What makes an effective digital donation process?

I’ve made donations to a number of top UK charities. They use these techniques to encourage donations:

  • Promote regular giving
  • Amount shopping lists and user choice
  • Ease of use
  • Images of people
  • Social proof, trust seals, where your money goes
  • Emotional reinforcement
  • Use donations as part of a multi-channel relationship

I’ll now elaborate a little on the processes of Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and charity:water

Macmillan’s single donation process

The Macmillan homepage focuses on people and their stories – each of its sections is lead by a photographed person sharing their story.

The donation ask comes either in the rotating carousel or through the site-wide donation button at the top right of each page.
This provides a clear, route to making a donation for those who want to, but the site as a whole leads with support.

macmillan 1

The donate page:

  • Focuses on people and feelings.
  • Directly addresses the visitor as essential, and asks how much they’d like to give.
    This appeal directly builds on the core Macmillan brand message “so no one has to face cancer alone”
  • Empowers the user with choice – of donation type and amount.
  • Shows, for each of the different donation amounts, how many people are giving the different options. This provides social proof.
  • Prioritises regular giving over single donations, because regular giving is more useful to charities.

Two ideas for how this page might be made even more effective:

  • Reduce the number of options at the top of the page – they may distract the user and reduce their propensity to give.
  • Change some of the accompanying images so that they show people. The image that accompanies the £25 donation features a nurse and a patient or family member smiling at each other. I suspect that this is more compelling than the £50 level which shows a plate of pasta.

Here’s what you see if you choose to make a single donation page:

macmillan 2


macmillan 3

  • From the user’s perspective, the entire process happens on the Macmillan website, and with the Macmillan brand.
  • Emotional reinforcement through the form.
  • Trust seals increase credibility
  • Clear phone number to contact in case of difficulty
  • People can see how far through the process they are.

After the 3d secure step, which I won’t show here, you’re taken to the thank you page:

macmillan 5

The thank-you page:

  • calls you out by name and praises you and your impact.
  • Gives additional actions – sharing through different channels, or campaigning.
  • Isn’t the end of the journey – the user also receives a thank-you email:

macmillan 6

The thank-you email:

  • Gives users a chance to find out more about their donation – which is working to build support or implicitly to upsell.
  • Outlines Macmillan’s offer of support – building a reciprocal relationship.
  • Begins to build a multi-channel digital relationship with the donor.

Cancer Research UK’s single donation process

cancer research uk 0

The Cancer Research UK homepage:

  • Use lots of social proof.
  • Features a clear box for people who have already decided to donate before coming to the site.
  • Incorporates the site-wide donate button.

cancer research uk 0.5

The Cancer Research UK donate page:

  • Uses human pictures
  • Is focused and calm, despite including a range of options. Clearly the different options have been prioritised.
  • Prioritises regular giving.

cancer research uk 1

The single donation form:

  • Subtle attempted upsell to regular donation
  • Empowers visitor with choice about where their money goes – but a simple choice.
  • Gift aid option explained visually.
  • Visitor empowered to choose the easiest payment options that suits them. I chose to pay with paypal.

After taking payment, I then had the opportunity to choose my communications preferences:

cancer research uk 4

I was then taken to the thank-you page:

cancer research uk 5

As with Macmillan, the email thank-you message was used to drive multi-channel digital engagement:

cancer research uk 6

The email shows the difference that your donation makes, but also has secondary actions: taking an exciting quiz on improving lifestlye; an opportunity to get support or to connect; and an invitation to deepen engagement with research.

charity:water’s single donation process

charity water 1

The donate page:

  • Uses powerful visuals, communicating the impact of donations.
  • Reassures you about where your money goes.
  • Is clean and focused.
  • Makes paying incredibly easy

Marvel at the ease of use of the Stripe popup. Why aren’t more charities following the lead of ecommerce and using Stripe?

charity water card 1

The payment form only asks for the bare minimum it needs to take your payment

charity water card 2

charity water card 3

charity water card 4

The thank-you page:

  • is focused, and shows the impact of your donation.
  • upsells to a bigger supporting action – using the principle of consistency.

charity water card 5

The email thank-you leads with an image, and articulates the impact of the cause.

I’d be interested to see this exercise carried out on mobile. How well do the top charities compare?

Eyal: Hooked – How to build habit-forming products

Nir Eyal sets out a framework for building engagement with users of a product, based on repeatedly guiding users through a series of ‘hooks’ to form habits. “The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief.” Portfolio/Penguin 2014.

People use their smartphones a lot

  • 79% of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every day.
  • People use their smartphones around 150 times a day, according to industry professionals

What is a habit?

  • A habit is an automatic behavior triggered by situational cues.
  • Habits require little or no conscious thought.
  • A product has high habit-forming potential if it is seen as useful and is used frequently. Fundamentally your product must solve users’ problems.

