Case study
Making street fundraising smarter

The Great Daffodil Appeal is Marie Curie’s largest annual fundraising appeal. Throughout March thousands of supporters volunteer their time to take part in street collections all across the country. Behind the scenes, this nationwide operation is coordinated by Marie Curie’s regional fundraising offices.

In the lead up to the appeal, the regional fundraising teams are responsible for organising collections in most major towns and cities in their area. They get permission from local councils and most importantly book volunteers onto collection shifts over the phone.

A volunteer collecting for the Great Daffodil Appeal
Volunteers collect for the Great Daffodil Appeal throughout March

On the day the regional teams meet and greet volunteers, distribute collection equipment and to log returned collection buckets. And once all the collection buckets have been returned and counted, the regional teams send out a personalised thank you letter to each and every volunteer letting them know how much they raised.

By 2014 the number of people registering online had far outstripped the number the regional fundraising teams could support, resulting in a considerable drop-off between the number of people registering their interest online and the final number of people who participated in collections. Not only did this mean the charity missing out on potential revenue, it also risked losing the trust of the volunteer audience on which the appeal depends.

A community fundraiser helps a volunteer put on his hat
Two volunteers sign in for their collection shift
Regional fundraising teams and volunteers at work behind the scenes

The brief

To create an online application to support the fundraising teams responsible for recruiting and managing volunteer collectors for the Great Daffodil Appeal and other collection events throughout the year.

For volunteers this would involve automating the collection booking process and onward journey, including the ability to:

  • Search for collections in their area and book their preferred time slot.
  • Receive booking confirmation and information about their upcoming collection, such as, meeting points, contact information and weather updates via email and text.
  • Receive a thank you message on completion of their collection and learn how much money they collected.

For regional fundraising teams this meant providing a collection management interface, enabling them to:

  • Create new collection sites, set collection shift time slots and monitor their status.
  • See how many volunteers were booked on to their collection sites and monitor demand.
  • Promote high value collection sites and times.
  • Send messages to volunteers if their collection was changed or cancelled.
  • Record collection attendance and box totals for their collectors so they could thank them appropriately.

The approach

Work on the new platform began in early 2014. The team’s first goal was to deliver a beta version of the platform to the London fundraising team at the beginning of May. It would be trialled on a one day collection across multiple locations in London in July. A small internal team was put together, including a business analyst and key stakeholders from the fundraising and marketing team — the back-end development was outsourced.

Low fidelity mockup of the proposed user interface
Low fidelity mockup of the proposed user interface
Low fidelity mockup of the proposed user interface
Low fidelity mockup of the proposed user interface
Low fidelity wireframes were the starting point for the UI design

I was brought on to the project in March, by this point the project team had finalised most of the requirements, produced low fidelity wireframes and were defining the minimum viable product. My task was to rationalise the wireframes, advise on the proposed user experience, design the user interface and deliver the finalised UI designs as HTML prototypes to the back-end developers. The prototypes had to be ready to handover to the external development team at the beginning of April.

Responsibilities and deliverables

  • User experience advice and rationalisation
  • User interface design
  • Responsive HTML prototypes
  • UI pattern portfolio
  • HTML email design

Due to the complexity of the project, Struan, a UX specialist from DAM Digital, joined us for two weeks to provide additional UX support.

What I did

I proposed a modular approach to the UI design, this would be easier to iterate and scale over the course of the project. I worked closely with Struan, and between us we split the interface down into smaller more managable modules, iterating rapidly using pen and paper.

A rough sketch wireframe of the simplified user interface
A rough sketch wireframe of the simplified user interface
A rough sketch wireframe of the simplified user interface
A rough sketch wireframe of the simplified user interface
Sketch prototypes used to rationalise and simplify the user interface

Using these modules we built the interface back up. We simplified the complex screens of information in the management interface by keeping them task focussed, splitting a screen into separate tabs when there was too much information on screen not relevant to the main task. We kept the editorial options inline to make it easier for fundraisers to understand the context of any information they changed.

The approach to the visual design was also an issue. The charity was due to launch a new brand identity later in the year, but at that point in time we had no idea what the new brand would look like. I wanted to avoid unnecessary reskinning of the platform further down the line, so I opted for a ‘white label’ approach for the beta launch and used an existing UI framework, making minor amends to the typography and colours. This meant we wouldn’t have to redo the design when it came to implementing the new brand identity later in the year. The modular approach would also help make any changes to the UI design easier to estimate.

There was some further debate about whether the whole platform should be responsive or just the volunteer facing journey. I recommended that it would be much easier to build responsive behaviours into the whole interface from the beginning than try to adapt it later on.

Delivery, tech and tools

Once we’d mapped out all of the modules, we moved quickly into code, using Trello to help track and organise the build. The rough sketch prototypes of each module gave me the information I needed to choose a UI framework that would suit our needs. I chose to use Twitter Bootstrap and collaborated with Struan on the creation of HTML prototypes via GitHub, making use of Jekyll’s liquid templating features to organise the UI patterns into a mini library for handover.

The final HTML prototypes were delivered to the back-end developers in just over two weeks. They were also used in user testing and training while the back-end build was happening.

Outcomes

The beta version of the collection booking and management platform was launched in time to be trialled by the London fundraising team for a one day city collection in July 2014. Further features were added for another round of collections at Christmas. The platform was rolled out in full to all the charity’s fundraising teams across the UK in January 2015 ahead of the Great Daffodil Appeal in March.

During collector recruitment, over 22,000 volunteers booked themselves on to collection shifts using the app. The overall conversion rate was 19%, almost twice the conversion rate for other charity event registrations. On the ground, the app improved collaboration between fundraising teams, resulting in more opportunities to collect. Better communication with collectors via the app and the integrated email campaign saw the drop-off (between collectors signing up to collect and actually showing up for their collection) halved. The regional fundraising teams were able to spend less time dealing with queries from collectors and more time raising awareness of the appeal.

Awards

The collection booking and management platform won gold for best use of digital in the charity sector at the Digital Impact Awards 2014.

Charity fundraisers will be looking to this project as an alternative to an outdated process… the UX is deliberately simplified allowing to the user to concentrate on practicalities like locations and timings.

Judges, Digital Impact Awards