Saturday, February 19, 2011
Information about donating physical items was often hard to find and rarely sufficiently specific. As a result of the low usability for non-monetary donations, users typically bounced between many non-profit organizations before finding one that they wanted to give their items to.
-- Jakob Nielsen, writing about usability test results for non-profit organizations' web sites.
Looking to find non-profits that could use the things you're ready to donate? You may come across the same problems Nielsen writes about.
My local non-profits must be better than average - while I used to see these problems a lot, things have definitely improved. It used to be that the big "donate" button almost always took you to information about financial donations only - but now, with most of the sites I've looked at, it also provides information about donating goods. For example, take a look at that Shelter Network page; it couldn't be much easier to find the information.
But that doesn't mean the problems are entirely gone.
1. Problems in finding the information
I've seen cases where the word Donate doesn't appear on the home page; in that case, look for something like Support Us or Get Involved. Sometimes it's much less obvious; I've seen donation information buried under About Us or Contact Us.
And if there's a home page Donate link, it won't always be the link you want; it might indeed be financial donations only. Here are some other places I've found information on non-monetary donations:
- How You Can Get Involved
- Ways You Can Help
Once you've found the donation section, you might find the information you want under titles like these:
- In-Kind Contributions
- Wish List
2. Problems with lack of specificity
My local non-profit thrift store has a nice brochure it hands out listing what it accepts and what it doesn't - but the information on the store's web site is nowhere near as detailed.
Another site says simply: "Goods - Donations are gratefully accepted, including clothing." That's nowhere near specific enough to be useful.
And then there's the site that says only this: "The Foundation also welcomes in-kind donations. Please telephone our Executive Director at (xxx) xxx-xxxx to discuss your particular situation." (The actual phone number was included on the web site, but I saw no reason to include it here.)
If you're at all in doubt about what the organization accepts, call first - so you don't wind up wasting a trip. And confirming the hours makes sense, too.
Let's give a big "thank you" to all the non-profits who do good work in the world; how wonderful when we can help them out by donating things we no longer need, even if their web sites are sometimes lacking. Let's close with this very clear message from the Museum of Children's Art: "Give Us Your Stuff."