The four stages of the Hook Model

1. Trigger

A trigger instructs the user to take an action. Triggers can be external or internal.

Habit-forming products start by using external triggers like email, app icons or notifications, but over repeated hook cycles users form associations with internal triggers. Internal triggers are based on existing behaviours or emotions.

  • External – tells the user what to do next by placing information in the user’s environment. e.g paid (unsustainable, earned (media and PR), relationship (peer recommendations), owned (“Owned triggers consume a piece of real estate in the user’s environment. They consistently show up in daily life and it is ultimately up to the user to opt in to allowing these triggers to appear.” e.g. an app icon, email newsletter). “Without owned triggers and users’ tacit permission to enter their attentional space, it is difficult to cue users frequently enough to change their behavior.”
  • Internal – associations in the user’s memory tell them what to do next. Achieved by tightly coupling a product with a thought, emotion or existing routine.
    e.g. “A need is triggered in Yin’s mind every time a moment is worth holding on to, and for her, the immediate solution is Instagram. Yin no longer requires an external stimulus to prompt her to use the app – the internal trigger happens on its own.”
    So you need to understand a user’s internal triggers – the pains they seek to solve. Focus on these emotions rather than product features. (“Only an accurate understanding of our user’s underlying needs can inform the product requirements.”)
    And don’t just ask people what they want “talking to users to reveal these wants will likely prove ineffective because they themselves don’t know which emotions motivate them… You’ll often find that people’s declared preferences – what they say they want – are far different from their revealed preferences – what they actually do.”
    Ask “why” 5 times to arrive at an emotion.

2. Action

Activity undertaken by a user in anticipation of a reward.
To increase the likelihood of an action being taken:

  1. Make it easy
  2. Maximise the motivation

Core motivations:

  • Seek pleasure and avoid pain
  • Seek hope and avoid fear
  • Seek social acceptance, avoid rejection

The 6 elements of simplicity:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical effort
  • Brain cycles
  • Social acceptance/deviance
  • Whether an action is routine/disruptive of routine

To make action more likely, simplify it with regard to the user’s scarcest resource at that moment.

Utilise heuristics to encourage people to take action:

  • the scarcity effect: items that appear scarce are valued more highly
  • the framing effect: people assess information in context – e.g. ignoring Joshua Bell when he performed in the subway, or enjoying identical wine more if told it cost $90 rather than $5.
  • the anchoring effect: people often fixate on one piece of information when making a decision, e.g. buying something because it’s on sale even though another item is actually better value.
  • the endowed progress effect: people want to continue with progress towards a goal. So make them seem like they are already making good progress – e.g. giving loyalty cards starting part-way through rather than at 0%. In a study, both groups had to purchase 8 further car washes to gain a free one, but one group started with 2/10 completion rather than 0/8. This group had an 82% higher completion rate. Linkedin Profile strength uses this heuristic too.

Respecting people’s autonomy makes them more likely to take the action you want.
Telling people “But you are free to accept or refuse” makes them more likely to comply. So when you make a request, affirm their right to choose.
Leverage “familiar behaviors users want to do, instead of have to do.”
“Companies that successfully change behaviors present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and a new, more convenient way to fulfil existing needs.”

3. Variable Reward

Predictable rewards don’t create desire. But variable rewards are compelling. This isn’t because of the sensation from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for the reward.

e.g. looking through social media and scanning through to find material that might be relevant to you. “The exciting juxtaposition of relevant and irrelevant, tantalizing and plain, beautiful and common, sets her brain’s dopamine system aflutter with the promise of reward.”

Types of variable reward:

  1. The Tribe: feeling “accepted, attractive, important and included”. e.g. people liking your Facebook post or upvoting your Stack Overflow answer. These social rewards, of connectedness to other people, are all variable.
  2. The Hunt: seeking resources to aid survival e.g. material resources or information. e.g. searching through Twitter to find something interesting, or carrying out a Google search to answer a question.
  3. The Self: acquiring a sense of competency. e.g. getting better at a computer game, or improving at codeacademy. In both cases you have feedback on your performance, are improving your self and your skills, and experience variable rewards.

On gamification (“the user of gamelike elements in nongame environments”)

Points, badges and leaderboards only prove effective if there is a fundamental match between the customer’s problem and the company’s solution. Otherwise no amount of gamification will help.
“Likewise, if the user has no ongoing itch at all – say, no need to return repeatedly to a site that lacks any value beyond the initial visit – gamification will fail because of a lack of inherent interest in the product or service offered.”

“Variable rewards are not magic fairy dust that a product designer can sprinkle onto a product to make it instantly more attractive. Rewards must fit into the narrative of why the product is used and align with the user’s internal triggers and motivations.”

4. Investment

The user performs some work that will improve their next experience of the service. This increases the odds that they will pass through the hook cycle again.
Investment happens after the variable reward phase, so users are primed to reciprocate.

