While a charity’s website may not necessarily make them big bucks, not having an appealing and user-friendly site can inhibit the dollars you do attract. Nowadays, a website is like a window to your charity’s soul; so you really need to be mindful of how you’re presenting yourself, your beneficiaries and the work that you do. While I don’t profess to be a website guru, I’ve spent some time over the past decade working with various sized charities on updating, designing and redeveloping their websites, and I usually find that some basic tips are always appreciated.
According to Blackbaud research, while online donations only account for about 7% of ALL charity income, in recent years this type of giving has been growing steadily, with an increase of 8.9% from 2013 to 2014. And not only is more money coming in, but more people are donating. Furthermore, what is most exciting is this same research also suggests small organisations are seeing the biggest growth in online giving. It’s definitely a space we should all want to be in.
Nevertheless, redesigning websites can often be an expensive exercise, and something that may not be high on your charity’s priority list – especially if you are a small organisation with a very limited expenditure budget. The functionality and technology of a site is important, but, to be honest, fancy doesn’t necessarily equal successful. Often it is the content, the way it is presented and the story you tell that can make your site a winner. So, across two Fishy blogs (there was just too much information to fit into one post!) we share with you some of the key tips for making your site most successful and some web design best practices that will help you achieve your online communication and fundraising goals.
Easy to donate
A study by the Nielsen Norman Group a few years back indicated that 17% of charity website visitors couldn’t find the donate button! That’s almost one in five! Really?!? What. Is. Going. On? Surely this should be our number one priority on charity websites?
No matter what mechanism you have in place to take donations online, your home page – or better yet, your website’s header which will appear on every page – should have a very clear donate button. By clicking on that, your supporters should be taken via the most direct route to make a donation.
Queensland’s rescue helicopter service, CareFlight, has been a site I have long admired, and I thought I was a bit biased (as I used to work there many moons ago) until I saw it listed on a 100 great websites site. CareFlight’s home page makes the option of donating very easy. It actually appears twice; once along the banner at the top and as a feature underneath the main image/video, as you can see in the screen shot below.
Mission front and centre
Make sure visitors to your site know within their first 30 seconds of landing on your home page know what your mission is – or in effect – what you do. Don’t be too ambiguous or clever about this. Be proud and loud about stating with intention what difference you are making in the world. You should try to do this with a combination of words and imagery.
The two most important pieces of information that potential supporters look for when visiting your site are what you do and how you use donations. So be sure to tell them this early on.
Beneficiaries are your hero
Your supporters invest in your organisation for one reason only. And that reason has really nothing to do with you. They invest to create a better life for your beneficiaries. Or protect the habitat of a certain animal. Or to change the world for a better future. Whatever that is you need to feature that on your website (and in all your communications really).
You need to make the beneficiaries of your cause, those that will benefit most, whether they are people, animals or forests, the hero of your website. The WWF do this really well. Sure they have some of the most incredibly emotive images to help promote their cause, but the WWF website has featured in various ‘best website’ articles over the past few years. The WWF UK home page has a fabulous ‘Species we’re protecting’ section which really makes the endangered species the heroes. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
Use pictures, not words
As they say, a picture tells a thousand words, and this is as important on your website as any other place. While you will certainly still need words to get your messages across, it’s important to ensure your site doesn’t become too text heavy.
The images you choose can have a great impact on the emotional appeal they create. When using images of people, try to have them looking directly at the camera, where possible and smiling. A happy face suggests your organisation is having an impact and making people happy. Your images don’t have to be at professional photography level, but make sure their main features are showcased well. Sometimes a little bit of cropping of an image doesn’t go astray.
Designed for your visitors
There are many elements of a website that are important and often it is the successful combination of these elements that make it easier for the visitors to your site. One of the biggest elements is the design; and an important design feature is to have a clean layout with, if possible, plenty of white space.
Be mindful of who will be visiting your site; for some organisations this is a combination of supporters and users of your service. UK based cancer charity, Macmillan, does this very well. As you can see in the screenshot below, their home pages has options for all their types of visitors and even a ‘How can we help you today?’ section that when clicked upon, it opens a list for different types of visitors from newly diagnosed cancer patients to health professionals.
So, there you have it. Five of the top tips for making your charity’s website wonderful. We’ll be back next month with another few tips to add to this too. If you aren’t already subscribed to the Fish blogs, you can do so by completing your name and email in the box to the right of this post.
See you in the pond,
The Fish Chick.