December 21, 2014


Ideas that work: Growing your website

Allison Van Diest

Allison Van Diest

[Editor's note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Donors have expectations of quality web experiences that have been set and driven by the competitive environment in the commercial marketplace. Nonprofits that meet or exceed donor expectations will earn their loyalty and reap the benefits.

Using the following five web staples, you can enrich current relationships, establish new relationships, and encourage constituents to interact and give online:

* Direct email marketing

If your email messages are nothing more than generic solicitations to a list of practically anonymous email addresses, you may be losing email recipients faster than you can sign them up.

The value of an email address is not in having it, but in getting to know the human being behind it and building a relationship with that individual.

"Getting to know" can be in a mass setting, aided by technology, of course.

Any system that allows you to combine the online and offline behavior of a constituent so you can group that person with others who behave similarly and target your message to that group accordingly will suffice.

* Electronic newsletters

Every organization of every type and size should prepare an email version of the news it distributes to constituents.

It is a convenience that donors expect and appreciate, it is easy and inexpensive, and it is perhaps the single most effective way to attract new supporters, thanks to the viral marketing or "pass-along" phenomenon.

Providing an anonymous electronic news subscription link on your website is also a great way to grow your email subscription list for future engagement through other email channels.

Anonymous electronic news subscriptions allow marginally interested parties to learn more about you before providing a great deal of personal information - the first step in engagement.

* Online fundraising

If you're just starting with online donations, make it as easy as possible for people to figure out how to give by including a link - even a subtle one - on your homepage.

Doing this allows people who read a direct mail piece or attended an event to find your web page through a Google search and get right to the donation page. It's also a gentle reminder to people visiting your site for other purposes that you can't exist without their generous support.

The average online gift is $57. But organizations that use the details of their relationships with donors, including their complete online/offline giving histories, to personalize the content delivered during website visits raise an average of $152 per gift.

* Website usage reports

If you send an email that tested well but didn't get any donations as a result, should you trash the email and start over?

Someone analyzing website usage trends could tell you if the landing page was the culprit instead of the email.

Perhaps the page didn't clearly direct the visitor to take the next step.
Perhaps the page was too interesting or busy, and visitors got lost and wandered off to another page and then took action elsewhere.

This type of intelligence is critical in order to tell what is working on your website so that you can optimize and replicate your successes, and these tools are free to implement (see Google Analytics).

* Online event registrations

You risk missing a golden opportunity if you don't allow interested visitors to register for your events while they are on your site and thinking about how they can become involved with your organization.

Moreover, allowing event registrations online is a good service.

Provide supporters with a personal web page where they can collect sponsorship dollars in support of participation.

Called "team-" or "sponsor-me" fundraising, this exciting spin on volunteer solicitors can boost excitement around your events and dramatically increase the money you raise from them.

Your website is one of the most effective marketing tools you have.
Even if you already "do" these top five things, it doesn't necessarily mean they are already being done as well as they could be to achieve all that is possible from your website marketing efforts. 

Fortunately, the technologies that support dynamic, engaging websites are well established and are becoming more mainstream in the nonprofit world.

Allison Van Diest is senior product marketing manager for Blackbaud Internet Solutions.


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