The number of nonprofit organizations, NGOs, and charities around the world is ever increasing. As of 2020, there are more than 10 million nonprofits and non-governmental organizations worldwide. While the growth of NGOs is good for the work they’re doing in society, it also means the nonprofit world is becoming more crowded and organizations are finding it more challenging to stand out to their potential donors.
The good news is that with the right efforts, your nonprofit organization can stand out in terms of donor acquisition and donor retention. Before setting up any social media or email campaign, the first step is to build an excellent website for your nonprofit, because this is where your target audience will go to get information about your work.
There are thousands of site-building platforms to help you create a website and go live quickly. But the real question is how to make a fundraising website that stands out.
Remember, through your fundraising website, you are virtually connecting with each potential donor. This might be someone who is already aware of your nonprofit and is looking for more information, or someone who’s completely new. At this point, your website acts as the face of your nonprofit organization and has a tremendous impact on the potential donor’s first impression.
Most nonprofit organizations start their homepage messaging with what they do—the activities they perform as an NGO, their major fundraising campaigns, and so on. This is where the problem starts. What you do as a nonprofit organization is important and should be communicated through your website. But how the message is organized makes a huge difference.
Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why, uses a circle to model an effective message sent from an organization. He calls it “the golden circle,” and it goes like this:
Sinek’s argument is that an organization can gather a huge follower base by communicating from the inside of the circle outward: first why, then how, and then what. For nonprofits, this means waiting to talk about services and fundraising activities until after the reader has a sense of the organization’s driving purpose.
Let’s see how you can apply the principle of the golden circle to your fundraising website and win over your potential donors:
1. Convey your vision clearly
The very first screen of your website is super important, so it’s worth the effort to ensure it’s perfect. This is where readers form their first impression of your organization, and where your potential donors start to decide whether they can trust you. This first screen should clearly explain your why—why your nonprofit exists and what its ultimate objective is. When this message is crisp and clear, you can connect with potential donors on a visceral level, increasing the possibility of them donating.
Here’s a great example of this kind of message:
The very first screen of the Wikimedia Foundation’s website perfectly sums up the reason behind their existence: to make knowledge accessible to all. Anyone who reads this and believes in that cause would want to know more about what Wikimedia does, and how they could be a part of it.
- Use high-quality images for your website.
- If you’re using videos, optimize them to load quickly at low internet speeds. Make sure you preview them on mobile devices to see if they properly fit the screen.
- Avoid flashy popups and advertisements on your website. Though they can grab visitors’ attention momentarily, they won’t help earn your visitors’ trust.
2. Outline your strategies
Right after your website visitors get the answer to “why,” you should answer “how”—how you propose to use strategies and actions to achieve your vision.
For instance, if you are an NGO that focuses on education, your “how” might involve lobbying for funds for underfunded schools, training teachers in areas with low student success, providing tutoring to at-risk students, and offering scholarships.
Outlining your strategies clearly is crucial, because this is where you build trust with people who believe what you believe. This is where they start to understand that you’re not just dreamers, but dreamers with a perfect plan.
Let’s take The END Fund as an example.
By clearly outlining their strategies, they establish trust with their readers, which is crucial for converting readers into donors.
Don’t make this section too text-heavy. If you need to outline multiple strategies, split them into bullet points or very small paragraphs with simple and engaging titles.
3. Share the results
So far, you’ve conveyed the purpose of your nonprofit and the strategies you have in place. Now, you can share the results of your work so far, including any major milestones you’ve crossed.
This serves two purposes. It conveys what you do to support your cause, and it also shows visitors how their monetary contributions will be put to use.
Rotary International’s website sets the bar high here. After conveying their why and how, they showcase their concrete achievements:
The fact that Rotary has immunized over 2.5 billion children against polio, among many other milestones, shows the website visitor that if they donate, their money will be put to good use and they can be a part of a larger cause.
- Use numbers for impact. They’re a powerful way to indicate how much difference you have made in the causes you stand for.
- If your nonprofit organization has earned any accreditation from local or global communities or governments for its fundraising efforts, you can highlight those as well.
