5 Web Design Trends To Watch Right Now

Is your organization embarking on a website redesign in 2014? Here are five design trends to consider.

1. Simpler Navigation to Get Readers to Focus More on Content

One of the big design trends that is beginning to fade is mega navigation menus that are cluttered and distracting to website visitors. This year we will see more websites with simplified navigation. Designers are taking cues from the way users navigate website menus on smartphones. For example, to get users to focus on reading or skimming the content on a desktop website page, navigation menus will temporarily disappear. To use the navigation, users will see the “hamburger” looking menu bar icon at the top of the screen. The Daily Beast is a good example of this.

2. Bye Bye Sliders?

Organizations have loved sliders for the past few years because it provided an easy way to highlight key priorities for the organization. However, over the years, some data shows it’s only the first slider that generates much clicks. In 2014, sliders will start to be replaced by one prominent photo or graphic with a small amount of text. This is called the hero area or intro area. This design element was clearly adapted from print reports.

While I love the focus on a single element, many designs use enormous photos or graphics, which fills up the entire screen. This is problematic from a UX perspective because it does not give website visitors a preview of other key content on the page. If that first image did not draw users in, visitors will immediately click off the site as users have very low attention spans on the web. These oversized images also require a lot of art direction. If your organization does not have a graphic designer on staff or retainer, this could be hard to maintain and have it look awesome.

3. Scrolling is Normal

I work with a lot of organizations on redesigning their websites at Rad Campaign. The number one request in the design process is that they want to fit everything in “above the fold”. Websites are not print reports or newspapers so remember to not treat them as one. If your websites architecture is solid and the design is clean and has good hierarchy users will scroll with no issue. Don’t fear scrolling. It’s in!

4. Flat Design

For the last few years, web design has had a lot of focus on drop shadows, gradients, and textures to give design elements a 3D effect.  Now web design is headed in the opposite direction focusing more on minimalist design. Design will focus on incorporating more muted colors (though you can certainly use bold colors with flat design), more use of white space for a cleaner look, bold and larger typography (like 16 to 18px for the body text) for readability, and simpler buttons and icons. A good example of flat design is Medium and the Ecology Center.

BTW notice, the Ecology Center’s use of sliders (which move way too quickly) and how some of the large photos they chose, don’t really work with big white text overlaid on top. See how the white text blends into the background? This is why art direction is so important for managing areas that require large photography or graphics.  


5. Simpler and More Focused Mobile Sites

In 2013 we saw much more focus on responsive websites, which is a step in the right direction. However, the sites on mobile still replicated the desktop sites from a design and content perspective. Essentially they have been trying to squeeze all of the content and design elements from the desktop version into a small mobile screen. This presents many UX issues for users who are looking at sites on small smartphone screens. In 2014, organizations should expect to see simpler sites on mobile that focus on the most important content you need users to have. Extraneous content and design elements will be hidden on mobile VS desktop. Remember these users are on the go. You must get them info as fast as possible with minimal taps and swipes.

*This article was updated on January 8, 2013


This is What Nonprofits Need More Than a Facebook Donate Button

Yesterday on Care2’s Frogloop, we discussed the value of Facebook’s new Donate button and its potential impact on nonprofits. If you did not get a chance to read it, I encourage you to, as there are some implications you need to be aware of. For example, since Facebook won't provide donor data to nonprofits this could easily lead to people receiving multiple donation solicitations when they just donated to the organization via Facebook, thus angering supporters, as Rob Manix, one of my colleagues at Rad Campaign stated yesterday.  

While adding the Donate button is a nice gesture towards the nonprofit community, what the nonprofit community really needs is a Facebook Ad Grants program, an idea that Beth Kanter and I discussed a few months ago. The program would function similarly to Google’s AdWords program for nonprofits.

