Recurring Custom Monthly Charitable Giving — a Cascaid Case Study
When it comes to money, are we happier spending it on ourselves or others? Research suggests that how people spend their money could be as important as how much they earn. Experiments done by happiness researcher Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues, show that spending money on other people makes most people happier than spending it on themselves.
This premise is what I wanted to explore in this case study.
Cascaid believes it should be easy to support a cause of any scope and organization of any size, whether global, national, local, or personal.
This is the reason why the people behind Cascaid created a recurring, custom charitable giving plan platform where people can make and manage donations to their favorite causes as easily as they can like friends’ posts, retweet the day’s headlines, or share their favorite playlists.
For this case study, I worked with Cascaid to redesign the UX to improve discovery and onboarding when people create a custom donation plan.
“Donating is inspiring: to see a group of people come together to do something good. I want to contribute to that, even a small amount. It feels good to indirectly help an organization to do something better and to support other people.” (Quote from interview respondent.)
Research Goals and Methodologies
While many Millennials may lack the direct financial resources to make larger one-time gifts like their older counterparts do, they appear to be very open to the idea of monthly giving. The 2013 Millennial Impact report indicates that 52% of surveyed Millennials reported being interested in monthly giving.
The majority of that giving came from individuals in 2017. Specifically, individuals gave $286.65 billion, accounting for 70% of all giving and representing a 3.0% increase over 2016. This secondary market is distinct from the primary market as it includes all age groups.
I wanted to uncover the main motivating factors to donating and how incentives like gifts (stickers, canvas bags, etc.) play into the decision. As a secondary research goal, I looked into how meaningful it is to know the impact of your donation, and if it’s important to be recognized or thanked for the donation, either through emails from the charity or by sharing the fact that you donated on social media.
I based my initial assumption on people being motivated to donate because it makes them feel good. We are, according to some scientific studies, hard-wired for giving. Giving frequently, and in small amounts, like $20, gives us the same “high” as donating $200 once per year.
How can Cascaid recreate that good feeling we get from giving if we automate our donations and then maybe forget about it?
To better understand my potential interview subjects before I started my user interviews, I conducted a survey to get quantitative data which would provide the basis of my qualitative interview research.
Below are some of the main takeaways:
- 50% of people give once a month or once every three months
- 33% of people give because they have a strong belief in a cause, followed by donating because it’s the right thing to do (26%) and to change someone’s life (23%)
- People generally feel that they receive too much communication from charities, but would like to know the impact of their donation
- It is important for people to know that the charity is genuine before donating
- 46% would like to spread their donations across several charities
- 33% of people can’t remember which organizations they donated to in the last year
Based on the survey I decided to test my findings by interviewing five people who donate at least 6–12 times per year and gauge the need for a single place where they can create a custom monthly giving plan, verify a charity, and track their impact. Below are some selected quotes:
Product and Market Fit
Designing a successful experience for Cascaid meant observing how real people solve problems now, exploring the context of the situation they are in, and then understanding their motivations for donating to charities.
Using the survey and user interviews as a base, I created Job Stories (JTBD) with the goal to find clear and testable hypotheses. These stories became the groundwork for Cascaid’s priorities and a structure for the user experience.
Wireframing the Ideas
While keeping the Job Stories and mind, I decided to focus my UX redesign of Cascaid on the main interaction flow the user encounters when setting up a custom donation plan — the form. Can a form be designed to meet the needs outlined in the Job Stories?
Forms are one of the most important ways users interact with a service. They are used everywhere — for sign up, subscriptions, customer feedback, checkout, or as data input to search for or share information.
One of Cascaid’s main goals is to make it easy to share your donation plan to increase your impact. For this reason, they have to collect information about the cause, connect charities and verify them, and register a payment method for a recurring monthly donation.
Users can feel overwhelmed by the task of filling out a form, so the experience needs to be as easy as possible. The journey should be helpful, frustration-free, forgiving of mistakes, and tell the user where they are at all times.
When we group related fields, indicate what information goes in each field with clear labeling, and give the user feedback, we can significantly increase the form’s usability. An efficient form leads to faster completion times, fewer errors and frustrations, and fewer eye movements.
Forms shouldn’t make the user’s life difficult. Can a well-designed form make the donating task seem less overwhelming and more achievable?
