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User-friendly donation process is key to increasing transactions

Originally published: August 2017

In an increasingly digital world, charities can't afford to be complacent when it comes to encouraging online donations. Over a quarter of those donating to charity in the U.K. do so online, according to Charities Aid Foundation, with those aged 25-44 the most likely (32 percent) age group to donate this way.

But supporters will easily lose interest or get distracted if the donation process on a charity’s website is not user friendly. A journey that helps visitors to give quickly and easily is essential.

This is what Parkinson's UK, a support and research charity, had in mind when it launched its new online donation platform in April 2017.

The organization's aims were to:

  • Attract new supporters and encourage existing supporters to come back to the website, by offering a wider range of payment options across multiple devices — desktop, smartphones and tablets
  • Build a responsive design that would work equally well on an iPhone or an Android device as it would on someone's PC or MacBook
  • Scrap unnecessary data capture questions, so supporters can donate quickly and easily — preventing them falling at the first hurdle
  • Increase security for online payments, giving supporters peace of mind that their card details are secure

Parkinson's UK's digital product management lead, Darragh Field, says: "Our old donations platform wasn't sophisticated enough. It didn't integrate well with analytical tools, which meant we weren't capturing detailed information about our supporters and their online journey. The technical limitations meant we also couldn't tailor the user journey. We knew we needed to make improvements if we wanted to encourage new supporters to donate online."

The work was split into two phases:

Gathering insight

With the help of a web development agency, the charity began reviewing the current donation system and gathering insight about website traffic — what route people took through the site to donate, and what was and wasn't working — to help it develop a more effective user journey and encourage more people to donate.

This is commonly known as a conversion funnel, a term used to describe the journey an individual takes through a website to make a donation.

The charity sent out an email survey to 8,000 web users to find out:

  • Motivations to give/what would influence a decision to donate
  • Motivations not to give/what would influence a decision not to donate
  • Preferred method of giving
  • Relationship to Parkinson’s UK
  • Attitudes to Parkinson’s UK
  • Attitudes to/experience of the charity's online presence

Field adds: "We talked to our existing supporters about what they liked about the current user journey and what they didn't like about it. It was important to get their insight to know how best to improve the process."

The digital team also worked with colleagues from across the organization to scope their requirements for a new system. When you're working on this type of project, it’s important to define not only what can improve the incoming traffic, but what you do with it when you get it, says Field. "You need to know where the data will be stored and how it will be processed and managed."

The new payment gateway needed to be able to handle data in a way that worked for the rest of the organization.

"We were solving one end of the problem — including putting a new donation funnel in place and setting up a new payment provider — but we had to be cautious about how we would manage the data. Our new all-singing, all-dancing donations platform needed to work with our incumbent data management tools. It was about ensuring a smooth reconciliation."

Testing, testing and more testing

The second stage of the project involved gathering information and feedback from supporters to test build a working prototype of the funnel. Parkinson's UK worked with the web development agency to carry out the testing.

"Prototyping was very important to us to get a sense of what the user journey was like. We wanted to get as close as we could to the real thing to see what was working and what wasn't. It's a very effective way of doing it," explains Field.

When the team was confident that everything was working as expected, and having completed the design and build stage, it was time to move onto the development stage. Once the new donation process was in place, rigorous user testing was carried out. And six months after the digital team started the project, the new online donation platform went live. After resolving a few bugs (including in how supporters' data was presented in the database) it was fully functional.

Was it a success?

Since going live, there's been a 50 percent increase in donations made on mobile devices year-over-year, an 87.4 percent increase in the number of total donations made year-over-year and a 53.4 percent increase in donation value year-over-year (figures from August 2017). PayPal has also been added as a payment option to the site accounting for almost a quarter of donations since the relaunch; this has also reduced transaction costs.

Getting the internal language right

So what advice would Parkinson’s UK give to other charities planning a digital project of this size?

Field says that digital transformation doesn't just take place front of house, it takes place in the "deepest corners of an organization".

"Sometimes cultural change and getting everyone on board can be the hardest part," he explains.

It's important to involve colleagues, including senior staff, in these types of projects to make sure the right people are feeding into the process. Parkinson's UK's digital team invited key colleagues from across the organization to workshops to keep them updated and involved in the process.

“Anything you're doing that changes the way individuals work in house has to be communicated effectively,” says Field. "Don't underestimate the amount of assurance and support you have to give to colleagues."



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