A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Six non-profit websites with effective calls to donate

On Giving Tuesday a few months back I got seventeen emails from eleven different organizations asking me to donate to their cause online.  These are great organizations I believe in and have relationships with.  I would have liked to give to each and every one.  But, like most Americans not named Mark Zuckerberg, I have a finite amount I can afford to donate to charity each year.  Deciding who to give money to is sort of like asking a parent to choose which child they love the most.

My glut of emails on Giving Tuesday is a great indication of how competitive online fundraising has gotten for charities.  Donors have tons of great choices.  Charities have to fight for each and every dollar they raise online.  To succeed in this sort of ulta competitive landscape, non-profits must have the small details right.

One detail that can make a giant difference is are the calls to donate on non-profit websites. Tyically very little thought is given as to how to get visitors into the donation funnel as quickly as possible once they are on a non-profit website.  Amazon has spent countless hours making their online purchasing process as simple as possible.  The Obama campaign was famous for using data to optimize its donation form.  This kind of optimization is foreign to most charities.  Most throw a big red donate button into their site header and expect the money to flow in.

Here are six non-profits that have clearly spent time optimizing their websites in an effort to maximize online donations.

(1) More than a Costume

More than a Costume is a micro-site produced by Doctors of the World during last year’s Ebola outbreak in Africa.  The site asks for visitors to donate money to help equip volunteer doctors with a real Ebola suite.  Very good example of how to show how money will be spent to personalize the donation.



(2) charity:water

charity: water’s online fundraising efforts are consistently innovative and effective.  During the 2015 giving season, their homepage asks donors to make a donation in honor of the people you care about.  The ask was compelling and the donation process was dead simple.



(3) Greenpeace

In addition to the ubiquitous big Donate button, Greenpeace includes a quick donate tool in its template that allows visitor to enter an amount and frequency.  This tool, shown in the upper left of the screenshot below, is accessible on every page of its website.


(4) American Cancer Society

If you visited the American Cancer Society website in December, you would see the pop up below urging you to give before the end of the year.  The counter is clever and the photo of Frankie is adorable.  It is also a nice touch to allow use to click a button to not see the pop up on future visits.


(5) Food for the Poor

The Food for the Poor homepage includes a really compelling call to give $3.65 per month to feed Maria, a seven year old from El Salvador.  If you refresh the page you will see photos of different children in the space.  The site also include a quick donate feature in its site template.


(6) Invisible Children

The Invisible Children website features a well designed donation button that is fixed to the right side of the page.  This means the call to donate is a constant presence as  you navigate the website.



Your Awful Fonts, Ranked

With so many articles griping about the bad font choices that new web designers use, it seemed appropriate to write one that didn’t end with an ode to your top seed, Comic Sans. Instead, I’ve completely disrupted that trend by placing it at number 3. Here are 10 fonts that hurt my feelings.

10. Myriad Pro


It’s that Adobe system font that shows up unannounced and unwelcome in the resume you’re secretly typing out between soul-eating budget meetings. Described by the people who designed it as having a warmth and readability, the truth is not so generous with the flowery jibber-jabber. The font looks every bit like a system font that you’d quickly replace with…


9. Calibri


The king of the system fonts for Mac and Microsoft designed by Dutch font hero Lucas de Groot! I’m typing in it (with it?) using Word currently and I’m struggling to feel the “warm and soft character” it is said to be graced with. If this font and Myriad Pro were in a police line-up, I couldn’t tell them apart. I might just point to one and say he did it though because these fonts are guilty of something.


8. Papyrus

Too soon.


8. Edwardian Script


I understand that you have an invitation to baby Colton’s 2nd birthday to design and he’s a unique personality and therefore the invitation needs to be unique as well, but no one can read this font at any size and that kid of yours just threw up and yes, looks like he’s eating it.


7. Optima


How a German named Hermann Zapf designed a font that was used in every shampoo label in the 1970s remains a great mystery to me. Of note…the font was inspired by a gravestone.


6. Impact


As a younger, naive designer I may have used Impact more than I should have. I also used bath salts more than I should have. That’s a joke, we didn’t know about bath salts back then. The point is both should be avoided unless used properly. Impact only for your bowling league flyer and bath salts for … baths.


5. Trajan


Trajan looks great on a coliseum but less grandiose on your wedding site. Reading through how you two met is fascinating enough without fighting through a font that doesn’t include lower case characters. Cruelly, Trajan comes with all Adobe products so get used to reading yourself into a migraine for years to come.


