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3 Tips for Driving Donor Engagement Through Your Web Design

• nonprofit website • Donor engagement • donor retention
Ellen Bristol

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles out there about forming a general strategy for donor engagement. However, very few take into consideration that every organization is different. Cookie-cutter solutions just won’t cut it for most organizations. We recently formed a partnership with Morweb, an innovative company specializing in website design and management specifically for nonprofit organizations.

Morweb founder Murad Bushnaq wrote this blog post for us. See his bio and photo at the end of this post.

Your organization needs a strategy that is specifically designed for your needs. To do that, we need to take a good hard look at the data, which is why MorWeb partnered with Bristol Strategy Group to get an in-depth perspective on creating an effective donor engagement strategy.

The first place you should look to create or revitalize your strategic plan is your nonprofit’s website. Your website is where supporters go to learn more about your mission, see updates from your organization, and donate to your cause. Therefore, to keep them coming back for repeat donations, you need to capture their attention through an excellent online presence.

In order to boost donor engagement through your web design, be sure to follow these points when creating your strategic plan:

  1. Conduct software and donor research.

  2. Customize your website.

  3. Provide effective donation opportunities.

If you are looking to construct (or improve) your fundraising engagement strategy, reworking your organization’s website design is a great place to begin. Let’s dive into our first tip!

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1. Conduct Software and Donor Research

Before kickstarting your website redesign, you’ll need to conduct research about software options as well as about your donors to create an effective plan.

You’ve started your research with this article, but don’t forget to dive deeper into specifics about your content management system (CMS), templates, and constituent needs. Between the research for your nonprofit’s software and research about your supporters, you should form a great foundation to take on designing your site.

Software Research

Consider the needs of your team when choosing a software provider for your website builder. The first step to researching nonprofit software is to make a list of the functionality your team requires when it comes to designing and managing a website, and how the provider can fill that need. For instance, your list might include the following points:

  • Most nonprofit professionals are not tech experts, so choosing a non-technical CMS will enable you to bypass difficult coding and web development processes.

  • It can be difficult to know which website features are essential for nonprofits, so choose a CMS that is built specifically for nonprofit organizations.

  • You may not want all of your team members to have access to every part of your website, so choose a CMS with user permissions so only certain people can make updates.

  • Consider integrations. If your organization uses donor management software or a CRM, you will want a CMS that is capable of integrating with these platforms.

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Morweb’s guide to CMS website design is a great launching pad for further research into features for your nonprofit website builder.

Creating this list based on informative research will help you prioritize the essentials to look for in a software provider. Your site needs to be easily customizable and updated by your team members, so look for these opportunities from the very start.

Donor Research

In addition to conducting research about your organization’s technical needs, remember to start researching how to appeal to the needs of your target audience: your donors.

One of the top “commandments” featured by Bristol Strategy Group is “Thou shalt ALWAYS have an up-to-date donor profile.”

If you follow this commandment, then your donor profiles are a great resource for your research.

You can analyze aspects of this profile like:

  • How have your donors given to your organization in the past? Do they give through online donation pages? Email donation buttons? As a result of personal relationships with gift officers? Trends in this data will show the elements to emphasize on your site for increased donor engagement.

  • How do donors feel about your organization as a whole? This data can come from direct surveys to people in your donor database, and feedback from gift officers, board members and other peers. These responses can help make your website more donor-centric by catering to their needs. For instance, if your donors want to know more about membership options, you may choose to make this more prevalent on your site.

Once you have sufficient donor research, you have the ability to customize your site to best appeal to your donors. This data will help you decide which call-to-actions to include on your homepage, such as a “Donate” button or “Join” to direct them to your membership opportunities.

Another place to start this research is to look at the best designed nonprofit websites from similar organizations. When you look analytically at websites from similar organizations to yours, you’ll see which features they prioritize for their constituents. More than likely, you’ll want to implement similar features on your own site.

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2. Customize Your Website

Site customization is where you really get to visually draw in your donors. Your research has helped you choose an easy-to-use website builder and prioritize the features that your constituents need. Now, you can tailor your web design to fit your organization.

The first step to customizing your website is to incorporate your organization’s branding into your web design. Be sure to choose two or three colors that best represent your organization and use them sparingly throughout your website.

Having a consistent color scheme makes your brand more memorable and provides a more polished and professional user experience. Incorporate these colors in design elements such as call-to-action buttons to entice users to click to other pages of your website. You’ll want to reserve one color for your main call-to-action button such as your “Donate” button (red or orange works best!).

