Websites are par for the course. Your nonprofit probably already has one, but you may be leaving money on the table if you’re not consistently working on improving your website’s visibility.
Just having a website isn’t enough. You need to go beyond building the initial site to create an effective online destination for your donors, volunteers and supporters, as well as prioritize getting new eyeballs on your content. A strong, carefully crafted website that gets new visitors and consistently brings loyal supporters back can become of your nonprofit’s most powerful tools for increasing awareness and revenue.
Every time someone lands on your nonprofit’s website, they learn about your organization and its cause, which increases awareness. What’s even better, however, is that those visits can lead to increased donations.
In 2016, nonprofits raised $1.19 per website visitor. Some nonprofits, particularly those in the International and Health sectors, far outpaced that. On average, however, that means that for every 1,000 website visitors, your nonprofit will raise $1,190. Compare that to the $36 that nonprofits raise for every thousand fundraising messages delivered and the power of your website becomes abundantly clear.
As you increase website traffic, you’ll increase donations and fundraising revenue. But to do so you need to make your website a priority. Devote time and resources into increasing web traffic, starting with the five steps below.
User experience is essential. Your website should be attractive and easy to navigate, so start improving your web design by eliminating complicated navigation. Limit menus to only one level to avoid confusion, making navigation choices as simple as possible. Then, balance text with images and white space on every webpage to make information easy to consume.
The easier your website is for visitors to navigate and use, the more likely it is that visitors will stay on your site, link back to it on their own websites, or refer their friends to learn more.
Expert Tip: Don’t forget to make your website accessibile for those with visual impairments or visitors who cannot use a keyboard. While some accessibility updates are optional, there are a few that are mandated by law, so keep up with accessibility requirements.
Improving your SEO helps your website gets found by current constituents and potential donors. To get started, focus on these six elements:
URLs – Most content management systems make it easy to change page URLS, so update your URLs to accurately describe the content each webpage. For example, on a webpage with a blog article, the first half of the URL would be your organization’s name and the second half would match the article headline.
Hyperlinks – Remove or update any broken links on your site. You don’t want visitors to struggle with 404 ‘page not found’ errors. Search engines will penalize you for these as well.
Meta Descriptions – Meta descriptions are the teaser content that you see before clicking onto a webpage from a search engine. Optimize your meta descriptions with keywords that accurately describe the content on the page as well as entice people to click.
Alt Text – Add alt text to images and other multimedia content on your webpages. In the alt text, you can either describe the image or include the main point of the content. In either case, be brief. Most alt text can be limited to a single sentence.
Keywords and Topics – The use of keywords in evolving, but include keyword phrases in your URLs, meta descriptions, alt text, and body text. Body text should also include latent semantic index (LSI) keywords, which are similar to your main keyword and give search engines more details on your topic. LSI keywords tell Google whether you’re talking about cars the automobile or Cars the animated movie, for instance. Here’s a great LSI keyword tool to help you get started. Just remember that, above all, your content should be readable. If in doubt about adding a keyword, leave it out in favor of readability.
Dwell Time – A combination of bounce rate and time on page metrics, dwell time helps search engines determine how helpful and relevant your content is to visitors. Good dwell times are typically in minutes, while dwell times of just a few seconds may negatively affect your SEO. Increase your dwell time by making your website more engaging. Create relevant content and provide interactive activities for visitors to do, such as clicking on calls-to-action, interacting with other visitors, or posting questions in discussion forums.
There’s no reason for people to visit your website if the content isn’t helpful. So create content that’s relevant to your visitors and encourages them to learn more. The best way to do this is by telling stories.
Stories are easier to remember than information that’s presented on your own, which means you should format your content into stories that visitors relate to. How does your organization’s mission affect website visitors? How have your donors and members helped you make an impact? Tell stories about your nonprofit and its projects that draw people in and appeal to their emotions. Make your visitors happy, sad, or angry as a way of holding their attention, being memorable, and inspiring action. St. Baldrick’s, a national cancer research foundation, does a good job of this.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of storytelling as well. Images, slideshows, podcasts, and videos are all powerful ways to get your audience’s attention. Just look at how successful Instagram and Snapchat are. Follow their example and include multimedia content on your website.
Website promotion doesn’t have to be expensive. You can promote your website for free using your social media accounts. Start by including a link to your website in the bio or ‘about us’ section of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Then, send out periodic updates that lead people back to your website to learn more or get an update on influential projects.
You can also use paid promotions to get more eyes on your website. Sponsored ads on social media and search engines work well for this. For instance, it’s cheap and easy to promote educational content (like blog posts) on Facebook that leads viewers back to your website. Most paid promotions will also allow you to narrow down your target audience so you get more relevant, higher quality website traffic.
Only 1.2 percent of website visitors will make a donation to your nonprofit. To encourage the rest of them to contribute you need to nurture them over time, meaning that you need people to come back to your website more than once.
To encourage repeat website visits, give people a reason to come back by regularly posting updates on your organization and its projects. Use text, images, and video to make these updates more engaging, and relate them to your visitors whenever possible.
You can also create an interactive website with a public and member-only section. Include activities like writing blogs, connecting with other supports or donors, and signing up for live and digital events. These activities give new visitors something to do and a reason to come back to your website. They also help engage your already loyal supporters.
Expert Tip: Every organization is different, so experiment with public and private content on your website. When content is public, it gives you an SEO boost and draws visitors into your active community. However, when content is private and visitors need to log in to see discussions and post blogs, then you give them a reason to donate or join your nonprofit’s list of supporters. Both situations give visitors a reason to return to your website consistently over time.
Your website is your most readily-available resource to help people who are interested in your organization learn more about your cause and your projects. The more people hear about you and land on your website, the more likely it is that you’ll gain valuable donors to finance your projects.
But you have to treat your website like a tool, not a static piece of collateral. Regularly track website traffic to learn how and why visitors use your site, then update content so it’s relevant to visitors. When you combine metrics with helpful content and interactive activities that speak to your audience’s emotions, your website will help your nonprofit raise the awareness and funds it needs to make an impact.