A Facebook Ad Grants program would be extremely beneficial to the nonprofit community given Facebook’s recent priority of paid content over organic reach. Nonprofit organizations on a shoestring budget have put in a lot of staff time over the last few years building a community on Facebook organically. But many nonprofits can’t afford to pay Facebook to promote their important content and fear that the years of work they spent building their community will now go down the toilet. No one wants to see that happen.

The right thing for Facebook to do is to work directly with the nonprofit community, gather their input, and create a Facebook Ad Grants program to help nonprofits continue to thrive on Facebook.

Very soon, a few of us in the nonprofit community will be organizing an open letter campaign to Facebook encouraging them to start a Facebook Ad Grants program. In the meantime, please share this article and idea with your collegues in the nonprofit community. The hashtag we are using for the campaign is #FacebookAdGrants.

Here are some other articles that highlights the need for a Facebook Ad Grants program:


Facebook's New Donate Button: Good or Bad for Nonprofits?

The nonprofit world was buzzing today over the announcement of Facebook rolling out Donate buttons to nonprofit organizations on pages and posts. This will be similar to the Facebook Gifts button that they have been testing with about a dozen nonprofit partners for the past year.

The big question on every nonprofit organizations' mind is, will this Donate button help their charity raise a decent amount of money? From all the donor data I have seen on Facebook, the answer is NO! I predict that the majority of nonprofit organizations won’t raise very much money on Facebook unless your organization’s mission is to protect cute wildlife and animals, or works on disaster relief during a disaster. Here’s why:

People Don’t Use Facebook to Donate Money

People use Facebook to share stories, photos, and videos with friends. They comment on posts and like status updates. It’s a social space to be, you guessed it - social. Giving money is not a very social activity on Facebook. And when it comes to nonprofits, your supporters want to be engaged and feel like they are helping you to achieve your mission. There is a time and a place for giving money, and Facebook is not really that place. BTW, you should check out the Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report, which historically shows that the majority of nonprofits have not raised a dime on Facebook. And remember the days of Causes on Facebook where many nonprofits struggled to raise money?

Facebook’s User Experience is Not Focused on Donation Conversions

There is a lot of design and user experience strategy that goes into raising money online. That’s why nonprofits spend a lot of time and resources on designing donation pages that focus on conversion rates. While it’s nice to see Facebook being charitable, having a little Donate button mixed in with all of their other features vying for users attention will negatively impact conversion rates.

Donations are not a priority for Facebook. What is a priority for Facebook is Wall Street, ad revenue, and paid partnerships. Facebook’s cluttered design has never been a good user experience, but nonprofits have muddled through it. After spending a few years building a community, now nonprofits are experiencing a decrease in organic reach as Facebook changes its algorithm to focus on paid content. Perhaps, in the future, Facebook will offer nonprofits paid options to better highlight the Donate button. However, the poor donation user experience still remains a large issue. 

No Access to Donor Data

Facebook does not plan on permitting donors to opt-in to have their information shared with nonprofits. Donors are the lifelines to nonprofits, yet nonprofits will not receive donors’ names, email, or other important contact information to continue cultivating these important people. This is problematic says Rob Manix, Senior Web Director of Rad Campaign and who works with me. "Many nonprofits dedicate considerable resources to track supporter’s multi channel donations and activities. Donor history is integral to strategically targeting advocates with relevant campaigns, avoiding donor fatigue, and stretching limited resources. Without this data the potential for multiple solicitations and angry supporters, is inevitable."

Why is Facebook doing this? They want all relationships to stay on Facebook.

It’s also not clear if nonprofits will be able to tell if donors “Liked” their page.

However, since Facebook is prioritizing revenue over community these days, I suspect they will offer paid options in the future for nonprofits to receive opt-in donor information.

If your nonprofit is interested in testing out the Facebook's new Donate feature, you can apply to be part of their program. However, my advice is not to get too excited about the this new feature. Experiment with the Donate button a bit, but do not turn your Facebook page into an ATM platform or your community will disengage.


