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Seal the appeal [13 tips to optimize your nonprofit site for donations]

Seal the appeal [13 tips to optimize your nonprofit site for donations]

Published December 26, 2018
Author: Max Mogensen, owner and creative director of Maine Creative

Originally published on the Maine Creative blog. Click to view the original post.

For most charitable organizations, December means wrapping up annual reports and working on end-of-year appeals. For these campaigns, you’ve probably set your goals, collected your content assets, and planned out your email marketing and social media campaigns. (If you haven’t, you should have. We can help with that.) But have you thought about how to optimize your campaign webpage itself to get the best return? Here are our end-of-year suggestions for getting the most from your appeal donation page…

  1. Create a unique microsite or subpage for your campaign.

    Whether you’re using WordPress, HTML, SquareSpace, or an integrated donation platform, create a new and specific site for this campaign. This let’s you put out only the most recent and relevant content (clarity and convenience are key). It also means you can create a unique brand or design for this campaign, to set it apart from other donation asks. And lastly, it will make your social media around the campaign more distinct.

  2. Alter the navigation and links on your site to create plenty of portals to the donation page.

    Don’t let your new page be an island, isolated in the digital sea! Even if you’re peppering your newsletters and social media with the link, you want site visitors to have easy access to the campaign page. So edit your header, footer, your menus, sidebars, and even load up the individual pages on your site with links to the new subpage or microsite. Plus, this will help with SEO.

  3. Keep your layout and design simple.

    Streamline the design and the copy of your new page. Think about it like you’re creating a very distinct, very simple trail. You want your site visitor to follow the trail without diverging or departing, and you want to bring them to one very clear action: make a donation. This is the button (or, better yet, embedded content) that they should quickly and seamlessly arrive at.

  4. To that end, keep step-throughs as simple as possible.

    ‘Step-throughs’ incorporate all the content and actions that users must take before they get to the meat and potatoes. So eliminate unnecessary links. If possible, make sure your audience can go directly from social media or the email newsletter to the new campaign page. Don’t move them from one page to another. Eliminate superfluous content. And, if possible, let them make their donation right from that subpage.

  5. Show the people where their money is going.

    Your audience is more likely to donate if they can see what change their contribution will help facilitate. Use images and, even better, video, to show exactly how their donation will be spent. Then, hit em with the ask!

  6. Give people a deadline.

    A not artificial sense of urgency will convince your visitors to take action. This should be real and not manipulated. If there is a deadline associated with your campaign (either external or self-imposed) explain it to your audience. If there is no deadline, illustrate why donating now will benefit the organization. And if you’re giving gifts or offering other incentives for donating, you can always tie those gifts to a deadline, then include a count-down timer on your site so people know when they have to donate to receive the perk.

  7. Make your design clean and distinct.

    Your site layout, copy, images, buttons, links, and calls to action should all be clean, easy to see, read, and understanding. You want a user to flow right through the content and, after absorbing the salient points, get to the conversion. Help facilitate this by keeping things neat and simple.

  8. Follow up in a more personal way.

    Always include an immediate, code-based response for donations. Say thanks and explain how the donation will make an impact. But if you want to go the extra step and increase the likelihood of a long-term donor relationship, follow up with an email, letter, or call.

  9. Make sure you’re employing the right form options.

    Your data collection form should be as simple as possible, but that doesn’t mean you want to overlook things that increase your total donations. A checkbox for recurring monthly gifts? Why not? A box that let’s users add on the credit card transaction fees? Heck yea! Many donation integration plugins will include an out-of-the-box list of these form options.

  10. Use photos and video and make your content sharable.

    Photo and video content is proven to get more engagement and higher conversion rates. It’s just more emotionally appealing. So include it, responsibly! And where possible, rely on images over text. You may also want to include social share widgets, so that visitors can share the URL, videos, or donation embed on their own social media. Plus, this all helps with social media promotion and SEO.

  11. Make sure your site is mobile friendly.

    Really, this could be on any page on our website. But it’s even more applicable to calls to action, like trying to get donations. A majority of web traffic is now done on mobile devices. And users will leave your page if they can’t access it on their phones or tablets. Your campaign subpage has to be mobile friendly. If that’s not the case, or if you have questions about mobile design, shoot us an email!

  12. Data collection and protection matter!

    Heard of GDPR? Maybe not, but if you collect data online, you need to be aware of data privacy regulations and what they mean for your nonprofit. If you are collecting data about or donations from ANY European national, you are already legally responsible for following GDPR regulations. And even if you’re only collecting donations in the US, isn’t it important to make sure people’s data is secure? Learn more here or get in touch with us to discuss the necessary steps to become GDPR compliant.

  13. Your site needs to be secure.

    Not even from a compliance standpoint, though that does matter. But your visitors are simply less likely to make a donation if your site seems insecure or suspicious. So, get yourself an SSL certificate–which you should really have anyway. And of course, if you’re doing transactions on your site (whether via PayPal or through a third-party donation integration) make sure they’re secure and that’s clearly conveyed to potential donors.

And remember, the experts at Maine Creative are only a call or click away if you need any help to implement these best practices for your organization, or if you’d like to improve your digital strategy in other ways.

By: Max Mogensen

Max is the owner of Maine Creative, a Portland-based design and marketing firm, in addition to Intoxicles, a company he started in 2015 that makes cocktail freezer pops. When he’s not hustling, he likes learning, cooking, and hiking with friends. You can contact Max by emailing, or find him on Facebook or Instagram.