More important than how your website looks is the message that it communicates.
A modern and visually appealing website is necessary in establishing a professional brand for your nonprofit. But how you communicate your mission to those website visitors is critical for acquiring new donors.
I’ll share 5 ways to improve your nonprofit website to more effectively fundraise. These aren’t cheap hacks or trendy tactics. They’re core essentials that speak to the basics of donor communication. But they aren’t hard to implement either, it’s just a matter of tweaking the messaging you already have.
Share the Emotional and the Practical
In communicating your mission to potential donors, there are 2 aspects of it: the emotional and the practical. The emotional communicates the importance of your mission, while the practical communicates what you actually do. Both are needed, but many nonprofit websites lean more to one side.
The emotional side of your messaging is about why your mission matters. Share why the problem is so bad that it needs addressing. Show the faces and the stories of the people affected by the problem. Talk about the change in their lives as a result of your mission. Pull the heartstrings.
Organizations that miss this element end up sounding dry and dull. Though your mission may be important, it just doesn’t resonate and compel your audience.
On the other hand, you also need the practical side which explains how you achieve your mission. Talk about the things you actually do. Demonstrate how what you do is effective. Show the quantitative, tangible results of your work. Justify your existence.
Nonprofits that neglect this part sound very fluffy. You may be very inspirational, but it leaves people confused about where the money actually goes.
Provide Opportunities for All Audiences
You have visitors coming to your website that are on different parts of the donor journey. It requires you to somehow address all of them where they are at, and present the right call-to-action for them.
Some visitors are at the very early phase. They have an interest in the issue and are trying to learn more. They’re not ready to donate yet, so donation-only calls-to-action won’t be effective. You’ll need to have plenty of information to help educate them on the cause – articles, guides, graphics, and videos.
Others already care passionately about the cause and are looking for ways to help. This is where it’s important to prominently show volunteer opportunities and ways to donate. You’ll need to communicate clearly and quickly how their contribution will make an impact.
A few visitors will be your major donors. They’re very invested in the cause and have donated to other organizations. They want to build a legacy with their resources, and most likely know something about your organization. This is where the data matters. You’ll need to provide them with detailed reports on your projects, case studies, and financial reports to prove your mission is worth investing in.
It’s difficult, but effective websites will have snippets of content that appeal to all these different demographics, and lead them to more of what they’re looking for.
Present Opportunities Everywhere
Your entire website is an engagement tool, and that means every page of your website should have an opportunity to act. This doesn’t mean there should be a donate button everywhere, but there should be a contextual call-to-action.
After someone reads information on a certain web page, what should their reaction be? What would be the next logical step to take?
Even if it’s just to go to another page on your website to learn more, that’s still engagement. The other option would be that they leave your website and end their interaction with you.
Eventually, enough content discovery and education will lead to the opportunity to act financially. When the content leads to it, present an ask for a donation naturally.
Use Donor-Centric Language
Many nonprofits have self-centered language. It’s doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily self-centered, but their messaging can come across that way.
Scan your website homepage and take a quick note of how often you use the words “we/us“ versus “you.”
Organization-centered language talks about what the organization is doing and the impact they are making. While that may all be true, it disconnects the donor from the cause. A donor is nothing more than a funding source.
Donor-centric language speaks directly to the donor by using the word “you.” It also positions the donor as the hero, and therefore connects them more deeply with the cause. So instead of saying “We help people in poverty,” say “You help people in poverty.” And instead of saying “Donate to help us feed the children,” say “You can feed the children by donating.”
If you want greater engagement and investment from your potential donors, you need to elevate them.
This is another case where nonprofit websites tend to lean too far to one extreme. They either don’t ask for donations enough, or they ask for donations too aggressively.
If the donation button is only in your navigation menu and a few pages on your website, you’re being too passive. You are a nonprofit – people expect you to ask for donations on your website. Buttons to donate should appear on the majority of pages on your website, with each ask contextualized to what content is on that page.
Messaging also matters. Some nonprofits can be too passive in the way they ask. They might use phrases such as “would you consider donating” or “please think about making a donation.” Those don’t actually result in any tangible action.
To the other extreme, some nonprofits ask too aggressively. This can be communicated visually, such as multiple popups asking for donations or oversized words or graphics for donations
Of course, messaging can be aggressive too, such as guilt-ridden appeals, an over-emphasis on donating immediately, or an excessive use of exclamation marks.
How you ask for a donation depends on your nonprofit branding and the context of the ask, but most of the time, simplest is the best. After presenting information or making the case, just ask for a donation. For example, “You can make a difference in someone’s life. Will you donate?”
These are simple yet effective changes that can help increase audience engagement and donations for your nonprofit. They aren’t complex marketing hacks. They don’t require intense website redesigns.
They’re simply messaging and presentation tweaks that redirect the focus to your potential donor to create a more compelling experience.
You can apply these not only to your website, but across all your digital marketing channels. However, the easiest and fastest way to make improvements is directly on your website’s homepage.