To quote Lisa Hirsch, author of the Iron Tongue of Midnight,
Make it as easy as possibly for people to give you their money.
KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID
The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complex; therefore simplicity should be a key goal in design and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.
Number of steps required to make an online donation to local arts organizations here in Columbus:
- Opera Columbus: 5
- ProMusica Chamber Orchestra: 5
- Columbus Symphony Orchestra: 20 (More if you have to set up an account and more if you change your mind about the amount halfway through the process.)
5 steps vs. 20-plus steps. Which seems simple to you?
Persistence, I hope, pays off
Every month I give $5 per month to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Is it a lot? Heck no. It doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what they need in order to keep up their operating budget – 70% of which relies on donations.
Yeah. 70% of their entire budget.
I did research for this blog and after half a dozen attempts, I LEARNED how to make an online donation to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. It is unnecessarily cumbersome. Their online donation portal, simply put, is not efficient. It’s not user-friendly and puts an undo burden on the donor, who will most likely give up prior to completing the intended donation.
I’d love to see the conversion rates.
And to be quite honest – had it not been for this blog and a desire to have actually tried something I say I don’t like, I probably would not have donated. Like some CSO musicians, I gave up, too, the first few times, then the next couple of times as well because I just couldn’t figure it out. Sad thing is? I’m computer savvy – I’ve created blogs, websites, I work on computers all day long – PC at work, Mac at home…this should not be a challenge.
Why so many hoops?
Having a computer and knowing how to turn it on should be the only prerequisite to being able to make an online donation. I shouldn’t have to LEARN how to make a donation. I should only have to go to your website, click a button, fill in a few blanks and be done with it. Casual donors are going to send their money elsewhere once they discover how much is required of them up front.
As for my $5? I wish I did, but I just don’t have more to give, so I give that much. I give it because I love the music and for a non-profit organization constantly having to raise money, every little bit helps.
Imagine if the CSO/CAPA team would consider making a change from this cumbersome process to a legitimately good process?
My research on this comes from open source material. You can check it out yourself and see if you agree or disagree. Here – www.columbussymphony.com. Try to make a donation and let me know how far you get.
And how many tries it takes you to get there.
It’s time for another update on the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Online donation process. It’s been about a month since my last $5 donation, so I made another to see what, if any, improvements have been made. I first have to say how I’m amused when I get my Email receipt that says,
“Thank you for your purchase! Below is a summary of your order.”
I’m amused because I didn’t actually purchase anything. I made a donation. There’s a difference, but Ticketmaster doesn’t yet know this.
Has it improved? No. Not at all.
Any fewer steps? No. It still requires about 15-20 steps (depending on whether or not you’ve already set up an account) as well as navigation through many screens in order to donate. (Click here for step-by-step work instructions)
Any changes? Yes, but just a few “clarifications” which only result in increasing the level of confusion in an already-convoluted process. How many accounts can I have? One at a time, but I need one for each organization I support? What? Huh?
Look. Is it worth your while to donate to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra? YES! Absolutely! I firmly believe this which is why I keep writing about this process – in the hopes that the folks there will see the light and make donating much more user-friendly. The symphony itself, the musicians – they really are that good! Best musical ensemble in town and they deserve our support.
Better yet, just buy a ticket and go. Hear for yourself how well they play. Concerts start up next month.
The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, or CAPA, has several organizations under its all-encompassing umbrella.
I’ve linked them all above in the hopes that you’ll take a few minutes to check some of them out because they’re all good and offer some great things!
As you can see above, there are a variety of options in this town for anyone who enjoys the arts: live classical music, jazz, theater productions for all ages in which you can either be on stage or just sit back and watch. Silent movies with a world-class talent at the organ and a variety of musical and entertaining acts at various theaters around town – the Ohio, Southern, Palace and Lincoln theatres. Seriously folks, we have a lot of great stuff to do in this city and I haven’t even started talking about sports!
