If you support your customers in what they want to do, they are more likely to support you. 

When the Norwegian Cancer Society got people to vote on what was important to them, here were their top tasks:

  1. Treatment
  2. Symptoms
  3. Prevention
  4. Research

The tiny tasks that were at the bottom of the list included:

  1. Donations
  2. Gifts
  3. Annual report
  4. Press releases

The top task of “treatment” got as much of the vote as the bottom 22 tiny tasks. What was very obvious was that making a donation was not a top task for people who visited the website.

In trying to get more donations, the traditional marketing approach would be to give much of the space on the homepage and other major pages over to asking for donations. The logic goes that the less attention people are paying the harder we have to work to attract it. And that is in fact how the old homepage for the Cancer Society looked. It had lots of banner ads asking for donations and support.

The approach the new Cancer Society website takes is very different. It now focuses on helping people get the information they need (treatment, symptoms, research) as quickly as possible. There are no banner ads for donations.

This is true customer-centric design -- putting the needs of the customer front and center. In appropriate places, such as on research pages, there are carefully phrased requests for donations. Why? Because if someone is reading about research, then it is appropriate to ask them if they might be interested in helping fund that research.

What is the result of NOT focusing on the tiny task of donations and instead focusing on top tasks?

  • 70 percent increase in one-time donations
  • 88 percent increase in monthly donors registered
  • 164 percent increase in members registered

"It is interesting to see just how little impact the front page has on donations,” Beate Sørum says. “The previous page had two large banners, more visible donation menus/options and frequent 'news' asking for donations -- and yet donations are now doubled after we removed all this from the front page. It is much more effective to have asks in relevant content, than to interrupt people with banners and donate now-buttons, when they are really trying to accomplish something completely different."

The whole area of making a donation was also radically simplified. “Where our old website had all the ways of supporting us presented with more or less equal importance given to each,” Beate explains, “for the new site we chose ONE method of supporting to be on top.”

It’s counter intuitive to think that if you focus on customer top tasks and downplay tasks that are important to the organization, then customers will complete more organizational tasks. But it’s true.

“As a digital fundraiser, I was quite frustrated at fundraising not even being an outspoken goal for the website,” Beate states. “But I am amazed at how well everything has worked out, working contextually to get donations. We have to be very aware of what situation people are in when we present them with a request for a donation.”