Users could be asked to invest content, data, followers, reputation/social capital, skill, time or money.
e.g. inviting friends, stating preferences, building assets, following users, adding photos to Facebook or data to LinkedIn, building a reputation on a forum.

Josh Elman, early senior product manager at LinkedIn: “If we could get users to enter just a little information, they were much more likely to return.”

Investment utilises these heuristics:

  • Subjective value increases as expended time and effort increases. e.g. people value their own origami creations five times higher than other people do.
  • We seek to be consistent with past behaviors.
    Two groups of people were asked whether they’d put up “large, unsightly” “DRIVE CAREFULLY” signs in their front gardens. Only 17% of the first group agreed, but 76% of the second agreed.
    This was because two weeks previously, the second group had been asked to place a much smaller, three-inch sign “BE A SAFE DRIVER” in their windows. They wanted to be consistent with this behavior when the next request was made.
    “Little investments, such as placing a tiny sign in a window, can lead to big changes in future behaviors.”
  • We try to avoid cognitive dissonance.

The five fundamental questions for building effective hooks

  1. What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal trigger)
  2. What brings users to your service? (External trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (Action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (Variable reward)
  5. What ‘bit of work’ do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store value to improve the product with use? (Investment)

Be wary when designing a product that you do not use yourself, even if doing so for positive reasons.

“Heady altruistic ambitions can at times outpace reality. Too often, designers of manipulative technology have a strong motivation to improve the lives of their users, but when pressed they admit they would not actually use their own creations. Their holier-than-thou products often try to ‘gamify’ some task no one really wants to do by inserting run-of-the-mill incentives such as badges or points that don’t actually hold value for their users.”
“fitness apps, charity Web sites, and products that claim to suddenly turn hard work into fun often fall into this category.”
Peddlers tend to lack the empathy and insights needed to create something users truly want. Often the peddler’s project results in a time-wasting failure because the designers did not fully understand their users. As a result, no one finds the product useful.”

The stages of Habit Testing

  1. Find out who the habitual users are of your product/service.
  2. Find out how they started using the product to identify the Habit Path – “a series of similar actions shared by your most loyal users”
    “For example, in its early days, Twitter discovered that once new users followed thirty other members, they hit a tipping point that dramatically increased the odds they would keep using the site.”
  3. Alter your product to nudge new users down these same habit paths. E.g. twitter encouraging new users to instantly begin following others.

Opportunities for new habits are presented by new technologies, new behaviours, new interfaces.

Security Focuses: The Science of Cybersecurity – a summary

Today I attended Security Focuses: The Science of Cybersecurity. Here’s my inexpert summary of the event.

The costs and risks of security are increasing

  • 90% of large businesses had a security breach last year.
  • Security breaches are becoming more expensive: £1.15 million in 2014; £3.14 million in 2015
  • 1,000,000 new pieces of malware are created each day.
  • 14x increase in infections year on year.
  • When Target was hacked, its CEO and CIO resigned. So directors’ jobs are more vulnerable to security risk.

Basic framework for cybersecurity

  • Assess
  • Detect
  • Protect
  • Respond

Reactive approaches to security aren’t good enough. We need a proactive approach, with a broader vision

Talk Talk only noticed they were hacked because their website slowed down. So they probably aren’t an exemplar of best practice.

Threat Inteligence allows us to:

  • identify and resolve internal and external threats.
  • understand how attackers think and behave, and select appropriate countermeasures
  • focus our security resources in the most important areas

We need a broader approach to cybersecurity:

  • Holistic view of systems needed, not a silo approach (e.g. via end-to-end cloud systems, rather than having server security separate to firewall)
  • of external threat environment (e.g. via a threat exchange)

The future of cybersecurity

Analytical detection is more sophisticated than signature detection

A signature approach is the most basic; rules are a bit more sophisticated, correlations are better still, but an analytical approach is strongest for identifying security issues.


Your internal understanding of your network estate is different to how external attackers will see it. So it’s useful to carry out external footprinting.

Hackers can use less well-defended elements of an organisation’s web presence to successively break in to other areas.

e.g. lots of the 2011 Sony hacks were on smaller, national sites. The hackers had a better understanding of Sony’s footprint and vulnerabilities than Sony did.

The commoditization of exploits

Charl van der Walt’s excellent presentation was my highlight of the day.

Zerodium recently paid a bounty for jailbreaking iOS9:

Zerodium can now sell knowledge of this exploit to clients.

Because Apple doesn’t know what the exploit is, these clients can reliably use this exploit to attack people.

Government security services want reliable exploits like these, which leads to this commoditization of the exploit market. It also leads to the industrial use of these purchased exploits as they are employed at scale. This is in contrast to the more patient, research- and expertise-led footprinting carried out by other attackers, which presumably requires much more resource for a given output.

I found the day an interesting overview of the cybersecurity space. The biggest single improvement I’d recommend for next year is including female speakers – the keynotes were entirely presented by men.