Of these organizations, I’ve only ever seen Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Opera Columbus, but I’d love to check out the Jazz Arts Group and though my weird work hours unfortunately conflicted with a bunch of the CAPA movie nights this summer, I know I’ll eventually get to one. I’m not worried. CAPA’s not going anywhere! :-)
4 out of 7 ain’t bad
As you all know I’m clearly unimpressed with the online donation process for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. I don’t hide this. I love the orchestra and I think Opera Columbus rocks. The online donation process however? Um…not so much. It kind of picks and chooses the organizations to which a donor – casual or otherwise – can actually donate. It’s very weird because they’re all part of the CAPA family, yet it’s as if there are definite favorites. I’m just not sure what constitutes being a favorite – or if I would want to be one!
For starters, if you’re making an online donation to one via Ticketmaster, you’re stuck there. You can’t even get back to the organization you started with unless you hit the back button a zillion times (about 15-20) or open a new tab and plug in the address again. This picture at the top of most every page within Ticketmaster, is misleading.
For those of you who are wondering, the above logos are included as part of one single picture, which is how I was able to include it above, so they only go to one link, which happens to be the CAPA website. I think it’s great to have the logos up there, but here are my suggestions:
- Make them seven individual pictures / logos / .jpgs with seven individual links to seven individual websites.
- Update it so it’s obvious we’re going to the CAPA website instead of leaving us disappointed when we end up at CAPA after clicking on the Lincoln Theatre.
A tad inconsistent
As stated above, the picture with all seven logos is misleading. Within the Ticketmaster donation process, we can only donate to CAPA, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, CATCO Theatre and the Lincoln Theatre. We are NOT able to donate to Opera Columbus, the Jazz Arts Group or the Columbus Children’s Theatre, yet their logos are included in the above picture, thus implying otherwise. So of the seven organizations, we can donate to four under Ticketmaster (assuming we have the stamina necessary to make it that far), we can donate to two via their own – far better and far more user-friendly – online donation options within their own sites and the last one doesn’t offer an online option at all (it’s “under construction”).
I again have some suggestions.
- Allow for donations to all seven arts organizations
OR (and this is my favorite)
- Dump Ticketmaster and model all your CAPA family organization online donation processes after the Opera Columbus model. Is it not included within Tickemaster because its online donation process is so much better? Opera Columbus has its own – ridiculously more user-friendly – online donation process. Click donate off the front page, click contribute online. Fill out the form, submit. Done. I mean, it’s so user-friendly that it’s almost along the lines of ProMusica Chamber Orchestra user-friendly.
The Jazz Arts Group has a similarly user-friendly online donation option within its own website as well. Why do some CAPA organizations have their own user-friendly online donation forms yet others are forced to suffer under Ticketmaster? And why so inconsistent? Do they not want to raise money online for all seven? Well 4 out of 7 ain’t bad, but it sure as heck ain’t good, either.
If they really did want to raise money, they’d instruct their webmasters to switch it over to the Opera Columbus model.
As for the Columbus Children’s Theatre, its donation page is “under construction,” so right now nothing is there to guide a potential donor.
And as for the Lincoln Theatre, you can make a donation to it from within Ticketmaster, but you can’t actually get TO Ticketmaster from its website. It just doesn’t have a link to it at all. So, to donate to the Lincoln Theatre, you have to enter the online donation portal via CAPA, CSO or CATCO and then choose Lincoln Theatre for your donation.
Who would ever know or think to do that?
Does this seem a bit – odd – to you?
If you’re new to these posts and it seems a little weird to you – don’t worry. It is weird. I have no idea why any organization would want to force donors – especially casual, one or two-time donors who, for a fleeting moment might want to give away their money – to endure such a pathetically awful online donation process when they could just easily fix it by modeling one of their own organizations – something they already have at their own disposal! With everything one must endure to donate to the CSO, CATCO, CAPA and the Lincoln theatre, those casual donors would never make it to the point where they’d plug in their card info. They’d never make it as far as is necessary to actually “make their purchase,” i.e. make their donation because no one has that kind of patience (except crazy bloggers doing research).
Why is CAPA so uninterested in raising money from everyone but the richest of potential donors? Same goes for the Symphony, CATCO and Lincoln Theatre? If they wanted to raise money, they’d all have online donation forms that look just like Opera Columbus or ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.
Still skeptical? Well, do you have 3 minutes? Grab your wallet and visit Opera Columbus to make a $5 (or more – your choice) donation to them. It’s a great organization and like all arts organizations, could use your support to keep their performers on stage (and in the orchestra pit!). While you’re at it, buy a ticket. Madama Butterfly is coming up pretty soon. The Pirates of Penzance is next spring and those are just two of their upcoming performances.
