I am working for a non-profit that wants to collect its donors' reason for donating, via a long dropdown of 'What prompted you to donate?' options like 'Received an email', 'Saw a TV ad', 'Friend or family was helped by charity', etc. This helps them understand how to communicate with the donors, and where to focus fundraising efforts. But I'm wondering how accurate the data is, or whether users will just pick one at random because they can't be bothered to read the list and make a selection. Does anyone have any evidence of this kind of user behavior?

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    If respondents don't want to respond to the question, they are more likely to pick the first one in the list, not a response at random -- first in the list is the easiest to select. To avoid this, simply randomize the order in the drop-down. That said, if they don't know to avoid this issue, someone involved with this effort should read a book on basic survey design. This issue is far from the only one they would encounter, especially on a topic like charitable donations where response biases such as social desirability bias are very likely to occur.
    – nadyne
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 19:58
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    @nadyne, while you make some valid points, this is not 100% true. Consider forms that drop up based on screen position. By Fitt's law (and I verified it with my own testing), they will choose the closest to the mouse position. And in many cases, no matter if the select drops up or down, if they don't want to choose an option, they will use Other (or similar). I think the real problem here is that field shouldn't be mandatory
    – Devin
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 20:23
  • Users will pick a value for a required field if they have some motivation to get to the end. If they don't have motivation to continue, many users just abandon the form once they hit a required field that gives them any pause. Better to rely on voluntary over-disclosure than arbitrary required fields. research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/webforms
    – Tim Grant
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 21:01
  • Maybe a free text field would solve the problem, but it have to be tested. Ofcource this will require a lot of effort for processing all this free text data. Commented May 23, 2016 at 5:26
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    Check for how many people come from 'Afghanistan'
    – icc97
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 7:57

1 Answer 1


I agree with the comments above! Generally, users are least bothered about this field; they will pick any random option.

As Michael tells the story, he was working for a business that was having a big sale one Saturday. Prior to the sale they did a lot of advertising in the local market and wanted to determine which marketing project paid off. To do that Mike and his boss stood at the door all day and asked every customer where they heard about the sale. 30% said TV, 20% said Newspaper, and 50% said Radio – Good to know, right? Except they never had a TV ad. When they asked people if they were sure they heard about it on TV everyone assured them that they had.

To wisely invest your marketing dollars, you NEED to know where your leads are coming from. The internet marketing guru’s have this one figured out; they always know exactly where the leads are coming from by tracking the “referral sites” to their website.


A tool like Convertable will help you automatically tracks the source of every web lead

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    This is a good answer and gets to the gist of the matter: you don't need this field at all. I'll add to this answer that any reasonable campaign will use some sort of tracking (such as Google Analytics) to know where did users came from
    – Devin
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:02
  • The original poster will have to identify if they care about the difference where users came from, and why people chose to make the donation. "What prompted you to make the donation" muddies the waters between the two, especially for repeat givers.
    – nadyne
    Commented May 23, 2016 at 16:47

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