6 Ways Your Donors Should Engage With Your Nonprofit’s Website (Other Than Making a Donation)
Your nonprofit’s website is an important asset — it is the number one place where people can go for information about your organization and get a snapshot of the work you do.
In today’s digital world, your website is the place that consolidates most of your marketing and fundraising efforts. Chances are, after seeing your flyer, receiving your letter, seeing a shared post on social media or a Google ad, people will head to your website to learn more.
Needless to say, your website should be compelling, visually appealing and effective in achieving its purpose. However, many nonprofits have a misconception about what that purpose should be.
A lot of fundraising professionals will tell you that your website’s main goal is to get people to make an online donation, and that you should put all of your efforts into making a convincing donate page and placing a large bright “Donate Now” button everywhere that you can.
This is certainly one of your website’s goals, but it by no means has to be your focus. There is so much more that needs to be done to strengthen your potential donor’s relationship with your organization before they can be ready to make a financial contribution.
Think of how you would ask for a gift from a major donor. You wouldn’t just hand them a gift agreement and expect a check for $100,000. Instead, you take the time to cultivate them, form a relationship, let them get to know your organization and give them opportunities to get involved in different ways.
Your online donors need to be cultivated in just the same way and your website is the perfect place to do that. It may take some time and multiple visits and interactions, but it will result in more engaged and long-lasting donors in the end.
In this post, let’s go over some of the ways in which your prospective (and current) donors should be interacting with your website before they are ready to make a gift, and how you can make sure these interactions are easy, effective and valuable.
1. Learn About Your Organization
History & Mission
How did your organization come into existence? What need were your founders trying to address? How has your mission changed over the years? Answer these and other relevant questions to give donors a sense of who you are and what you do. Tell your website readers a story — it will help them identify whether their values match yours and determine whether they see themselves as a member of your community.
Include a section on your website where you list your staff, leadership, board members and volunteers. Include photos and short bios where applicable. This gives your site visitors a chance to get to know the people behind the work, put faces and stories to the names they maybe exchanged emails with, or spoke to on the phone. It lets them form a connection with a human rather than just a concept, and makes your organization come across as more authentic and transparent.
Don’t forget to also include donor listings on your website. The main purpose of this section is, of course, to recognize current and past donors. That being said, a prospective donor will often browse through this section to gauge how many donors you have, who they are and see whether they can imagine themselves on that list.
What are you most proud of? What aspect of your nonprofit’s work do you wish to tell people about? Maybe you’ve helped a certain number of people in need, saved animals, planted trees or built shelters. Whatever it is, share it proudly to let your site visitors know that the work you do is important, and that their donations will create positive impact.
Case for support
You’ve talked about what you’ve already accomplished, but what are some things you still have to do? In other words, why are you asking people to donate? This is the place to share more details about your programs, your goals, and your wishlist items. Having a compelling case for support will allow your site readers to imagine what problem they can help solve if they choose to join your community.
2. Stay Up to Date on Your Impact
Share your organization’s latest news, accomplishments and thoughts on the current state of your organization and the community you serve. If you choose to have a news section or a blog, just be sure to update it regularly, so that repeat visitors always have something fresh to read and brand-new visitors get a sense of how active your organization is.
It is good practice to publish an annual report at the end of each fiscal year. Not only does it show accountability and transparency on your part, but it often contains important information that someone visiting your site might want to know. In addition to publishing the most recent one, make sure to provide copies from the past few years. If anyone is interested in seeing your organization’s growth over the years, this is the first place they’ll want to look.
Do you need help writing your Nonprofit Annual Report?
We’ve compiled a sure-fire annual report template and a guide to ensure you pull together a document your stakeholders can get inspired about.
If your organization is split up into several programs, each of them addressing a different need, be sure to have a space on your site where you provide updates about each of these programs. When donors have options to support programs with a narrow focus, they often attach more meaning to their giving than they would if they were just donating to a general fund. Use this section of your site to educate visitors about what their options are and what impact they would be creating if they chose to donate to one of these programs.
3. Get Inspired
Donor stories are a must-have on your website. They are a great opportunity to showcase to your potential donors why other people choose to donate. Hearing from their peers will get them inspired, they might read something that resonates with them or even see themselves in the story they’re reading, having similar circumstances, feelings or thoughts. Quite often, people shy away from donating because they think their contributions won’t mean much and that significant impact is only created by wealthy philanthropists or large corporations. Seeing stories on your website about regular people who are just like them helps break that illusion and encourage the reader to get involved, regardless of how much they can afford to contribute.