Remember what I was saying earlier about our having a lot of great stuff to do in our town? Go back and start clicking on those websites I linked up there. You’ll see for yourself I wasn’t kidding! :-)
Last month I wrote about the difficulties of making an online donation to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Since it’s been a month, I thought I’d check back to see if they’d removed any of the 19 or so steps it takes to make a donation or if just anything had changed. To find out, I made another $5 donation.
Anything changed? Yes, several things.
Anything useful? Well – one thing. You don’t have to make a phone call to fix your password!
Has the process been shortened? Um…no. The bad grammar in Step 7 was kind of fixed, so I guess that’s something.
My apologies for the snarkiness this time around, truly, (and for the resulting length) but several changes were made since I last donated and with only one exception, nothing was actually improved. The length of the process (i.e. the number of steps required) remains the same.
Here’s what I noticed. (If you’d like them handy for reference, here are the original step-by-step instructions.)
CHANGE 1 – The one exception
A phone call is no longer necessary to reset a password. YEA! For my Email that was locked out because I once mistyped my password, I clicked the “forgot your password” link, plugged in my Email address and inside of a minute, had a new temporary password.
- – Granted, for a donation, an ID and password should never be required to begin with, but we’re not there yet, so this we’ll take this as a positive step.
On the login page, there’s a lot of extra text on the righthand side of the page. Labeled “Account Manager Helpful Hints”, it discusses something about Archtics and tells us we can buy tickets and make donations, but need to set up an account first. I think it’s the fine print. I did find two parts to be interesting though, mostly because they kind of contradict each other.
When you login with your email address and password, you will have access to all of the accounts that contain your email address.
When you login with an account number and password, you will have access to one account only.
In Step 6, there are now additional instructions and helpful hints. For example, it tells you to:
Scroll down and click “Donate Now” to make a contribution to CAPA, CATCO, Columbus Symphony Orchestra or the Lincoln Theatre.
So instead of just linking it at the top of the page, or moving the “Donate Now” button to the top of the page, it includes instructions telling you to scroll down to the bottom of the page to click the button there. Clever.
- – Please note that in the “August” screen shot it states I’m in Columbus Symphony, yet in a few more steps, I will still have to click a few different screens to choose to donate to the Columbus Symphony, so I’m not – really – in the Columbus Symphony.
- – Also, though included in the line of logos atop each page, donors are not actually able to donate to the Opera Columbus, Jazz Arts Group or the Columbus Children’s Theatre via this portal. It should also be noted that each logo is linked only to the CAPA website. They’re not linked to their own.
The screen in Step 6, shown above, also tells you about quick links. Generally speaking, links are supposed to be quick, right? Here’s what it says:
Use the “Quick Links” menu to change your password, update your personal information, and manage your email subscriptions.
On the lefthand side, about halfway down the screen is a drop-down menu which reads “view all quick links.”
Instead of drawing our attention to something that is poorly labeled, how about just labeling it better? Perhaps “Manage my account” instead? Then, we’ll know what it is and everything can be listed as a drop down. “Home” is already linked in the upper right hand corner of the page so it’s not really needed here. And since our attention is drawn to Email Settings, perhaps that should be specifically included in the drop down as well.
Speaking of which, is there any reason both the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Opera Columbus are not offered as Email subscriptions? Are they intentionally not being marketed?
Despite visitors’ being able to sign up for emails off the front pages of the CSO and Opera Columbus websites, that service should also be offered here since we’ve already learned from Change 3 that we can’t get back to those websites from within this portal. It should also be included for donors who come to the portal via CAPA or CATCO, don’t you think? They should have the opportunity to sign up, too, right?
- – By the way, while at Stauf’s yesterday, I was seriously – and specifically – asked about whether or not Opera Columbus still even existed. People will never donate to you if they think you’ve folded.
In the “Donate Now” screen, it has changed from “Who’s the donation for” to “Donation from.” Sure, the participle still dangles, but contextually, it now makes much more sense! :-)
OK, for the record though, this question is just silly. Obviously it’s from me because we’re inside my account. And if that’s the only option in the drop down, why make me click on it? My advice to the CSO? Since I’m still a good 6-7 steps from viewing my shopping cart (which, for a donation is kind of weird) why don’t you just pull that info in there automatically? It’s like giving a multiple-choice exam where you force the test taker to request the possible answers after every single question.
