Editor’s Note: While the tips in this article are geared towards nonprofits, the strategies outlined can be used by everyone from ecommerce businesses to SaaS companies, education sites, and more.
As November and the holiday season approaches, we naturally think about spending quality time with our family, friends and co-workers. (And of course, food!) We count our blessings and give thanks. And if you’re like many people I know, we think about those who are less fortunate or in need.
During this season of giving, many of us consider making donations or volunteering for organizations or causes that are important to us. And there are abundant causes and organizations that can benefit from our generosity. Year-end giving accounts for a large portion of overall annual donation dollars, which is why Giving Tuesday (the first Tuesday after American Thanksgiving) is such an important event.
Yet, fundraising for nonprofit organizations can be challenging.
As donors, how do we decide which charities, nonprofits, and causes to give to?
Of course, many of us have a few organizations that we consistently give to, but for those who seek additional causes to support, how can these organizations rise above the fray and effectively communicate the importance of donating to their cause? How can nonprofits increase online donations?
Here at Northwoods, we work with a variety of nonprofits and 501(c)(3) organizations on their website and digital initiatives. These organizations by and large rely on donations of time and money to be successful in continuing their causes and missions.
Over the years, we have consistently found that a majority of nonprofit websites do not do a good job of illustrating why and how donations help. They lack well-defined, consistent content about their mission, their values, and the successful outcomes that are realized as people or corporations support their causes.
In short, they don’t tell stories and offer proof of the good works they do.
Many simply have a “Donate” button that takes the user to a third-party donation software tool that often abruptly alters the user experience and doesn’t explain how their donations are being used. Given these challenges, how can nonprofits address them in order to maximize year-end giving?
First, Begin with the End in Mind
We advise all of our clients to benchmark their website performance to understand how users navigate their sites.
We begin this process by asking, “what are your website objectives”? “What is it that you want users to do”? “What are your goals”?
In working with dozens of nonprofits, we have consistently heard the following regarding their organizational and website goals, which often align:
- Increase donations
- Sell products/services
- Register/sign-up for events
- Find/recruit volunteers
- Engage the community
- Advocate for our cause
- Build awareness
- Inform the media, our members and our Board
Determining your goals up front will create the strategic roadmap you need to successfully achieve them.
Evaluate Your Mission
The next step is to evaluate your mission. After all, a clearly articulated mission will allow potential donors and volunteers to easily understand who you are and what you stand for to determine if your mission and values align with theirs.
If your mission and values are not clearly articulated, or if they are fuzzy and hard to find, users who are not familiar with you will move on from your site quickly.
Are you doing a good job of highlighting a clearly articulated mission?
The Content Marketing Institute has a variety of free tools, templates and tips on how nonprofits can develop an editorial mission statement and content editorial calendars. An editorial mission statement can help organizations clearly define:
- Who you are as an organization?
- Who you are trying to reach?
- How you are going to reach them?
- What do you want to accomplish and why?
- A single, consistent tone of voice
- How to develop personas – the users you want to target and the content they seek
Developing an editorial mission statement does not have to be overly complex; but, once documented, the entire organization will have a playbook to develop consistent content across all touchpoints.
Most importantly, by virtue of this process you will clearly articulate what your objectives and goals are! Consistency in your messaging is key. And, by the way, a tagline is NOT an editorial mission!
Focus on Storytelling
Once you have fine-tuned your editorial mission, you’re ready to develop a calendar to publish content across your various digital channels. By developing personas, you can craft content that speaks to the variety of audiences you have defined within your editorial mission.
Understanding your audiences will assist you in developing stories that are pertinent to THEM. Success stories help your audience connect with your cause.
When you think about it, the emotional connection you establish through authentic storytelling is what compels people to take an interest in why and how you are making a difference.
Utilize Digital Tools
Free tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Tag Manager allow organizations to understand user behavior and how users interact with content on your website.
