The worldwide endemic is providing you with an opportunity. Many people will come through this with a keen understanding of what is important to them as a human being and the world. You are in a unique position to contribute to your visitor’s journey to have an impact and provide real life experiences to do good in this world. Show your visitors the value of volunteering, donation or just applauding. Invite your visitors into their imagination.
The web is not your mother’s internet anymore. In today’s nonprofit world, it’s not enough to simply have a website to connect with your supporters. Your website is the direct representation of your company to the public. It is your brand — your first and eternal impression. It serves your needs just as much as it needs to serve your supporters. And in the nonprofit world, “need” and “willing to serve” are familiar, welcoming words.
As website viewers ourselves, what we look for in a website is what others look for as well. It’s not a “big ask.” In order for your site to provide limitless support for your viewers, what does it need?
It needs to captivate, navigate and inform.
- It needs ease of comprehension, so your visitor can accomplish tasks swiftly.
- It needs quick, intuitive navigation for today’s short attention span.
- Each page needs to be well written with great imagery.
- It needs to tell a story formatted for readers on the fly.
- It needs mobile optimization and fast loading. Research shows you have only 3 seconds to draw people into your site.
- It needs to incorporate shared links to articles and information posted on social media.
- It needs to be accessible for all visitors including the elderly or those with disabilities.
- And naturally, it needs to be affordable. Maintaining your site shouldn’t strain your budget.
Most people learn about a nonprofit organization through social media or at local events. Research reveals that approximately 85% access Facebook from their smart phones and ergo discover your site initially using a mobile device. They open your email the first time on the mobile phone to come back later again using their desktop.
So what does this mean for the modern website of a nonprofit organization?
These 9 tips will send you on your way to a successful online impression.
#1 Keep the number of navigation links between 5 and 7.
- More than that can paralyze your visitor trying to figure out where to look next.
- Submenus are allowed, but just a few.
- These should be easily accessible using a keyboard as well as a mouse.
#2 Make the donation button a main navigation item.
Many visitors want to do just that — donate. Make the donation button standout from the navigation in a complementary or cross-complementary color.
The best practices for ecommerce sites apply also to online donations.
#3 Keep visitors on your site to process an online donation
Maintain the trust pact you have built with your viewer. Unlike having a third party accept donations, your donation pages should be part of your website. This inclusion raises 6 times more money than when the donation button or link leads the donor off to another site, even if it’s a subdomain. Leading a donor away from your trusted site breaks the trust pact you’ve already established. Some potential donors hesitate with this method. If online donation is an impulse buy, any hesitation costs you money.
#4 Keep your donation process simple.
Forego large forms. It comes back to the impulse buy. Generally you don’t need the donor’s address to manage a successful payment process. You can make it a secondary contact opportunity to give a donor incentive to provide an address.
We are fans of the GiveWP plugin. You can be up and running with a good donation process in a couple of hours.
Implement a simple donation process with Form builders. We install this on most sites to enable a Volunteer Application or Event Registration. Coupled with a payment gateway like Stripe, you can make an easy-to-use donation process and add it to any of your organization’s landing pages, or as a Call to Action in your blog posts.
#5 Include a second ask on your “Thank You” page and email.
Several plugins can instantiate monthly giving. Once installed, you can ask the donor: “Do you want to make this a monthly gift?” and use an easy checkmark box to make it a subscription. If that’s not yet feasible to implement, make the second ask something like “Tell your friends” and “Share on social media” using functional social sharing buttons.
#6 Thank you notes make and break your donor relationship.
Do not neglect the last essential piece of the puzzle: the thank you note/email. Just because an expression of thanks comes from a computer, it’s best not to make it sound automated. You can send a very personable email with your confirmation, and you can even link a “Thank you” video from a board member or one of the beneficiaries to let the donor know about the impact the donation makes. Do not use the default email of any plugin you use. Customize it.
#7 Use WP Mail SMTP Pro to process your transactional emails
The WP Mail SMTP plugin allows you to connect your website with your email service provider rather than using the built-in Mailer configuration. It’s an added cost to hook it all up, but it’s worth the money. Your emails arrive at the recipient’s primary inbox instead of in spam, promotion or updates tabs. Make it part of the requirement documentation for your consultants. Most of my clients only realize this after GoLive.
#8 Find a good versatile form plugin.
Though only 8% of the donations by individuals in the US are made online, it has grown into double-digits in the last four years. It’s a surprising number considering how much time we spend optimizing the process.
Plugins are available to streamline your administrative processes and reduce duplicate data entry for Event Registration, Volunteer applications, etc. Most form plugins also integrate with third-party tools like your email marketing provider, your Google Drive account and others. You might need to test a few to make sure you are able to handle any new form creation in house.
Here is a list of plugins with great documentation and support:
#9 Keep your homepage simple.
Many studies have shown that most people come to your website not through your homepage but through a Google search, a social media link, or an email you sent. What they read and see at this entry point is more important than your homepage design.
I have seen technology teams discuss the homepage over and over again. Discussions should focus on content strategy or donor/volunteer experience. What are the goals of your website? Unless you already have a content-rich site, that topic needs to bubble up to the front burner — content strategy and production are king.
How much of the fancy frontpage design will make it to the mobile view? Use a small logo on the top and have a few menu items. Everything else is content on a small screen. Fancy frames and shadows get in the way of a clean layout.
When we design a website, we revise the homepage design many times throughout the project. After the initial mock-ups, we talk a lot about information architecture, content strategy, landing pages with forms, and registration processes. Form follows function.
Keep in mind your main goals for your website: maintain your current supporters and attract new donors. And like anything worthwhile, a company that invests time and energy into an appealing site will reap the rewards it seeks.
Featured Image: “Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible” by Alfredo Jarr, The Alfond Inn, Winterpark, Florida. Photo by Birgit Pauli-Haack