Just like donor stories, beneficiary stories can inspire your site visitors by showcasing how your organization’s work directly impacts real people and makes real change in their lives. Just like sharing your organization’s key accomplishments and your case for support, they can help the reader see exactly why their donations are needed but in a much more human and emotionally moving way.
Links to share
When you publish stories or powerful images and infographics on your website, make sure you give your site visitors an option to quickly share this content on their social media. It gets them involved and helps spread the word about your organization. Not to mention, when someone shares something with their social network, they are saying “I stand behind what this organization is doing” — as soon as they do this, they become personally invested in your work and will be much more likely to get more involved later down the line.
4. Get Involved
Become a member
If your organization has membership options, most people will become a member first before they ever consider making a donation outside of their membership fee. Use this space to outline your membership levels, highlight the benefits of becoming a member and provide a simple form that people can use to join.
Many people choose to give their time rather than money. Long-time donors often start out as volunteers first and then, once they have the capacity, begin to make financial contributions. Have a section on your website where you provide volunteer options, tell people a little bit about what they can expect and include a simple sign up form.
Become an ambassador
Ambassadors are people who have a large professional or social network and feel very passionate about the work that your nonprofit does, so they go out into the world and raise awareness on your behalf. Sometimes these are existing donors or people you’ve served in the past, but quite often these are just people who want to get involved. What being an ambassador for your organization looks like will be very unique to that individual— maybe they can speak at your events, share your content consistently on their social media or direct a small percentage of profits from their small business back to you. For that reason, it’s best to offer contact information on your website and have them reach out to you directly for a more personal conversation about how they can get involved.
Host your own fundraiser
Many people wish they could donate thousands of dollars to your cause but don’t have the capacity to do it on their own. Instead, they choose to host what’s called a third-party fundraiser. They organize their own event – a bake sale, a neighborhood run, a paint night, what have you – and direct all their proceeds to your nonprofit. It’s an amazing way for people to get involved and give their time and energy, while leveraging the power of their community to make a difference. Use your website to remind people that this is an option. Use this section to showcase examples of past third-party events, provide fundraiser ideas, and offer a helpful toolkit. This can include templates for them to use in their marketing, guidelines on what messaging to use, any regulations you have, payment processing information, and anything else you can think of that will help make the process easier for them.
Some people visiting your website might be employees or owners of a large business or corporation. It’s usually part of their corporate social responsibility mandate to support nonprofits, so have a page on your website where you list options for how they can do this. You can include information on what their contributions would support, event sponsorship options, group volunteer options, contact information, and anything else you think they might need to know. Don’t forget to also list your current and past corporate partners to acknowledge their support.
5. Participate in Events
Upcoming events and registration
If you have events coming up, be sure to tell your site visitors about them. Include information on what each event will entail and why they should attend. If registration is open, make it easy for them to register online.
Post-event photo gallery
After an event has happened, share highlights from it by posting a gallery of photos to a page on your website. People who attended the event will be thrilled to relive the experience, while people who missed out or are visiting your site for the first time can browse through the photos to see what they can expect if they attend your next event.
Keep an archive of past events. It will give your site visitors a chance to see what kinds of events they can expect to attend in the future if they choose to join your community. With each event, provide a short summary of key outcomes and accomplishments to showcase that the event was a successful one.
6. Get Connected
Collecting email addresses
Have a place on your website where people can provide their email address and join your mailing list. This can be to sign up for a newsletter or to download a valuable piece of content like a whitepaper or checklist. This will help you grow your email list and cultivate potential donors with each email they receive.
Links to social media
Make sure you link to your social media platforms in a spot that’s visible and remains in place no matter what page your visitors are on. This is usually the header, footer or sidebar of your website. Some websites even include a widget where part of their social feed appears on the page and updates automatically. Making it easy for people to follow you on social media will make them more likely to do so and let them stay up to date on your activities.
And lastly… don’t forget to place that large bright “Donate Now” button in a visible place. While all of these website sections are meant to engage your visitors, steward your current donors and cultivate prospective ones, you never know at what point someone might decide to make a donation. With a well thought out website that educates, informs, inspires, engages and connects people, you’ll be sure to see a new record in how many clicks that button gets.
About the author:
Sayana Izmailova, Content Marketing Specialist, Wild Apricot
Sayana Izmailova is the Content Marketing Specialist at Wild Apricot, a membership management software. She has worked at a number of nonprofits and uses her experience to help small organizations advance their missions.