Many websites use Google Analytics, but few utilize Search Console and Tag Manager to understand additional aspects of their site and/or how to set up goals and track them. Google provides a wealth of information about their tools and how to implement and use them on their support center.
Heatmaps, when used with Google tracking tools, offer a deeper understanding of how users navigate your site. Heatmaps are visual representations of how users interact with content, what they click on (or not), and how far they scroll to engage with content on a page.
We’re fans of Crazy Egg here at Northwoods. We consider it an affordable, robust, easy-to-use heatmapping tool that can provide critical benchmarking data on user behavior, click and scroll patterns, browser usage, and much more.
Editor’s note: Thank you Northwoods! Interested in giving us a go? Try our 30-day free trial and see how you can boost your website engagement.
Using these tools, you can determine if and how people are consuming your content. For example, The United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County determined that users were not receiving enough information about the vast array of services they offer.
Based on data analysis, including examining their heatmaps, they shifted their strategy to feature their blog more prominently on their site. The reason for this is that their blog articles focused on positive outcomes as a result of their good works.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask People to Donate as Much as They Can – and Show Them Why
The United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County also developed a donation “Impact Calculator,” which clearly demonstrates how each donation benefits those in need.
The Impact Calculator allows donors to select a one time, weekly, twice monthly, or monthly gift at various dollar levels. By showcasing how donations are applied and what impact the donation has, the donor is able to connect directly with the impact their gift has.
By demonstrating the impact, donors can select various dollar levels to understand how they are helping. And because people by their very nature want to help those in need, the dollar level of any potential donation might increase.
A user may ask themselves: “If $25 can purchase two classes to improve parenting skills, what might $50 be able to do”? By telling stories and offering tangible proof of how effective donating can be, The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County has improved their online fundraising.
Without understanding how they could improve, they may never had made this strategic shift to accomplish their goals.
Here’s a brief checklist to make sure your website is as donor-friendly as possible:
- Tell your story with a video and/or photo gallery
- Tell your story in a narrative
- Explain the problem you are trying to solve with simple graphics
- Optimize your content for the web – make it search engine friendly
- Make sure you have clear calls-to-action on every page
- Show your work
- Show what you are doing with the funds that are donated
- Offer multiple ways to give, and explain each option
- Show proof that donations make a difference
Streamline Your Digital Efforts
Most nonprofits have limited budget and limited staff to manage all of their digital marketing (and other) work. However, there are many tactics you can employ to assist in multiplying your message to get the word out.
Check out Charity: Water for example. This nonprofit focuses on providing access to clean water for everyone around the world. And yes, this is a huge organization that is well-funded and as a result, has means at their disposal that many organizations do not. But, some of the strategies and tactics they employ on their site can be applied to almost any organization in any vertical.
Charity: Water tells great stories, and they describe in detail how their fundraising efforts benefit the communities they enrich. They show proof of their good works with case studies, photos, and statistics. They outline in detail how the money they raise is applied to developing clean water and how clean water has positively impacted their beneficiaries. And, among other things, they have social media tools that can be downloaded and used by advocates to help multiply their message in social channels.
Charity: Water provides all manner of resources that are free and easy to download, including video, Facebook timeline photos, and Twitter backgrounds.
The advantage of having these types of assets available for your advocates are twofold: first, they are free and available for anyone to use, and, second, they are branded to ensure consistency in messaging and look and feel. You, too, can make these types of assets available for your supporters and users.
Give Your Audience What They Need
Potential nonprofit donors want to understand your mission and values. They want to know what you stand for, what their money is going toward, and how it is helping.
So, during this time of giving, give your users what they want in order for them to give you what you need – what your mission and values are, an understanding of the good works you do, and what their dollars can do to make a difference. Utilize storytelling. And make it easy for them to interact with your cause and those you serve.
If you’d like to learn more, join Northwoods for a free webinar, Strategies for Maximizing Giving Tuesday, on Nov. 13, 10-11 a.m. CT. Get additional details and register here.
Have a peaceful and rewarding holiday season. And remember those in need on Giving Tuesday!