TUG helped us create a unified solution that worked in a decentralized environment—no small feat!

—Assistant Director of Marketing,
Major University Development Office

Designing a better donation flow

increase in gifts to multiple funds
increase in dollars and donors to unrestricted funds
decrease in customer service calls

Goal: Streamline the donation site

At a large university, the Development Office provides the means to support students, research, athletics, new initiatives, new construction, and ongoing university operations through donations. This University had recently changed the underlying backend for their donation website. The new backend allowed people to give to multiple funds in a single visit with a shopping-cart like experience.

The Development Office also wanted to provide a quick way to make an unrestricted gift, to save donors time and because the university needs unrestricted funds. The Development Office knew that they did not want “genius design” or a one-sided strategy. Instead, they wanted a sturdy information architecture reflecting the organization and its stakeholders’ needs, built on best practices, and exceeding donor expectations.

Our approach

Our heuristic analysis, stakeholder interviews, and user interviews identified that the current giving site provided insufficient context and feedback—people were not sure they were giving to the right place and how their gift would be acknowledged. The site also felt a little cold and unwelcoming.

We created several personas:

  • A recent University graduate
  • A longtime giver
  • A dedicated sports fan
  • Someone donating in memory of a family member
  • A University gift officer

The personas and their website usage scenarios identified priorities and relevant features for the collaborative design sessions.

This research process culminated in two collaborative half-day design sketch sessions with the University team. TUG architects came prepared with rough sketches from their research, then they facilitated the conversation and sketched out alternatives on white boards. These collaborative sessions gave the University team influence on the final design as it evolved, in particular the ability to steer through technical limitations and political complexities. For the second session, TUG returned with sketched concepts for proofing by the University team and as a starting point for the rest of the workflow sketching. The sketches from the session provided the specification for the new giving flow.


Improved flow increases gifts. The University and TUG choreographed a better giving flow on the donation site. Since launching the new flow, the University has seen:

  • Gifts to multiple funds increased by 100%
  • Dollars and donors to unrestricted funds increased 5-fold
  • Increase in positive feedback from both users and university gift officers
  • Customer service calls related to the website decreased by 57% (complaints and feature requests).

By all measures—analytics, user feedback, and donations—the changes to the site have helped the Development Office fulfill its mission.

“TUG did two things in particular that ensured this project’s success: It was smart to include a gifts officer because they are our users, too. We also looked beyond nonprofits and other educational institutions for best practices. We compared ourselves to the best, regardless of their domain.”

—Assistant Director of Marketing,
Major University Development Office

Are you responsible for a large website in a decentralized environment?

TUG can help you draw together insights from across your organization. Collaborate with us to design a better place for your website visitors.