Harnessing the Web – MemberWise – a 20 tweet summary

Today I attended MemberWise’s Harnessing the Web conference. I’m largely new to the world of membership, so I was hoping to understand how other organisations were using digital to promote and deliver their membership offers. Below I’ve summarised the key points from the sessions I attended, in 20 tweets.

Chemnet gains – online support for the next generation of membership

Users expect:

  • Easy-to-find content
  • Easy-to-access content
  • A focused, unclutted experience
  • Consumable, interactive content
  • Trusted quality

User participation encouraged by giving them points and badges. Probably socially powerful signals in their own right, but additionally powerful motivators for an audience thinking about UCAS applications.

A membership community requires ongoing investment:

  • Content planning is very important to sustaining engagement
  • Chemnet is planning to make improvements over time.

Creating a thriving online membership community

User needs must be the driver for creating a community space. If it doesn’t meet a user need, you’ll struggle to build engagement.

“Focus on user behaviours, not features.” Focus on understanding your users’ needs, not the specific mechanisms you’ll use to satisfy these needs. That’s your designer’s job.

Know the purpose of your community, and have a plan in place for community management and content. And resource it.

Know what will make your space better than anywhere else. The importance of quality, easy-to-find content was mentioned again.

The GpmFirst platform is focused on social learning – a community of practice, participating, sharing, and creating knowledge. It seeks to empower users.

When starting a new community, take the ‘lean community’ approach:

  • Start very small, with a minimal investment, with a basic product.
  • Observe how this product performs and how people use it.
  • If it fails, you can close the project having invested only a small amount.
  • If it goes well, you can make targeted improvements.
  • This approach reduces risk.

Summarised in three steps:

  1. Start by finding an overlap between user needs and organisational goals
  2. Plan for active, high-quality community management
  3. Test, measure, learn, repeat

Web chat – making life easy for your members – Caravan Club

I eavesdropped on this presentation via twitter.


So web chat can help you understand where people are having problems on your website, and obtain a stronger understanding than a Contact Us form.

I’d like to know how the costs and staffing challenges compare to phone calls.

How digital acted as a catalyst to transform a traditional business (YHA)

Challenges faced by YHA:

  • cost per booking was very high.
  • Membership in decline.
  • Tactic of forcing membership on all visitors unsuccessful

There was sufficient senior buy-in for investment in digital, and some acceptance of risk.

They used data to inform marketing and development work, which led to increased revenue, which led to increased confidence.
This mechanism powers digital transformation at YHA.

Some specific actions taken:

  • Embedded Trip Advisor reviews on site to show quality of experience. A tough sell internally, and took conviction in the product, but greatly increased conversions.
  • Google 360 tours are very effective marketing tools
  • Users can now search the YHA site based on their interest/activity, then the YHA website suggests hostels nearby. More focused on user needs than asking users to pick a region first, particularly if regions are not intuitive.
  • YHA has ended the tactic of “tricking” people into becoming members. For a number of years, if you stayed at a YHA hostel, you would be signed up for membership automatically. Ending this tactic has reduced the number of members, but increased their engagement.

YHA’s digital transformation has seen good results:

Using user experience to improve online member journeys, optimise new member and student acquisition

The problems that CIPFA user research uncovered are pretty common:

  • Registration was confusing
  • Labelling was based on internal structures
  • Content was overwhelming

I was pleased to see the information architecture techniques of card sorting and tree testing advocated.
Card sorting groups your content into categories, and tree testing checks whether your categories make sense to users.

CIPFA has improved its structuring of content, reduced the volume of text on pages, and moved away from internal language towards language that makes sense to users.

I’ve heard stories of organisations thinking about their website and content at five year intervals so many times. Why is everyone still getting this wrong?
The ever-changing digital landscape – and user expectations – mean that we have to keep adapting. Even if neither of these factors existed, ongoing investment is important to refine and improve your digital offer.

Using digital to streamline the member acquisition process

Round Table had a complicated membership sign up flow. Not so much because they had massive sign up forms, but because of the different internal steps involved in the process, and the amount of administrative overhead associated with these. Processing each new member enquiry took about an hour of admin time.

Digital agency IE carried out four phases of improvement to the process. This was more manageable for everyone. (I lost track of the boundary between iterations 3 and 4 – sorry for any inaccuracies.)

Iteration 1:

  • Remove non-essential form fields from initial form. Ask the bare minimum number of questions to increase conversions. Ask the other questions in a follow-up survey.
  • Validate user details automatically.
  • Improved dashboard for recruitment team.
  • Process for recruitment team to transmit info to colleagues streamlined via email templates.

Iterations 2 and 3:

  • Mobile web forms for recruiters.
  • Contact information sent to recruiter via text, with click-to-phone link allowing instant and easy follow-up of leads.

