Impact by Design: Building a Better Online Donation Experience

Woman and child standing with donated food items

Heifer International’s online giving and gift catalog interfaces meet donors on their terms.

We’re proud to announce the launch of two important projects for our long-standing partner and member of the Lifeblue family, Heifer International. Working closely with Heifer and collaborator Widerfunnel, we recently launched an optimized donation interface, along with enhancements to the nonprofit’s online gift catalog, aimed at providing a more comfortable user experience that would help Heifer combat world hunger at a higher rate. 

Heifer’s donation form is one of the most visited pages on the site — and it’s also one of the most valuable pages to its online presence as a nonprofit. Because of the nature of traditional nonprofit business models and the timing of tax season, charitable donations tend to come at the end of the year, which can make it difficult to project the next year’s budgets. 

[Read: The Future of Fundraising: How Nonprofits Are Evolving After the Digital Disruption]

Yet solving world hunger and poverty isn’t something to think about only around the holidays, when most people are in a giving mood. These are the daily realities of many people around the world that Heifer International helps. Our mission was to find ways to innately communicate ongoing needs in a format that donors could easily understand and to help donors know their contributions made a difference — using both the online interface and Heifer’s popular gift catalog.

A Donation Interface That Guides Patrons Where They Feel Most Comfortable

We weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel; we were looking for the subtle details that would allow us to meet donors on their terms and allow them to understand what they were giving and the impact those donations would have.

In the digital landscape, meeting donors on their terms primarily means focusing on the mobile experience. A mobile-first interface lets donors give on their schedule and at their convenience. This was an important element to convey through the design. We wanted to take what was great about the desktop experience and make it better for donors on their phones.

A screenshot of the Heifer donation page on a mobile device

To do so, we shifted the donation process from a single-page form to a “step-by-step” checkout process to decrease the amount of scrolling on mobile and make the process less cumbersome for the user. 

Additionally, we updated the interface to provide a summary at each stage of the process to help the donor feel at ease by consistently affirming their selections, as well as highlight the typical amount others give. This was done to address any confusion donors might have.

[Read: What Nonprofits Have Taught Us About Building Relationships]

Without a widely publicized baseline, donors often found themselves unsure of how much to give to fit their budget and get a sense of their personal impact. Not only do these moments guide the donor in the process by providing an anchor, they provide transparency and build trust.

Transparent Gift-Giving that Clearly Communicates with Donors

Another essential part of this project was the gift catalog, which lets donors decide how they want their donation to be spent. Donors can choose to donate toward animals such as goats, cows and bees, which Heifer then directs toward the communities that need them most. These tended to be one-time donations, as many donors associated the donation amount with the physical purchase of an animal.

Heifer International's online monthly donation page

Monthly donors required a different communication approach — one that didn’t portray ending world hunger as a one-time gift. Our goal was to highlight the importance of monthly giving in an accurate and engaging way, which would allow Heifer to have a greater impact on the world while better communicating how contributions promote real-life change on an ongoing basis. 

[Read: Launching Heifer’s Holiday Gift Catalog]

To meet these goals, we made the messaging clearer and separated the steps in the gift-giving process to enable users to better understand the impact of their donation. This reframed catalog allows donors to customize their monthly giving amounts, making the process more feasible for donors, large and small. Also, by adding an option to filter by monthly giving, Heifer is able to appeal to one-time donors without interrupting the experience of those who already understand the lay of the land and want to give monthly.


Changing the world is no easy feat. It takes a lot of small steps from a committed group of people, and we are hopeful that our teams’ continuing work will help our partners make progress on their path to ending world hunger and poverty.

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