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The Positive Impact of Good UX on Non-Profits

by Danica Ralston
7 min read
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A study of the UNICEF and Red Cross websites finds that a well-designed experience encourages users to behave more charitably.

Online donor advocacy contributes to the financial sustainability of non-profit organizations that work hard to provide humanitarian assistance to people across the globe directly affected by disaster.

Websites enable all types of donors, however deep or shallow their pockets, to support worthy humanitarian causes. But how do these organizations get users to take action, and keep them coming back?

Given the ongoing conflict in Syria, U1 Group (an Australian UX consultancy) decided to find out. Researchers posed the question: “How can good web design for a non-profit organization result in a better user experience, resulting in a higher likelihood of securing online donations?”

Comparing UX And Donation Behavior: UNICEF vs Red Cross

To conduct our independent study, we collected data on the usability of two Australian organization websites, UNICEF and Red Cross. Both were seeking online donations from users to assist those who are directly affected by the Syrian crisis.

UNICEF Home Page

Figure 1: UNICEF Home Page

Red Cross Home Page

Figure 2: Red Cross Home Page

We pooled 556 people to participate in the project, across two separate online surveys (UNICEF, n=279 and Red Cross, n=277). Respondents to both surveys were sourced through an external online panel, and ranged in age from 18-65+ years old. They were from different states and territories across Australia, represented a range of household annual incomes, and were roughly split across genders. Around two-fifths of respondents in both surveys reported that they had previously donated money online to organizations that support humanitarian causes.

Online Quantitative Research Methodology

Using our proprietary online usability tool Loop11, we asked Australian online users to undertake two tasks commensurate with donating money online to a charity that supports humanitarian causes.Each task was assigned “success” and “fail” pages that were used to calculate the aggregated task completion rates. Users were then asked how easy or difficult they found the tasks to complete.In addition, we asked follow-up questions about:

  • Overall user satisfaction
  • Likelihood of donating money in future (so we could compare with their previous online donation behavior ascertained prior to starting the tasks)
  • Likelihood of recommending the organization to friends or colleagues
  • What specific information and features they think are important to include on these websites

Research Results

As a result of completing exactly the same two online tasks, (see Figures 7 and 9), the UNICEF website converted a higher proportion of non-donators (those who stated they had never previously donated money online) into potential donators (32%), compared to Red Cross (22%).

Online donation behavior

Prior to completing the survey tasks, around two-fifths of both sample groups had previously donated money online to organizations that support humanitarian causes (see Figure 3).

After completing the tasks, respondents were asked how much money they would be likely to donate online. While the Red Cross online donor proportion remained unchanged (42%), the proportion of potential UNICEF donors increased by 9% to around half (49%) of respondents.

Online donation behavior

Figure 3: Online donation behavior

Those who had never donated

When we analyzed the results according to respondents’ past online donation behavior, we saw more of a change in those who stated they had never donated before.

Figure 4 shows that significantly more UNICEF non-donators (32%) said they would be likely to donate at least some amount of money, compared Red Cross non-donators (22%).

Likelihood of donating online

Figure 4: Likelihood of donating money online (Analysed by previous online donation behavior)

How Does the UNICEF Website Drive this Behavior?

1. Ease of use

The System Usability Scale (SUS) is a self-rating provided by each participant regarding how easy each website is to use. Figure 5 shows that the UNICEF website scored a slightly more positive SUS result (68) than the Red Cross website (65).

SUS Results

Figure 5: SUS results

In addition, the majority of all respondents reported positive satisfaction levels with their website experience (see Figure 6). The UNICEF website, however, compelled a higher proportion of users to state that they were very satisfied (32%) compared to Red Cross users (19%).

Overall Satisfaction

Figure 6: Overall, how satisfied are you with your experience on this website today?

2. Online task completion

Respondents were asked to complete two tasks based on scenarios similar to those that real life users of the websites might complete. The average task completion score was higher for the UNICEF respondents:

  • UNICEF: 63% success rate
  • Red Cross: 45% success rate

Task 1 – Online donation:When attempting to locate the page required to enter personal details for making a donation to the Syria appeal, around half of all respondents were successful in both the UNICEF (47%) and Red Cross (49%) surveys. Task 1

Figure 7: You have seen news reports about the crisis in Syria and would like to donate money to [UNICEF / Red Cross] to help them support people affected by this conflict. Please find the page where you are asked to enter your personal details to give money to this appeal.