Study: 88% of Children Donate to Charity

As your nonprofit is gearing up for year-end fundraising and making plans for 2014, there is some interesting data available from the report Women Give 2013 New Research on Charitable Giving by Girls and Boys. You may think it’s odd for children to be a donor audience, but for many children, charitable giving is an important part of their family values and upbringing.

The study follows the charitable giving habits of 903 children aged 8 to 19. Check out some of the key findings:

  • 88% of children donated to charity. Interestingly, there was no real difference between girls and boys levels of giving, where as in adults, women are often viewed as more charitable.
  • 87% of children whose families are low income and 86% whose families are middle income donated to charity. 90% of children whose families are high income donated money. Again, it’s fascinating to see that no matter what their family income level was, children were extremely charitable. Let’s hope this trend continues into adulthood.
  • Eight out of ten children have parents who gave to charity at least once during two studies.
  • Nine out of ten children have parents who talk to them about giving to charity.
  • Volunteering is important to children. The study reported that 60% of girls and 50% of boys volunteered for charity.


Despite that the data is a few years old, the study shows the positive impact on children’s charitable giving when their parents discuss it with them. Donating to charity is not just about modeling their parents behaviors.

The study found that this was true across gender, income level, race, and age groups.

“Such powerful, empirical results not only give parents an understanding of how they can help their children become charitable givers but also provide a clear direction for engaging children in charitable behavior,” said the study.



New Studies Debate If Social Media Is Turning People Into Slacktivists

Nonprofits often question what kind of an impact social media has on donors. Does engaging with people on social media encourage them to donate money? Does it prompt people to make an extra donation in a year, or increase their financial contribution? In short, does having someone follow your nonprofit organization on social media mean that they are committed to your organization? Or are people “Liking” a nonprofit page on Facebook just as a way to show public support (“hey, look at me, I’m charitable”), but in reality they are not invested in the organization?

A couple of recent studies reveal some of these answers, but unfortunately they are contradictory. Let’s take a look at some of the data.

The Nonprofit Times cited a study during the 14th Annual Symposium for Nonprofit Professionals and Volunteers at the Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management that concluded that social media users are quite active with nonprofit organizations.

The survey asked the following question:

“Which of the following actions did you take to support a charity or cause after engaging on social media?”

Check out the survey responses:

  • Donate money: 59%
  • Volunteer: 53%
  • Donate clothing, food or other personal items: 52%
  • Attend/participate in a charitable event in my community: 42%
  • Purchase a product to benefit the cause or charity: 40%
  • Contact my political representatives by phone, mail or in person: 25%
  • Organize an event in my community: 15%
  • Some other way: 2%

*Note respondents were able to check multiple answers.

However, according to the study The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action, published in the Journal of Consumer Research and conducted by PhD student Kirk Kristofferson and professors Katherine White and John Peloza, “charities incorrectly assume that connecting with people through social media always leads to more meaningful support.”

“Our research shows that if people are able to declare support for a charity publicly in social media it can actually make them less likely to donate to the cause later on.”

Could the difference in the results be that Kristofferson and team surveyed students and not charities' current social media followers? The study focused on asking students to show support for charity, such as “Liking” the charity page on Facebook, joining a FB group, signing a petition, or accepting a magnet or a pin. Next, they were asked to give money or volunteer. The survey found that the students who publicly supported nonprofits on social media, like Facebook, were the least likely to support the charity further, such as through volunteering, donating money, etc. But when participants supported a charity confidentially, such as signing a petition, they were more likely to donate money later.

Kristofferson said that social media is “making it easy to associate with a cause without committing resources to support it.”

He also adds, “If the goal is to generate real support, public facing social media campaigns may be a mistake.”

What are your experiences with your organization's social media followers? Do you feel that they are just as engaged as the people on your email list who are taking actions in a more private setting?