Iteration 4(?):

  • Recruiter replies to the text message telling them about a prospect now populate the CRM log. This has massively increased compliance with the CRM’s data needs.
  • Website allows users to text to register interest in membership.
  • New website focused on location.

Why was this approach a good idea?

What improvement did Round Table see as a result of this work?

Holding the line: the long and short of a successful CRM integration

“This wasn’t an IT project, it was a businesses transformation project.” Digital and IT projects so often involve business change – I wonder how many people plan for this from the start?

The two hardest parts of the project were:

  1. Data integration.
  2. Process and culture change. You need to run a parallel cultural change project. But how many people plan or put resource in place for this?

At the start of the project, they spent a week or two on “benefits dependency mapping”. This produced an intricate diagram, but, more importantly, a shared definition of project drivers, objectives, benefits, outcomes, and necessary organisational and IT changes. Although I’m not sure that all projects can predict what their impact will be at the start.

One other factor behind the project’s success was setting clear governance from the start, so that decisions could be made with authority.

Before they got a supplier on board, they held workshops to “drain swamps” in advance – explore and investigate contentious areas so that the organisation isn’t considering them for the first time when the agency arrives.

Once the development agency had been chosen, they spent six weeks building a technical proof of concept, to check the technical feasibility of the project, and to check the cultural fit with the agency. Its success built organisational trust.

One quite sad statistic on CRM projects circulated during the day, which came from a MemberWise survey:

Rose: What Makes People Tick – the three hidden worlds of Settlers, Prospectors and Pioneers

Chris Rose argues that the population is divided into three ‘values groups’, each of which relate to the world differently. To be effective, communications have to be targeted to the specific needs of each group.

The core points can be summarised quite easily, but I’d recommend reading the full text to enjoy the examples and case studies. My edition was published by Matador, 2011 (2013 reprint).

What are the three values groups, and what distinguishes them?

Which group an individual inhabits is determined by their unmet needs:

  • Everyone starts life as a Settler.
  • Once their Settler needs are met, they can become a Prospector.
  • Once their Prospector needs are met, they can become a Pioneer.
  • It is possible to go back from being a Prospector to a Settler, but generally going from a Prospector to a Pioneer is one-way as it is based on self-esteem.
Group Unmet need
Settler Safety, security, identity, belonging
Prospector Success, esteem of others, self-esteem
Pioneer New ideas and connections, living an ethical life, self-choice

Why values groups are important

“you can get people in any values group to do something if they are allowed or enabled to do it in a way that meets their needs.”

“The kiss of death for communications across values groups is to try and impose the values or ‘reasons’ of one group on another… Despite what some campaigners may believe there is no universal ‘right reason’.”

“Many ‘conventional’ campaigns have centred on universalist-ethical (eg, save-the-planet) and sometimes rationalistic (eg, save-money) propositions. They have lacked fun, fashion, emotion, visible success – in short, the values to appeal to Prospectors.”


  • Socially conservative
  • Belonging
  • Tradition
  • Focused on the past
  • Like predictability
  • Preferred charity brands: family, life-saving, simple/small-scale actions e.g. Guide Dogs for the Blind or RNLI. Clear, personal, bounded actions – not social change or global issues
  • Discipline
  • Following the rules
  • Being in control
  • Standing up for your family and community
  • (National) Security
  • Being normal
  • Doing your duty
  • Being loyal to those who have helped you and your family/friends
  • Making sure the basics get done – e.g. food, health, shelter
  • Saving lives


  • Being successful and being seen to be.
  • Material wealth
  • Shopping
  • Don’t like being told not to do things or to give things up
  • Focused on the future
  • Avoid political controversy
  • Opportunities rather than connections
  • Looking better or best
  • Soundbites of stories – can be global or local
  • Having fun
  • Being a winner
  • Celebrity

“To engage Prospectors it has to be done on their terms: a better wind turbine than your neighbour, or a donation to Oxfam which will get you talked about in the gym, and preferably make you more attractive to others.”

“Prospectors… tend to be more selective and demanding than those from other Values Worlds. You generally need to create experiences, or desirable things, not just offer ideas or information, and whatever you create has to compete with what social events, brands, commerce and media entertainment has to offer.”

“more fun and outgoing, optimistic and expressive than the Settler World, and much more relationship- and possession-centred than Pioneer World with its emphasis on ideas. Anyone wanting to target Prospectors … must focus on these core Attributes.”


  • Love questions, new ideas and the unknown
  • Personal ethical responsibility
  • Thoughtful about ethics
  • Focused on the present
  • Benevolence, global justice, openness
  • Preferred charity brands: environmentalism, overseas aid.
  • Like authenticity
  • Like forming connections and networks

New behaviours generally start with Pioneers, then are commodified and consumed as fashionable by Prospectors, then become normal and adopted by Settlers.

“The persistence of individual action because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, whether or not there seems any prospect of success, can be a characteristic of Pioneers when they act for ethical reasons (this is, internally referenced ideas of right and wrong), and of Settlers when they act for moral reasons (ideas of right and wrong derived from an external, respected Authority).”

