Crowdfunding Platform for Charities

A trustworthy and approachable take on charitable giving

I was tasked with designing a web application for people to crowdfund donations for charities and foundations, and allow people to donate to specific causes. Because my college and law school years instilled in me a commitment to social justice, I was eager to honor that commitment in designing this fundraising platform tackling two specific barriers to donation: trust and approachability.

The Problem

One easy way for a person to participate in creating change in the world is by donating their money. However, while someone may believe in the mission or the goals of an organization, she knows very little about how her donation would be used thus creating apprehension.

The Solution

Transparency. Let potential donors see prior to donating exactly how funds will be used. Changeseed is a trustworthy and approachable take on charitable giving that lets potential donors see how their money will be used and see how they can make an impact by donating as little as a few dollars.

The Process

Get to Know the User

Craft the Survey

The first crucial step in developing this fundraising platform would be to understand the potential users. Especially given my strong feelings on the topic, this step was very important to keep my biases in check. With this survey the key things I wanted to understand were:

  • Attitudes towards donating;
  • What types of fundraisers users donate to;
  • Perceived barriers to donating; and,
  • Motivations for donating.

Survey Says

The survey was distributed across social media and online forums and completed by 67 people. The responses from the 65 individuals answered “yes” to “I believe I can make an impact by donating my time or money to a cause I believe in.” were used to uncover the insights that informed the development of this platform. In analyzing the survey results the following was revealed:

  • 67% say they have donated in the past year, but wish they could donate more than they did;
  • 75% would prefer their money go to local organizations remedying social issues in their hometown/local area;
  • 60% make one-time donations when they can or when convenient, as opposed to donating regularly; and,
  • Regarding barriers to donating: 68% indicated a barrier to donating was “not trusting how funds would be used” and 48% felt as if they had to donate a certain minimum amount of money to make a difference.

Personal connection highly affects the organizations that individuals donate to:

  • Individuals are donating to organizations that affect themselves or people they know (65%);
  • They are donating to organizations they have volunteered with in the past (57%); and,
  • They are donating to organizations that their friends or family work or volunteer with (42%).

One key feature of the survey was to ask users about what kind of scenarios or information would need to be presented to them to make them more likely to donate.

  • 67% say they have donated in the past year, but wish they could donate more than they did;
  • 75% would prefer their money go to local organizations remedying social issues in their hometown/local area;
  • 60% make one-time donations when they can or when convenient, as opposed to donating regularly; and,
  • Regarding barriers to donating: 68% indicated a barrier to donating was “not trusting how funds would be used” and 48% felt as if they had to donate a certain minimum amount of money to make a difference.


Survey Result Inferences

Taking these results together a major theme arises. While there mistrust is the highest cited reason as a barrier to donation, respondents were also most open to making donations where they either had a personal connection to the organization or cause, or know exactly how funds will be used.

Understand the Competition

Crowdfunding has cemented its role in bringing ideas of all kinds to life. The market has a number of different players each with its own twist. While Kickstarter is viewed as the leader in this space, it doesn’t allow for fundraising for charitable campaigns. GiveForward allows donors a variety of ways to donate such as purchasing items or meals. Teacher favorite DonorsChoose uses a “proposal” model that requires public school teachers to give details on how money will be spent, but is a platform only available to public school teachers. It was clear I needed to dig deeper into these and other competitors to identify the space that my platform could fill. View my competitive analysis here.

Develop Focus: User Stories and User Flows

The results of my user survey confirmed a need to create a platform that donors can trust and my competitive analysis revealed guidance on how to best accomplish that. The platform would require those seeking to raise money to provide a specific goal statement as well itemize how funds will be used. The platform would be open to anyone and everyone looking to do good work. Additionally, to assist with making donating more accessible (addressing the concern over feeling like a certain minimum amount) donors should be able to make donations at low dollar amounts.

To accomplish this I created a prioritized list of user stories for the development of this platform. These user stories would need to be turned into user flows to describe and understand how a potential donor/user would move through the platform.

Campaign Creation Flow
Sample User Flow: Campaign Creation
Make A Donation
Account Creation

View ChangeSeed user flows up close here.

Create an Identity

Equipped with an understanding of the goals of this platform and the attitudes of the end user it was time to develop a brand identity that reflected that spirit. Ultimately, the users of this product are generally altruistic and believe they can make a difference with their dollars. They believe in doing good and this site needed to be inviting and approachable. However, at the same time it needed to exude trustworthiness. As a result, I decided in a simple and direct name: ChangeSeed. “Change” would have double meaning: (1) relating to making a difference and (2) meaning small amounts of money; and, “Seed” would reference how that small amount of money or difference would later grow into something bigger.

That tension created by emphasizing both trustworthiness and approachability was greatly impactful when deciding the typefaces for this product. Abril Text is the serif font used for the word mark of ChangeSeed’s logo as well the body copy for the platform. This typeface is contemporary and comforting, in addition to easy on the eyes when reading. It is the type of typeface you can settle into as you read about how you should donate your money.

Contrasting Abril Text I selected Gibson Semi-Bold for all heading levels. Friendly and sturdy, this typeface embodies the all the good feelings related to doing something you know will make a difference.

The color palette would need to comprised of colors that showed this juxtaposition of trustworthiness and approachability. As a money donation platform shades of green and gold would serve to support this brand.

Design the Conversation

Low Fidelity Wireframes

Now with my brand created and my user research completed I created the initial low fidelity wireframes for ChangeSeed. While my user flows gave me the structure needed to think about exactly how a user would move through the site, this phase of ChangeSeed challenge my ability to organize and prioritize information for the web. Because trust must be established very methodically and deliberately, this was a very important test in information architecture.

