What’s the Big Idea?
Sponsoring a child is, for many Americans, one of the most identifiable and accessible forms of philanthropy. So much so it was even used as a comedic device in the film “About Schmidt.”
At a recent conference titled, “Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charitable Giving,” held at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, researchers presented evidence that suggested one victim’s story can be much more effective at raising money from people than the tragedy of, say, an entire community.
In this issue, we’ll review the Web site of Childcare Worldwide, an organization that meets the needs of the poor, particularly children, through a ministry model. According to GuideStar, Childcare Worldwide has an annual operating budget around $14 million.
The Childcare Worldwide Web site uses many online best practices: fresh content on the homepage featuring a current crisis (the Peruvian earthquake at the time of this review); clean, easy-to-use navigation; compelling images; strong ask (“Get involved [for] little over $1 [a] day”); clear, action-oriented buttons that draw your eye and encourage you to “Donate Now,” “Sponsor A Child” and “Join Newsletter”; secure donation processing; and more.
Donors can support Childcare Worldwide in customized ways online: sponsoring a child, earmarking for something concrete like mosquito nets or selecting “where most needed” from its menu of choices. As it builds its online presence, the obvious next step will be to add more video, audio or podcasts, donor profiles, and other features to increase interactivity.
Showing off any external ratings (another online best practice) can help boost a donor’s confidence about giving to your organization. Childcare Worldwide proudly posts a link to its Charity Navigator listing on the bottom-left of every page. However, we question if this is really a good idea for it. As we review its profile, we learn Childcare Worldwide has a two-star (out of four) rating that falls behind several of its competitors. Similarly, reviewing its listing on Wall Watchers, a watchdog group that focuses on Christian faith-based organizations, raises more questions about its unique role in this crowded programmatic space. While we usually encourage prominently displaying watchdog reviews and other credibility markers, Childcare Worldwide might want to downplay these until its ratings go up.
Childcare Worldwide also could clarify its program offerings on the main navigation. Right now, some programs are given top-level significance, while others are wrapped up together under the heading of “Other Programs.” We recommend either listing all the programs or putting them all under one heading: “Programs.” Programs make up the substance of Childcare Worldwide’s work, and getting that information should be as easy as possible.
The organization also should review its current donation-processing system and look into ways to make it more sophisticated and user-friendly. Currently, donors begin making their transactions on Childcare Worldwide’s site, but then move to a new system through VeriSign. While I commend the additional provision of security, the “secure site” loses the branding of childcareworldwide.org (with the exception of the logo) and only asks for the donor’s credit card information — without the option of repeating the gift amount. Some donors might abandon their giving at this point in the process if they feel disoriented or lost. If donors make it through this second step, they then are taken to a third page where they enter their credit card security code (better for step two) and get the reassurance of seeing their amount and gift allocation. A great starting place for groups that want a more robust, all-in-one program for online donations is a recent report by Idealware at www.idealware.org/donations/index.php.
The biggest challenges that emerge from reviewing this site are brand-driven. As an individual considering sponsoring a child in need, why should someone select these guys, specifically? What is their ministry model or faith-based perspective really about? If someone has a different faith or point of view, what values or actions still might inspire support? Why should someone support Childcare Worldwide instead of a comparable, and perhaps better known, organization?
The questions that emerge from digging around its site are less about the value of its work and more about what the for-profit world calls a USP — Unique Selling Proposition — the “big idea” that distinguishes an organization from others similar to it.
Our advice is that Childcare Worldwide focus more on communicating its point of differentiation to clarify why it is most worthy of support. Then it should restructure the site to be more user-friendly and interactive to better tell its story and communicate its USP.
Sarah Durham is founder and principal of Big Duck. Farra Trompeter is vice president of client relationships and strategy for Big Duck.