What percentage of the UK population is in each of these groups?

  • Settler – 31%
  • Prospector – 28%
  • Pioneer – 41%

UK, 2008. I don’t know what evidence was used to generate these percentages.

How to get different values groups to take action

Communicate in a way that appeals to each group’s unmet needs:

  • Enhance the safety, security or belonging of Settlers
  • Enhance the esteem of others, or self-esteem, felt by Prospectors
  • Engage Pioneers by communicating in ways that involve ideas, innovation, self-direction and ethics.

What actions are appropriate for different values groups?

You need to make sure that your action is something that the values group you are targeting is comfortable with:

Settler actions should be: simple, discrete, achievable and dependable, definitely uncontroversial and ideally officially-sanctioned, familiar, normal, risk-reducing, control-, belonging-, safety- and security-boosting.
Settler actions should not be: innovative, uncertain, controversial, framed as part of a ‘bigger picture’.

Prospector actions should be: visible, immediate, proven, achievable, fun, displayable, fashionable, uncontroversial, socially recognised, celebrity-endorsed if possible, commodified, esteem-boosting.
Prospector actions should not be: innovative, old fashioned or traditional, about following or breaking rules, renunciation (unless it is to gain more), doing things for other people without social reward, framed as ethically- or idea/theory- motivated, controversial or related to an open-ended problem.

Pioneer actions should be: interesting, novel, ethical, complex, change-focused, about ideas not just ‘things’, authentic, an opportunity to connect with new people and ideas, concerned with beauty, nature or justice, about the bigger picture, framed in a way that allows pioneers to make up their own minds and ask questions.
Pioneer actions should not be: doing things because of other people’s – or authorities’ – beliefs or requirements, restricted choices, based on justification by tradition, or justification through a need to be bigger and better.

How to think about communications

Never think of the population as a homogenous mass.

Try to avoid the term ‘message’. Think instead of using the COMPACT list:

  • Channel
  • Audience
  • Messenger
  • Programme (why you are doing what you are doing: intention and objective)
  • Context (what’s around it in time and space)
  • Action (the action you’re asking them to take)
  • Trigger (motivation of intended audience)

Personalisation – a summary of Together We’re Better, September 2015

A summary of key points from an event hosted by Together We’re Better.

Personalisation is adapting a digital experience to a user’s attributes and presumed interests or needs.

Personalisation isn’t necessarily a good thing – it can come across as good or creepy

A reminder that you should start by understanding your goal, and then work out how to deliver it. Personalisation won’t necessarily be the tool/approach you’re looking for, so don’t ever pursue it for its own sake.

Good personalisation:

  • Marie Curie created a mobile-specific text-to-donate ask because they noticed that mobile users rarely converted on their normal responsive donate page.
  • L.K. Bennett found that UK users were unusually keen on finding out the returns policy, so they highlighted this for UK users

Creepy personalisation:

  • Target predicting when a person becomes pregnant, by looking at their browsing behaviour, and marketing to them on this basis.
  • The well-intentioned Samaritans Radar ran into trouble because of concerns about privacy, stigma and consent.
    There’s sometimes a question about whether to talk about the fact that you’re doing personalisation. Would explaining it make it seem creepy? e.g. saying “We think we know how many children you have.” Would not explaining it be underhand?

    Where can you get the data you need for personalisation?

    • 3rd party
    • From the user themselves, voluntarily (personal data)
    • User behaviour
    • Context

    Trust is important

    When thinking about organisations possessing and using their data, people are concerned about:

    • usage creep
    • lack of personal benefit
    • loss of data

    So to some extent trust is derived from user experience. That’s a interesting and unsettling conclusion, but one which explains why we seem so relaxed about giving corporations loads of personal data in exchange for easy-to-use free tools.

    Giving people the option to access/update/change their data and communications preferences is a better user experience and also good reputation management, as some users will be concerned about this.

    Start small

    It’s better to begin experimenting with personalisation on a small scale:

    • Easier to get the budget
    • Easier to get buy-in and sign-off
    • Easier to manage
    • Easier to track and measure the results – and therefore to prove success
    • Easier to manage data on a smaller scale
    • Easier to manage project risks, and to deal with unanticipated ones that emerge
    • Some things you can do to get started with personalisation

      There’s a lot you can do without carrying out heavy engineering on your website:

      • Video personalisation
      • Email personalisation – and A/B testing to verify the effectiveness of this approach
      • Social personalisation. I’d didn’t get much on this in the presentation and would like to explore this a bit more.

      A useful morning session – I expect to attend the next Together We’re Better event.

Learning from corporates? – a 10 tweet summary of NFP tweetup 28

Anthony Leung, Social Media Manager at Just Eat

Just Eat base their social strategy on engagement. Reach and audience size arise out of this. Anthony advises against doing things the other way round: focusing on growing follower numbers can be self-defeating as you under-invest in engagement and lose followers in the long-run.

