Know your users and improve your Donation Experience

A Guide about the Why and How Nonprofits should interview users

Talk to users and listen to what they think and feel when communicating with your organization can give you a lot more power to build digital experiences and give your mission more impact.

Today, I’m going to teach you the first step in this journey of connecting with your users (and potential donors) and finding out how to provide them exactly what they’re looking for, to make a commitment to a charity.

Getting to know who your users are.

It`s like your first date: You have no idea who this person is, but they’ve agreed to spend a small period of time with you.

You first need to get to know this person. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What funny stories do they have to tell, or what things do they have to complain about?

After getting to the know the person a bit, you’ll come to understand their motivations for their actions.

Once you understand why a person chooses to do something, you no longer need to ask 400 specific questions, because you have the knowledge to accurately answer those on your own.

“Okay. Wait! What does this have to do with creating a better donation experience?”

Well… Creating a great experience isn’t about making a fancy interface, or making sure your site loads fast or that you have excellent support.

Creating a great experience starts by knowing exactly what someone’s motivations and emotional mindset is, and giving the right input to them in a way that they understand.


So how do you get to know your users?

Step 1: Get People to Agree to a Conversation with You
Step 2: Ask Questions. Shut up. Listen.
Step 3: Organise Your Notes into a Donor Persona

What’s a Donor Persona? I’m glad you asked. It’s a fictional representation of your ideal donors. They are based on real data about donor demographics and donor behaviour, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

For example, let’s say you interview 10 users and after examining your notes, you notice that 7 of the 10 people you interviewed are:

  • Female Between the ages of 18–25
  • Ride a bike to work
  • Are single and live alone
  • Defending their personal values and opinions in social networks
  • Is convinced that all people are equal and should have the same rights
  • Support only local charities

These stats would make up 70% of the people you interviewed, so an example Donor Persona would look like this:

Very simple example for a donor persona
Creating a fake person? Its totally crazy!

I know! So why do we do it? Because it changes how you visualise your users. Instead of thinking about your target group is “female between 18 and 30” you start thinking about a real person. And if you know what a donor likes, dislikes, or expects, you can develop better strategies to meet those needs.

It humanises the data you’ve collected.

Let’s start with talking to these people.


Step 1: Get People to Agree to a Conversation with You

Your first job is to get 5–10 people to agree to speak to you. Just ask for a conversation to pick their brains about how you can help them.

If you can meet with these people in person, it’s much better, but Video calls (like Skype or Google Hangouts) interviews will work as well. appear.in is a service I can also highly recommend for such video calls. It`s free and requires no additional software.

Where can you find these people? You know better than I do. Try reaching out to your email list. Post something about it on Twitter, in your Facebook page or local communities. Consider emailing your “power users” directly.

It’s vital to record these interviews. If you have a video camera, great. If not, use some audio recording software on your phone. If you’re using Skype or something similar, capture the screen. Why do this? This way, you can focus much more on your conversation partner and do not have to concentrate on talking and making notes during the conversation.Your first job is to get 5–10 people to agree to speak to you. Just ask for a conversation to pick their brains about how you can help them.

Screenshot of a video interview with appear.in

If you can meet with these people in person, it’s much better, but Video calls (like Skype or Google Hangouts) interviews will work as well. appear.in is a service I can also highly recommend for such video calls. It`s free and requires no additional software.

Where can you find these people? You know better than I do. Try reaching out to your email list. Post something about it on Twitter, in your Facebook page or local communities. Consider emailing your “power users” directly.

It’s vital to record these interviews. If you have a video camera, great. If not, use some audio recording software on your phone. If you’re using Skype or something similar, capture the screen. Why do this? This way, you can focus much more on your conversation partner and do not have to concentrate on talking and making notes during the conversation.


Step 2: Ask Questions. Shut up. Listen.

You want the person to relax. Make some jokes. Make fun of yourself. Leave a banana peel on the ground and slip on it and spill water all over yourself… too far?

Don’t frame up “why” you’re conducting these interviews either. Framing can change the answers participants give (again to match what they think you want them to say).

The biggest mistake I see people make is searching for validation for their own ideas. Don’t do that. It’s good to be proven wrong. You are simply looking to find out details about who these people are, and most importantly, what they are struggling with.

Well… but what am I supposed to ask them?

I’ll give you some examples to get you started.

The important thing is that you ask open-ended questions. That means if the answer can be “yes or no” then don’t ask it. You want the person to share stories about themselves.

Try phrasing questions by beginning them like…

  • Tell me about the last time you…
  • Explain what you mean by…
  • Tell me more about…

Some example questions to get you started:

1. What’s your name?
2. How old are you?
3. Where do you live?
4. What do you do for a living?
5. Tell me about your education?
6. Tell me more about your personal values?
7. Where and how you get your get information?
8. What are your preferred methods of communication?
9. What is your purpose for engaging with an organisation?
10. How do you engage with an organisation?
11. What is your capacity to support our cause?

No one wants to aimlessly talk to you for 3 hours. Limit these interviews to 30 minutes.


Step 3: Organise Your Notes into a Donor Persona

Once you look back over your notes, you’re going to quickly realise something: Some of these people are very similar!!

That’s exactly what this process involves. Look for patterns, similarities, common struggles.

Are a majority of them around the same age?

Did 8 out of 10 people complain that they use Facebook for communicating with charities?

You don’t need any special skills for this step. Sure there are “organisation” methods I could go into, but, come on… let’s not overthink this.

The more people you interview, the more you’ll realise that you’re going to have multiple personas… that’s perfect!

Ideally, you’d have around 3–4 major donor personas… but that’s just a guideline.

Now take what you’ve learned and fill in the following persona. You can edit this as you see fit, but here’s a guideline to get you started:

Name:
Photo: Use stock photo
Gender:
Age:
Location:
Job:
Hobbys:
Causes passionate about:
Reasons he/she/it wouldn’t give:
Prefered communication method:

Sound good? This process can be kind of scary to think about. If you have any questions, please just reply and ask me. I’d be glad to help you out.


Niklas Jordan deliver superior digital products, services & experiences for public & nonprofit orgs. Founder of DesignForGood.Tech

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