So you go to your organization’s website. Just to browse. Then you suddenly realize … this was built in 2007 and is basically a fossil. An actual, HTML/Flash-based fossil of the World Wide Web. As much as we would all like to think so, your website is not a “set it and forget it” thing. It is your online reputation. Over 50% of donors visit an organization’s website before deciding to give. It’s a reflection of your mission, your authenticity, and your legitimacy as a nonprofit. That website you built in 2007 (or frankly, 2016) is not going to cut it in 2017. Digital marketing is changing so fast that this blog post will probably be out of date soon, too.
Ideally, you have someone on staff adding content to your website, regularly, optimizing for search and user experience, updating information and web tech as needed. If not that, hopefully, you have an agency partner who can do this for you. But even in these two scenarios, making major changes to your website, or building a new one entirely, can cost big bucks. Don’t get me wrong — this is one of the best investments you can make for your fundraising program as a whole (on AND offline). It doesn’t matter how beautiful your emails are, how engaged you are on social media, or how wonderful your organization is — if you drive donors to a website that isn’t crisp, clean, user-friendly, updated, and relevant to your audience, that disconnect will cause your donors to run.
In the event that you don’t have a devoted web person on staff and can’t invest in a brand new site at this time, here is what you CAN do to ensure your website is as good as it can be (while you save up your money to make the big changes you need to make). I recommend that you do a mini-audit of your site. And if that’s too ambitious, at least do an audit of your donation process. Take off your marketer or development director hat and approach your organization as a potential first-time donor or ask a friend in your donor demographic to give you feedback.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the easy changes you can make to your site to make sure it’s primed and ready to welcome any and all digital visitors.
1) What is your goal for your website?
This isn’t technically a change to make, but more like a mindset with which to address these other changes that I’m suggesting. If your goal is to relay information about your organization, OK. But more than likely, your goal is (or should be) fundraising. You may use “conveying information” as a tactic to fulfill that goal, but try to identify the true main purpose for having your website. Once you define your purpose, make changes to enhance it.
2) Image Quality
Even if you only have one homepage banner (versus a rotating banner), it needs to be high resolution and high quality. It also needs to be actionable, with a true Call to Action that is clear, concise, and directional. And it needs to be clickable. This is THE most prominent piece of real estate on your site. Take advantage of it. Whether it is a fundraising message or a “Click here to learn more about us” opportunity, maximize that visibility and use eye-catching photos or graphics that are relevant to your mission and to your audience. A fuzzy image or a great image that does not give direction or guidance to a prospective donor is a huge missed opportunity.
3) Check Links
This might take a minute, but go through your homepage and click on every link. Every single link. There are quicker ways to do this, but I advocate for doing it the old fashioned way. Get into your site, act like a user. Do the links work? Does it go where you want it to? Do they lead to outdated pages? Are the correct words or images hyperlinked?
4) Check for Redundancies
Do you have an About Us page, and a separate Our Mission page, and a separate Our History page, and a separate Who We Are page, and a separate See Our Board Members page? Do they all have a paragraph or less of text/imagery on them? Combine then. No one gives awards for Sites with the Most Pages. It’s a common misconception that the more you have, the better for SEO purposes. It is much more important to have the right content — the content your users want to see. Don’t focus your efforts on content for content’s sake. Think like a user or donor. Prioritize the content that is important to them and to your organization. Then take that content and optimize it for SEO. It is possible. Act with the user experience in mind. Google will thank you for it.
5) Legitimacy Tweaks
6) Social Media
If you’re going to have your social media links on your site (and you should), make sure they link correctly. But more importantly, make sure they open up into a new tab or window, instead of leading users away from your site. Facebook, YouTube, etc., are known as “walled gardens,” meaning once you’re in, you’re unlikely to leave. Once you’re lost in the cat videos and status updates, you rarely remember what you were doing on that nonprofit site you went to. While there is little you can do about walled gardens, you can at least ensure that if someone clicks off of your homepage, they have an easy way to get back.
Bonus Item: If you have video content (and I hope you do), embed that video into a page on your site. Don’t use a hyperlink to send people to YouTube or Vimeo to view the video. You will lose them.
Do you have a volunteer opportunity at your organization? Do you want people to sign up to receive emails? Make it easy for users to engage with you this way by having a sign up form for these things on your site at minimum. Or, have a sign up form that pops up within the homepage interface (ideally) when you click on a certain image or link, so they do not have to leave your homepage to sign up. There are widgets for that!
This is an easy one. Make sure that the information on your site, specifically about your organization, is accurate. Type your organization name into Google. Does the listing that comes up have accurate information (phone number, physical address, hours of operation, etc., etc.)? On your site, do you still have ex-board members or staff members featured? Do you still have a Christmas offer prominently featured on your homepage … in June? Is your Events page current?
Grab your phone (and your iPad) and make sure your website looks OK on them. Make sure a donate button is among the first few things you see. Make sure the font size and spacing is large enough for large fingers and older people.
Bonus item: In the past three years, the percentage of seniors preferring to donate online increased 92%*. So, keep that in mind for spacing, wording, and text size.
10) Donation Process
Pretend to be a new donor. Or better yet, find a friend who hasn’t donated to your organization and ask them to audit your donation process. It should not take more than two clicks to get to a donation form. And that form needs to give every possible assurance of privacy and security of information. It should also look just like your website. Even though they will most likely be using a different platform than your website, donors should feel that the donation process is an extension of their online experience with your organization. There should be no ERROR messages or formatting problems during this process. The second someone encounters some wonky code or formatting, or an error message, they will not donate. They will have lost all confidence in the safety and security of their online information.
There are dozens of other small changes you can make to improve your website. Consider speaking with a digital strategist at Grizzard about conducting a full User Experience Analysis!
*2016 Grizzard DonorGraphicsTM Study