The second step to customizing your nonprofit website is to make sure it is mobile optimized. 52% of users claim that they are less likely to engage with an organization whose site provides a poor mobile experience. Large images that are slow to load, an interface that is not tap or swipe friendly, or a complicated menu that is hard or fidgety to use, all contribute to a poor experience for mobile users. You can prepare for these visitors by using website templates that are already mobile optimized. Morweb’s nonprofit website templates are fully responsive so they automatically adjust to the user’s screen size.

The third step to customization is installing marketing tools for your organization. You may decide to improve engagement through online forms (to capture more email addresses or inquiries), through social media integrations or social feeds (to get more followers), or other means that are likely to intrigue your donor base.

Finally, be sure you have access to add-on modules that you need for effective fundraising, event management, and private pages for members or staff. These add-ons may be immediately applicable for your organization, or something to consider down the line. Either way, look into those offered through your CMS, then consider the needs of your donors before installing them.

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If your website builder doesn’t offer these customization options, you may need to rethink your chosen CMS. If this is the route you choose, consider the providers featured by other trusted organizations.

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3. Provide Effective Donation Opportunities

Fundraising always seems a tad uncertain. But a little bit of uncertainty can be a good thing because it means you’re reaching out to new audiences. However, too much uncertainty and you could be missing out or overspending on your fundraising strategy.

This means you can stand to take a little bit of risk and try new fundraising techniques in hope of a greater return. However, don’t try to fix what isn’t broken in your strategy. Try opening up new channels of giving through your website and see what’s effective. You can always adjust your strategy later on based on the results.

eCommerce

One of the first donation opportunities you may consider opening up to your donors is an eCommerce store. This enables your organization to sell custom swag directly from your site and raise money in return for cool products. It’s a win-win!

If this idea appeals to you, be sure to choose a CMS with the functionality for online shopping. Keep in mind that this feature might be in the form of an add-on!

Although it’s possible to use an outside source to set up this storefront, your donors may find it unsettling to be redirected to a third-party site to make a purchase. A built-in eCommerce store on your website is more credible because donors have already established trust with your organization.

You may consider selling different items such as:

  • Branded water bottles.

  • Custom t-shirts designed specifically for your organization.

  • Seasonal wear such as flip flops, ball caps or toques.

  • Keychains or cell phone accessories as a smaller item that your organization can feature.

You’ll want to make sure each item is branded to your nonprofit organization so that each one can act as an effective marketing tool in addition to raising funds. Second, be sure you design them to appeal to your specific target audience.

Donation page

Online donation pages are no longer optional for nonprofits, they’re a necessity. 72% of nongovernmental organizations accept online donations through their website according to the Public Interest Registry and Nonprofit Tech for Good.

Many organizations offer this option because it really works. Don’t forget that it’s most effective to include this feature directly on your website. Just like with an eCommerce storefront, you’re likely to see more people abandon their transaction if they are redirected to a third party site to pay.

When designing your donation page, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Don’t make it difficult to donate. Keep the form questions short and quick to answer.

  • Include a condensed version of your mission to remind people why they’re donating.

  • Keep the brand consistent with the rest of your site to retain your donor’s trust.

  • Limit the donation page to one page. If it’s too lengthy, more people will leave.

  • Use impactful language for the “submit” button. Try something like “Donate Now” to create a sense of urgency.


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Cleaning up your donation page will help improve your conversion rate by encouraging more completed donations to your cause. If you don’t yet have a donation page, be sure to rework your website to include this feature for astronomically higher donation rates.


The Gist

Your website is a powerful tool for driving donor engagement. You can capitalize on this potential by creating an effective donor engagement strategy.

It all starts with the right research. Research your nonprofit organization’s software needs as well as the needs of your donors. Next, you’ll want to customize your web design based on your research analysis. Effective donor research will offer insights into which features to highlight on your website. Lastly, optimize your donation page to provide effective donation opportunities. The easier it is for your website visitors to give to your cause, the more completed donations you will receive.

Be sure you are prepared for the times to change. Technology may become more advanced and your organization may grow. Create a website that will adjust with the times. Make regular updates and choose a provider who will keep up.

As your organization experiences these changes, make necessary adjustments to your engagement strategy. But, the more proactive you are with your site design now, the more prepared you’ll be for the future.

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Murad Bushnaq, Founder and CEO of Morad Media and Morweb, is a man of many hats. Since its inception in 2004, Murad has acted as Creative Director, Technologist and creative problem solver. He is dedicated to helping nonprofits and associations to grow their online presence with Morweb, a robust website platform and content management system.

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