How ACLU Raised So Much, So Quickly

$24m in 48 hours, and still counting

I don’t live in the US, but this weekend my Twitter and Facebook accounts have been over-run with the protests against Trump’s executive order. No doubt yours have too. Lawyers from all over the country were mobilised to the situation and the American Civil Liberties Union received over 350,000 donations over the weekend.

True, it’s the situation unfolding that is the main reason for these donations, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the ACLU would not have received anywhere near the level of support without some of the new effects of the digital world in which we live.

So let’s look at a few of these effects that helped generate this level of scale.

1. Spontaneous, viral peer-to-peer matching

Billions of people on platforms like Facebook and the majority of these people on their mobile devices (always on, always with me), produced something new — or at least I haven’t seen before at this level of scale.

Influencers and celebrities started to offer to match anyone’s donations.

Do we call this peer-to-peer matching? As this happened other influencers started to do the same.

Then even people without a lot of followers and fans started to do the same in their own way!

An important point here is that there was no specific tech empowering this beyond the existing social platforms. People are taking their own screen shots of their confirmation pages and confirmation emails to prove their donation. The ACLU probably didn’t know this was going to happen, but if they had done, they could have developed a feature which enabled this much easier on social networks with a special kind of share card.

To get a sense of how big this trend was, Twitter search box now suggests the word “match” after ACLU. This is evidence that this was significant. Could peer-to-peer matching be an important new trend in charity fundraising?

2. A mobile donation experience optimised for touch

With all this exposure on social channels it was vital that the ACLU’s mobile donation experience was well optimised. It was — well done ACLU!

Notice from the screens below how the mobile donation options (left) have been made into nice big buttons for fingers, whereas the traditional desktop experience (right) is easier to use if all I have is a mouse.

Also – notice the PayPal option on mobile but not on desktop and on the mobile form the communication opt-in options are heavily reduced.

3. Homepage focus

When people visited the ACLU website this weekend there was no doubt about what ACLU wanted me to do. They used a light-box to serve a strong call-to-action for a donation.

The light-box was not repeated on subsequent visit to the the homepage (which can be very annoying) so this was good attention to detail.

Another nice thing I spotted about ACLU’s website is that it didn’t have a homepage slider with 54 things the organisation wants me to do. It had one homepage feature (and a take action banner at the top) focusing on donation, with strong, bold copy (“HE DISCRIMINATED: WE SUED”)

There is lots of evidence from the UX community that sliders reduce the impact of your website.

4. A damn good donation page

There are so many things I like about ACLU’s donation page.

First off all, it’s all on one page, without the need a step by step navigation of multiple pages.

Secondly, once you’re on the page, ACLU have removed all the distractions. I can still return to the ACLU website homepage by clicking the logo, but other than that they are focussing me on making a donation. In my work with other charities this technique is proven to increase conversion.

Here, ACLU have removed navigation links from their donation page so potential donors are not distracted

Notice too the up-sell to monthly donation. I love this. I think most people come to a charity website to donate one-off (in their minds). So I think it’s correct for the default to be a one-time donation. However, regular monthly donations are so much more valuable over time. The ACLU have done a great job at up-selling users to monthly with a simple line of copy with arrow graphic and friendly font.

So, as I said at the top of this post, the ACLU would still have received a lot of donations this weekend even if all they had was a mail address— bit it’s the speed and scale of response generated by digital — specifically social and mobile that is staggering.

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