No Kid Hungry wins Blackbaud 2014 Impact Award for its #SaveSummer campaign

summer-meals-2014-1We’re thrilled to celebrate the news that our client No Kid Hungry has won a Blackbaud 2014 Impact Award for Best Multi-Channel Marketing for their Summer Meals Campaign — which our agency had the honor to work on.

No Kid Hungry conducts an annual campaign that spreads awareness about childhood hunger, helps connect kids with food, and raises needed funds during summer months when kids are more likely to be hungry.

Many families donʼt know that free meals are available to kids and teens at thousands of sites nationwide — in fact, only 3 million children are participating in these programs.

To help increase this number, No Kid Hungry created a SMS program where people can text FOOD to 877-877 to find summer meals sites near them. They have also created an Action Center where people are directed to action they can take, both online and in-person, to promote awareness of and support for summer meals.

blackbaud-impact-awardNo Kid Hungry launched an integrated multi-channel campaign to #SaveSummer for kids that lasted from mid-May through the end of July 2013. The campaign included 13 email messages, one direct mail package, an mobile phone texting campaign, numerous social media posts, a coordinated web presence, a lightbox asking single gift donors to “make it monthly,” and a video.

No Kid Hungry took advantage of several opportunities to make this program a huge success. The Arby’s Foundation has been a crucial partner in No Kid Hungry’s work over the years, and provided matching funds up to $100,000 to encourage increased donations. National spokesperson Jeff Bridges has used his platform to help us raise funds, build relationships, and increase awareness of the need for, and the existence of, free summer meals for children.

The campaign was a huge success. We surpassed our matching gift goal by over 50%, acquired over 800 new donors, and enrolled over 150 new monthly donors. Over 40,000 letters were sent to Congress asking members to visit a summer meals site, and almost 50,000 individuals used our mobile texting service to locate a summer meals site (100% increase over prior year).

photo-thumbnail-wendyWendy Marinaccio Husman is a Senior Account Executive at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing and advertising company.

How to convert more mobile donors

person-tapping-smart-phone-2For most nonprofits, there’s been a steady growth in the use of smart phones and tablets by visitors to their websites. This has led to a lot of consternation as organizations wrestle with the challenge of providing a better user experience for site visitors on smaller screens.

Almost universally, mobile conversion rates lag desktop and laptop conversion rates on e-commerce sites—and the same is true for mobile conversion rates on nonprofit sites. By “conversion” we mean any kind of goal completion, such as a site visitor signing up for your email list or making an online donation. But the distinction doesn’t stop there—smart phone users typically convert only about half as well as those on tablets, according to research by Monetate and Forrester.

monetateThe main reason why your mobile visitors convert so much worse? It’s pretty simple. The user experience for mobile visitors—to nonprofit sites in general and donation pages in particular—can be quite awful. Common problems I’ve noticed when visiting giving pages on a mobile device include:

  • Pages that load very slowly or incompletely
  • Pages with multiple columns that require sideways scrolling (mobile users especially hate this!)
  • Form fields that are so tiny they need to be stretched before text can be entered
  • Text too small to be read without enlarging
  • Call-to-action buttons that are out of sight or too small to be tapped easily
  • Overly dominant graphics or images because they adapt clumsily to small screens
  • Elements displaying contrary to the visitor’s thought sequence, i.e. content isn’t addressing basic user questions in the appropriate order

frustrated cell phone user2It can make for a very frustrating user experience—and only those who are extremely motivated will persevere to complete a transaction.

How do you know if this is an issue on your site? The answer is lurking in your web analytics. Key metrics to examine on pages with a mission-critical conversion goal are:

  • Bounce rate by device type
  • Conversion rate by device type (if you’ve configured goals)
  • Average time spent on page by device type

If you notice a wide disparity in these metrics for mobile users relative to desktop/laptop users, e.g. their bounce rate is much higher or their conversion rate is much lower—it’s a clear sign that you need to do more to optimize the mobile experience.

It’s important to note that other issues like sluggish cellular network speeds and higher latency on mobile devices also contribute to poor conversion rates—and these are largely out of your control. It explains why conversion rates for mobile users may not approach desktop/laptop conversion rates for a long time to come—if ever.

But this is no reason to throw up your hands and forget about it. There are still plenty of things you can do to optimize the user experience on a mobile device.

Where do you begin? For many, the logical place to start is to develop a responsive page design (or an entire site that uses RD), so page elements adjust to fit whatever screen size the user is on.

