Tales of donations almost derailed by technology

Unless you’re a 21st century Rip Van Winkle, you’ve likely heard technology touted as the fundraiser’s new best friend. What you may have missed is that technology is also a tease.

Just when think you’ve achieved techno-Nirvana, up pops another possibility. A nifty new function. An emerging platform. Yesterday’s hot innovation is today’s yawn.

Fearful of being left in the cyber-dust, fundraisers race after the next great thing. But not always with the best results, as the following donor tales illustrate.


A few days back, Matt Forster, a free-lance writer living in Michigan and regular Generous Matters reader, sent me the following message:

” I never realized how important having the right ‘interfaces’ would be until I wanted to give $20 to a charity in Boston last month, and the only way I could give was to send a check. I am so used to Amazon checkout and PayPal, I was stumped. I had no idea where our checkbook would be (it was in the filing cabinet), we don’t have envelopes because we never use them, and I had to go to the Post Office to buy a stamp. It was just not worth the effort. Imagine the obstacles for those more tech savvy than me. I don’t even have a smart phone, but I am sure there are others much more removed from the traditional process.

Not one to state a problem without suggesting a solution, Matt linked to a helpful article about optimizing websites for mobile devices.


It was 9:00 p.m. on June 30 when I remembered an outstanding pledge to a favorite ministry organization. With no time to mail a check, the option of on-line giving was a blessing – or so I thought.

Upon clicking the donation page, I was instructed to access my account. “Account?” I muttered. “I don’t remember creating an account. There’s gotta be a mistake.”

Fortunately, I could “click here” to request my log-in information, which I did. The next command asked for my email address, which I entered. I was told that my user name and password had been sent to my email account.

I minimized the website, maximized my email, and watched for an incoming message. Two or so minutes later, the information arrived. Then with password in hand, it was back to the website to make my gift.

Six unexpected clicks and a few extra minutes aren’t much, but at the end of a busy day, this was an annoyance I didn’t need. Had I not been determined to fulfill my pledge on time, I wouldn’t have persevered.  I’m still fussing about the experience (obviously).

The moral of the two tales? Don’t let your technology (or lack thereof) get in the way of a donor’s desire to give. The goal of any use of technology must be to facilitate, not frustrate, good intentions. Fortunately, as the article that Matt sent my way promises, “fixing even minor usability problems could increase online donations by 10%.”

For the sake of donors like Matt and me, don’t let your technology annoy, disappoint, or tease. Make the fixes — please.

TALK BACK: Do you have a tale (good or bad, happy or sad) from the intersection of technology and fundraising? Please pop it into the comment box below.


  1. Excellent post Rebekah, technology is a real double edge sword sometimes. In an effort to improve the usability, how do you suppose you get around the need to tie a donation to an account for things like marking a pledge fulfilled, sending thank you letters and tax receipts, and other reporting? Some of these things are important for the donor, not just the organization and is why we often require logins. We are currently redesigning our website and looking for the best options, so I love the article you gave from Matt. Thanks for the great post.

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