In the above screen from Change 5, it also adds some additional text which I found to be rather odd. Here’s what it said:
Please login or create an account before making your contribution. If you have an account, but do not know the password, click “Forgot Your Password?” to receive a temporary password by email. Thank you for your support!!!
I’m a little confused. You cannot get to this screen without having already logged in. And why are you forcing us to take these steps before we *give* you money anyway? It’s like saying “I’m sorry, but you have to give me both a manicure and pedicure before you buy me dinner.” Just seems odd to me. The thank you – that’s appreciated. Nice touch. The other couple of sentences are superfluous at this stage. We’ve already figured them out if we’re this far along.
The way things are written, the way things are labeled, e.g. “view in quick links” or (paraphrased) “you have to set up an account to donate” (after we’ve already hit the login screen) screams of training a first-ever computer user back in 1993. I would have been impressed with this back then, but in this day and age, the typical computer user’s expectations are higher than what is being offered here. Users now are far more sophisticated and far less patient than what is being required of them as a potential donor. Sure I have suggestions noted above, but quite honestly the entire thing should be trashed and re-done. This should not be fixed. This should be replaced.
Why do I do this?
A friend asked me this weekend why I bother writing about this. I mean, this is already my fourth post on this subject. It’s crazy! I don’t work for the symphony. I have no obligation to the symphony. I have no incentive. Well – I do have an incentive, but for starters, I just can’t let go of this topic – and I won’t – because donations are key to the survival of a non-profit organization, especially to this one I love. The CSO is a non-profit organization that relies on donations for more than 2/3 of its operating budget: 70% actually, which begs the question why it would have the worst possible on-line donation process I have ever seen. No really. Ever.
Look – I love my symphony. It is so good. These musicians are fabulous and they work so hard to make sure we experience a top-notch performance each and every time we sit down to listen to them. And you know what? They have never let me down! I believe in the CSO. It’s been around for 60+ years and I want it to be here for another 60+ years! This is important. The online donation process is important! That’s how people give money now.
As for my incentive, I want to make sure I can still hear live classical music in my town when I’m 60. If they can’t raise money, great musical organizations like the CSO and Opera Columbus will go away. I mean, it’s sad to think that some people think they already have!
I’ve already renewed my season tickets and now that individual tickets are on sale, I can get a few extra for two more Mozart concerts and the Dvorak Cello Concerto by a cellist I’m told I’d be a fool to miss! Maybe I’ll even go to the Respighi, simply because it’s a lot of fun to say Trittico Botticelliani.
But the real reason I write about this topic? The real reason I dwell on this? It is the sheer absurdity of this whole process. Truly. Why would an organization, whose very existence depends upon the generosity of financial donors, deliberately force them to endure such a long, seemingly farcical, process?
Money from the casual donor is just as useful as money from one as determined as I.
Come on, CSO. You have just got to get your online donations out of Ticketmaster. I will go ahead and pay my 40% extra for a ticket (Yes – a $20 ticket = $28.65 in Ticketmaster speak), but you are shooting yourself in the foot by using Ticketmaster for donations. You have a great opportunity here. I really hope you’ll take it.
Maybe if I write about it enough, people will eventually get curious and check it out for themselves to realize just how long a process it really is. My guess is that the majority of them won’t have the stamina necessary to stick it out for all 19 or so steps.
Think about it. To what organization would you be more likely to donate? One that lets you donate inside of 2-3 clicks like those I cited last month?
Or one that requires an instruction manual?
Update Aug 7, 2013: Opera Columbus – I mention in this post that people are unable to donate to them via the Ticketmaster route. That’s because Opera Columbus has its own online donation along the same quality as ProMusica Chamber Orchestra and Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra. I just checked it out and it took me less than five minutes to give a quick $5 donation and only that long because I grabbed screen shots. From the front page, click Support at the top. From that page, choose “Contribute Online”. Next screen is a super quick form to fill out and that’s it. Click submit and boom – donation sent. Opera Columbus is in the family. Why not use them as an example?
