I recently read a report by Jacob Nielsen called Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities. One of Nielsen’s central conclusions was that too many charities are making it difficult for potential donors to find the information they are looking for on their websites.
According to Nielsen’s research, what most people visiting charity websites want to be able to find easily are, first, the charity’s mission, goals and objectives, and, second, an explanation of how their donations will be used, including what percentage will go directly to the charity’s projects. The research indicates that only 43 per cent of charities provide an answer to the first point on their home pages and only 4 per cent an answer to the second.
This seems a wasted opportunity given that charity websites can be such a valuable tool for reducing the cost of acquiring new donors. While you are checking whether your home page falls into the saint or sinner category, you might also check whether your website includes enough appealing opportunities for people to donate, contact you and engage with your work.
One way to make your website good at acquiring the details of potential new supporters is to have a prominent ‘donate’ button for all your web pages, ideally at the top left of the template. It is important to include calls to give in the text, and also worth having a button for signing up to your charity’s e-newsletter (this could just be a simple email sent to subscribers a few times a year that includes opportunities to donate).
A ‘take action today’ box might include a list of options such as sponsoring a child, signing a petition, helping people affected by the Turkish earthquake and leaving a legacy. Don’t forget that it is also important to have an easy-to-find ‘contact us’ section and a system for asking people who get in touch whether they would like to be kept informed about the charity’s work.
Of course, there’s no point having fantastic content unless you also invest a bit of time in attracting traffic to the website. Why not try advertising for a search engine optimisation volunteer or approach an SEO company about helping your charity on a pro-bono basis?
Charities such as SOS Children are now getting a large proportion of their new child sponsors online. Major donors and people looking to leave gifts to charity in their wills are also increasingly turning to the web to inform their decision-making. So it’s worth taking a bit of time to make sure your website will impress rather than get them thinking "Hmm, maybe not".
Anna Taylor is a freelance fundraiser, writer and researcher, and a former UK director of Child In Need India