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I'm going to put a donation system into my web-app because I need to raise about $6.2k for a school-organised trip to Borneo.

Inside the app, I think that I will tell everyone, on the donations page, what their donation will be used for; which opportunities this trip will create for me, and how I will be helping to build public facilities such as schools and toilets for the locals, who barely have access to clean drinking water.

What I want to know is, should I show a progress bar alongside the donations page?

e.g.

Help Support Projects Like Seaquence! $ 16.04k raised out of $100 k

I thought this might be quite a cool feature, my only qualm being that their (the user's) $5 or $10 donation will be measly in comparison to the total amount of money which needs to be raised, so the progress bar will barely move, if at all. It will probably only progress in the sub-pixel area.

So, what should I do here? Not show a progress bar? Just thank them after they donate, saying "Thank you! I am now $-- closer to blah blah!"

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Definitely show it, the progress bar will work as a visual nudge to donate.

Users will not expect it to display their contribution if the scale is for thousands.

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  • Can you provide any evidence? And what are your thoughts on an afterwards "I'm now $... closer to my expedition!" message? – theonlygusti Jul 4 '15 at 12:10
  • Check out the change.org: change.org/p/… and kickstarter: kickstarter.com/discover/categories/art?ref=discover_index – Zoe K Jul 4 '15 at 16:12
  • As for the message: the message will accentuate that the donation was small, so I would avoid naming exact numbers, just the thanks note with "I am now closer to my expedition!" – Zoe K Jul 4 '15 at 16:13
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I work for a company that offers services for non profits to raise money, and we don't always show a thermometer (that's what we call it) to show how much money has been raised. It depends on the case.

That said, the reasoning for using a thermometer is simple: show publicly how much out of the goal has been raised. This provides donors a clear understanding of how much left there is to raise, as an incentive to give more and as an incentive to share with others to help "raise the temperature".

It's not required to use a progress bar, no matter how you use it. It also can't hurt. You asked if people will not see the difference when they give a small amount of money, but that doesn't matter. Most people will be incentivized to give when they see it. Once they give, it really doesn't matter. Even if you want to worry about that (legitimate concern) users don't actually care in our research. So not an issue.

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    a question: do you know if there's any evidence of how to state of the progress bar/ amount reached, influence the users to make them more or less likely to donate? (I mean, if the bar if almost full OR mid-reach OR if the bar is almost empty, in which situation they are more likely to donate? ) – Alejandro Veltri Jul 5 '15 at 19:09
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    Sure, I can't share specifics (internal numbers) but it has little to no effect for web donations. It matters for live events where the call to action is made consistently, over and over again to raise money. – Jamezrp Jul 5 '15 at 19:18
  • @rewobs I'd guess that people will be more likely to donate towards the end of the bar; they'd love to be that person who contributes the final $5 to the fund! I wonder if that changes how you'd use the bar, show it only towards the end? Make it a logarithmic scale (squish the end, stretch the start)? – theonlygusti Jul 5 '15 at 19:43
  • Thanks! Great answer, but do you have any figures from your own research? Also, you said it depends, yet only gave reasons for the bar; when would you not use one? – theonlygusti Jul 5 '15 at 19:45
  • @theonlygusti in my own use I've seen that it helps people to give initially, yes. However, that only lasts a short time. We're talking about seconds. If your call to action wasn't strong enough to get them to give, the progress bar won't help. It's only a nudge. But if you have a strong CTA, and the person was on the verge of giving but still not sure, the progress bar is enough to get them to give. Amounts don't matter ever. People will give what they can. Kickstarter is not relevant to the example because it's a purchase option, though big donors will like the options. – Jamezrp Jul 6 '15 at 17:57

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