However, it’s still an open question whether a responsive page is better than a dedicated page for mobile users when it comes to conversion. Testing by commercial marketers is decidedly mixed on which approach converts better.

Like conversion optimization in general—no technique is guaranteed to work best for your organization. You must figure out what your mobile visitors prefer and adapt content to meet their needs.

User testing with small groups is one way to identify user experience (UX) issues with mobile, since live A/B testing can be difficult to interpret—due to the fact that mobile users are much more sensitive to speed than desktop/laptop users. They will abandon a page if it hasn’t loaded after just 3 seconds, in many instances. Consequently, if you test two user experiences and one page loads a lot slower than the other, it’s highly likely to convert worse—and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the creative itself.

Consequently, with A/B tests targeting mobile users it’s difficult to determine whether conversion rate disparities are due to differences in load times or differences in how visitors react to the content itself. This is why many organizations forego A/B testing when optimizing the UX for mobile.

If you decide to conduct user testing instead, ideally you’ll want to get feedback from people similar to your actual visitors. In this way you’ll avoid optimizing for the needs of testers—whose behavior may differ markedly from your target audience. Imagine getting feedback from a group of twenty-something male testers when your typical donor is a 55-60 year old female. It’s pretty much guaranteed that those insights will take you down the wrong path.

An alternative to user testing is to simply design mobile pages with best practices in mind. As noted above, using responsive design is the logical place to start. But there’s a case to be made for thinking beyond responsive design and re-imagining the user experience on a small screen—and then designing a dedicated mobile experience from the bottom up.

The reason a dedicated mobile approach can convert better than responsive design alone is based on the fact that people consume content differently on mobile devices (especially smart phones) as compared to desktop or laptop devices.

For instance, mobile users are typically more goal-driven and impatient than laptop/desktop users. They prefer “snack-sized” content, i.e. brief, action-oriented items that can be absorbed quickly—not long pages that require a lot of time and mental energy to consume.

To convert better, your mobile pages aimed at donors must reflect those differences in user behavior. While this may sound complicated or intimidating—it really just involves a little extra work. That said, the extra effort is likely to pay off in the form of better conversion rates with mobile visitors.

Taking these factors into account, below are some specific changes you can make to improve the UX for donors on mobile devices:

  • Render all content in a single column to eliminate the need for sideways scrolling.
  • Pare back copy so your core value proposition is expressed succinctly.
  • Cut supporting graphics and images, which don’t render as well on small screens.
  • Reduce friction by shortening the giving process, i.e. cutting out as many steps and questions as possible.
  • Break up forms into multiple short steps so that each one appears simple and effortless, instead of a long form all on one screen. Remember the Obama campaign’s enormous success with this technique!
  • Design bigger form fields that don’t need to be resized to be tapped
  • Ask donors to enter their zip code first, so that other required fields can autofill (city, state, country) based on that input, thereby reducing the total number of inputs the donor has to make.
  • Display fewer suggested gift amounts (e.g. 3 instead of 5) so that options are easier to see on a narrow screen and a decision can be made more quickly.
  • Offer alternative payment options, e.g. Amazon Payments and/or Paypal. (focus on payment methods that are most popular with your donors; don’t offer everything.)
  • Design bigger buttons that are easier to tap.
  • Left-align all call-to-action buttons so they’re always in the main eye path.

Implementing these techniques will no doubt make for a much better UX for visitors who intend to convert on a mobile device. That said, there’s new evidence to suggest that a large portion of mobile users have no intention of converting on a mobile device.

Research by SeeWhy has found that the average consumer requires five “touches” via marketing before they’ll -make a purchase. If the same holds true for transactions on nonprofit sites, this means that many donors will use multiple devices over multiple user sessions before making a gift.

Customer journey graphicTheir “journey” to donor conversion often begins as a result of an email they read on their smart phone. It may prompt them to visit your website on their mobile device, even if they don’t intend to make a donation at that moment. A significant portion may wait until they have access to a desktop or laptop before giving online, because they expect the UX to be much easier on those devices.

To put it simply—many consumers (who are also donors) don’t yet consider their smart phone a “converting device.” According to See Why’s research, by a 2:1 margin consumers are more nervous about transacting via mobile device than on a desktop or laptop. This anxiety gap will take time to overcome—and may never close entirely.

