Where to give your money

Most who know me know that I believe in giving back – I have a list of organizations to which I contribute here on my site. It takes time to find charities that are a right fit and that are trustworthy – that’s why I was so heartened this morning when I hear on KBCO that Colorado had launched a new website that helps those who want to give money check out potential charities. The site is Check the Charity. As I said I was heartened when I heard about it and quickly went to the site. That’s when my hopes were dashed. Instead of having a simple, intuitive site where those wanting to check out the validity of a charity could go and either enter the name of the charity or pull it down from a list, there is this:

check the charity dotcom

check the charity dotcom

This is not only an unattractive site but it’s not intuitive – which of the four giant buttons does a visitor click on and why? And when a visitor does click on one of the four big button they are taken to a completely different site and the only one that actually offers any kind of information useful to someone coming here to find out about charities is the Attorney General site which gives six tips on charitable giving. The tips are good so I’m going to include them at the end of this post. I am amazed that the state of Colorado could not find someone with appropriate design and development skills to build a site that would actually be useful to people who want to give their money but want to make sure they are doing so responsibly. In this economy they could have had 50 candidates in an hour if they had posted on Craigslist.

The goal of the state of Colorado was a good one. But as is so often the case, the execution is sub-optimal. I would love to see the figures on abandonment for this site. I can image that the majority of people who come here will look at the page, be confused about why they are there and what to do once they are and will leave. A great and altruistic goal – protecting potential donors – will not be achieved because there was no upfront design time spent on this site. It’s a shame really.

A much better site – thought there are problems with the design of this one as well – is Charity Navigator. On this site they did the right thing – they put a search box way up top and highlighted it in yellow so visitors could do what they came to do without hunting, pecking and getting confused and frustrated.

much better, more usable design

much better, more usable design

The State of Colorado could have used this site as a starting point and made some improvements -hell they could even have simply linked to it and not attempted to reinvent the wheel. Makes me wonder how much of my tax dollars went to the site the Colorado put up.

Here is the six point list fromt he Colorado Attorney General’s site:

  • If a solicitor calls you: Ask for their registration number AND the registration number of the charity they are representing. This will help you investigate the charity with the Secretary of State.
  • Ask every solicitor: “How much of my donation will actually go to the charitable organization?” If you think the amount is too low, tell them “No thank you.”
  • Ask every solicitor and charity: “Is my contribution tax deductible?” Charities must indicate their tax-exempt status in their registration statements. Tax exempt does not necessarily mean that contributions are tax deductible.
  • Check out the charity before you give, particularly if you are unfamiliar with it. You can check legitimate charities out with the Secretary of State’s Office online or go to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
  • Don’t be swayed by strong emotional appeals — take some time to examine the charity’s claims and to consider alternatives.
  • Don’t be pressured to make an immediate decision – Be suspicious if the solicitor insists upon an immediate donation or offers to send a courier to pick up your contribution. Take time to check any charity before giving.
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    Managing multiple Social Media Profiles

    Here’s an interesting exercise – go to Check User Names and enter your favorite/standard user name and see how many social networks you’ve signed up for.

    If it’s more than 3 then you need to read Ben Parr’s article on Mashable about how to manage all them. It’s a great read with some great advice on how to stay on top of all your profiles. I was surprised how many I actually have – 12.

    My only disappointment with Ben’s article was the fact that Atomkeep is not giving out any new beta accounts right now. They’ve got a great service that can update all of your social media profiles at one time from a single place – that’s a hell of a deal.

    Using whitespace well

    I’ve recently had several conversations with clients about whitespace. I find myself frequently having conversations about whitespace and it’s effective use. Most of us know that whitespace is the space between the different elements on a page – text, images, paragraphs, etc.

    Whitespace is, in my somewhat less than humble opinion, one of the most important elements of design. It is also one of the least understood and perhaps the most underrated. I can’t tell you the number of times I have clients fight to get more text on a site or print media. I have to tell them that less is more.

    Here are some examples of whitespace usage:

    Not enough space between lines

    Not enough space between lines

    In the example above there is not enough space between the lines of text making it very hard to read. Additionally, the psychological impact (this is a subconscious and subtle effect that is almost never considered in design >> future post idea) is one of feeling cramped and claustrophobic.

    Too much space between lines

    Too much space between lines



    Obviously there’s too much space above and user’s eye is sent adrift so the message is lost. Never a good thing.

    Just right!

    Just right!



    As Goldilocks said, “This one’s just right”. Spacing is good so the eye is relaxed and flows well over the text and the message is received – goal met.

    Above are examples of whitespace in use in text. How about for overall design? Here are two examples, one good and one bad:


    Beautiful design

    Beautiful design








    Terrible use of white space

    Terrible use of white space




    To wrap it all up, whitespace is a good thing. It is a critical if oft overlooked design element. Use more!!