How Choice Impacts Donor Giving Decisions

GlobalGiving wanted to know: How do donors react to multiple giving choices, and how should information be presented in order to inspire them to give? Our Chief Product Officer outlines what we learned.
 

What We Tested

The Better Giving Studio—a catalog of product ideas to inspiring better giving curated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—suggests that GiveLists can be an effective way to inform giving decisions. What’s less clear, however, is if donors prefer to select an option from the list, or if they would rather place their trust in the list and support all of the options.

Our Big Question

Do donors want to select a project to support from a list, or would they prefer a “give to all” option?

Why It Matters

GlobalGiving has worked hard over the years to make our search feature easy and engaging to use, but we know that donors sometimes still struggle with the “paradox of choice.” We wanted to explore the dynamics of search costs on donor behavior and to what degree donors would engage with options designed to reduce searching costs. If providing an option that makes it easy to support multiple projects at once can increase giving, then more organizations can be supported.

Our Method

GlobalGiving launched two rounds of experiments that were focused on five of our most popular themes—Education, Health, Hunger, Women + Girls, and the Environment. For each theme, we made a curated GiveList as well as a “Fund” which allows you to support all options on the list. When visitors clicked on one of those themes they were randomly assigned to a different test cell.

During our first experiment, visitors were randomly assigned to these A/B test cells:

  • Control (A): Donors were shown five projects in their selected theme.
  • Test Cell B: Donors were presented with information about the theme and the five projects.
  • Test Cell C: Donors were presented with information about the theme and the fund, and could click to see additional projects.
  • Test Cell D: Donors were presented with information about the theme, the five projects, and the fund.
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    We did not find any statistically significant effect either in terms of engagement or donations. However, we noticed that when a fund (aka “give to all”) option is embedded in the search results, it gets higher engagement from users than when presented elsewhere. We hypothesize that this is because many donors like to think that they want to search/browse, but that after 30 seconds, they’re ready to consider an alternative option that will save them time.

    To this end, we designed a second experiment to see if presenting this option at the right time would increase giving. During our second experiment, visitors were randomly assigned to these options:

  • Control (A): Donors were shown five projects in their selected theme.
  • Test Cell B: Donors were shown five projects in their selected theme followed by the fund.
  • Test Cell C: Donors were shown five projects in their selected theme, followed by the fund with a call-out banner that says “Having trouble deciding? Support the top projects:”
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    The Ultimate Outcome

    What we found surprised us. The best performing cell, showing donors the fund with the call out, worked the best not because donors gave to the fund more, but because including the fund at that spot with the call out challenged donors to make a decision. We saw an increase in on-page engagement and conversion rates to projects with this option. This test demonstrated that while donors do sometimes want an easy way to give to multiple projects, they ultimately like to be in control of where their donation is allocated.

    Make It Yours

    To make this test yours, analyze the options that you are presenting donors. Give them the option to select between multiple projects or programs. Provide a general support option at the bottom which allows the donor to support all of the projects. How many donors select general operating support? Do you see an increase in conversion rates to the dedicated programs by providing the general operating support option?

    Based on our experiments, until donors are struggling with the paradox of choice, they aren’t ready to consider an alternative option.

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