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How to Show You’re on the Ball

Another reason to lavish your website with love and care is that pretty much anyone who’s half thinking about contributing money (or time, for that matter) to your organization is going to head straight to your homepage to do some research. Visitors will want to see signs that your group is trustworthy and well-run. If it’s July and your homepage is all about last year’s Thanksgiving coat drive, people might wonder if you’re even around anymore. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.

Also, put yourself in your visitors’ shoes. Ask yourself why people come to your website. What do they want to read or learn about? That’s quite a different approach than just providing information you want them to know.

Here are some must-haves for an effective nonprofit website:

  • Up-to-date content that instantly conveys what your organization does. Visitors don’t want to plod through jargon or academic text. Make it easy to understand, and let your organization’s personality come through!
  • A moving story with a dramatic photo of someone you’ve helped. This should be the centerpiece that draws people in and lets them feel the impact of what you do (Figure 4.2). Remember what we said in Chapter 3: Giving is emotional. (See the sidebar for some storytelling pointers.)

    Figure 4.2

    Figure 4.2. A photo that elicits an emotional reaction is a powerful tool for connecting with your website visitors.

    Credit: Liana Aghajanian/CC-BY-SA-3.0

  • Your address and phone number on every page, and complete contact info for your staff.
  • A big, easy-to-find Donate button, ideally on the same spot on every page of your website. Tell visitors the difference their donation will make (“$25 will buy a nutritious lunch for 33 children.”)
  • An automated thank-you email to confirm donations.
  • An address and downloadable donation form for people who prefer to give by mail.
  • Clear information about where donations go—specific programs, people, or activities.
  • Testimonials and ratings, such as from GuideStar and Charity Navigator.
  • Information about how to get involved other than by donating. Can visitors volunteer? Make a gift? Conduct a drive? Attend an event?
  • Links to your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media pages.
  • A list of your board members.

After you’ve whipped your homepage into supporter-worthy shape, it’s also worth your while to spend a little time on your donation page. According to Network for Good, its charity customers received significantly more donations and higher gifts when they put their own branding on their donation form, rather than using a generic form with Network for Good’s branding (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3. In 2011, Network for Good saw a 4 percent increase in average gift size for charities with a branded donation page, versus a 2 percent increase for those with a generic page.

Source: Network for Good

By now you should sense the importance of your website, and realize that keeping it fresh is a priority. Your Facebook and Twitter pages will take some tending too, so you’ll need to decide if you have the resources to do them right. If you want to maximize your nonprofit presence on the Web, go to Chapter 9 for more on social media fundraising.

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