This is why your mission-critical pages need to be responsive for those donor prospects who may just be “kicking the tires” via their mobile device. Their experience is likely to have a big influence on whether or not they decide to return and donate later on.

To summarize, while there’s no one technique that’s guaranteed to increase your conversion rate with mobile donors, the techniques we’ve discussed should help get you started in thinking about the process. Regardless of how you approach the problem, one thing is certain—mobile devices will continue to gain importance as a step in the donor conversion process. No one in the nonprofit world can afford to ignore the user experience on mobile any longer.

dawnDawn Stoner is Donordigital’s Director of Analytics & Testing and works with clients to help them increase online revenues with web usability best practices and landing page testing. Dawn speaks regularly about testing and optimization at industry conferences and publishes papers highlighting what’s working and not working with our testing clients.

Design Trends: Minimalism in the Age of Mobile

The more stuff in it, the busier the work of art, the worse it is. More is less. Less is more.
— Ad Reinhardt, fine artist (1913 – 1967)

No Kid Hungry Sample

These samples illustrate minimalism in web design for nonprofits. There is a definite theme in three of these samples, in that they all feature large, mobile-responsive slideshows in the masthead and little else in the way of design embellishments.

As the number of mobile web users continues to boom, many brands are finding increased success with a more minimalistic design approach. Because such layouts are easier for the eye to scan, load quicker, and render with more fluidity and better reactivity on a wide range of displays, and within a limited amount of visual space, minimalism is becoming the latest trend in many online designs.

Minimalism is a long-established technique used by graphic designers, fine artists, architects, and industrial designers. The philosophy behind minimalism is that by reducing a subject down to its core, stripping it down to its most necessary elements, a designer (or artist, architect, etc.) maximizes point of view and creates visual and emotional clarity. And although it’s not a new idea, of late there’s been a major resurgence of its use in graphic design, especially online. Major brands, such as Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Google — long recognized for setting the standards for brand design — have been steadily paring their visuals down to the barest of bones. And they’re not alone, more and more brands are turning toward minimalism in their overall marketing — especially in regards to their online presence. We’re seeing the decline of heavy-handed, visually weighty layouts, laid thick with the skeuomorphism (illusionary textures and lighting effects) that’s become fashionable over the last few years. In their place are layouts featuring a cleaner, more metropolitan look that makes use of subtle gradients, limited color palettes, sharp edges, clean and crisp font faces, and bold use of white space.

World Wildlife Fund Sample

Because a minimalist design removes any extraneous clutter that can potentially distract or confuse a user, they can be moved to act — and act quickly — with just a glance. And mobile users, in particular, can do so without having to wrestle with a non-responsive page or get hung up on one that renders slowly. Users are less likely to abandon a page if they don’t have to sift through too much visual input or do a lot of scrolling to find what they need. And they are more likely to act because call-to-action renders properly, and in plain view, on their mobile device.

There are other benefits to using a minimalist design, besides their tendency to display well in both the mobile and desktop environments. Minimalism also helps to keep a brand consistent. In order for a brand to be taken seriously and even to be remembered, it must remain uniform. When a user goes from an email to a landing page to a donation or checkout page, having a thoroughly consistent design helps a user feel confident and makes a brand look more professional and, thus, taken more seriously. By removing clutter and stripping an online brand of anything that might be disorienting or extraneous, a core brand shines through and stays steady and stable in a perpetually fluid digital environment.

Charity Water Sample

Unfortunately, many people think that minimalism must mean boring or shallow. Conversely, if approached correctly, minimalism often creates some of the most beautiful and eloquent (as well as functional) visual results. Think of minimalist design as a sort of Zen rock garden; peaceful and elegant, a harmonious place to reflect and relax the senses. And, in our increasingly busy and distracting lives, how could that kind of tranquility NOT be a beautiful thing, and powerful in its own right?

As mobile web use becomes more common, we are definitely going to see the trend toward minimalism grow and evolve. The growing need for web pages to be fully responsive to a wide variety of screen sizes, to cut through the clutter of the increasingly complex digital sphere, and to inspire with potentially limited visual space will only continue encourage simpler, more tranquil, and more elegant designs.

Less is definitely more and less is definitely better in the current mobile-ready environment.

Further reading:

Minimalist Design – Just Creative

White Space and Simplicity: An Overview – Smashing Magazine

Why Brands are Leaning Towards Minimalism –Webdesigner Depot

Keep It Simple, Stupid –Digital Web

Anthony Blair Borders is the senior web designer at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company. Contact: or (510) 473-0368.

Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Email Design

When designing for mobile optimization, it is important for the design to be easily resized for various widths from desktop width (about 640 pixels across) to mobile width (about 320 pixels across). Thus, designs need to be as fluid and flexible as possible. Below are some standards and practices we have found that work best for rendering emails on both mobile screens and desktop monitors.

  • A mobile optimized layout, because of its limited width, is best reduced to a single column. This means that the traditional desktop email layout (which often features large, photographic images and multiple sidebars) renders horribly on a mobile device, often with elements and multiple columns rendering as a confusing jumble. Additionally, the mobile browser often resizes photographic images, creating a loss of image quality and text legibility.
  • Mastheads need to be as clean, simple, and straightfoward as possible for resizing. This is best achieved by having a single logo or simple image, less than 300 pixels wide, be the sole occupant for the space.  Or, alternately (but not recommended) the logo can be placed in tandem with a short “live-text” headline using a “universal” font (such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana, Times, Georgia, or Courier).
  • Sidebars, if absolutely necessary, also need to be as clean and as simple as possible. Because we need the layout to be as fluid as possible, a solid background color and/or a single, solid, hairline border are strongly recommended over gradient or image backgrounds. The sidebar should be less than 280 pixels wide, so that it rests comfortably within the smaller 320 pixel mobile width. Keeping your sidebar on the slim side also means that your sidebar image won’t need to be resized and suffer from a subsequent loss of quality. Sidebars ideally stack above the main copy on mobile screens and, in a sense, become a sort of masthead with a headline and call-to-action up front. Because of this, it is recommended that sidebars be kept copy light and as succinct as possible.
  • Borders are often used to wrap around entire email messages. In a mobile-optimized environment, these work best as a thin hairline of a single solid color (again, avoiding gradients or images).
  • The rounded corners often seen in web and email design elements are not recommended because of cross-browser incompatibility and errors in rendering in the slimmer, mobile environments.

In conclusion, because of the wide array of monitor and screen sizes in both desktop and mobile environments, your email templates need to be simple and flexible. Because mobile and desktop emails are not separate entities, but rather one email that adapts differently when rendered on different devices, your templates need to have simple mastheads that fit to any size screen, a single, slim sidebar that can stack above or below the main body copy, and as few extraneous design embellishments as possible.

This all said, simple does not mean designs can’t be attractive and attention grabbing. In a world where we are increasingly bombarded with information and visual stimuli, designs that are simple and elegant tend to cut through the clutter much more effectively than designs that are ornate or busy. For an email message to be successful (both in and out of the mobile environment), it is better to keep your layouts simple and elegant than to loose an audience due to clutter or poor browser rendering.


Mobile-Friendly Desktop Example with SidebarMobile-Friendly Mobile Example with Sidebar
Click thumbnails to zoom

Anthony Blair Borders is the senior web designer at Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company. Contact: or (510) 473-0368.

Can your organization take advantage of mobile “impulse philanthropy”? – and what it may do to your donors

Nearly all our clients are trying to figure out how to use mobile phones for fundraising and cultivation.

Ever since the Red Cross raised $31 million from $10 text-to-give messages to help the suffering in Haiti, nonprofits have been lusting after what Jim Manis, president of the Mobile Giving Foundation, calls “impulse philanthropy.”  Others have been worrying that, as mobile devices surpass PCs and laptops in a few years as the main Internet access points for most people, will younger donors adopt this “impulse” giving in place of long-term loyalty to organizations.

First, the facts.  The Red Cross and Wyclef Jean’s Yele were the only big winners in mobile giving around Haiti, with the Red Cross getting nearly all of it.  Among the hundreds of other organizations responding to the earthquake, a dozen or so each raised a few hundred —  nothing to sneeze at, but a fraction of what they raised from emails and their Web sites.  And when people give via text messaging, the organizations don’t get their contact information, apart from one text message asking them to opt in to ongoing communications.   Nine of 15% of donors opt in to ongoing messaging, said Jim Manis of the Mobile Giving Foundation, which works with the mobile carriers to manage donations.

Apart from Haiti, there have been a handful of other successful efforts over the last few years, such as Alicia Keyes’ text-to-give appeals at her concerts to benefit her charity fighting AIDS in Africa charity.

