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According to , from 2012 to 2015, total charitable donations by millennials grew from $2.7 million to $34.4 million. In a survey done by Blackbaud, More than 1,500 employed millennials, 87 percent had donated money to a nonprofit in the previous year; 62 percent reported using a mobile platform to donate.

How can we . . .

In light of understanding of the behavior of millennials around charitable giving, our team asked,  “How can Venmo leverage this trend to support users and charitable organizations, while working within Venmo’s existing brand promise?


My role

In a team of 4, I did:

  • Research synthesis
  • Ideation and feature sketching
  • Digital wireframing
  • Project visuals / Deck planning
  • Presentation


  • Sketch
  • Illustrator
  • InVision


  • Market position map
  • Personas
  • User journey and flow
  • Storyboards
  • Presentation


Delivered high fidelity prototype and tested the final prototype with Delta Institute. We received positive feedbacks on reducing the charities' workload and enticing potential donor effectively.

The Approach

Identify business goal

Before we drilled down to the user research, we needed to identify the business goal. We started with Venmo's mission statement:

"Connecting the world and empowering people through payment." - Venmo

We believed that by adding a charitable donation feature, Venmo could create a transformative new experience for users by enabling them to connect to the world in a more meaningful way, and empowering more people through payment and donations.

Venmo's golden circle: by adding charity function, another layer of meaning will be add on and Venmo will connect to the world in a meaningful way.

Venmo's golden circle: by adding charity function, another layer of meaning will be add on and Venmo will connect to the world in a meaningful way.


Knowing the business strength

We mapped Venmo’s market position against two key competitors: Square Cash and Venmo’s mother company Paypal. We discovered Venmo stood alone in its ability to support social interaction with an easy and convenient payment process. Venmo users are ‘social spenders.’ They have intimate relationships with each other. We realized charities could leverage this trait to expand their own donor networks.

Venmo competitive analysis

We also studied other digital charity platforms to understand how they raised funds. We discovered there are two key elements in most of the platforms:

other charity platform-01.png

Understand the users' needs

We interviewed nine people including 4 Venmo users, 3 young people who donate to charities and/or causes, and 2 charitable organization(s). In order to explain our findings, we highlighted one representative user from each group of research subjects.

Venmo users

Venmo user_sean

Sean Chuang | 30s

On using the Venmo app:

“It’s by far the easiest to use with the simple and clean interface. Most of my friend use it too so I don’t see myself stop using it.”


Venmo donor_Shannon

Shannon Sajkowski | 20s

On how she makes the decision to donate to a cause or charity:

"I probably wouldn't seek out for charity opportunities by my own. But I wouldn't mind making contribution if it's already there and easy to do."


Venmo charities_Shoen

Shoen | 30s

On the importance of network building: 

"Being able to collect the donor contact information is super important because we want to further interact with donors and get them involved "

We synthesized the following insights:


Compare the experience

The 5 Es

We broke down each user’s journey into 5Es: a framework that can be applied to any experience in everyday life. The components of the 5Es framework are:

  • Entice: How do you get interested in the experience?
  • Enter: How do you start the experience?
  • Engage: What’s the process you follow?
  • Exit: How does the experience end?
  • Extend: How do you remember the experience? How do you continue the relationship?
Compare the donor and venmo experience

By comparing the Venmo user experience, donor experience, and experience of the charitable organizations, we discovered that the enter, engage and exit phases for each are very similar. However, Venmo does not currently provide enticement for donors and they also do not provide the opportunity for a charitable organization to further extend their relationship with the donors.

Now we know where the opportunity lies. But what should we do?


We started from reframing our need statement:

Charities need a gratifying way to engage with donors

And we drafted a set design principles:

Venmo Design principles

Be consistent is the most important principle, and the overriding theme for design. It was clear that we should maintain the existing Venmo experience—it is already easy, simple and fast, and that is why users keep using it.

Supporting this primary design principle are three additional design principles: Leverage trust, reduce barriers and facilitate relationships.


Donor's journey

Donor's journey

Donor's journey


We sought ways to leverage the social nature of Venmo transactions to entice potential donors. In our solution, donors can experience a donation process that is just like the regular Venmo experience, with an added feature that gives them an opportunity to connect with the chosen charitable organization outside of Venmo.


Charity's journey

Charity's journey

Charity's journey


We also sought ways to make it easy for charitable organizations to set up a Venmo account. Our solution is to make set up as simple as a setting up a personal account. Charities can create their own causes or events within Venmo, and share these and donation information on social media.

THE Validation

After finishing the initial wireframes, we tested with two group of users: donors and charitiable organizations:

We tested these two scenarios to see if the features we designed met our design principles:

THE Design

Venmo+charity logo

Small change, big impact

We recognized that the existing Venmo experience is valuable to users. So what we proposed for adding the charity donation function is "small change, big impact". 


Features for donors

Venmo Donor's Storyboard
Feature introduction to users

Feature introduction to users


Features for charities

Venmo Charity's storyboard


Please try the interactive prototype below.


After our final presentation, we had an opportunity to further test our final prototype with employees of the Delta Institute, a non-profit organization in downtown Chicago. Delta Institute employees validated our design direction and provided several helpful suggestions that we think should be considered in future iterations:

Data for Charity

Once the charitable organizationfunction is established, it would be useful to provide data analytics to each organization, to make it easy for them to understand donation patterns.

Switch accounts

One of the missed opportunities a Delta Institute employee noted in our solution is that we did not design an easy way to help an employee of a charitable organization switch accounts back and forth from the organization’s charity account to his or her own personal account.

Beta group function

As we completed our exploration of this opportunity, we learned that Venmo is currently testing a group feature, which allows people to establish a group account for money transfers. This could be potential the fundraising profile for those are not official charities.