So how do you ensure engagement? Having a clear tone of voice is crucial, so that you avoid being plain and uninteresting.

Don’t ask ‘What content is right?’ Instead, ask ‘How does my brand behave?’

Imagine your brand as a person, and ask:

  • What makes them excited, frustrated?
  • How does this person speak – funny authoritative?
  • How does this person react to subjects that matter to your brand?
  • How does this person handle a bad situation?

Decide what behaviour you want to be known for, and encourage this behaviour in your supporters too.

Bringing marketing and customer/supporter care teams closer together allows you to harness the strengths of both. They’ll be responsive and on-brand, and you’ll all increase your understanding of your audiences.

Alex Goldstein – Senior Social Media Manager at TMW

Alex found that the corporate sector has more visible silos, whereas the often under-resourced charity sector tends to require individuals to take on a wider range of tasks. This can be empowering, and help charity sector workers get things done faster, but it can mean that they don’t always have the required expert support. And having to hold all those disciplines in your mind at once can cause confusion.

Broadly speaking, Alex has found that the corporate sector has more money, and is more courageous with risk. The charity sector has better stories and passion.

Endangered Emoji – Adrian Cockle, Digital Innovation Manager at WWF International

WWF wouldn’t say how much money the campaign raised, but the primary objective was awareness not fundraising.

Adrian summarised some observations on what makes for effective social sharing material:
To be effectively shareable on social media, a campaign/action should follow the NUDES approach:

  • Networked. e.g. social nomination mechanic.
  • Unexpected.
  • Dumb. Be easy to understand.
  • Exhibited. Involve a shareable behavior. Make it aspirational.
  • Stories. Enable or include stories?

This innovation was something new and untested. Charities tend to want to minimise risk by following the successful actions of other organisations.
But that aversion to risk holds charities back from innovating.

WWF encountered problems while innovating…

… but were able to overcome these because of pro bono support. Had the additional unanticipated costs of innovation not been borne by a third party, how different would this case study have been?

Page load speed of top 10 UK charity brand websites

Visitors like fast websites, and your digital performance suffers if your site loads slowly. How fast are UK charity websites, and which charity has the fastest website?

I’ve surveyed the websites of the top 10 UK charity brands, as identified by the 2014 Charity Brand Index. From a performance perspective, the ideal is to have a site that loads quickly, and for the amount of downloading required to be as small as possible. So you want a low ‘load time’ and a low ‘page weight’.

Here’s how the sites compare:

Graph displaying load time of the top 10 UK charity brand websites

Graph displaying page weight of the top 10 UK charity brand websites

  • BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief had the fastest home pages.
  • If you’re commissioning a new website, or want to improve the performance of your existing site, aim to beat the average performance of these sites. Aim for pages that:
    load in 3.5 seconds or less
    have a page weight of 1.9 MB or less
  • If your pages load in 2 seconds or under, and if your page weight is 1MB or less, you’re doing very well.

This data was obtained by running 4 unthrottled desktop speed tests using GTMetrix between 16 August and 22 August 2015 and averaging the results.
An interesting follow-up would be to look at mobile performance: set a mobile browser and throttle the connection to a common mobile download speed.

Download the data (ODS)

Social sharing – observations and recommendations

I’ve surveyed the social sharing options on a number of news publication websites, to see if there are any common or best practices. Here’s what I found:

  • Facebook and twitter are seen as the most important sharing networks.
  • Google+ is reluctantly included. Given recent announcements about Google deprioritising Google+, it seems likely to be even less of a focus in future designs.
  • Most publishers aren’t using whatsapp sharing yet. It seems to me like a good opportunity, and Buzzfeed and The Atlantic are leading the way. Some info on setting up whatsapp sharing. Note that Whatsapp desktop isn’t currently widely used.
  • buzzfeed social sharing options mobile
    the atlantic social sharing options mobile

  • Few publishers are using share by text. Again, Buzzfeed and The Atlantic lead the way. With mobile such an important part of the web traffic mix, we should plan for mobile-specific sharing options.
  • If comments are permitted, sometimes the option to comment, and the number of comments, are shown alongside social sharing options. Other times these are separate.
  • Few publishers are using social proof – showing the numbers of people sharing to encourage more people to share – perhaps because this would increase the page load time.