Successful respondents were likely to click on ‘Donate now’ or ‘Donate’ icons clearly visible on the home page on both sites (see Figure 8).

After analyzing the clickstream pathways, we found that users who failed this task did not finish on a page where they could enter personal details, or had navigated to the ‘give a gift’ or ‘monthly donation’ page.

first click heat maps

Figure 8: First clicks heat maps – Task 1

Task 2 – Find Information: Respondents were much more successful at finding information specifically related to the Syria conflict on the UNICEF website (79%) compared to the Red Cross website (41%).

Task 2

Figure 9: You’re interested in finding out more about the impact of the crisis in Syria. Please use the website to find out how many million Syrians have fled their country as a result of the conflict.

The main impediment to successful task completion for Red Cross respondents was not having this information clearly visible or easy to navigate to from the homepage (see Figure 10).

Of the UNICEF respondents who had never previously donated money online, the vast majority who stated they would in the future had successfully completed task 2 (84%), compared to only 71% of those who said they would not be likely to donate in future.

first click heat maps

Figure 10: First clicks heat maps – Task 2

3. Importance of specific information and features

The table below shows what participants listed as the most important things that should be included on a website that seeks financial donations from users to support humanitarian causes.


The ability to find accurate information and facts about the crisis appeal (say for instance, how many people have fled Syria as a result of the conflict) was of key importance to include on a website that seeks financial donations from users to support humanitarian causes.

The fact that significantly more UNICEF respondents were successful at finding this information (in Task 2) goes someway to explain the positive shift in their future online donating behavior.

4. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

At U1 Group we are aware of the increasing interest in using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for user research projects, or ‘likelihood to recommend’. The NPS was designed (by Fred Reichheld from Bain & Company in 2003) to obtain an indication of loyalty to a product or service, and how the customer experience affected company growth.

We analyzed the data from UNICEF respondents in detail to see if there were any correlations between their NPS scores and the likelihood of donating online in the future.

Interestingly, whilst the overall NPS score is -38 (see Figure 11), the score is much higher for those UNICEF respondents who said they would be likely to donate in future (-19) compared to those who would not donate (-57).

We can therefore see a link not only between the usability of this website causing changes in potential online donor behavior, but also improving users’ loyalty to the organization.

based on your experience

Figure 11: Based on your experience with this website today, how likely are you to recommend UNICEF to a friend or colleague?


Through online testing of the UNICEF and Red Cross websites, we gained some useful insights into users’ thought process when donating money online.

Our research found that higher task completion scores were related to an increased likelihood of donating behavior, as the proportion of potential online donors increased after completing tasks on the UNICEF compared to Red Cross website.

This study illustrates that good UX alone—not just bombarding people with various types of marketing—can influence consumer behavior and increase online conversions.

Good UX alone—not just bombarding people with various types of marketing—can influence behavior

In addition, users reported that it was very important to include the following information and features on websites that seek financial donations from users to support humanitarian causes:

  • Accurate information and facts about crisis/appeal
  • How the money will be used to support the cause
  • Financial accountability / transparency of admin / staff costs
  • A secure online payment process

Finally, the likelihood of future online donating behavior is associated with a higher net promoter score (NPS), which has been linked to brand loyalty, so any site that increases online donating behavior will likely see an increase in NPS scores.

These findings are of special importance to non-profits because it shows that UX improvements result in more resources being deployable to those people in desperate need of assistance. The principles behind these findings are also applicable to for-profit businesses.

The results from this report reinforce the value of online user testing and research when it comes to:

  • Improving the customer experience
  • Increasing conversions
  • Fostering a greater degree of customer loyalty (i.e. they are happy to donate or take further action again)


Image of Red Cross site courtesy Gil C / Shutterstock.com

post authorDanica Ralston

Danica Ralston,

Danica is a UX professional for pioneer Australian UX consultancy U1 Group. She is incredibly passionate about doing work that benefits people’s quality of life, and loves getting involved with projects that influence public policy. She is also extremely diligent when it comes to ethical user testing. With a background in market research, psychology, biology, international relations and political science, Danica enjoys continually growing her understanding of the psychological basis of behaviour, and exploring how people use and benefit from technology today. U1 Group is Australia’s one and only member of global UX network, UX Fellows.


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