4. Any hand-written font


Do you really think in 2016 you’re fooling anyone with that phony signature? The hand-written font is also the go to for political direct mail pieces. Someone in a lazy design agency thinks a scrawled “we need your help now more than ever, TOM MCCORMICK!” is going to be the little personal push needed to get that five bucks out of me. Nice try, Huckabee.


3. Comic Sans


Like a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a roomful of thin, bearded millennials, Comic Sans has now reached cult status and is somehow now acceptable to some. Please join me in continuing to reject Comic Sans, Pabst and 19th century beards.


2. Webdings, Dingbats or whatever the hell


Consider that even your mother stopped using this weird icon font strategy before you ever scroll down the font menu this deep. Emojis make you mad, don’t they? Well, they should. These are less cute emojis for old people. On a side note, don’t use emojis.


1. Well, it’s Papyrus of course


The hated and overused font choice of overblown Hollywood darling, James Cameron, as well as the go-getter sitting in the cube next to you working on logo ideas for the local artisan fish co-op. The font was created in 1982 and sure looks every bit like it belongs on a Reagan era album cover. The bad news is that there are between 3 and 5 more Avatar movies in the pipeline and that weird branding is already in place.

Attack of the Clones: 2016 Candidates “Borrow” Obama’s Donation Page Design

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the digital team that worked on the 2012 Obama campaign must be feeling downright exalted. 

After a bunch of experimentation and testing, the 2012 Obama campaign ended up with a donation page layout that included a large, inspiring quote of the candidate and a stepped donation process that made it dead simple to give (you can see an updated version here).  Clearly the design worked, as the campaign raised more money than any other campaign in history.

I think it is safe to say that most of the 2016 candidates had a look at the Obama campaign’s donate page and decided to follow a similar template.  Check out the graphic below.


The Good and the Ugly: A Tale of 15 Presidential Campaign Websites


How do the candidates stack up?

Your website is your digital doppelganger. Making a good first impression can determine success or failure.

When it comes to running for president in the digital era, a well designed website may be the most important tool in the proverbial toolbox.  With the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primaries coming up next Monday, we decided to review the effectiveness of the websites of the Presidential candidates.

We’ve ranked the websites based on six criteria:

1)   First Impression: Does the front page create an irresistible urge to go out and canvass?

2)   Navigation: How quick and easy is it for you to find the page that you want?

3)   Content: Is the information provided relevant and effective?

4)   Design: How visually pleasing is the site to the eye?

5)   Call to Action: Is the site compelling enough for you to consider donating and/or volunteering?

6)   Mobile View: Does the site function the same on mobile devices as it does on desktop?

The Rankings

15)   Ben Carson


Alas, Ben Carson suffers from having the least effective website out of all the candidates. The main problem is the somewhat unresponsive navigation bar, which is shoved to the top left corner of the page. In addition, a scarcity of multimedia content and a lack of effort when it comes to the overall design of the site landed him in last place.

14)   Donald Trump


The strange paper texture used in the background of Trump’s website is the main detractor. It clashes badly with the content and is unnecessary when a plain white background functions as a better alternative.

13)   Jim Gilmore

Rather than taking a riskier route in an effort to stand out from the pack, Gilmore opted for the “better safe than sorry” alternative. The entire site feels pre-packaged, as if his digital team took a Microsoft template and cut and paste content.

12)   Mike Huckabee


The two sidebars feel like clunky add-ons. Although being able to access the contact bar and read personal testimonies from any page is neat feature, it clutters the page. Beware of browsing this site on a small screen.

11)   John Kasich


Kaisch’s front page starts off with the run-of-the mill call to action and volunteer form. However, it is disappointingly bare, missing the variety of media and information present on other candidates’ websites, which does little to compel a new visitor to explore the site further.

10)   Marco Rubio


Rubio’s front page lacks organization. The search bar is located a fourth of the way down the page and, rather than group everything neatly into subgroups, all the content is dumped onto the page without any rhyme or reason.

9)   Rick Santorum

Overall, the Santorum website features a strong design. Although the general layout was well thought out, the color choices leaves something to be desired. The red that is used to highlight key calls to action is also used in graphic elements throughout the site, which is distracting when you’re trying to read the main content.

