Groundswell is a crowdfunding website that aims to streamline the donation process for both donors and nonprofits. 

Research objectives



UX Designer





Time Frame

2.5 weeks



Axure / Photoshop / POP


Concept validation / Usability test results / persona developement /consumer journey map / design principles /wireframes /prototype / UI

The frustrations with the donation process

Online giving in the U.S. now exceeds $20 billion annually and has continued to grow at double-digit rates for most of the past decade. More donors are embracing online giving; these donors are driving the shift to online for a variety of reasons, including convenience and mobility. Giving to nonprofits is unnecessarily complicated and requires a simpler way to donate.

What is the solution?

My teams challenge was to test and explore the hypothesis that a single platform which allows non-profit organizations to post their on-going needs will increase donations and donor satisfaction and will encourage repeat donations. This was unique in that two sides should be considered as opposed to one targeted user type. The end design must be a platform effectively bringing together nonprofits and donors yet serving the needs of each individually, behind the scenes.

Learning about the current donation process

While our goals hinged on proving or disproving the given hypothesis, the team kept an open approach to gathering all relevant information. We wanted to allow our findings to drive the scope and direction for the finished product. First, we identified some areas we wanted to explore through research.

Research objectives

  • Will a single platform increase donations and donor satisfaction and will it encourage repeat donations?
  • Will this be attained using a mobile application, website, or both?
  • What is the donation reception process?
  • What are the pain points of receiving donations?
  • What types of resources are needed by nonprofits?

Research methods

We first drafted a Google Forms survey that included 10 questions about donor habits. We received over 200 responses in less than twelve hours so we had plenty of insights to explore. We discovered that most donors are:

  • Donating money to non profit organizations as opposed to items and volunteer time.
  • The main struggle with making a donation is trust.
  • Digitally-made donations are being made on a computer as opposed to a smartphone.

The top struggle donors experience is with trusting non profits.survey2

90% of donors donate money to nonprofits.survey1

Most donors make donations over the computer as opposed to other devices.


We were curious to know if our remaining research uncovered the same patterns, and what else we can discover about donors and nonprofits. We created a competitive analysis to see if platforms already existed in the market that already address our findings.

The competitive analysis revealed an opening in the market for a platform providing a space to bring vetted, trusted nonprofits to one place and provide an easy digital way to donate. This is completely absent in websites while organizations scarcely offer an app for donating in the first place. The lack of donation apps could have been because of poor execution, or because it wasn’t an effective platform for donations. That became something to explore and take into consideration during our research.

Speaking with potential users

35 exploratory interviews were conducted as teams and transcribed to share-out as a group before deriving insights. Interview questions were tailored towards three types of interviewees we identified crucial to interview to fulfill research objectives.

  • Stakeholders: Nonprofit founders, owners, or CEOs
  • Users: Donors
  • Subject matter experts: Nonprofit associates

The questions asked

Our questions differed depending on the type of interviewee we were talking to. For donors, the main points we wanted to touch on:

  • Experience with volunteering, donating money, donating items
  • How users make a donation (process)
  • How users choose what organization to donate to
  • What medium users donate through
  • Important factors when deciding to make a donation
  • If users would use a platform that matched donors and nonprofits
  • What users would want to see or what information they need to trust and use the application

For stakeholders and SMEs, the main areas we wanted to explore were:

  • Process of receiving donations
  • Type of donations looking for
  • Current technology being used
  • Challenges in receiving donations
  • How organizations gets repeat donations
  • What is the average size of donation

After speaking with potential users, we began pulling insights from the 35 interviews conducted. With post-its in hand, we moved on to synthesizing the data.


To find natural patterns in our interview content we spent time affinity diagramming (breaking down information found in research to then organize and rearrange to see trends and how they relate to each other) which yielded core desires of nonprofit organizations and donors.

We found that the main desires of nonprofits were:

  • Donation Tracking capabilities
  • Ease of use
  • Low maintenance

The main priorities of donors were:

  • Transparency
  • Authenticity
  • Tax Deductions
  • Feeling Good

The face of our user

The key personas uncovered were Eric and Alex. It was especially important we understood our personas’ motivations, mental models, goals, and lifestyle to develop a product that would match their needs. It was found there were critical pain points to address on both the donor and nonprofit side of the equation to make a platform to successfully accomplish what was set out in our hypothesis. From here we kept those needs at the forefront of our design decisions. Our next step was to better understand our personas’ current processes through journey mapping to pinpoint where these pain points are occurring.

Alex and Eric's journeys

We wanted to better understand the pain points and desires of our personas, so we developed Journey Maps from the donor and nonprofit perspective. This gave us further insight into where our product could alleviate pain points and solve problems. Utilizing these findings we developed problem statements for both donors and nonprofits to ensure we were addressing the needs of each during ideation and development.

