nonprofit websites

If you are a nonprofit organization, a potential donor may only give your site a few seconds before they move on to another nonprofit.  If your nonprofit website is simple, clear, functional and professional, it will generate more donations.  Potential donors are not excited about cluttered website, or by having too many options.  Donors are more often engaged through simple clean websites with straightforward and compelling language.  Make sure you are always giving a user a ‘next step’ by connecting your content to a clear call to action (CTA).

Simple is better.

So let me ask you 3 questions to determine if your website is simple enough:

  1. Can a new user easily determine what you do by looking at your website’s opening screen for 5 seconds?
  2. If they are looking for a project that you are involved with, could they simply and easily find out information about that project from your site in less than 10 seconds?
  3. Do they understand from your site the simple factors that separate you from the other nonprofits in your area who are offering similar services?

Your website needs to communicate to potential donors what you do in language they can clearly comprehend.  If you aren’t seeing donations come in from your website, here are a few tips that might help to you to attract more donors from the web.


#1 – Make your Nonprofit Website Home Page Simple, Clear and Responsive

Google is by far the most widely used search engine and part of their success comes from keeping it simple.  Research has found that people can’t process more than 10 options on a webpage.  So only give people only a few choices.  Better yet, what if you gave them just 1 option?  (A landing page is a simple website that helps people to make just 1 decision.)  Does that seem impossible with all that you do?

Consider Google again for a minute.  They connect to literally billions of pieces of data, yet their home page is remarkably simple.  Google intentionally keeps their homepage choices extremely limited.  Being an effective website guide means that you don’t give people too many choices to make.  You always help users know exactly how to take the next step.

Nonprofit websites that look simple are the result of a great deal of planning.

I can’t tell you how many people call me and say, “I just want a simple website.” It’s relatively easy to make a complicated, messy website.  A simple website is a real challenge!  So, map out your site before you begin.  Consider placing no more than a few choices on the home page and then make those choices really clear!  Think about how a person travels through your site and ask:

  • What are they going to see first? What impression does that image make?
  • Where do you want the customer to go next? What do you want each step to communicate about your company?
  • What can you offer on the website that will turn a person from a browser to a donor?

Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft Clarity is really helpful for Nonprofit Websites

Then use a tool like Microsoft Clarity.  Right now, Microsoft Clarity is free.  It records various users as they navigate your site.  It tells you what buttons people are using and what they are ignoring.  It also tells you how far users scroll down on the screen, how many pages they typically view and if a user is encountering any errors along the way.  It is extremely helpful!

#2 – Remove Unnecessary Clutter from your Nonprofit Website

Over time, websites tend to get cluttered up.  Managers begin to push for more space to promote projects, business underwriting representatives may promise major donors space on the website, new products are being offered by the publication team, and negotiations are made with new vendors.

  • New blogs get added.
  • Content evolves.
  • Before long, your site can become a mess!

Begin by shortening the long lists of services and condense those lists into simple to understand statements

Better yet, tells stories and highlight experiences.  People aren’t as interested in a laundry list of your services as they are with knowing that you are an expert and working with you will be a pleasurable experience.  Put the main ideas into titles and headers.  You have less than 10 seconds to communicate to a new donor what you do, so make sure your main message stands out!

Secondly, use stock photos intelligently on your Nonprofit Website

A stock photo is better than no photo, but our last update from Google informed us that Google is ranking sites higher that are utilizing real images and custom photography.  Even a quality picture from a good cell phone can be a better alternative to a stock photo.  Stock images can be effective communication tools, but they need to carefully chosen so they reinforce the message of the text.  When possible, use professionally shot images of your staff, your events and your products.  Use quality cell phone pictures instead of stock photos when you can.  Realism goes a long way when promoting a nonprofit.

Thirdly, use terminology that those outside of your industry can understand

Acronyms and technical jargon can be helpful in the office, but it can be confusing to the general public.  Consider having someone outside your nonprofit read your promotional copy before you publish it.  Make sure that a potential donor who is unfamiliar with your services can understand what you do.

nonprofit websites

#3 – Connect your Nonprofit Website to Social Media

Social media is not going away any time soon! Nonprofits who utilize social media resources are attracting new donors faster than those who don’t.  Include “like” and “share” features on your website.  Give your current volunteer and donors opportunities to interact with what they see there and encourage them to share it to their personal social media networks.

Produce new content on your site on a regular basis.

New content twice a month is a minimum.  Producing new content once a week is better!  Sites that add new content 10-15 times per month are currently getting the best results.

  • Write about your vision
  • Talk about people your donors know/like/trust
  • Tell stories of changed lives.

Then share your content on your website, in email blasts, in print, and your social media pages.  Give your current supporters the chance to share that information with others and give your followers a reason to keep coming back to your site by offering up new content all the time.  Donors won’t know what you’re doing in the office and in the community unless you are actively telling them!

People trust those who are experts in their field.  You have the opportunity to use your site to position yourself as an expert in your area.  Your main objective it to earn the trust of your supporters with your web content.

#4 – Evaluate the Key Elements of Your Nonprofit Website’s Front Page

10 years ago, the conventional wisdom was to keep all the critical information about the company on the very first screenshot – before the user has to scroll.  This idea has changed over the years.  The “above the fold” section is still important, but only a few of the most critical pieces should be above the fold.  I would suggest these elements be place ‘above the fold’ on a nonprofit website:

  1. Logo in the top left corner
  2. Simple top navigation – less is better!
  3. Phone number or contact button in the top right corner
  4. A banner or hero image with a tag line that says just about everything about who you are in 7 or less words. (Web designers call these “Value Propositions.”)  If you can afford it, a welcome video is a powerful alternative to a hero banner, but it needs to load fast and play smoothly.
  5. A contact form to sign up for a newsletter or some other lead magnet.
  6. A donation button

People Scroll… Sometimes

Use Microsoft Clarity to determine if people are scrolling down your page or if they just navigate for the opening view.

When people scroll, most modern websites use 3-5 clearly marked sections to draw the reader through the content on the home page.  These sections should include a few (but not all) of these elements:

  1. A graphic overview of services. Don’t just list them all.  Guide the reader through your main products or services using icons or images.
  2. Testimonials really help to build trust – especially if you are relatively new or unknown.
  3. The “About Us” section of every website I’ve ever built is one of the most visited features. People who use small businesses want to know who they are dealing with.
  4. Feature a few of your most popular services or outreaches.
  5. Case Studies / Success Stories all help to build trust with a potential client.
  6. People will come back repeatable if you offer some helpful resources. Resources often come in the form of a blog or news page.

For just about everything else, we are not trying to cram everything together at the top anymore, so use white space.  Don’t cram it all in….Let the page breathe.  Be more liberal with pictures and use your headings intentionally.

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