Guiding Donors through Your Website

Guiding Donors through Your Website: A potential donor comes to your website because they want to be part of a solution is a real problem.  Now that they are on your site, you need to become a website guide and provide a real, trustworthy solution to their problem.  When they visit your site, you are guiding them on a path of discovery so that you can prove to a person, one step at a time, that using your nonprofit will make their world a better place.

Sure, asking them to make a donation outright is easier to do and takes less effort, but getting creative and offering superb content will help your donors not just be nameless, digital, online donations but it helps them to become ambassadors for your cause.

Real People in a digital environment

So as an expert in donor relations, become a storyteller, be a website guide, and take your donors on a journey as they click from page to page!  Here are a few steps for getting that done:

Not digital people, but real people in a digital environment

Your audience is not data on a chart.  To raise money effectively, you need to make meaningful, human connections with your donors.  You need to know why they are connecting with your charity so you can help them make investments in activities and causes that are meaningful to them.

Previously we talked about creating a persona for your ideal donor.  Don’t skip this step!  I mentioned one nonprofit I worked with who identified their ideal donor and even put a picture of her up so that the development team would not forget who she was.  If you don’t define your ideal donor, you’ll usually end up targeting yourself, the development director, or the CEO! Often the ideal donors for your organization are quite unlike the staff inside the organization.

By creating a persona for your ideal donor, you gain a better understanding of what is motivating people to visit your website.  When you understand why they are there, then you’ll also better understand why they make donations.  In other words, you can’t just ask yourself, “Do I like it?”  You need to ask, “Will our ideal donor like it?”

If your ideal donor is a 44-year-old woman, don’t just think about her.  Think about what she likes, what she drives, what she does for fun, who her friends are, what her family is like, what she listens to on the radio, what makes her sad, what challenges she faces, and what her hobbies might be.

Once you understand who your donor is and what your donor is looking for, then a good website guide brings a potential donor through the process that leads them to the donation button.  The giving process should include detailed paths that donors are led through in order to become lifelong supporters of the organization.  In a for-profit organization, this is what is often referred to as a “sales funnel.”  For nonprofit organizations, it would be better referred to as a “cultivation funnel.”

A Typical Cultivation Funnel

A donor will typically move through a process with your company in these stages before they make a donation or before they get involved as a volunteer. Awareness – Consideration – Conversion.


Let’s briefly unpack those 3 stages:


You may be doing the best, most impacting work in town, but all your good work could come to a grinding halt if nobody knows that you exist.  It is a shame if a great nonprofit is the best kept secret in town.  The first job of a donor development department is to be a herald on the street corner (metaphorically) shouting out to the surrounding city how your organization is meeting the needs of your community.  Awareness got a potential to your website in the first place and a lot of work needs to be done just to get people to this initial stage.  Print and digital pieces that can help with awareness include:

  • Signs, banners , storefront graphics, and vehicle graphics
  • Print ads, business cards, flyers, direct mail, and EDDM mail,
  • Posters, billboards, and large format graphics
  • Speaking engagements at conferences, community meetings and religious gatherings.
  • Publishing and giving away a book about your organization
  • Digital ads, social media ads, and Google grant management
  • Radio / magazine interviews

However, once they are on your site, you are out of the awareness stage.  So, don’t redouble your awareness efforts here.  Your website is all about the process of consideration.  As a website guide, you are not helping the user discover your company.  You are trying to get them to the next step.  This next step begins with helping a potential donor decide if they are going to trust you or not.


Once people hear about you, they begin to investigate what it is that you do.  Investigation and consideration is the reason they are on your website.  Now it’s the time to show that you really know your stuff!  As a website guide, you can help a potential donor make decide whether to give or not by using:

  • Blog posts
  • Testimonials
  • Photography
  • Videos
  • Webinars

Remember that people give to a vision of a better future; people they know, like and trust; and stories of how your organization’s services were able to make a positive impact on the lives of real people.  For the maximum impact, the Vision-People-Story Method must be incorporated in every blog post, testimonial, picture, video, and webinar you produce. Ultimately, the Vision-People-Story Method leads to conversions.


Ultimately, your goal when you are guiding donors through your website is to make a conversion.  With nonprofit organizations, a conversion is usually a donation or some level of volunteer participation.  On your website, you are trying to move a potential donor through the process of turning them into a donor and then ultimately into an advocate for your organization.

Cultivation Funnel

Guiding Donors through Your Website means that you Lead a Potential Donor through the Cultivation Funnel

Walk a potential donor step-by-step through the process in your cultivation funnel. Set goals for them along the way.  For example:

  • When they get to the front page, what should be their first step of discovery?  Create a link and a button to get them there.
  • What if they read a blog post; what should they read next?  Create a link and a path for a user to take through your site that leads them from one content page to the next.

Then along the way, make it clear what their next sales step might be.  Do you want them to donate in exchange for something in your store?  Do you want them to get involved in a trip or a special project?  Make sure there are clear directions and clear navigation links to get them from one step to the next.

Not just a digital transaction, but a real relationship.  Some last thoughts on Guiding Donors through Your Website

The user’s visit to your website is not just data and a transaction.  It is an opportunity for you to tell the story of your nonprofit and to guide your potential donors on a journey to discover more about what interests them.  As you become a trusted guide, you’ll build a deeper relationship with your potential donor and the goal is to turn them into an advocate for your cause!

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