A couple of years ago the Sharpe Group came to one of our affiliated companies, Going Virtual, LLC, about the development of a new planned giving website for donors they could use to learn about planned giving techniques while planning for some of life's other personal financial contingencies.
The goal of the project was to rethink the user experience. We started by looking at existing websites from various nonprofits and those that are commercially available. The design needed to meet five criteria;
- To brand the organization in the mind of the donor from the onset.
- To provide interesting content on the subject matter.
Advanced Capabilities That Engage:
- To include research capabilities for advisors.
- To allow any member of the planning team to easily share content with other members.
- To engage the donor and advisors in activities on the site that would help the donor further understand the concepts and assist in coming to some basic agreement on the initial planning direction.
We first examined tens of existing sites and what could be improved. We had the content written by Sharpe Group. We had an existing framework for the site from a prior version of a basic site offered by Sharpe. Branding was easy enough. That's the hallmark of any decent site. But how about the other items on the list? The last three are the most important and those that are usually missing from every other site. These three items engage the user.
This one was simple as well. Sharpe Group already has content on the various planning techniques for advisors, but we wanted to go further. We wanted the advisor to be able to research each subject more fully. This was solved by linking Sharpe's advisor content to the Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute and selected content on the Planned Giving Design Center. When a link is clicked, a new browser window is opened containing the referenced content. This allows the advisor to go back and forth between research areas easily.
Sharing content was also simple to provide. Most websites allow visitors to email a page to someone else. We wanted to go further. We wanted "Share" to be everywhere to remind visitors of the opportunity. We wanted them to be able to share with multiple persons simultaneously. And, we wanted it to be completely confidential, giving donors security that there movements would not be watched. So we added a simple checkbox to allow the site visitor to share the page and their thoughts with the website hosting organization only if desired.
Make it Live
How do you engage the site visitor in a simple, straightforward way. The answer is to make the content live, make it be theirs, allow them to take ownership of the idea. We added calculation capabilities that kept the donor engaged at all times and eliminated the problems of existing planned giving calculators. In the process we gained extremely valuable additional benefits. The solution is simple and elegant. We gave the site visitor the ability to actually change key elements of the content to make it their story. By way of example, the following is a design diagram of a charitable gift annuity.
Make this illustration yours by clicking on any underlined link. After you are satisfied with the results click on Share at the bottom of this page and email it to yourself. No printing, no mailing.
The assumed date of transfer for this example is June 19, 2013. This example has used the April, 2013 IRC Section 7520 discount rate of 1.4% to optimize the charitable deduction.
NOTE: This calculation is provided for educational purposes only. The type of assets transferred, the actual date of the gift, and other factors may have a material effect on the amount or use of your deduction. You are advised to seek the advice of your tax advisors before implementing a gift of this type.
As you can see, it's so simple anyone can use it. In fact, the entire manual is contained in a bubble that appears on the screen when you first see the calculation. Click on close and the instructions close and are out of the way (See SharpeNet client for CGA Example).
Here is what we realized when we looked at all existing calculators on the market, including our own.
PROBLEM 1: All calculators require the web visitor to leave the content they are viewing to run the calculation. This one item alone is counter productive as many older website visitors become confused. Do they need to use the back button? Did the link from the content open a new page? How do they get back?
SOLUTION: We embed the calculations into the content they are reading. They never leave the subject matter. It requires zero clicks to do a calculation.
PROBLEM 2: All calculators require the user to enter information into an input sheet and then click to receive the answer. This requires the user to click yet again to get to the answer. Additional understanding as to how to get back to the original content is required.
SOLUTION 3: There is not input sheet using this technology. The data needed to calculate the answer is imbedded right in the content.
PROBLEM 4: Some calculators even require that the user select the charitable technique they were reading about from a drop down list.
SOLUTION: PhilanthroTec's inline calculations are inside the content being read. The only calculations available are those that are pertinent to the content.
PROBLEM 5: This problem has nothing to do with calculations and everything to do with content on a website being kept up to date. Many websites provide content and examples of illustrations. The problem is that every month the Applicable Federal Rate changes. When the rate changes, the example is incorrect and requires editing. This is why most websites do not contain numbers in their examples, let alone allow the user to change them.
SOLUTION: The use of PhilanthroTec's calculations directly in the content eliminates the above editorial problem. When the discount rate changes, the calculations in the content change to use the best of the last three months rates. The result is the website content is always up to date.
What we are illustrating in this short article is the future of online calculations. To view sites from Sharpe Group using our new calculations other uses of this technology go to Web That Works by Sharpe Group and Food For The Poor's securities built by AssetStream. Using AssetStream's online securities gift capabilities and PhilanthroTec's calculations the site allows you to learn, plan, and make securities gifts online in five to ten minutes.
Please contact us with any questions you may have regarding this groundbreaking technology.