Donation Motivation

Published on Oct 14, 2009 by Nick Rougeux | Category: design

Recently, we had the opportunity to study what motivates people to donate online. The lesson we learned from the experience was invaluable.

The idea

A new fundraising campaign had been planned and the idea was to make a big splash on the main site by including a large Flash-based promo on their home page that took up 60% of their visitors' average screen resolution.

Promo placement diagrams

Diagram of promo placements on home page (left) and sidebar (right)

We suggested exploring alternative methods of promoting the campaign but a separate company had already been hired to create the promo and a micro site. When faced with this challenge we turned it into a learning experience.

Working with the other company, we helped them make the clicks trackable on the promo down to each button within the Flash element so we could see what motivated people to click. About a month into the campaign, they agreed with one of our recommendations and let us put smaller text-based promos with a small logo of the campaign in the sidebars throughout their site so visitors could access the micro site from anywhere in a less-intrusive way. They also customized the language based on where they appeared so the promos appealed to the the different types of audiences that read different areas of their site.

The results

Promo click comparison

Comparison of home page clicks and side bar clicks (note: the sidebar promo was added on Oct 2)

The home page promo ran for just over 2 months but didn't get much attention. Out of 100,000+ views, it received 127 clicks in 66 days versus the sidebar promo's 479 clicks in 44 days. The large difference was expected because the sidebar promo appeared on every page while the home page promo only appeared on one and most people have banner blindness when it comes to big ads. We don't have access to the numbers for how much was raised as a result of those clicks, but looking at what motivated people to click the home page promo was the eye-opener.

Chart of clicks on home page promo

Chart of clicks on home page promo

There were five buttons on the home page promo—each pointing to different areas of the micro site for watching a video about the campaign, reading about the benefactors, the campaign's progress, how it helped, and the donation form. The distribution of clicks shows that most people wanted to read about how their donations were going to be used before donating.

These results make a lot of sense. The large home page promo was the equivalent of shouting at people the minute they arrived at the site and asking for money before they had a chance to find out why they should give. The first chance they got to find out more, they took it. The most successful of the sidebar promos also briefly promoted how donations were going to be used.

The sidebar promos and micro site were kept running after the home page promo was removed. We're pleased to report that the sidebar promos continue to drive a steady amount of traffic to the micro site.

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