Each year, there’s a small window when the holiday season combines with a rush to make end-of-year tax deductions. It’s precisely this time of year that most nonprofits rely on to generate a significant portion of their annual revenue. While at Kiva we’re not as reliant on the month of December as some nonprofits, due to optional donations people make throughout the year, we still raise a significant portion of our annual operating revenue over a short one week period. This year we raised over $1 million (our goal was $800k) dollars from 43,560 individual donors making it our most successful fundraising campaign ever. The results were a whopping 36% improvement on the previous year’s results.
During my first two years working at Kiva we designed and built features based primarily on how our staff used (or wanted to use) the website. Because Kiva’s staff is passionate and knowledgeable on the subjects of poverty alleviation and financial inclusion, this colored many of the choices we made when designing the user experiences. At a basic level this lead us to design overly complex interfaces or even overestimate the desire for a feature based on our internal preferences.
Talk with anybody involved with software development these days and there’s a good chance you’ll hear about minimal viable products. Over the past few years the phrase has exploded in popularity, largely due to Eric Reiss’ book The Lean Startup, where he proposes entrepreneurs leverage a continuous innovation as a means of product development. At this point the term is being tossed around everywhere—from two person start-ups working in coffee shops to large development teams building software for the major names throughout Silicon Valley.
In a post earlier this week I talked about my six month blogging hiatus. In actuality it was limited only to this website. I kept my writing skills sharp (I mean sharp in the same way the thirty-year-old knives at your parent’s house are sharp) with the occasional post on the Kiva blog. These pieces have generally focused on changes to the website, but I wanted to highlight one that detailed how we do user research at Kiva.