Bold images would be used to draw in potential donors but ultimately it is the organization of the information on each campaign that would convert users into donors. Low fidelity wireframes were created using Balsamiq.

Sample Lo-Fi Wireframe: Landing Page
Sample Lo-Fi Wireframe: Campaign Page

Take a closer look at all the low-fidelity wireframes here.

High Fidelity Wireframes

With a better understanding of the design of ChangeSeed I took to Sketch to create high fidelity wireframes to solidify the look and feel of the platform. I was able to create a high-fidelity clickable prototype in inVision for testing and design feedback before taking the platform to development. This clickable prototype can be found here.

Design Feedback and Usability Testing

Prior to deploying my clickable prototype for usability testing, I had the design reviewed by my peers in the Bloc community comprised of designers and developers across a variety of experience levels.

The feedback I received varied from things such as adjusting the sizes of buttons, improving the copy for clarity, and questioning the titles used for certain headings or sections. After spending several hours and days producing the reviewed designed, the feedback was a breath of fresh air and resulted in many "A HA!" moments. This process helped gel to me the importance of constantly another set of eyes review my work and receiving critique and feedback to produce the best results.

Usability Testing with Peek by

Using Peek by I sought to assess the trustworthiness of ChangeSeed and the ease of navigating the platform. Three 5 minute usability tests were available free of charge, and the feedback overall regarding the brand and the platform was very positive. Right away from viewing the landing page they identified the site a crowdfunding site for poor school children, and responded positively to seeing the number of people impacted and the amount for the seed donation in the "Featured Campaigns" section. For the sample campaign I used information and photos I had taken on a service trip I took in law school which primarily involved helping schools in Honduras. Consequently, my testers initially believed the site to primarily only deal with educational fundraisers. I was concerned. However, as they scrolled down the landing page and read more about the platform, they understood that many other causes existed on the site.

After reviewing the landing page, they were then asked to continue navigating the site and to click where they wished to visit next. From there each tester clicked "Browse Campaigns." From there, they had a-ha moments regarding the causes available for support on the site. Users noted that the organization of finding. From there the users were unclear where to go to view the campaign page. I had anticipated that the users would click on the campaign images, however this was not the case

This brough each of the users approximately to the 5 minute mark, and I did not have the opportunity to observe how they navigated the campaign page or went through the payment flow. Given the opportunity for more extensive testing, this would be the given the highest priority.

Code the Design to Life

Incorporating the feedback from my design critiques and usability tests I moved forward with developing ChangeSeed. One of the great rewards of this project was developing front end skills using Zurb’s Foundation framework and Sass to bring the design to life. With a basic understanding of programming logic I was excited to dig into Sass and see how much it would speed up my workflow. In addition to Bloc’s offerings I supplemented with tutorials and exercisees from Treehouse and Code School to enrich my understanding. Once I overcame some of the initial hurdles of differentiating mixins, functions and extends I was hooked! Sass allowed me to write styles much faster by avoiding repitition and using logic that came very naturally. I am forever changed. Thank you, Hampton Catlin.

Foundation, on the other hand was a different story. It was quick to pick up, but a love hate relationship quickly developed. While Foundation’s built in components made general development fast, I found myself growing frustrated with the ability to customize those component to build out ChangeSeed as I had designed and envisioned. I did enjoy and appreciate it’s integration with Sass and the ability to get up and running with a responsive grid quickly, but found myself still having to write a lot of additional styles to get ChangeSeed as close to its intended design as possible.

You can take ChangeSeed for a live test drive here.

Reflections and Further Exploration

ChangeSeed was a massive undertaking with massive rewards. At the outset I sought to do more than just build a fundraising platform, I need to build a platform with the values of my users in mind. My user research gave me the foundation and a thorough understanding of what an altruistic population was looking for. I invested a lot of time and energy to carefully craft a user survey that would help me uncover attitudes to guide the direction of the design. I think spending the time to be very deliberate with my survey and to dig deep into those results really gave me a lot of confidence to move forward with a product concept.

Additionally, ChangeSeed developed my information architecture skills. Building a platform that not only gets people excited about donating money but also builds trust requires thoughtful organization of content. Because of the amount of content required to build that trust, I learned the importance of letting information breathe with the appropriate spacing, and how often times simplicity is king.

Finally, ChangeSeed was a crash course in prototyping with HTML and CSS/Sass. Prior to this project I could fumble my way through building a website, but taking the time to nearly build out the front end of this site increased my confidence twenty fold. Zurb’s Foundation assisted with this, but ultimately because of my frustration with many of its preset styles I quickly learned how to make my own. I have come to love prototyping with HTML/CSS for web applications because of how creating real live interactions feels more authentic to the final product. I look to grow skills in JavaScript to increase interactivity even further.

A couple areas for development and improvement with this platform would be in usability testing. With my very limited time and resources to test the product I only was able to receive limited feedback from the average person. While hearing from unrelated designers and developers their thoughts and feelings on the product helped me fine tune some design elements, I wish I had a chance to engage my potential users more. My brief 5 minute user tests validated to me that the brand and design of ChangeSeed were appealing to my potential users, but I would have liked to dig deeper into the actual functionality of the campaign creations and donation flows. One area where I would like to focus the development of the UX and UI would be in the “needs calculator” both from the standpoint of a donor and a fundraiser. That ultimately is where much of trust is generated, but this also requires the most work for the donor to provide. As a result, this experience should be focused on heavily as it serves as the hallmark of the product.