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ASU Lodestar Center Blog

How can nonprofits build an effective website to engage donors and volunteers?

Designing a site for a nonprofit organization is one of the most important steps in establishing an online presence. An effective nonprofit website can build a strong brand, drive more donors to your site, and increase your volunteer recruitment efforts. However, many nonprofits fail to develop a strong online presence because they fail to build a useful website. 

One of the first things I notice about  nonprofit websites is that many  fail to produce a feeling of urgency around the issue, provoke an emotional reaction in the customer, establish the organization's capability to cover the matter and inspire the visitor to take immediate actions and accept contributions throughout the site.

The bottom line is that your nonprofit organization is competing with large for-profit companies and other nonprofit organizations for attention and resources from your target audience. 

Let’s take a look at the top three things that your nonprofit needs in order to have a robust website that will help  drive your organization’s goals and fulfill your organization’s mission!

Navigations Needs to Be Intuitive & Easy to Use

The navigation menu of your website is the primary location that your audience looks  when they want to move around your site. Whether your audience is looking for background information about your organization, bios of your leaders, or contact information, visitors depend on an intuitive navigation menu to drive engagement. 

Your readers are busy and have little patience for a website that’s hard to navigate. If your audience can’t find the information they need,  they won’t waste  time clicking around your site. Instead, your target audience will leave the site without taking action and that can have a significant impact on the overall success and growth of your nonprofit organization. 

The very best nonprofit sites feature navigation that is straightforward and intuitive, even to users that are not knowledgeable about background or mission of the organization. These nonprofits feature easy-to-use navigation menus that allow their readers to find the information they need and helps them take action quickly and easily. 

When designing your site, make it simple for people by setting the most significant links at the first spots that people read. You can also channel your audience towards the desired locations by limiting the overall amount of choices available to your audience. This approach will increase conversions and help you direct your audience to the main areas of your nonprofit website to help you reach your organization’s goals.  

Basic SEO for Your Nonprofit

Getting your nonprofit found online can be difficult, but  not impossible. Since your nonprofit is fulfilling a particular need in society, you should begin by focusing on the needs of your target audience and what your readers will be searching for on various search engines like Google, Bing and  Facebook. 

The first step to creating a great SEO strategy for your nonprofit is to focus on the needs of your audience. User intent is the driving force behind an audience either donating their time, donating their money, or getting involved with your organization. This means that you need to have a strong understanding of what drives the audience base, so you can use that information to help attract more individuals in the future. 

Whenever someone types something into Google, they are asking a question. 

  • “Local pet rescue clinic” means “what is the best pet rescue clinic near me?”
  • “Soup kitchen volunteer opportunity” means “I want to help local homeless in my community, what is a reputable organization I can help with?”
  • “Local volunteering for healthy kids” means “I want to help keep kids healthy in my community, what is the best nonprofit organization that I can donate time/money to?”

Once you understand the questions and search queries that people are using to find nonprofits like yours that address a particular issue, then you are well on your way to establishing a strong online presence. 

The next piece of nonprofit SEO is identifying the services you offer and the needs you fulfill. A pet clinic addresses a much different societal need than a free health clinic for people, as does a local soup kitchen. You will need to identify the problems you seek to repair if you want to attract interested donors or volunteers. 

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One final thing to consider when developing an SEO strategy for your nonprofit is to think about your geographic proximity to your desired donors and volunteers. Many  volunteers will need to be located close to your organization if you want them to come out and provide support. This means you should think about using geo-targeting in your optimized content. 

Geo-targetingshould use your city, state, and region in some content depending on your purpose and focused area. To help with your local SEO strategy you should set up a Google My Business account. This is a powerful tool to help  attract your ideal audience and this tool will help you rank in Google and drive traffic from your audience. 

Now that you understand what an audience is searching for and the issues you are addressing in your community, you are ready to develop content around the terms  identified above. 

Creating Great Content for Your Nonprofit

Great content is the backbone of your nonprofit website, so you want  content to be engaging to the audience while also building an online brand. The type of content produced depends on your audience and purpose, but in general, you want to develop content that engages  your audience and is optimized for search engines. 

Try to consider those phrases from the viewpoint of your prospective audience, because these are the phrases and words to utilize in your search engine optimization strategy. The terms  chosen for  content will help search engines understand your content, boosting online rankings.

Your website content needs to tell a compelling story that strengthens the mission of your organization. Here are a few ways tobuild anonline presence while also enhancing your organization’s message:

  1. Focus on individuals you have helped. Integrate testimonials, before and after pictures, and personal details about your positive impact. This information will make an emotional connection between your organization and your audience. 
  2. Use a lot of images across your website. While optimizing your website for SEO should be one thing to consider, you always need to focus on the needs of your audience. Images are the best way to convey an emotional message, and are also  a great way to build a connection between the purpose your nonprofit is serving and the drive for your audience to help. 
  3. A video is one of the best ways to connect with your audience. You can shoot video clips of volunteers engaging with their community and the impact your donors make every day. There area lot of free video editing tools you can use. Keep each video under30 seconds if you planto use them on social media. However, testimonial and more personal videos should be no more than two or three minutes each. 
  4. Keep your audience updated with news and events that your organization is planning. You can use your website as an information center to show how active your organization is. This type of information builds social proof and indicates that donations and volunteers are used wisely to achieve the goals you have set out to accomplish. 
  5. Ask your current donors and volunteers for reviews. Just like a for-profit company, many donors and prospective volunteers look up ratings and reviews for nonprofits before contributing. It is best to keep these reviews on your site. Ask for reviews through your email list, on Facebook, or a survey program. 

As a nonprofit, you serve your community and provide necessary services. However, you are competing against a wide range of other options when it comes to donors, so you need to make sure your organization is positioning itself as a trusted and deserving recipient of volunteer time and financial donations. 

You can use the above tips to build a fantastic nonprofit website that will attract interested donors and volunteers, engage with them and build a strong online presence for your brand today!

Chris is a Digital Strategy Consultant in Orlando, FL who helps small business and nonprofits grow their online presence and reach their goals. He is passionate about digital marketing, emerging technologies, and nonprofit development. 


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