As a nonprofit, your website acts as a global source of funds via online donations. For organizations depending on donations as a majority source of their income, building a donor-focused website is vital.

But that’s actually a misnomer. Instead, your site should be mission-focused — demonstrating the need and how your nonprofit makes an impact.

When you’re constructing a new site or redesigning your current one, expressing the mission should be the primary purpose. Donations are a byproduct of visitors identifying with that mission and taking action with their wallet.

By strengthening your mission and how it’s represented or demonstrated, you’re more likely to capture the hearts of visitors and turn them into donors. Once you understand your mission and donors, you can begin maximizing online donations.

Identifying & Understanding Your Potential Online Donors

With your mission defined, you can start building your site – right? Nope, there’s a crucial step you’d be missing out on. Before designing (or redesigning) a single page, you must identify and understand your online donors.

Of note, ‘online donors’ may be a totally different set of people from your regular ‘donors’ who contribute through fundraisers, mailing physical checks, or purchasing services/products on location.

If you’ve already been accepting donations through your website, you can analyze your previous donations to learn more about these donors. Here are questions to get a better understanding:

  • What percent of online donors in the past month had contributed previously?
  • Is the median donation amount small or large? (How does this compare to donations from other sources?)
  • For ‘returning’ donors, how often do they contribute? (How does this compare to donations from other sources?)
  • For donors who have contributed online as well as another method (physical check, in-person payment), is their donation smaller or larger through the website?

Even if you’ve had a site that doesn’t accept donations, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to answer questions about your site visitors:

  • What are visitors most interested in (a.k.a. which pages are they visiting most often)?
  • Are there certain pages that send more people to the contact page than others?
  • Where are visitors geographically located? Does this mirror our donation database?

Lastly, even if you don’t have a website, you must interview your donors and potential donors to get an idea of how they would use the website and donation system:

  • Do your donors trust the internet? (Serious question.) Would they be comfortable with entering their credit card or bank account information on a website?
  • Why does the nonprofit’s mission speak to them?
  • Why do they choose to fund your nonprofit over all the other nonprofits out there?
  • Is there a specific project or purpose that they would like their donations used for?

Talking with the very people who will be pressing the ‘donate’ button on your site can give you incredible insights and change the course of your site design tremendously.

Donor-First Design

After gathering as much information about your donors as possible, you are ready to dig into the design of your new site. There are a few user experience techniques that can make a huge impact on the way your visitors view and interact with your site.

Cause-Based Donations

Nonprofits have many different ways of accepting donations and allocating those funds. For some, a donor can request how the funds can be used if they have a specific mission or cause they identify with. In addition, the donor can feel that they are having a direct impact on the end-result.

Here’s an example of a charity site that allows visitors to see the different causes, current donation amounts, and percent of funding so far:

View the full demo here. http://ddthemesdemo.com/biosphere/causes-3-columns/
View the full demo here.

With large imagery, full descriptions of the causes, and a count of what’s needed to help, donors are more likely to connect with a particular mission and donate on the spot.

Using this method of collecting donations also allows you to do some unique fundraising techniques:

  • Request additional donations from the previous donors if the total funding needed hasn’t been met for that particular cause.
  • Suggest related causes down the line based on which cause they choose.
  • Send follow up emails with progress photos and stories.
    • For example, if you are raising money to build a well for a remote town, you can send donors of that cause photos of the well being built or stories of how nearby families benefited from the new water source.

Recurring Donations

In your research, you may have found that a subset of donors contribute on a regular basis. Digging even deeper, you may find that certain donors want to contribute monthly, but they forget to mail a check certain times so a donation isn’t placed.

With such busy schedules and so many distractions, many donors prefer to have ‘set it and forget it’ donations set up. Consider setting up a recurring donations feature on your site to help your donors carry out your mission effortlessly.

Call to Action Buttons

Many nonprofit websites have a donate button in their main navigation, but lack any other mentions of donations throughout the rest of the site. Below the content of every page, you can link over to your main donation page or related causes that are in need of funding.

If your site receives a great amount of traffic, you can even start testing your site further with tools like A/B testing to see what copy and imagery turns into more donations.

Be a Storyteller

Storytelling is a core part of humanity – it’s what makes us special. By using powerful photography, compelling stories, and telling the story of what’s needed in this world and how someone can make an impact with a financial contribution, you’ll find your site’s design will help visitors identify with the cause and bring them to action.

Craft together the beautiful stories you’re involved in and you’ll be on your way to success.

Scott Buscemi

Scott Buscemi is the Chief Creative Officer of Lumen Foundry, an integrity-oriented marketing agency located in Los Angeles. The Lumen Foundry team can work with you on conversion optimization, eCommerce website development, and inbound marketing.

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