Design principles and problem statements

Design principles were established to address the problem statement. They made a strong design framework for the team to keep in mind during the next phase of the project: ideation.

Donor problem statement

Donors have a difficult time finding trustworthy NPOs that relate to what they are interested in donating to.

Nonprofit problem statement

NPOs don’t have an effective way to communicate their needs in a transparent way.

The Frankenstein concept

Each team member quickly ideated concepts following our design principles to best solve for the problem statement. We then each sketched out a low fidelity flow of our top design. Two separate but cohesive flows had to be developed, considering both donors and nonprofits. My concept revolved around connecting volunteers with nonprofits who were seeking their specific skills. It had social aspects and a matchmaking system that resembled a dating website. I was keeping Eric in mind while developing my concept. Our persona Eric is a skilled photographer and web developer, and often feels his talents could be put to better use.

Several web concepts and two mobile concepts came out of concept sketching. The team used weighted voting to narrow down top features by marking directly on the various sketches. The instructor then gave us his recommendation on which concepts were most viable based on how closely they addressed the problem statement using the design principles. We used the most viable concepts as a framework in which we then combined with other top rated features from other solutions. After refinement, these concepts would then move forward into concept validation to refine the flow of and verify viability before taking into wireframes.


Emerging concepts

Concept 1: website focused on crowdfunding for specific nonprofit campaigns

Concept 2: mobile app allowing coordination of all donation types

With two concepts narrowed down, we were now ready to move into testing with our new iterations.

The battle of the concepts

During the first part of usability testing our goal was to identify any major flow and concept changes that should be made to better fit the user’s’ needs. We also wanted to understand whether the mobile application concept, or web application concept was more desired and efficient.

Most participants found both prototypes easy to use in terms of making a donation. They found the website more confusing when completing certain tasks, but also found it a more complete experience in terms of features when compared to the mobile prototype. Users were most concerned with trustworthiness and liked the reviews and recommendations each prototype provided, but wanted more from each. Users liked the ease of use of a mobile app when tracking donations on each side (donor and nonprofit) but not at the sake of search abilities and other features. Users preferred to donate their money online on a website but would like the payment features to be streamlined and made more trustworthy. Implementing the recommendations and continuing to work with users would ensure a continued user-centered product.

Testing showed a website was necessary to house all the complexities involved in complete tracking and managing of donations, and was better for searching for new nonprofits to donate to. Testing also showed using mobile felt easy to many users, and users saw an application for it in the simpler parts of the donation or tracking process. The team therefore decided to move forward with the web concept, and also make a responsive version for mobile.

Round 2 of testing

During the second round of usability testing the goal was to identify where the updated flow was not seamless and intuitive. We also wanted to better understand what our user wanted to see and and how they wanted to be able to accomplish tasks on our application.

Donor testing insights

  • Home page needed to be reorganized to show what SEVA is for donors v non profits and tell how it works, followed by testimonials and then Join the Movement
  • On the explore page we needed an option to filter and sort searches and save interests
  • For the nonprofit dashboard we needed to make the left tabs static so users can see the menu at all times
  • The top navigation bar should be fixed to show even when scrolling you have the capability to search and explore the site

Nonprofit testing insights

  • Wanted further information directly on home-page as to what nonprofits can do
  • Wanted more detailed interface on reaching out to donors
  • Wanted dashboard tabs to be on the screen at all times

Refining our wires

Taking into consideration our findings from the rounds of testing we were able to produce final wireframes. Our final solution, branded as SEVA was a platform fitting the needs of donors and nonprofits alike, simplifying the process of tracking donations and making more trustworthy and welcoming the prospect of finding a cause meaningful to you, and then donating to their efforts. We handed over the final wireframes to the UI team who then took branding concepts they’d been developing while we were finalizing the applications, into high-fidelity mock-ups of SEVA.

Donor wireframes

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Nonprofit wireframes

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Future scope and recommendations

  • Find an unobtrusive way for nonprofits to update donors on their fund allocation
  • Explore what desired level and type of social activity the user wants

Making it beautiful

Our UI team moved on to creating high fidelity screens based on our wireframes. Each member of the UI team had their own vision for the project, as seen below. Seeing our wires taken in two totally different directions was amazing to witness. 


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Final thoughts moving forward

This project was interesting to me in that it reiterated to me that users are not experts in themselves. People see themselves differently than actually are, and this sometimes extending into their needs and desires. For example, during our exploratory interviews many users said they would love to have a social aspect on the donor platform. However when we tested this concept on them, they hated it. This again stresses to me the importance of being patient, doing thorough research and testing, and reiterating or completely pivoting when necessary. This is not a frustration for me however, it is just part of the journey as a UX designer.