Some recommendations for best practice

  • Know what the most important actions are.
    The best buttons for your site depend on your users’ needs, and your objectives. In most cases, I’d start with: Facebook share, Twitter share, whatsapp share, phone share, pinterest share, email share. If you’re interested in information provision, printing / PDF download options will be important too. You should do user research to find out how your audience would like to store your content before committing to a design that doesn’t help people. e.g. if you’re designing a site for an older audience, a pocket sharing option is probably less useful than a print option.
  • Prioritise your top actions by making them larger.
    The Daily Mail has a Facebook share as its largest button, and iMore’s Facebook and twitter buttons are the largest by far.
  • iMore social sharing options desktop
    daily mail social sharing options desktop - top of article

    The Washington Posts’s social sharing options are quite cluttered. Perhaps some of these (e.g. tumblr and Google+) could be deprioritised or removed entirely.
    washington post social sharing options mobile

  • Design with different sharing contexts in mind – e.g. mobile as well as desktop.
    Try out whatsapp and text sharing for mobile users only. Most people will be printing from a Desktop
  • Think about how best to present your content when someone shares it socially.
    e.g. making sure that you have appealing sharing copy and images for pinterest. Customise your social sharing metadata for each page, so that you don’t rely on the social network trying to work out some copy for itself. There’s a great Moz post on configuring your social sharing markup.
  • Social sharing isn’t just about blocks at the top or bottom of an article. Calls-to-action weaved in to the page are very important. E.g. encouraging people to share a blockquote through twitter.
  • Think about how to encourage people to share.
    People are used to sharing content from publishers, but what about other content that might be valuable to share, but that people aren’t as used to sharing? Just Giving’s case study of increasing social shares of donations is a useful case study here.

Kristof and Wudunn: Half the Sky – How to Change the World

This is a set of notes from Kristof and Wudunn’s work on international development from a female perspective. Stories are more effective than statistics, so I’d recommend reading the full book for its powerful stories. Taken from Kristof and Wudunn: Half the Sky – How to Change the World (2013 Virago print of 2009 publication).

Female infanticide kills at least 2 million girls per year.

“Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world.”

Major General Patrick Cammaert (former UN force commander) on use of rape in war: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.”

Numbers and statistics are much less compelling than stories in motivating people to act.
e.g. it’s more effective to ask for money to help one named girl than it is to ask for money to help 21 million people. And even mentioning the context alongside the named girl makes people less likely to give.
e.g. in another study, people gave twice as much to save one child from cancer than to save eight.

We need to be empirical in our approach, and not defined by conservative/liberal ideology. The best AIDs prevention strategy in one study was neither abstinence-only education nor condom distribution, but education on the dangers of sugar daddies.

The Oportunidades program of financial incentives for education/public health outcomes achieves strong results, increasing school attendance by 10% for boys and 20% for girls. Children grow 1cm taller per year than those in the control group. The scheme encourages poor families to invest in their children, helping to break down the generational transmission of poverty.

Kiva is a microfinance organisation, allowing donors/financiers to loan to organisations vetted by local on-the-ground microfinance organisations.

Male-controlled family budgets in the poorest families in the world spend about ten times more on alcohol, prostitutes, sweets, drinks and feasting than on their children’s education.
Putting money into women’s hands improves children’s experience, with studies in Ivory coast, South Africa and Indonesia showing an increased spend on nutrition, medicine and housing.

After a 1993 Indian stipulation that 1/3 of village chiefs had to be women, bribery was reduced and water infrastructure improved, but satisfaction in the leadership fell. However, once a village had had a female leader, this bias against women chiefs disappeared.

The authors tackle the question of whether cultures can change, and the issue of cultural imperialism:
“We sometimes hear people voice doubts about opposition to sex trafficking, genital cutting, or honor killings because of their supposed inevitability. What can our good intentions achieve against thousands of years of tradition?
“One response is China. A century ago, China was arguably the worst place in the world to be born female. Foot-binding, child marriage, concubinage, and female infanticide were embedded in traditional Chinese culture. Rural Chinese girls in the early twentieth century sometimes didn’t even get real names, just the equivalent of ‘No. 2 sister’ or ‘No. 4 sister.’ Or, perhaps even less dignified, girls might be named Laidi or Yindi or Zhaodi, all variations of ‘Bring a younger brother’. Girls were rarely educated, often sold, and vast numbers ended up in the brothels of Shanghai.
“So was it cultural imperialism for Westerners to criticize foot-biding and female infanticide? Perhaps. But it was also the right thing to do. If we believe firmly in certain values, such as the equality of all human beings regardless of color or gender, then we should not be afraid to stand up for them; it would be feckless to defer to slavery, torture, foot-binding, honor killings, or genital cutting just because we believe in respecting other faiths or cultures. One lesson of China is that we need not accept that discrimination is an intractable element of any society.”

Cultural change has to be driven locally. It cannot be imposed: e.g. 1970s and 1980 efforts against FGM, or efforts to empower Afghan women.
The exception is public health measures that depend on research, materials and knowledge that don’t exist at grassroots.

“the sex slave trade in the twenty-first century… is bigger than the transatlantic slave trade was in the nineteenth.”

Happiness levels seem to be largely innate, and not greatly affected by external forces. But feeling connected to something larger can help us feel better.

Some name-checked organisations I wanted to investigate further: Camfed, Plan, Women for Women international, Tostan.