4. Share success stories
As any market gets crowded, the consumer is presented with an overwhelming number of options for anything they search for. Here’s where success stories can help you stand out. If you’re a nonprofit that has focused on education for more than a decade, the students who benefited from your fundraising campaigns over the years are real-life examples of your hard work and dedication. Quotes or video testimonials from them on how education has transformed their lives and how your nonprofit has supported them throughout their journey can do wonders in winning over potential donors.
Here’s a powerful example from the American Cancer Society:
You can also consider collecting testimonials from your donors about how efficient your organization is. While your clients can testify to the kind of transformation you bring to society, your donors can vouch for your authenticity. In addition, seeing their quotes published on your website can be a huge motivation for your existing donors—by vouching for you to other donors, they become a part of your core values rather than a mere financial contributor.
Even if your organization is focused on rather serious, upsetting causes, it’s good to showcase positive messages and faces in this section. Showing a positive transformation that inspires hope can motivate more visitors to stand alongside you in your mission.
5. Have a clear call to action (CTA)
You have done the heavy lifting and your fundraising website is almost ready! Now that you’ve convinced the donors that it’s worth supporting what you stand for, it’s time to call them to action.
Make it clear to donors how they can contribute to your organization, and make it easy for them to do it quickly. Some nonprofits only ask for monetary contributions, while some welcome both monetary contributions and volunteers. You can set up this section according to your organization’s specific needs. But make sure there aren’t too many options and buttons in this section—you don’t want donors to get bogged down.
The Wikimedia Foundation has done it perfectly:
Notice two things they’ve done here. One, they’ve reminded the reader why they’re raising funds—it’s because their important projects are powered mainly through donations. And two, they’ve clearly shown how the visitor can donate, with a neat, simple “Donate now” button.
- Placing “Donate” and “Volunteer” buttons on the top menu of your fundraising website makes it easy for visitors who are already aware of what you do and are just looking for ways to contribute.
- Make sure the top menu doesn’t disappear as visitors scroll through the page. If you have multiple pages within your website, they’ll appreciate this quick and consistent navigational menu.
- If your donors will get benefits like tax exemptions from their donations, mention that too.
6. Have a plan B
Some of your website visitors might want to make a donation, but not just yet. If they close your website, intending to come back and donate later, how will you make sure they remember? Because donations are voluntary, you can’t force them to come back, but you can offer them a reminder.
Here, too, the Wikimedia Foundation has done well:
For visitors who choose “Maybe later,” the page provides an option to enter their email address so that they can be reminded later. An email marketing tool can be used to capture these email addresses in a mailing list and send mass email reminders.
7. Display contact information clearly
After directing your visitors toward your goal, it’s good practice to show them how they can reach you. You might want to include your organization’s official email address, a contact phone number, and some social media links. This shows that you’re authentic, and helps your potential or existing donors reach you with any questions they may have.
Use a custom email domain in your contact address rather than a public one. For instance, email@example.com inspires more trust from your donors than firstname.lastname@example.org.
So here’s the structure of your fundraising website:
Other general tips:
- If your organization supports multiple causes and you have a landing page for each cause, be consistent and follow the same order for all of your pages.
- A lot of your potential donors are going to visit your website on mobile devices, so test it out on different mobile platforms to make sure it looks good and loads quickly.
- Some of your visitors might have ideas and suggestions to improve your fundraising efforts or your website, so provide a feedback form where they can pass along their suggestions. For the sake of privacy, avoid asking for personal information such as phone number or email address. The visitors who want you to contact them have other means to reach out directly, by donating or using your listed contact information.
- To avoid spam requests, you can add a mandatory captcha to all your web forms.
Here’s your takeaway:
Since your fundraising website is where you acquire most of your donors, it’s important that your message is communicated clearly and in the most persuasive order: why, how, and then what. Next, a clear call to action and your contact information can help your donors make the right choice to support you. If your website makes a visitor feel that they can become part of a cause bigger than themselves, you’ve just won a donor.