Mahler’s “Resurrection” – Mozart’s Requiem
Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 – Beethoven’s 5th Symphony
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring
All are wonderful pieces of music – classics, even – with any one of them being able to generate enough excitement (sometimes riotous) to make even the most stoic of people smile! They’re all filled with such emotion or better yet, with such passion, that they will immediately instill a love of classical music in even the newest of listeners.
OK – Rite of Spring may not be QUITE as immediate, but give it a chance. It’ll grow on you!
Now imagine a Friday night for the first-time concert-goer. He sits down and is absolutely blown away by an amazing symphonic and choral performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony “Resurrection”. He can’t believe how good it was and he walks out with a fair amount of incredulity at how much he liked it. The concert is over, so it’s about 1030 / 11 o’clock at night when he gets home. He thinks that since the symphony was so good, he’ll check out the schedule and perhaps go to another concert in the new year. Continue reading →
This weekend was the 2013 Annual Columbus Arts Festival where folks from all over central Ohio had the opportunity to journey downtown to enjoy a day of wandering amongst beautiful art of all kinds from artists around the region and country. In addition to 270+ artists’ hawking their wares all along the Scioto Mile downtown, festival attendees were also treated to some great food and live music and storytelling all day long on three different stages interspersed throughout the festival.
This weekend and along with other local arts organizations, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) had a great presence next to CATCO and CAPA. Musicians (and other assorted volunteers) were out in full force talking to everyone who stopped by – or even walked by! We had a great time talking to everyone about the pops season that starts next week and the upcoming Classical Music series which is going to be absolutely incredible (slightly biased opinion admitted) in 2013-2014. Seriously – it’s like Candy Land for classical music lovers!
People we talked to were very excited about the upcoming performances of Beethoven’s 5th, Rossini’s Barber of Seville, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 and one person stopped dead in her tracks when I told her about Mozart’s Requiem. “They’re performing his requiem? Really? WHEN?!” I loved her enthusiasm! And by the way, it’ll be performed April 11-12 along with Four Last Songs by Strauss.
We all wore name tags which included a picture of the instrument we play (or in my case, played – past tense!) I was always pretty amused when people would ask me if I played clarinet for the Symphony. HA! “Oh heck no! The Symphony is GOOD! They don’t want me to play. I just stay back and watch from the balcony. You should join me!” Whenever they’d ask that, I’d also refer them to the real musicians, such as Betsy – Bassonist or Jude – Harpist or Adam who plays the French Horn (pictured above with his wife, Kat). I discovered that he and I have a shared appreciation of the theme music to several Star Trek movies (including the two recent releases) which employ French Horns for the main melody. Gorgeous! I also learned that he played in a concert down in Cincinnati that showcased music from various Star Trek movies. I’m guessing that was his version of musical Candy Land!
I’ve never been to a Picnic With the Pops performance with the CSO before so it was interesting talking to people about it based on zero experience. That’s OK – learning a lot along the way, I muddled through and could talk at least about upcoming performances like the Pointer Sisters this weekend to kick off the series (Chaka Khan had medical issues and had to cancel), Kansas and Natalie Merchant on July 6 and 13th, respectively. A lot of us also talked about a group I’d never heard of before, called Pink Martini, which is performing on June 22. No one could really describe their music, except to say that they were extremely good and quite entertaining. One couple I spoke to said that NPR’s Ari Shapiro occasionally performs with them which they liked because they think he’s cute. Had to laugh at that one!
I did talk to a couple who just moved to Columbus from Portland, OR, which is apparently Pink Martini’s hometown. This couple, who was kind enough to fill out one of my Arts surveys, told me that Pink Martini was indeed a terrific group that not only plays an eclectic mix of music, but that also sings in a variety of languages. As a linguist, hearing this totally piqued my curiosity. Now I have to check them out!
As you can see, it was a beautiful day in downtown Columbus, Ohio yesterday. While my feet were completely sore after standing on hard pavement for 4 hours and then walking the festival with my mom for another hour and a half – even stopping by the water color-filled booth of my friend’s aunt, Wanda Zuchowski-Schick, – I must say that the day was a good one.
Downtown Columbus has so much going for it in terms of night life, festivals, live music performances of all kinds, shops, you name it. I hope that more and more people will continue to take advantage of it as the summer progresses. We’ve got a great city here, folks. Come on over and check it out!