Venmo | Donations

The Design Team

UX Research, Design, Testing:

Darrell Chan

Joni Goldbach

Elizabeth Royer

The Project

10-day design sprint at General Assembly.

Venmo is an app that allows users to send payments to other users for free and they want to strengthen their brand by offering options for social impact.

Venmo makes it easy to send payments to other people through their app, but want to expand their services to make a difference in the world. With users accustomed to sending money quickly, Venmo would like to introduce a way for users to send money via their app to causes they care about.



We needed to investigate two important factors before coming to a solution:

  • Who are Venmo's current customers? What sort of audience should we be targeting when we design a solution?
  • What are existing habits surrounding the process of giving to a charitable donation? What sort of marketing techniques have a higher chance of raising money for the charity organization?
“Venmo has established itself as an app that’s truly designed for young people. Bugging a roommate for her share of the bar tab you covered the other night is awkward — sending her a charge for “Draaaaaannkkkks :) :) :)” is a funny reminder…”
— Lydia Dallett, Business Insider

Research was conducted through various means including street interviews, surveys, and virtual interviews, each being more in-depth and more focused than the last, respectively.

Through our survey of 75 people between 18 and 60+ years old, we found was that Venmo users are young. Outside of college students and young professionals, most people had never even heard of Venmo. A quick online search on articles about Venmo clearly fortify that demographic with headlines such as "The Payments App Millennials Swear By" and "Here's Why Mobile Payments App Venmo Is Crushing The Competition Among College-Age Users."

We then focused our interviews towards key factors that motivated Venmo's young user base towards supporting charitable causes. What we found was that the chance of a person contributing to a given cause was heavily influenced by whether or not there was a social connection with charity.

When asked about what motivated them to support a cause, their responses heavily favored friendship:

  • "A friend asked for support."
  • "A friend is doing an AIDS walk. I like to support friends whenever possible."
  • "My friends are going on a mission trip and I wanted to support them."
  • "Importance to friends and family."
  • "Friend relationship. Didn't really have interest in the cause, but he did."
  • "I would say it was more in support of my friend's efforts."
  • "Doing good to help others, friends promoting cause.
  • "A family friend has ALS."

Setting Up a Supported Cause

We took the insights we gained from our research and incorporated them into the design of the donation process. We wanted to tap into Venmo's existing social platform as a way to motivate people to support causes that their friends cared about.

To do that, we designed around the concept that every Venmo user has the opportunity to support a cause they care about. As long as an organization behind a cause was partnered with Venmo, they would be listed as a cause that people using Venmo could support.

Those who supported a certain cause almost always had a reason behind it. To help them tell that story, we integrated a place where users could tell others why they support that cause. In doing so, they helped motivate others to give to those causes.


The Payment Process

When we asked Venmo customers why they use Venmo, they praised its simplicity and ease of use. When designing a way to incorporate donations, we strived to keep the existing process intact as that was what was driving Venmo's success.

Our initial sketches resulted in two designs that we believed were as minimally intrusive as possible. After a quick A/B test, we moved forward with a design that suggested a way for the user to support their friend's cause, but didn't hamper the ease and simplicity of existing payment process.

Paper Prototype

From there, we built a paper prototype and tested the concept. Of the feedback we received from the first round of testing, one key point stood out.

People wanted to know more about the causes they were supporting. While they were interested in helping out a friend, they weren't sure if this donation suggestion was legitimate or not.

Digital Prototype

A digital prototype was then built incorporating a more detailed explanation of why the cause is important to the person receiving payment. This builds upon the research that we conducted earlier by emphasizing how important social relationships are to those donating money.

Further testing and iterations were then produced to address the following issues:

  • The donation notification was too small to be noticed by someone experienced in using Venmo. Iterations with both different colors and difference sizes for the notification were made and tested.
  • Some testers wanted an additional confirmation informing them that the donation and payment had both been made. We then built in a confirmation screen after the payment and donation had been processed and added additional information into Venmo's transaction feed.



The Cash Out Process

The Cash Out page was redesigned to enable customers to return the favor to the friends that have contributed to their causes. Again, we strived to design a way for people to support each other, but in a way that didn't hamper Venmo's already excellent checkout process.

When an amount is entered into the “Amount to Cash Out” bar, the application looks for recent donations to the customer’s cause from the customer’s friends and suggests that the customer also donate to their friend’s causes.

Early sketches of the redesigned checkout process with donations incorporated as an option to the existing flow.

After user testing, we found that the text encouraging customers to support other causes was not being noticed. Changing the text to Venmo’s green color and making the text only appear after an amount was entered improved the chance that customers saw the message and interacted with it.

People also wanted to see how much was left in the transfer to their bank after donating. We addressed that concern by adding a responsive design to the Cash Out button displaying how much was being cashed out and how much was being donated, which tested well.

As with the payment process, some testers wanted an additional confirmation informing them that the donation and transfer had both been made. We built in a confirmation screen after the transfer and donation had been processed.


For Organizations:
Partnering with Venmo

In order for this concept to work, we needed it to be easy for organizations to be listed as a cause through Venmo. To do this, we needed take a step back from the mobile interface and look towards Venmo's website.

We wanted it to be just as easy for a non-profit organization to use Venmo as it is for an individual and focused on two major features that organizations needed.

  • They needed to be able to keep accurate records of who donated money to them through Venmo to provide to the IRS.
  • They needed to be able to provide tax receipts to each donor that made a contribution through Venmo.
Non-Profit Dashboard.png

Preliminary Front-End Development

A sample build of the donation history was made with Venmo's newer brand style. This page represents how someone using Venmo would see a list of their past donations in a sortable table. They would also be able to download the data into a .csv format (see blog post).

Source files can be found on GitHub. Live demo can be found here.

Style guide used for front-end development.


Future Considerations

  • A donations feed similar to the existing public, friends, and private feeds. After testing the latest iteration of the prototype, we found that Venmo users wanted to see what causes other people were supporting.
  • Direct integration with tax tools to help with deductions during tax preparation.