7 Tips to Start a Guest Blogging Program 

We've talked about how important it is for nonprofits to create a content calendar and share regular updates with your constituents. Today I want to talk about the importance of getting influential guest bloggers within your community to write a guest blog post for you. Many organizations have someone in the celebrity realm championing their cause, and even if that person is only a celeb in your community, that's a big deal to your constituents. Guest blog posts and quotes are a great way to bring in diverse voices and to talk about niche issues.

Here are 7 tips for reaching out to and identifying guest bloggers.

1. Make a spreadsheet to define your goals. The spreadsheet should include people that you want to reach out to, your goals for that person (do you want a single post, two-part series, etc.?), their contact info, and people at your organization who may have a connection to that person.  Make sure to include "wish list" people who may seem unrealistic. You never know until you make the ask.

2. Identify the right experts and influencers to solicit guest blog posts or quotes from. Make sure you're highlighting voices in your community, as well as philanthropists who are passionate about your issue. Think about politicians who want to show leadership on the issue. And consider authors who are already writing on the issue.

3. Keep your “ask” out as brief as possible. You'll need to introduce yourself, your organization, and then frame your ask concisely.

4. Reach out to peer organizations, and even consider hosting a blog carnival.

5. Sometimes people will agree to write something for you, but may forget.  Plan to follow up after a couple of days as a friendly reminder. And make sure that you're always thanking people - even if they aren't able to participate. Creating relationships is key.

6. Have a couple of questions on hand once someone agrees to participate. The questions are helpful to get them ruminating on the issue, and will help mold the direction that you would like them to go. Interviews are also a great way to incorporate guest voices into your blog.

7. Create a series of guest blog posts around a theme. This makes your request more attractive since each blogger knows they are part of something bigger that other experts in their field are participating in. It also allows you to build on each person who agrees to submit a guest post since you can name drop the people who are already participating to give your series more appeal.


What tips do you have for nonprofits that are thinking about beginning, guest blogging?


CrowdRise Holiday Challenge Expects to Raise Over $1M for Charity 

While your nonprofit may be in the final sprint of planning its year-end fundraising campaigns, you may want to carve out extra time raising even more money by participating in the 3rd annual Crowdrise Holiday Challenge. The Holiday Challenge, which launched last Monday, has already raised over $677,000. Over 500 nonprofits have registered to participate. Not to worry, there is still time to register. There is also an informative charity toolkit here

The Challenge, with support from Craig Newmark of craigslist and craigconnects, The Huffington Post, and other philanthropists will run through January 9th.  Grand prize donations to the three charities that raise the most money include; a $100K for first place, $40K for second place and $20K for third place. Charities will also have the opportunity to win thousands of dollars more in prizes during weekly Bonus Challenges.

Celebrities such as Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, Kristen Bell, Sean Penn, Ian Somerhalder. Christy Turlington, Seth Rogen, and more are joining this year’s Challenge to help raise money for the causes they are most passionate about with prizes, including two tickets to the Anchorman 2 movie premiere at the Beacon Theater in New York City and a feature article in The Huffington Post about your favorite charity. Pretty cool.

The Holiday Charity Challenge on CrowdRise is expected to raise well over $1M this year and break last year’s record of $1.1 million in small donations.

“Our supreme focus at CrowdRise is to make giving back fun,” said CrowdRise cofounder and CEO Robert Wolfe. “And we’re relentless about finding awesome and notable ways for people and organizations to be so, so psyched to raise money for their favorite causes. The CrowdRise Holiday Challenge creates ‘that moment’…a moment that isn’t a dinner or disaster. The CrowdRise Holiday Challenge is just a cool and fun way to rally your friends to engage and give back and drive some kick ass impact.”

Newmark, who has seen nonprofits raise a lot of donations via social fundraising campaigns says he finds these types of campaigns appealing because “I figure people should give each other a break, and my take is that this will be an effective way for people to help people who get the job done.”

*Disclosure: My firm Rad Campaign works with Craig Newmark and is working on the Crowdrise Holiday Challenge.

** Article was updated December 5, 2013 to relfect the amount raised to date.