4. Consistency and standards

Did you know that the words “donate” and “donate now” are more effective than “contribute”? People generally equate “donate” with money while some think that “contribute” could also mean time or goods. So stick with the norms for your call to action - this isn’t the place to get creative.


5. Error prevention

Avoid misunderstandings with donors by having good, board-approved gift acceptance policies and by following the AFP Code of Ethics and the Donor Bill of Rights.


6. Recognition rather than recall

For donors who make multiple gifts, send them a summary of their total contributions from the previous calendar year in early January so they don’t have to go looking for old letters when they do their taxes. They will love you for it and it gives you another opportunity to remind them of the impact of their support.


7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

Make your donation process easy as pie and as short as possible. Can you set up 1-click donations so repeat donors don’t have to enter all of their info again?


8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

All graphics and copy should have a reason for being there. If you can remove words without impacting the meaning, take them out. Unnecessary graphics and copy only make it harder for people to decide to make a donation.


9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Ever have to go re-do an online donation form multiple times because you didn’t enter your info exactly the way the system wanted it? Typing mistakes are inevitable but thoughtful form error messages can have a big impact on your online fundraising rates.


10. Help and documentation

It’s a good practice to link to your audits, 990 forms and annual reports on your website. Development staff should be accessible by phone so, yes, have a name and, at the very least, a direct phone number on your fundraising materials and website.

For me, fundraising and communications go together like peanut butter and jelly – delicious & filling!

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