A charitable organization has the potential to benefit greatly from enhancing their online presence. When looking at the main goals of a charity website, they can generally be boiled down to 1. encouraging visitors to get involved and 2. encouraging visitors to donate. However, if someone is unfamiliar with your organization, it is important that you give them the necessary information and motivation to want to become involved with or donate to your cause. The following suggestions can help improve the opportunity that your website provides to promote your cause and reach your goals.
1. Communicate your cause clearly and succinctly
Upon first visit, it should be evident what exactly it is your charity is supporting and what kind of work it does to support it. This can be accomplished through clearly stated headlines and supporting imagery. Also, websites don’t have long to hold a visitor’s attention. Because of this, you should avoid using long paragraphs of text. It’s understandable that there’s a lot that can be said about your cause. However, if you want to hold someone’s attention, you should boil down your statements to a couple sentences at most. Forcing yourself to use as few words as possible to communicate your message is an artform that can create copy that is much more emotionally impactful.
As an example, visit the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website. The initial statement, set against a video background states “All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity.” Several paragraphs of text can be written expressing that same sentiment, but that statement says it all and much more powerfully.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation | www.gatesfoundation.org
2. Build interest first
Each section of a webpage from top to bottom should be planned out with the goal of getting visitors to take an action. But before they take action, your visitor must become engaged. Marketing is often compared to dating. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you right after first meeting them. Similarly, you wouldn’t ask a customer to buy from you right after showing them your product. The same goes for a charity – unless a visitor to your website already knows all about your organization and is already committed to take action, it is necessary to develop a strategy to first gain their interest, educate, motivate, build trust, then present a call to action to convert.
3. Motivate, tell a story
For someone to take action, they must first be motivated to do so. What motivates your audience? Some reasons may be:
They want to make a positive difference in the world
They can relate to your cause due to an association with a friend or family member
They want to see a better future for the next generation
They enjoy giving back to their community
Research the top reasons why people may want to donate to or become involved with your charity so that your website’s content and messaging can be geared towards utilizing those motivators in order to convince people to take action. Once you’ve done your research, don’t just tell your audience why they need to help – demonstrate it through storytelling. Use examples of real people and real life events to illustrate the magnitude of the problem your organization is working to help resolve. This can be done through the use of text with imagery, videos, illustrations, charts and diagrams, or any other creative method that can help to convey your message.
4. Use statistics to educate
It’s one thing to tell people about the problem your charity is helping to solve. It’s another thing to show it. Statistics can be a powerful motivator to convince people of the real need for your charity to make a positive impact. Statistics are also an easily digestible format to use that can help educate people about the problems that your organization is trying to help solve. See the examples below.
U S Hunger Relief Organization Feeding America | feedingamerica.org
United Way | www.unitedway.org
5. Establish trust
Case studies, news and articles, testimonials, stories about the people who are involved with your charity can all be powerful indicators that your organization is one that is trustworthy. Similarly, statistics or anecdotes about people who have donated or volunteered can be powerful social proof that your organization has had others support it in the past. Publish current news and events that your organization is involved in. Display awards or certifications your organization has earned. With the wealth of information currently available, people are used to researching any company that they do business with. Make sure that you provide enough positive information to convince them that your organization is trustworthy, or they may just find something somewhere else to the contrary.
6. Provide clear calls to action
What do you want visitors to do on each page? Use principles of design to make sure your calls to action stand out and are easy to understand. Otherwise, your visitors may leave without converting. Do you want people to donate? Make sure you give them easy access to a form that allows them to submit their donation. Examples of calls to action may be:
Can you help us? We need your donations to help end poverty and hunger… Donate now
Join us. Nearly one out of three of us lives in poverty. But we see a future in which no one does. Learn how you can help end the injustice of poverty… Sign up
Donors and supporters should always be just one click away from being able to make a payment, sign up for more information, or register for an event. Never make them search.
OXFAM | www.oxfamamerica.org
7. Provide an easy online donations platform
Rather than using a separate service to collect donations, it is easy to use your WordPress website to manage these transactions. There are a couple plugins for WordPress that have been around for a while, have great support, and provide all the functionality you need to create forms and manage donations right from your WordPress admin.
Give – Donation Plugin and Fundraising Platform
Give is the highest rated, most downloaded, and best supported donation plugin for WordPress. Built from the ground up for all your fundraising needs, Give provides you with a powerful donation platform optimized for online giving. Transform the way you accept online donations. With Give you can accept charitable gifts through customizable donation forms, view donation statistics and reports, manage donors, and integrate with a wide variety of third-party gateways and services.
Charitable – Donation Plugin
Charitable is the donation plugin that gives you everything you need to start accepting donations today, for free. Designed to integrate seamlessly with WordPress, Charitable allows non-profits and developers to create powerful fundraising platforms on their own website. Key features include: unlimited campaigns, customizable donation forms, Paypal & offline payment support, donation management, and customizable emails.
8. More quick tips (useful for any website)
Include social media links or feeds on your website to promote your social media presence
Include a signup form for your email list so visitors can easily sign up to receive news and notifications about your charity
Use responsive design to ensure your website is mobile-friendly (also improves search ranking on mobile devices)
Use quality hosting and optimize your website so it loads fast (people will leave your site if they have to wait for it to load)
Use SEO best practices – titles, descriptions, alt text, etc… so that search engines will show your website in search results
Install an SSL certificate so that forms on your website will be submitted securely (also encourages trust from your visitors and may improve search rankings)
Of course, all charities are different and so your website should be tailored to the specific goals for your particular organization. But use these tips as a starting point and general outline you can use to make it more likely that your website will see increased traffic and greater conversions for online donations, subscriptions, event registrations, or any other goals you have set to achieve from your online marketing.