Examples of how this was done are below:
Designing a More Efficient Form
People who use Cascaid want to donate money to a charity on a regular basis and share the causes they care about. To improve the users’ experiences, the UX writer needs to think about all the details of that process.
Careful form design has a big impact on the speed with which users can accurately complete a form.
Let’s revisit the Job Story:
When I feel excited about people making measurable changes to a cause or issue
I want to be part of the change and contribute
So I can feel like I’m part of a group who has an impact
My plan to solve for the requirements in this Job Story was to continually give the user feedback throughout the process when creating a cause, adding charities, entering a payment method, and sharing the cause.
Let’s have a look at the current UX when adding a cause on Cascaid. It functions well and it is intuitive but doesn’t lend itself to discovery for people who visit Cascaid for the first time. My research and interviews uncovered that being part of a group doing good is one of the most meaningful aspects of donating to a cause.
I decided to focus on creating a form that would allow for Cascaid to capture more data about the cause such as a category, verified charities, impact score for the charity, and images sourced from Unsplash to create causes with visual appeal, but not burdening the user with uploading an image.
This would lead to a richer experience and allow Cascaid to use the user-entered information (metadata) to inspire people to make a difference by showing a user experience where the features, both the ones they notice and the ones that are more subtle, would serve to influence their decisions. This is based on the premise of Choice Architecture, by Richard Thaler, that uses tools such as:
- Defaults. This is what happens when the user does nothing. For Cascaid, this means automating the monthly donation, or highlighting a popular donation amount of $20 as the pre-selected choice. In this case, opting out is more work than sticking with the suggestion.
- Expecting error. Filling out complex forms leads to errors, having an easy, and blame-free way to recover, correct your mistake and continue is essential. In the create cause form on Cascaid, the user will be able to see their choices for each step, edit them, and go back without loss of data.
- Understanding mappings. It’s important to make the various choices between charities and causes easy to understand. This is in part achieved by the API from Charity Navigator and displaying the rating of the charity so the user can make a more informed choice about the impact their donation might have and trust that the money they give is well spent.
- Giving feedback. People improve their skills when they receive feedback. By continually displaying the choices the user has made while creating their cause, such as selecting a category and zip code or picking a photo, the user is able to correct mistakes or take satisfaction in what they are doing.
- Structuring complex choices. People use the judgement of other people who share their tastes to filter products on Amazon, find books they hope to read, and discover shows they want to watch. Collaborative filtering make people more comfortable when looking at unfamiliar choices, and it makes difficult choices easier. On Cascaid, I chose to indicate this by displaying how many people donate to a charity as well as how many people donate to a cause.
- Creating incentives. By displaying “user proof” for some of the items such as “35 people in your zip code donated to this cause,” Cascaid can put the right incentive in front of the right people and gently nudge them to make good decisions and be part of a community who donates to charities.
Working with the Form Structure
A form is a conversation. And like any conversation, it should be represented by a logical communication between two parties — user and the product.
Ask only for what you need
Inform the user why Cascaid is asking for the information, how it will be used, and the benefit it has to them.
Follow a logical order
The information Cascaid asks for should be what the user expects to give. The form asks for details about the cause the person filling out the form cares about before asking for the payment method.
Group related information
For Cascaid, I decided to do a multiple step form where each group of fields are separated by a step. This way, the flow resembles a conversation and doesn’t overwhelm the user.
How is Choice Architecture Included in the New UX?
- Verified charity indicator. The design includes API from Charity Navigator which gives a score for the charity you are donating to. Verifying a charity is one of the ways people know they are making a real impact with their money.
- Impact information. Each charity displays information about how many people donate to them on a monthly basis. This helps the user see how they are part of a group supporting a cause they all care about.
- Tooltips and Assistance. For each step in the form the user sees a short explanation of why we are asking for this information.
- Progress Bar and Breadcrumbs. The user knows where they are in the process and are able to navigate back without loss of information.
- Categories. Since Cascaid relies on user-entered data, they need a way to reliably sort and display different causes for people to discover. I performed a content audit and taxonomy exercise to create the sitemap and categories for the causes created by new users.
I started this case study with the assumption that people want to do good, and that it in turn does them good.
I attempted to design an experience that would give the user feedback and information about the impact they are having with their charitable donations using subtle nudges and social forces to reinforce the good experience and give people the “high” they feel when doing something for others.
My main focus for this case study was the onboarding form when creating a cause. In the future I would like to explore how charities and display the impact they are having on the platform for users to see.
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