"We needed a meaningful way to engage our supporters to fund our campaigns."
Lobbyists for Good is a crowdfunding platform that allows everyday Americans to hire lobbyists. It was started with the intention of giving the people of the United States the same access to lobbying as businesses and special interest group have. It's founders, Billy and Callie DeLauncey, believe that hiring a professional is the most effective way to getting your voice heard in government.
As a new organization, the challenge they were facing was driving supporters to contribute to a Lobbyist for Good campaign and then sharing it with their network. Based on initial user research, we learned that it was difficult for some people to get behind a campaign to hire a lobbyist for social good, particularly due to the negative connotation surrounding the profession.
Yet, both Billy and Callie knew from personal experience, that lobbyists are uniquely qualified to influence government. That's because many of them are former staffers and congresspeople who know how the system works. Not only that, they've spent years building relationships, and often have more knowledge of policies than current staffers. As Lobbyists for Good states on their website, lobbyists are so effective that studies have shown companies can see a 22,000% to 76,000% return on their lobbying investment. Now, imagine if that return could benefit the public instead of business?!
With this challenge in mind, we ran a design sprint to build, test, and validate ways to drive supporters to contribute to the success of a campaign.
Preparation for the sprint was essential, because we would only have three days - instead of the five - to come up with a solution, build a prototype that looked and felt real, and test that prototype in front of users. We spent two weeks leading up to the sprint, conducting user research, writing our design sprint brief, identifying key roles, and getting the logistics in place (venue, supplies, etc).
We held our sprint at Impact Hub DC, which was a great venue with lots of whiteboards and table space for sketching, journey mapping, and more. There were also six of us on the sprint team, with Billy, the CEO of Lobbyists for Good, as "the decider"- the individual with the final say throughout the sprint.
We also reviewed their website, competitors, and sought to understand the current "journey" their supporters take when considering to support or create a campaign of their own. From there, we refined our understanding of their supporters into "user personas" to keep us focused on their needs, motivations, and pain points. All of this work helped Lobbyist for Good prepare for their lightning talks on day one of the sprint.
One area where we struggled a bit, was to define and decide on the scope of the sprint challenge. Often, this is where many teams get caught up. You don't want the scope of the challenge to be too broad, which would make it difficult to come up with a tangible solution; and you don't want it to be too narrow, because then you limit big ideas.
For our team, we wanted to make sure that we were focused on addressing the right problem for the right user at this stage of their organization's life cycle. We also wanted to identify the values and constraints that would guide us during the sprint. What ultimately helped us decide, was turning to Billy, the decider, to make the final decision. This is a key practice in design sprints that help ensure their success.
"When you're in the middle of a sprint, you become very committed to your ideas. That's why it's helpful to have that person on the team, who has the project vision and goals in mind, decide on the ultimate direction of the sprint. We have such limited time to waste, you really don't have time to go around in circles."
Finally, the first day of the sprint arrived, and we kicked off the morning with icebreakers and lightning talks. We quickly moved into the diverge phase of the sprint, which allows the team to step back and come up with ideas individually. The purpose of this is to reduce group think and promote big ideas. For the remainder of the day, we focused on ideation exercises, sketching, and silent voting to continue to refine and stay focused on our overall sprint challenge.
With the first day done, we started the second day by individually presenting our idea sketches from the day before. Again, this part was a required very little talking, and silent voting. The goal of this phase is to decide on what to prototype to put in front of users on the final day. For many design sprints, this can also be one of the most challenging parts. That's because it's hard when your idea isn't the one the team has decided on.
At this point, two ideas floated up to the top that sought to address the problem Lobbyists for Good set out to solve during the sprint - convincing people to contribute to a campaign to hire a lobbyist for a social cause. The first idea was to design an Ambassador Program on college campuses and leverage their energy and passion. The second idea was around messaging and improving the user experience of their campaign pages to inform the public on the benefit of lobbyists for good. Once again, Billy helped us decide on the latter idea when we got stuck.
Once we decided on what to prototype, we took another look at the improved user journey we had created on day one after listening to lightning talks. We used that to design a storyboard for our prototype, and then split up the storyboard into groups of two. This allowed us to prototype more quickly, since we really only had a few hours to create something that looked and felt real for user testing. We all used Google slides, along with some ready to go UI kits, to design our improved campaign page. Then, we had our "stitcher", the person responsible for putting the slides together, finish up the prototype in time for our user feedback sessions on the third and final day.
"By the end of the second day, the team was exhausted. But we were in the home stretch and could see the outcomes of our work - the prototype of our improved campaign website. We had a lot of questions about whether this new direction could work, and were looking forward to hearing what our users had to say about it."
For the third and final day, we had five user interviews lined up and ready to go. Maia with Create& ran the interviews in one room, and the rest of the team observed the interviews from another room. To prepare for the interviews, we identified five key assumptions and features we wanted to test and wrote those vertically down the first column of a giant grid. Then, along the top row, we wrote the names of our five users horizontally from left to right. The objective for the team in the observation room, was to write time key moments, quotes, observations on sticky notes (one observation per note), and then put them in the corresponding squares in the grid.
Pardon the super stylized pic. Gabe got carried away with the filters when he tweeted this photo from the observation room ;)
Once we completed the round of interviews, we had a ton of sticky notes on the whiteboard grid, and even more questions! But this time, we were more informed than when we started. So we did a final debrief of takeaways and came up with a list of next steps. That list is what Lobbyist for Good used later to redesign their campaign page and website.
What we learned after the design sprint
With the sprint behind us, we focused on a few key takeaways to prioritize. First, we learned from users that they wanted a way to connect with the individual who started a campaign. They wanted to know their story and understand why the issue was important to them. Both of these key points were more important than the argument about "why hire a lobbyist for good"?
Second, we learned that showing positive images of people coming together to march, campaign, and advocate for issues they cared about was more powerful than images of angry protestors. This was important to know, since it influenced the branding and design behind Lobbyist for Good's website. And third, people wanted to understand what their contribution for a lobbyist would get them - so finding ways to convey that was key.
While we learned a lot more than just these three takeaways, the team at Lobbyist for Good walked away with tangible knowledge and next steps that were more focused. The design sprint ultimately helped them know what their users wanted and needed when deciding to contribute to one of their campaigns or not. While there is still a ways to go towards growing their reach, Lobbyists for Good is well on their way to achieving their vision using lobbyists to help the public get their voices heard in government.
Had it not been for Maia and Gabe, and the design sprint they facilitated for us, we would not have learned what our users wanted, this quickly. That saved us a lot of time and headaches. Not only that, but I felt like we had the whole team on the same page and we were all working hard to achieve the goal of improving our product. It was amazing how much we learned, and we used that information to jump right into updating our current campaign pages. We're already seeing more campaigns being created and more contributions being given within the first few months!
Billy DeLauncey, CEO and Founder
Lobbyists for Good
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