I solve design problems.

Engage : Offering Communities a Direct Channel to Local Volunteer & Fundraising Opportunities.

Many of us who want to be more involved in our communities are not. Why? And how can we resolve this disconnect?


My Roles

  • User research & data synthesis
  • Product design
  • Usability testing


  • Research
  • Problem Statement
  • HMW
  • Process
  • User Testing
  • Conclusions


I used lean UX to generate a high-pass study.


Sample size: 8 people.

Sample participants were asked the following questions:

  • What cause are you the most passionate about?
  • How do you educate yourself on that cause?
  • How do you connect with organizations that work with the cause?
  • How have you helped your cause during the past year?
  • How could these organizations help you help them?

Are you involved in social causes?

“Does tweeting count?”

75% of participants get social activism information online.

Of that 75%: 37.5% gets information from news sources, and 50% from news and/or social media.

37.5% state they only connect with organizations online — via email, or social media.

Social media contact consists of likes on Facebook or retweets on Twitter.


of respondents have
a personal connection with their cause.

62.5% of respondents learn about a cause when they walk/drive past a need, have conversations about issues with acquaintances, or are educated via organizations they’re affiliated with. This statistic is important, as you’ll see in a moment.

These numbers are the foundation for Engage, but it was propelled forward by participant responses to “How have you helped your cause during the past year?”

50% state they did not volunteer and only occasionally donated money. 65% of that group say they help by posting on social media.


who have a personal connection
now volunteer.

100% of respondents with a personal connection to an issue — through proximity, acquaintances, organizations — are personally involved with their cause.

Asked what organizations could do to garner their time or donations, respondents say they would do more if they were regularly informed of the need. Lack of information, they say, is a barrier to their involvement.

News reports and social media are poor motivators for community involvement.

I would do one thing differently at this stage, if I had the chance to repeat this research: I would ask more follow-up questions to drill down on the why’s and why not’s of the lack of community involvement.

Problem Statement

People require a channel through which to be informed about fundraising and volunteering in their communities, because they can’t contribute to causes they care about if they’re unaware of the opportunities.

How Might We

How might we give users real-time information from social activism organizations?


Affinity Mapping

This was my first experience with an affinity map. I doubted its usefulness. I was wrong.

The process and thought required during the mapping provided clarity and visual weight that helped me wrap my head around user concerns in a way hand-written notes would have only touched on.

User Flow

I dig user flows…

…but sketching is clearly not my strong suit.


Sketches were tested in Marvel. User: “The path makes sense.”

A weakness in my process here was that I allowed these user tests to get past me without deeper questioning. This was a rookie mistake that I attribute to my desire to get past this step unscathed; I was seeking validation not information.


Homepage with newspaper-style headlines.

Each headline’s lead describes an opportunity to help the community. Headlines take users to Articles.

Articles describe a volunteer and/or fundraising opportunity.

Users can commit to the project or return to the headlines.

Users are taken to a page where they can choose causes to follow.

More choices can be found via the search bar below.

A subsequent page lets them follow specific organizations.

I believed the app methodically walked users through the path. I was partially correct.

Usability Testing

I refined my questions:

  • “Give me your thoughts on…”
  • “Please do this next…”
  • “What would your next step be…”

They accomplished their task.

My UX writing, which I felt was my strongest element, was hammered by users:

“Curated only makes sense when you know the context of the app.”

“Personalized” was suggested as a replacement.

Users imbued “Contribute” with a strictly monetary meaning.

I had intended it to mean volunteer, as well. It was suggested the word be replaced with “Volunteer” and “Donate.”

“There’s no back button” “How do I verify what I’ve committed to?”


Poor UX writing and inability to verify “contributions” put app’s integrity at risk.

The user reminded me they had only volunteered for a cause, and not “contributed.” This confusion compelled them to return to the previous page (which was impossible since there was no “back” button) to verify the app had not committed them to a monetary donation.

Other issues were revealed…

Presenting users with multiple search bars was also confusing.

Remember those search bars I mentioned earlier? The large search bar at the top of the page had been welcomed by many users. But when the smaller search bar appeared at the bottom of the Causes and Organizations pages, it threw users into confusion.

The lower search bar was to allow users to mine deeper into Causes and Organizations when the six icons didn’t address topics they were interested in. But the icons barely got a glance from one user, who roamed around the page testing for the correct search.

“Is this where I search for a cause?” she asked, oblivious to the buttons.

Another user disliked the six options, didn’t think they were specific enough, and shot straight to the top search without even noticing the bottom search (which was designed specifically for his purpose).

Another user said they weren’t sure which search to use. So they used neither. “Would the top search take me out of the flow?” It was a fair question.

Other concerns, like those above, also merit remedy:

  • The “Register” button should be placed inside articles and a “Learn More” button put in its place on the homepage.
  • A map to volunteer opportunities would allow users to search for opportunities within a specific radius or neighborhood.
  • Cause and Organizations screens should be scrollable with additional choices.
  • Contact information should be added to the articles and confirmation pages.

Final Conclusions

The issues listed above will be addressed in future iterations of this app.

But there’s another more key element Engage (and similar apps) fail to address.

It ain’t a thing without


Social activism apps fail because social activism organizations aren’t on-board.

Apps like Engage fail to populate their content with opportunities available in the local activism community. And so they prove useless.

Next step: Seek to bring local activism organizations onto the platform.