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Imagine you’re in an entry queue at an attraction or museum, sussing out the ticket prices. A queue of excited children and impatient families stretches behind you and you have a decision to make quickly: to Gift Aid, or not to Gift Aid.
You have lots of questions. Why are there two ticket prices: standard entry and a more expensive Gift Aid price? Since when did Gift Aid cost more? Why doesn’t the standard ticket price cover the costs of the place you’re visiting? Or if you’ve never heard of Gift Aid, what on Earth is it?
Gift Aid is confusing and even more so when visitor attractions and museums need to ask for it.
We recently had the opportunity to work with the wonderful Bristol charity and visitor attraction We The Curious to explore and design a new ticketing experience.
We conducted research with staff and visitors, which amongst other things, provided an opportunity to hear attitudes about Gift Aid from both sides. Gift Aid came up as a strong topic during initial research, especially for visitors.
In this article, I’ll outline some key principles anyone can use who needs to think about how Gift Aid is presented and sold to visitors.
Gift Aid allows UK charities to claim back 25p from the Government for every £1 that a UK taxpayer donates. I was first introduced to the concept years ago through the fundraising website Just Giving and in my local charity shop when donating. In these scenarios, Gift Aid didn’t cost me anything extra.
But for visitor attractions which are charities, Gift Aid takes the form of being an additional donation which gets added to the ticket price. This makes it a very different proposition.
Government rules define what is deemed a donation, and what benefits the person giving the donation can receive in return as a thank you from the attraction. We The Curious, like many charities, needs to add the Gift Aid donation on top of their ticket price. The challenge then becomes selling the more expensive Gift Aid option to visitors.
To help with this challenge at We The Curious, visitors receive their donation value back in vouchers, to spend in their cafe or shop in return for choosing Gift Aid. This way, We The Curious gets a funding boost through Gift Aid while visitors are able to make a donation at no extra cost if they were going to spend a few pounds in the cafe or shop anyway.
As part of our work in designing a new ticketing experience for We The Curious, our challenge was to make the online Gift Aid process transparent, so that people understood their choice, the benefit to We the Curious, and how the voucher works.
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Based on what we observed in our research and prototyping, we formed the following principles:
Plenty of people want to Gift Aid but can’t, including tourists or those not paying enough income tax. Consider and design for them in your journeys too.
People don’t read long legal text. And worse, they might assume they already know what is being said, jump over ‘the legal bit’ and agree to something they haven’t considered or understood properly. Find the quickest and easiest way of communicating what you need to say, with no frills.
Being transparent about the price implication of Gift Aid to the visitor is really important; its one of the first interactions the visitor has on their journey. Done correctly, it sets the tone and dialogue for many visits to come, so trust and clarity are vitally important.
This follows on from the point above. Visitors need to knowingly opt in to Gift Aid. Don’t preselect Gift Aid in the prices you show or in default selections they have to opt out of: it doesn’t make them feel in control of the decision.
Framed in the right way, Gift Aid is an opportunity for the visitor to feel good about supporting a charity, as opposed to feeling that they are paying more for something so that the charity can claim Gift Aid. Language is really important for reframing the ownership of the question and decision.
Visitors don’t want to, and shouldn’t have to work out how much Gift Aid the charity gets by calculating what 25p per £1 or 10% additional donations is on top of their ticket price. Saying clearly that by donating £1 more, the charity can claim back £2.50 through Gift Aid is a much clearer and better experience than saying it indirectly in percentages or fractions.
This applies both financially in exposing the huge power of Gift Aid to amplify a donation into a much greater sum for the charity, and also in showing the difference this funding makes to their work. Provide brief information explaining what the donations enable the charity to do, so that visitors feel good about what their money would be supporting.
Repeat donations are vital for charities. Reinforcing the positivity of donating strengthens the relationship between the charity and the donator.
Gift Aid is a vital source of income for charities. Customer experience at the ticket desk and online has a huge part to play in highlighting the power of Gift Aid – be sure to put the visitor in control. By considering these principles, we can help more people choose Gift Aid confidently, and feel good about doing something charitable in the process.