Your nonprofit’s website can be a powerful, strategic tool. Unlike the days of brochure-like static pages, home pages now have the potential to win over potential supporters and reaffirm the folks who already know you.
When you boil it down, websites do not just sit on a server-they are action-oriented. They persuade and (hopefully) convert. And for the latter-in terms of raising money online-your website has the most potential with two groups of donors: new donors and impulse givers.
When these newbies visit your website, what do they see? What’s their experience with your navigation and donation processes. According to recent research, nonprofits could be leaving as much as 10 percent of their online revenue on the table simply due to two website usability issues: content and design.
Read on for the five content and design flubs to avoid when you aim to convert browsers into donors:
- A lack of call-to-action. The number one thing to avoid when asking for donations on your website is to forget to make the ask! (Yes, this is also on our list of “website do’s,” but it’s important enough to mention at least twice.) If you don’t ask for donations, website visitors might think you don’t need them. Yes, it’s almost laughable to us in the nonprofit world, but Web-savvy surfers assume that if something’s missing, it’s intentional.
- Jargon breath. (No, this has nothing to do with the take-out you had for dinner last night.) “Jargon breath” refers to a tendency by communicators-particularly in the nonprofit sector-who rely on a particular vernacular of terms to try to educate others about their mission and programs (“services,” “accessible,” “at risk,” etc.). But, as Tom Ahern, an authority on effective donor communications, so lovingly points out, “jargon just conjures confusion and blank mental screens.” Go over your website copy with a fine-toothed comb, and perhaps a friend who doesn’t work at your nonprofit, and flesh out what your organization really does. Show people and explain in real terms. (Learn more below “Related Articles” when you scroll down.)
- Unintuitive navigation. This fix could be as simple as changing the text on your navigation’s buttons. Is your donate text hidden behind an “about us” button? Are you asking people to “join” you, but your home page doesn’t indicate that you’re a membership organization? It may be time to break out the “Grandma-intern-or-significant-other” test: Sit someone down in front of your website and watch them navigate around your site. Try to quiz them to find certain areas and probe them for feedback. Whether the person’s a Web designer or a teen who spends an hour on Facebook every day, you’ll be sure to glean some important info.
- Inconsistency with the mother ship. Of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S., most are small, one-location shops with small budgets (but big hearts). However, if your nonprofit is part of a national or international network, you’ll want to avoid completely flying off the brand handle when you’re working on your local website. You may have great design resources and a quirky new take on your organization, but you want to make sure site visitors (i.e. potential supporters) easily make the connection between your site and the national one they may be familiar with already.
- Confusing, third-party donation processing. Make it as easy as possible for supporters to donate to your cause. They’re trusting your organization with their hard-earned cash, as well as your website with their credit card. According to Network for Good’s own research, branded donation pages like Custom DonateNow bring in a higher average donations ($125) and improve the donor experience. (Improvement refers to shortening time to complete the transaction, lessening the number of clicks and giving the feeling that a supporters has not left the nonprofit’s website.)