Fundraising Platform for MSR Global Health

Amber Kim
Amber Kim
Oct 4, 2017 · 7 min read


Mountain Safety Research is a manufacturer of camping, hiking, and climbing gear. In November 2016, they ran a successful Indiegogo campaign to provide water treatment devices in developing areas across the world. From that, they realized they have a very interested community of supporters, so to actively engage that community, they brought us on to create a dedicated fundraising platform.

I worked on this platform for MSR Global Health with one other designer and two developers, and in 5 months (Jan — May 2017) we created a complete WordPress plugin for their existing site that we handed off to them.


MSR had a few requirements:

  • MSR would run their own fundraising campaigns but anyone could go on the platform and create a campaign, which would go live after approval from MSR. All funds raised go to MSR.
  • The platform would be an add-on to their existing website, which was built on WordPress. This meant firstly, that we had to follow the existing style guide, and secondly, design choices were made based on whether it could feasibly be implemented in WordPress.

Beyond that, we also decided we wanted to make the donating process shorter and easier than in competing fundraising platforms.

Research, Wireframes, More Research

We started by researching similar fundraising websites and creating a competitive matrix. Two stood out in particular: Indiegogo because it is a popular way to fundraise for anything and MSR had used it before, and charity: water because of its similarity in background and purpose. From there, we compiled a list of core features that needed to be included in the final design.

Core Content

Before heading into wireframes, we created user maps for a few different personas to make sure we covered all screens that may have been accidentally skimmed over.

There would be 3 main ways for the general public to interact with the site:

  1. Create a fundraising campaign.
  2. Contribute to a specific fundraising campaign, whether MSR’s or another individual’s. Funds would ultimately go to MSR but it would provide support for that particular cause.
  3. Make a general contribution. This would just go directly to MSR for general global health-related activities.


In our first wireframes, we focused on the content that needed to be included and making sure the platform was structured in a way that would fit with the existing site.

For example, the layout of the browse fundraisers screen (below right) is done similarly to MSR’s blog page (above) with a banner image at the top and tiled entries below.

A few of our core screens. I also wireframed a version of the site that an MSR admin would see but we eventually decided to use WordPress’s built-in managing system for efficiency reasons.

As for other screens, we started out by drawing inspiration from Indiegogo because, as such a large site, it seemed likely that their content would be functional. I later realized that Indiegogo is far too generalized and MSR only really needed a small part of what it provides, but I’ll get to that in the next section.

Usability Testing

After creating a more hi-fi prototype, we performed 4 usability tests, from which we learned the following:

  • The actual contributing process was easy and straightforward.
  • The difference between MSR campaigns and other fundraisers was unclear.
  • The design didn’t explain the different ways to contribute enough for participants to know the differences between each.

Iterating Alongside Development

After incorporating feedback into a redesign, the team entered development and I thought that meant that a lot of our main design work was done.


We continued iterating until nearly the last week of the project, tweaking and collaborating with the developers until everything was as optimal as possible.

Indiegogo Does Too Much

The biggest problem, originally, was that Indiegogo did a lot more than what MSR needed. Our fundraising platform only needed to meet MSR’s needs, and when we realized we were accounting for more than what they needed, we trimmed.

For example, on the campaign page, a longer story description was unnecessary as there usually isn’t as much to explain.

In the old version, there was also a feed that showed everything that happened related to the fundraiser, but while interesting, it really wasn’t relevant to the fundraiser’s goals. It also included a lot of repeated information. In the final design, we instead show information on contributors, highlighting contributions in an appreciative gesture.

Contribute Popup

One of my biggest focuses during this phase was the contribute popup. We had decided to use a popup instead of redirecting to a new page to meet the team’s goal of making the contribution process feel easier than in competing platforms. For the most part, our first iteration seemed to function well. It was quick, simple, straightforward — it got the job done. But that’s also all it did. It was like any other payment form but just in a popup instead of a new page.

Another issue was that although the popup form did make contributions feel easier, we ran the risk of feeling less secure. Not good for a payment form.

One final issue mentioned in usability testing was that the user had to input the amount they wanted to contribute on the first page, then the popup would show up, and then if they wanted to change the amount, they would need to start over. I had originally designed the flow this way in effort to create a more secure feeling, as though the user is “locking in” the number, but instead it became somewhat of a wall for users to contributing.

So in the next version, I tried a few different things.

Round 2

(Side note: To make the distinction between MSR campaigns and user campaigns clearer, I explored a different campaign / fundraiser structure in which all user fundraising campaigns would sort themselves under an MSR campaign. We ultimately switched back and implemented a more explanatory solution utilizing a home page because it didn’t align with MSR’s goals).

To address feeling secure, I experimented with color, switching the use of red and black color for the top bar of the popup and the submit button. The other major change was instead of “locking in” the contribution amount, it was freely adjustable within the popup.

User-created fundraising campaign contribution popups.

Round 3

In the last version, did you notice the log in? It’s pretty invisible. When we showed our designs to our main contact at MSR, one of the feedback he had was that it’d be better for more users to log in. So I pulled that out to give more attention to it.

The other main change is the interactive contribution suggestion. We met with a mentor who directed us to One Day’s Wages, which really does showing the contributor’s impact very well. They inspired the interactive contribution suggestions above, which not only provides quick buttons to fill the contribution amount but also describes how much impact the contribution will make. It creates empathy while also providing guidelines for contributing. Of course, users can still adjust the amount to their preference.

Final Designs

Here are some of the main screens from the final design. You can find the rest here.

A Few Afterthoughts

One regret I have is not being able to implement a more detailed insights page for campaigns. There is a lot to explore in terms of what kinds of information would be useful for users to know about their own fundraisers. It is an extremely valuable part of the site for users and although I did create a basic mockup of it in our final design, it was done in a rush.

Overall, this was a great experience working closely with developers and communicating between the gap of design and engineering feasibility and the rapid back-and-forth was an exciting process. It was interesting how some things that I thought were self-explanatory were really not, making thorough documentation of how things should be in the design an important part of the work.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to check out the rest of my work here, and you can find all of the final screens, prototype, and our working WordPress plugin here. Find me at

Amber Kim

Written by

Amber Kim

designer / seattle /

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