How to do that? With a great website.
In a little over a decade, the Internet has entirely reconstructed the channels of traditional communication, evolving constantly with an ever-evolving world. Today, a website serves not only as a borderless, limitless and timeless information sharing portal, but as the very extension of the organisation it represents. Within its simplistic framework, it effectively embodies both the face and the heart of the organisation as well as generating business, addressing queries, providing clarifications and maintaining records.
For non-profit organisations in particular, websites can serve as a powerful tool for campaigns to raise awareness, mobilize funding and catalyze change, if utilized effectively. In fact, the potential of an intelligent website and its role in fundraising and social change communication is often undervalued or unrealised and, consequently, untapped. Following are some insights into ways to turn your website from a passive information provider to a resourceful and interactive stimulator of interest and action.
1. Be prepared to be judged by your cover
How important is it to have a great design for your website? More than you might think. Once the link to your website is punched into a browser, it is only a matter of few minutes before you create that very important first impression. However, a great design is not only about great aesthetics. A website is essentially a reflection of the values, principles and objectives of your organisation, and must therefore accurately capture the essence of who you are and what you believe in. A website for a non-profit organisation must clearly spell out the causes for which the organisation stands and contain a strong element of human appeal. Content should be kept simple, straightforward and be consistent throughout the site. Good photographs can speak volumes if it strikes the right nerve. Many nonprofits use statistics or direct quotes from target beneficiaries to grab the viewers’ attention to a specific cause. The right use of colour, photographs and content can help establish the solid groundwork required to give your viewers a glimpse of who you are and direct them towards necessary action.
2. Evoke trust and reliability
It is of paramount importance for a website to be able to strike a positive rapport with its visitors, particularly when it serves the purpose of fundraising. What do website visitors want to see? They want to see your passion and commitment. They want to see your confidence and capability. They want to see you as a reliable and trustworthy place to donate their funds and to see evidence of those funds being used properly. A prominent “DONATE” button on the website’s Home Page can direct interested donors to more information about the causes and ways to donate funds. One-to-one sponsorships where donors are linked directly with beneficiaries are also good ways to enable donors to see how their funds are being used and feel good about it. Using images and case studies that pull the right strings support the reasons behind donating, for example photos of malnourished children, families during disasters etc. are all convincing ways to attract donations.
3. The key to good content
There may be many good practices and programs that nonprofit organisations wish to highlight on their website. However, it is important to keep in mind that too much information can often overwhelm or lose your reader’s attention. Instead, make a concise list of what you consider to be your organization’s best practices, values and approaches and convey that through short, to-the-point sentences that are factual and not “fluffy.” Addressing the reader in the first person is also a good way to establish a personal connection with the reader and helping him/her to believe in a cause and connect with it in a way that motivates the reader to get involved.
4. Make every view count
Once a donor is ready to donate funds for a specific cause they should find the process to be as simple and gratifying as possible. Start with the donation form, which should ask for minimum personal information since people are generally not comfortable sharing too much personal information online. Research has revealed that suggesting specific amounts for donations are also appreciated by most donors. Providing a range of amounts is also a good way to secure funding from different types of donors, from individuals, to groups and corporate. “Crowdfunding” operates on this very principle of generating greater volume of donations from a larger pool rather than large amounts from a smaller pool. Statements such as “With just 500 Taka a month you can make sure a child does not go hungry” can help your readers realise that it is not necessary to donate large amounts to make a difference and step forward.
5. Build on the user experience
The UX of a nonprofit’s website matters twice as much as any other company simply because their focus is to bring givers, and not receivers looking for information only. As these organizations are usually flooded with events, it is extremely important that their clients are aware of the steps to create new events and manage it accordingly. An automated calendar will help both the client and their visitors to book for their events, while landing pages dedicated for registration and form submissions will ease all processes of volunteer engagement . Since storytelling is a huge part of a nonprofit’s profile, it must be seen that content management system of the site, i.e. the uploading and updating of pictures and videos has been looked after. Lastly, if there is a certain fundraising event or campaign that is running successfully, it should be highlighted in the homepage accordingly to invite more donors.
Before the site gets launched, the developers need to do a test-run on the usability of the website by putting themselves in the shoes of their clients for a change. The teams working for nonprofits, especially the small organizations, are usually not adept with the skills to maintain websites or have any members who work in a relevant post.
6. Stay connected. Stay current
A donation should not be considered the end of an operation, but the beginning of a continuous process. Once a donation has been made the connection with the donor should be maintained and nurtured. Enhancing the donors experience is important in motivating the donor to keep up the practice of donating for various causes. NPOs can do this by sending newsletters, notes from sponsored beneficiaries, photos etc. which enables the donor to see how the funds have been used and stay informed enough to make future donations.
Apart from donations, the website should offer other ways for people to get involved. Donation of goods (e.g. warm clothes/blankets during winter etc.) may be encouraged as well. Volunteers should also be guided to help get involved with specific campaigns. At the end of the day, your website should serve as a friendly and helpful guide for anyone who seeks information about what you do, be it a donor, a researcher, an activist or a curious individual. However, every single view of your page brings with it an exciting range of possibilities which are well worth exploring. And it all begins with a great website.