By Marisa Nowicki

Which “Friends” character are you? Which Hogwarts house do you belong to? These are examples of fun, short quizzes that people sometimes can’t help but take. Why? We like to reveal something new and unique about ourselves.

How about: What type of giver are you?

Since 2015, our team has been researching donor behavior and designing and testing behavioral solutions that bridge the gap between good intentions and impactful actions. We’re sharing some of the designs we developed in our most recent work and the insights we learned from testing them. Up next: Charity of the Month, which leverages the allure of online quizzes to help people navigate giving decisions.

(I’m a Monica / Ravenclaw / Busy Idealist with an interest in food security, in case you were wondering).

Bringing discovery to the donor

Through our research, we uncovered a number of behavioral barriers to making choices that align with values and charitable giving goals that donors face, including limited attention, choice overload, and a number of small hassles. Because of these challenges, donors may end up giving spontaneously or reactively, rather than taking active steps to align giving thoughtfully with their values, goals, and interests. Rather than reflecting on what causes and types of organizations they are most interested in supporting and proactively adjusting their donations accordingly, donors have a natural tendency to wait for giving opportunities to come to them. We’ve also learned from previous field experiments with giving platforms that offering curated lists of charities can support givers’ goals of being more generous. We hypothesized that taking curation a step further by encouraging donors to think about their donor identity, and then providing personalized, curated charity recommendations and automated donations, we would be able to increase donor engagement, satisfaction, and generosity even more.

Charity of the Month aims to capture donors’ attention, personalize their choices, and then remove the hassles from the giving process by emailing monthly donation opportunities based on their provided preferences and giving goals. First, new users take a quiz to discover their donor identity, answering questions about which causes are most important to them, and which organizational characteristics they feel strongly about (such as grassroots organizations, long-established groups, or organizations that prioritize publishing impact data). Examples of the identity results include education champion or a hometown causes supporter. Users are then asked to select a goal for a monthly donation amount. Their quiz results and preferences are used to create one to three curated donation opportunities emailed monthly. Each month, donors have the option to donate their monthly goal amount to the recommended organization.

Charity of the Month leverages three behavioral strategies to encourage thoughtful giving:

What we learned: Personalization can grab attention and drive satisfaction

We’ve tested Charity of the Month with two different giving platforms, several online surveys, and A/B tests to gauge desirability of the tool and user preferences for different features.

Highlighting personalization helped the tool capture more donor attention, a key challenge to thoughtful giving. A test of this tool in collaboration with 1% for the Planet revealed that framing Facebook ads for Charity of the Month as “personalized” increased the click through rate from the ad to the quiz by 11% (From 1.12% to 1.25%), compared to an ad that did not mention personalization.

Moreover, the quiz kept users engaged. Everyone who started the quiz completed it. The tool was also seen as a source of valuable information. In an online study, we found that participants were more likely to be interested in Charity of the Month if they felt the quiz results accurately reflected their identity. Study participants shared feedback such as, “I loved that [the quiz] matched me with charities I would be interested in” and said the tool is an “interesting way to match me with charities I might care about.” This feedback suggests that users are genuinely interested in the personalized results of the quiz and how they translate to giving recommendations they can act on.

We also found that this tool can increase donors’ satisfaction with their donations and provide opportunities for discovery that they otherwise would not have had. In a survey of users who participated in Charity of the Month on another online giving platform, 61%[1] said they donated to a charity that was new to them because of their enrollment in the program, and 94% of those who donated[2] said they felt extremely satisfied with the donations they made through the program.

Using these insights in future testing of this tool

We have seen some promising evidence that the Charity of the Month tool can capture donor attention and increase donor satisfaction, as well as discovery of new charities. There are still additional features of this tool to test to further increase donor engagement, satisfaction, and generosity:

  • Sustaining donor attention: Does adding goal-setting, plan-making, and additional actions to the tool to create sustained behavior change?
  • Understanding preferences for opt-in vs. opt-out: In an A/B test, users did not show a difference in preference for a subscription model where they had to actively donate every month (“opt-in” model) vs. a model where they were automatically subscribed and needed to take action in order to not make a donation (“opt-out” model). We have only tested opt-in models thus far and would like to explore this feature further to see if it affects donation behavior.
  • Building a stronger, automated recommendation engine: Our testing relied on static recommendation lists manually created by our team. Testing this model at scale would require a robust database of non-profit organizations and automated recommendations.
  • Understanding whether this tool has long-term effects on giving behavior: So far, we have run two short pilots (one to two months) with giving platforms and haven’t had the opportunity to more deeply explore whether they change giving behavior in the long term. Providing these recommendations for a longer period could help us understand whether donors continue to give to the new charities they are introduced to, and try out other ways to sustain their attention.

Deciding where and when to give can be overwhelming.  A personalized Charity of the Month subscription and quiz could increase charitable donations and donor satisfaction. In particular, we’re optimistic about the value of personalization to capture and sustain donor engagement and generosity, and we look forward to future opportunities to apply these learnings to other giving tools. Making giving tools more behaviorally informed can help donors follow through on their generous intentions and equip more organizations with much-needed funds.

[1] N=29

[2] N=15