Make Sure Your Website Meets Donors' Needs
By Tina Cincotti
According to a survey by Donor Trends, even most donors who dont use your websites donation button still make a point of reading your website before deciding whether to write a check.
Here are some recommendations on how to improve the experience of donors, prospects, and foundations that visit your site.
Explain yourself. Your home page must have a compelling, jargon-free, two-second blurb that says who you are and what you do. Anyone who reads it should understand what you're all about right away.
Get emotional. If I go to your website and don't feel anything, chances are you're not getting any money. Show me the work you're talking about. Give me pictures. Give me life-changing stories. Give me a reason to respond.
Make a strong case. Be sure to answer the question, "Why should I give you my money?" Regardless of how deserving you feel your organization is, you must make the case for why you are worth supporting.
Make it easy to find things. If people can't find it fast, they aren't going to stick around. Clear navigation is critical, especially online. Not sure if your navigation is clear? Invite a few people who don't know your organization well (if at all) and haven't been on your site before to come in and play with it. Ask them to find a few things on your site and watch where they go to look for them. You'll learn a lot.
Tell where you spend the money you get from donations. More and more, donors want to know how their contributions will be used. Include expenditure pie charts showing where the money goes. You should also include links to your annual report, your 990s, and your audited financial statements. Virtually no one wants to look at things at this level of detail. But it's the message you're sending that's important: "We have nothing to hide and we're happy to show our books to anyone who wants to see them."
Show that you're credible and legitimate. If you have graphics from Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau, display them prominently on your home page and your donate page. If you don't, then show off some other kind of endorsement from someone outside your organization. Quotes of support or testimonials from supporters outside the organization go a long way.
Name names. List who's on your board and make sure you keep it up to date. The same goes for staff. Listing employees who no longer work there doesn't send a good message. And your staff list should also include phone numbers and email addresses for each person.
Put your contact info on every page. The name of your organization as well as the address, phone number, fax, and an email address should be on the bottom of every page, not just on the contact page.
Keep the site fresh and up to date. If you list your events, newsletters, press coverage, etc., on your site, make sure your last post isn't from 2007. It's equally important to make sure older links throughout your site are still active, so periodically test those as well.
Giving and More
Have a big, bold donate button above the fold. No one should miss your "Donate" button. It should appear on every page and stand out from the rest of the navigation. Visitors should be able to find it in two seconds flat! Anytime someone is moved to give, you want that button to be right there.
Offer safe, secure online giving. Be sure you have encryption technology for donation processing. And display whatever logo or badge says it's secure above the fold on your donation page. It should be one of the first things visitors see.
Give an offline giving option. For people who don't want to donate online, provide a form they can download and mail back to you.
Ask for more than money. No one wants to feel like you're just looking for their money. Give opportunities to volunteer and be involved with your organization beyond just making a donation. But dont do it at the same time or in the same place as your request for donations. This will only confuse things. Make one ask at a time.
Websites to Admire
How does your website measure up? To see some sites that do many of these things quite well, here are a few to look at. They are not perfect, but your organization could do a lot worse than to have a site as good as these. firstname.lastname@example.org.