I was disturbed recently to read this:
Giving money on charity websites is 7% harder than spending money on e-commerce sites. Donating physical items is even harder. For non-profit websites, social media is secondary; the top priority is to write clearer content.
The words were written by Jakob Nielsen in February 2011 as a summary of his findings after studying more than 60 non-profit and charity websites.
I didn’t buy the actual report but he does explain more in his summary page.
Testers found it hard to donate
In his study he watched representative users — people who had donated to charities in the past, along with those who had volunteered, and those who use Facebook.
Testers were asked to choose recipient charities, make donations, volunteer time or products, purchase products or use Facebook to research charities.
The research found it was harder for testers to donate money to charities through their websites than to buy products at online stores. Most charities made it quite hard for testers to donate goods.
On the other hand charity websites were good at informing testers about volunteering.
Facebook shouldn’t be the main source of info
Testers were also surprised to find more information about some charities on their Facebook page than on their official site. What they expected from Facebook were personal stories, such as stories about people who had benefited from the charity.
The most important lesson though was that charities needed to make the information on their sites much clearer and much easier to find.
Do your own simple tests
It’s almost impossible for any of us to see our own work, our own organisation or our own website as ‘outsiders’ do.
This was brought home to me forcefully this week when I searched for information on a website of my own that I’ve been neglecting for 18 months or so. I couldn’t find the info and the website was bewildering. And I made it! I’m overhauling the website right now.
You could easily and cheaply do some tests like these for yourselves.
Find some friends or neighbours who don’t already know all about your organisation and give them some tasks to do on your website, such as donating money. Don’t help them at all — just watch and make notes. Ask them to tell you what they’re thinking as they do the task. Reassure them that there are no wrong answers and you’re not testing the person in any way.
Small changes may have a big effect
What do you discover? Can you use that new information to change your site and increase donations?
Remember too: don’t just stop when they find the right place to donate. Give them $10 and ask them to go all the way through the donation process. What does that tell you? Did they give up part way through? Why?
Test, adapt and retest. You may be surprised by what happens.
Written by Miraz Jordan for, and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, August 2011. This article has been modified for publication here.