8)   Martin O’Malley


The website opens with a great pitch that calls for the viewer to join his email list. It’s easy to navigate and well organized. The biography page is the highlight. It showcases all the strengths of overall site with responsive elements, such as auto scroll buttons and hoverable images, and graphic icons that help readers quickly locate any information they’re trying to find.

7)   Chris Christie


Christie’s site opens on a strong note with direct wording and quotes. The site is well organized in a minimal way. Rather than overwhelming you with dozens of pages to read through, Christie’s website summarizes all his key points into one or two pages.

6)   Hilary Clinton


Although the content and design was appealing at first glance, Clinton’s website fails to employ some of the tactics used by the higher ranking websites, such as adding a more personal appeal to the volunteer and donation pages. Nonetheless, the layout and font choices pair up to make for a very easy-to-read website.

5)   Bernie Sanders


The first thing you encounter is a splash page asking for donations, stating that “Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty”. This kind of tactic can easily scare away unsure visitors. Despite the splash page, Sanders’s website is well laid out and exhibits some of the best copy writing of the group, although its menu could use some reorganizing as a lot of information is hidden behind the “More…” and is easily missed. Most crucially, the Spanish language option is buried behind the “More” category, which could make it difficult for Spanish speakers to navigate the site.

4)   Jeb Bush

Bush’s website takes a down-to-earth approach. The majority of the images on his site features him interacting with people in a neighborly manner. Each state’s page is tailored with pictures and videos of Jeb spending time with the locals, which markets him as an approachable and easy-to-talk-to individual.

3)   Carly Fiorina

Extremely well thought out in terms of layout and design. Rather than subsections and a long drop down menu, everything is sorted into an overarching category. What fell short was the choice of text on the “Answers” page, which clashes badly with the existing font choice and was somewhat hard to read.

2)   Rand Paul

The use of the “money bomb”, the live fundraiser ticker pioneered by Paul’s father Ron in the 2008 presidential cycle, is unique and provides a strong opening point for the website, provided the numbers are relatively high. In addition, a built-in feature displays recent donators’ names, which could provide incentives to contribute. Who doesn’t want their name featured as a contributor on the front page of a presidential candidate’s website?

1)   Ted Cruz

From great graphic design to easy-to-read content, Ted Cruz’s website is like that one teacher who always made you feel special and important by scrawling personal comments on your papers. Including phrases like “You matter” and “I’m in” makes the viewer feel like they matter on an individual basis, rather than just being another faceless supporter.The highlight is the front page that acts as a one stop shop for media, volunteer information, and more.

Despite these rankings, what really matters in the end is whether or not you believe in what the candidate stands for. Though, it doesn’t hurt for them present those ideals in a well designed website.


Tools for Digital Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Even if your organization does not have a lot of money, there’s no reason it can’t run successful digital campaigns.

Sometimes great organizations lack the capital to devote to digital marketing. This can be especially true for non-profits, where organizations’ limited funds are spent on providing the best programing possible, leaving little for marketing.

As a leader of a student group at a university, I know exactly what that’s like. My student group needs to self-generate nearly all of its funding, leaving us with what can seem like pennies to spend on marketing. But that doesn’t stop us from having killer digital marketing campaigns.

Here, at Brick Factory, we have some favorite tools that you can use to execute a successful marketing campaign for little or no cost. The best part: most require no technical skills.



Social media is the perfect place for organizations to start their digital campaigns. The biggest players in the social media space–Facebook and Twitter–are free for brands to use. That means you can start developing a digital presence without spending a dime. If your brand is not already on Facebook and posting regularly then now is the time to do it. Not sure what to post? Here’s a list of 31 days of social media content ideas to get started.

Facebook: Advertising

Willing to spend a few dollars on advertising? $5 is all it takes to start advertising on Facebook.

Facebook Advertising

One of the best things about advertising on Facebook is that is allows you to target very specific audiences with your ads. This can help stretch your limited advertising budget by reducing the number of times your ad appears to people who have no interest in what your organization does.

For example, my student group’s intended audience is undergraduate students at the University of Maryland, College Park. In order to reach this specific audience, we target Facebook users who:

  • are ages 18-22
  • live within 5 miles of College Park, MD
  • like the University of Maryland Facebook page

Using these parameters, we can be reasonably sure that the vast majority of users viewing our ads are undergraduates at the University of Maryland. So, if we spend $20 on a Facebook ad we can be confident that nearly all of those advertising dollars focus on our intended audience.