In any case, very few groups have made mobile work – yet.  Of course, you don’t want to use email or your Web site to ask supporters to give via mobile when they could give much larger gifts online, with full contact info.  Mobile might be good to get impulse gifts from people you couldn’t reach any other way, or who won’t give any other way.  If you could be on dozens or thousands of billboards with your mobile number, that might get new gifts.  If your quarterback could ask for mobile donations from the 70,000 folks in the stands – and many more watching on TV – that could work (though groups who have done this have generally been disappointed in the results).  If you’re an aid group and there’s another Haiti, you want to have your mobile giving program ready, especially if you can convince Michelle Obama or Sarah Palin to promote it with PSAs.

At a recent conference on mobile giving, Tim Sawer of World Vision, shared some of the wisdom he’s garnered as head of new products and new channels for the giant development organization, which is also a master of marketing.  Allow the donor to give via their channel(s) of choice, he stresses.   World Vision has gathered mobile numbers in churches and by asking for them from the stage at events, then followed up with a fundraising appeal.   The mobile donor demographic sweet spot is 18-35 but then World Vision sees a pretty even spread among other donors under 70.  These donors are giving to the cause more than to the organization, so specific asks — $10 for a malaria bed net or $10 for a water project – work best.

The ongoing challenge, Sawer explains, is to move the donor toward loyalty to the organization – from impulse to a relationship, from giving to a cause or event to giving to the organization.  The other challenge is to make the back-end work – to see if you can ID the donor in your database when all you may have is her mobile number – and to manage the donor across channels.  Asking for mobile numbers in all donor communications across channels is going to be essential, Sawer says.

Nick Allen is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company.  Contact: or phone (510) 473-0366.

Did you text WILDLIFE to 20222 to donate for Gulf Oil Spill?

Did you text WILDLIFE to 20222 to donate $10 to National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund?

I didn’t think so.

While text-to-give mobile giving raised about $37 million for Haiti – almost all for the American Red Cross – it’s not generally ready for prime time … yet.

In the meantime, the most practical use for mobile by nonprofits is going to be for advocacy, organizing, and information sharing, especially with the demographics who are more likely to rely on their phones rather than their PCs.   Low-income Hispanic immigrants are a perfect audience for the pro-immigration campaign, Reform Immigration for America.

Says Online Director John Brian McCarthy:

“We have over 150,000 subscribers in our SMS network. I can’t give you an average response rate, because it varies so much by the ask and we send so much less frequently than email that it’s tough to normalize – an ask to call Members of Congress might generate 30,000 calls while an ask to call in and leave a voice mail about why reform matters to you might get just 1,000, and an ask to attend a local rally is nearly impossible to track.

“That said, we’ve generated more than 325,000 calls to decision-makers since we started the program last year…  Another SMS metric relates to a series of house parties we hosted last October – out of the 1,000 house parties the campaign sponsored, more than half were self-organized by individuals who signed up to host via SMS, with thousands more people texting in to find a house party near them (and that was when we were at just 80,000 subscribers!).”

In the next few years, most of us are going to be spending most of our online time on some kind of mobile device, whether it looks more like an iPhone or an iPad.  Mobile commerce tools from Google, Apple, PayPal, and/or Visa will make mobile buying and giving easy, reliable, and significant, at least for people under 40 or 50.  (Texting, with its 140-character limit will morph into something that looks more like email or Facebook updates by then.)

With a major disaster (Haiti), a major brand name (Red Cross), and major TV promotion, mobile can bring in the $37 million (around 4 million gifts at a fixed $5 or $10 apiece).  Apart from the Red Cross, most organizations raised a few tens of thousands of dollars from mobile – and they didn’t get donors’ contact info to thank them and resolicit them; even getting opt-in to continue communicating is difficult with the current mobile fundraising program, governed by AT&T, Verizon, and the other carriers.

Meanwhile, the average Web site gift for Haiti for the organizations that also did mobile was well over $100 or $150, and they got donor information and email addresses to continue the conversation. So if an organization gets a mobile gift from a person who has given, or would give, a Web gift, it’s a major loss.   What’s more, giving via text or Facebook Causes could be a worrisome signal that some younger donors actually prefer to make a nearly anonymous one-off gift to avoid getting on a list for ongoing appeals, according to Chuck Longfield, founder of Target Analytics.

As with Facebook, another channel which isn’t effective (yet) for fundraising,  mobile is here to stay.  And organizations need to be where their supporters are, discussing sharing, educating, advocating … and cultivating.

Nick Allen is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advertising company.  Contact: or phone (510) 473-0366.