Your website is the single largest opportunity to reach as many people as possible for your organization. Where else can you directly pitch to 73% of adults in the U.S.¹?
With an audience that big, you'd better make the best of it.
So what makes an effective website? What truly determines a nonprofit website's ability to educate its market, garner donations and inspire involvement? The answer is good branding. Effective branding will enable your market to do three things:
The goal of your organization must feel reachable. In order to get people passionate about a cause, they have to feel as though their contribution (whether that be service-oriented or financial) can make an impact. A mission statement is a macro view of your desire to impact the world. But be sure to offer your readers a micro view of what you hope/need to accomplish to reach your mission.
There has to be a common ground between those serving/giving and those in need. Let's assume, for example, the cost of one latte a week is the same as the mosquito netting that will save a family from the threat of malaria in Africa. The value has now been put into terms that every iPhone-toting college kid in the US can understand.
Organizations like Mocha Club and OneDaysWages have become very successful using parallel connectivity. Once your donor understands the value, they can better justify a giving program.
Like it or not, the new change-driven generation (25-35) and the one following (19-24) have been trained to make a lot of assumptions based on the overall look of a product or service. This goes for causes, too. Look at Blood:Water Mission, charity:water, and TOMS. All three have in common an incredible design aesthetic and are remarkably successful in penetrating their target markets. They're taken seriously because they look serious and they look good. An emphasis on the visual aesthetic of your website builds legitimacy for your organization.
Even in a struggling economy companies like Target and Apple continue to put an emphasis on their visual brand. There's no compromise when it comes to quality either. It should be no different for nonprofit organizations.
So how can you connect with your target market as successfully as TOMS and Target? Here are some small, simple steps that will allow you to connect with your viewers and help your organization's website stand out from the digital crowd:
- Get to the point. Don't overwhelm your readers with too much information. You don't want to be the over-eager sample food peddler at your local mall food court, shouting and shoving your product in people's faces, overwhelming and offending them. Pare down your homepage content and give them a concise, yet clear and accurate taste of what you're about. If you whet their appetite, they'll dig deeper for more information. Same goes for your navigation. Cut it down to 5-7 main links (no drop-downs!) that make the user want to find out more: What We're Doing, Get Involved, etc.
- Organize with a purpose. Your site architecture should take the readers on a path. Information should be organized intentionally so that a potential supporter can effortlessly be educated and pointed to a call to action. Direct their reading and viewing path. Point your readers to the information you want them to know. If you have a page that describes your service trips to Africa, be sure to add an additional link to a schedule of future trips so readers can sign up to volunteer.
- Give them every opportunity to donate and/or get involved. Your donate button should be a mainstay in your header or somewhere consistent on every page. The same goes for newsletter or street team signups. Don't let a donation or volunteer slip by because your readers can't find out how to take action online.
Source: ¹ Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 8-May 11, 2008 Tracking Survey