In the days when brick-and-mortar shops ruled the retail landscape, the first chance a business had to grab attention was the storefront.

In the display window of a store, where space is limited, a business must attract potential customers through showcasing its best and most striking products that speak to the needs of its customers. Because a business has to compete with so many others, a storefront must tell a quick and effective story with the ultimate goal of getting people to walk through the door.

With the enormous growth of the internet over the past twenty years, websites have become the new storefronts. This is true in business but also in the nonprofit space. When they are asked how they find information about nonprofits, nearly all generations rank an organization’s website as being the most popular method.[1] This tells us that your institution has a tremendous opportunity to make a memorable first impression with a robust and impactful giving page on your website. This is especially true during a campaign when people are more likely to visit your site to find more details and potentially give. The numbers support this as well with the most recent data showing that online giving made up 8% of all giving in 2017 and grew 12 percent between 2016 and 2017.[2]

If you are planning or in the midst of a campaign, chances are you have spent great time and effort honing your case for support, improving the health of your donor database, preparing for major events, and engaging your most substantial supporters. Often, a giving page can seem secondary to these efforts, but it should instead be viewed as an important fundraising tool. If your site mirrors the captivating story you are already telling to potential donors when making a major ask, it will give you an edge in any phase of a campaign or beyond.

With this in mind, there are three simple ways you can improve the giving page on your website today without spending a great deal of time and money.

Tip 1: Master the Mission

The first improvement that can be implemented immediately regardless of the sophistication of your web design is honing the messaging that matters most and removing any sections that are unnecessarily wordy or filled with jargon. Your goal is to get to the heart of who you are and why your campaign is worth the investment of donors.

Before you do anything else, ask yourself the following question: If we had one minute to talk to a potential donor, what would we tell them about our campaign?

By narrowing your focus, you will give yourself the opportunity to tell your story to any visitor in a matter of seconds. Losing your priorities within dense paragraphs or long dropdown menus puts you at a disadvantage the same way an overly long and unfocused ask would when speaking to someone in person.

Consider that not everyone who visits your page automatically knows about your campaign. It is therefore worthwhile to make a strong statement up front that defines what your campaign will accomplish if the goal is met, offering specifics while not overwhelming your audience. A visitor to your giving page should immediately know:

  • The campaign name
  • 2-3 major priorities of the campaign
  • Specifics about how gifts will directly help

Without much effort, visitors will now be up to speed on the essentials of the campaign. They won’t be asked to do any extra clicking to understand the purpose of their potential gifts, and they will be able to read the full message in seconds.

Tip 2: Show vs. Tell

In order to convey an authentic and relatable story about the goals of your campaign, you will need to illustrate any positive and impactful statements with visuals. It is vital that visitors to your page get a full understanding of your campaign through the people who will benefit.

Consider adding the following:

  • A compelling campaign video that tells an engaging and honest story
  • Photos of actual people from your community who will be positively affected by your donors’ charitable gifts
  • Testimonials (video/audio/written) from your leaders, your volunteers, and those who will benefit

For subjects of your videos, photos, or testimonials, it is worthwhile (and less time consuming) to start with your biggest advocates. The people who already believe fully in your mission and campaign are the right people to ask to participate because they will be willing and able to speak authentically about your campaign.

Remember that high resolution images are always preferred, but ultimately, it is more valuable to show a real story through actual photos than to use stock imagery so that potential donors feel connected to the cause and its people.

Tip 3: Simplify the Process

One of the basic principles of a successful website is making things easy for your visitors. They should not have to do extra work or do any additional thinking to find vital information. Therefore, your most important content should be displayed front and center—just like a storefront—so there is no confusion as to what you are trying to accomplish.

To create a user experience that is logical and effective, start by writing a list that ranks everything on your existing page by importance as shown in the example below.

It is also important to note that part of simplifying the process is eliminating confusion. For example, when a website is outdated, your cause can immediately lose credibility. Blog posts, campaign updates, events, and milestones should always be up to date. Creating event recaps will also generate a sense of importance and timeliness for your page. Whenever possible, showcase that the campaign is building momentum with consistent updates to keep visitors engaged and informed.The flow of your website page should be in line with your biggest priorities. If something ranks high on your list, it should be displayed prominently on the home page so people can find it immediately without any extra clicks or work.

First Steps

Before you think about investing in any design changes, try to apply the above tips into your existing website within your current design. This will save you both time and funds while still helping you accomplish your goals.

To get started, ask yourself the following five things:

  1. How can we consolidate our mission into simple but effective messages?
  2. Do we have photos, videos, or testimonials to add to our website to showcase our people?
  3. Are we making it too difficult for visitors to find information? If so, how do we simplify the process?
  4. Are there any unnecessary pages or pieces of information that we can remove?
  5. Is there anything out of date that needs refreshing or anything upcoming that we can add in?

Lastly, it may be worthwhile to take a look at the websites of likeminded organizations to analyze the elements you find effective and ineffective. For example, you may find that a similar organization does a great job telling a convincing story through their imagery. This will serve as a good model to follow on your own page.

CCS Fundraising is a strategic consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page.

[1] Blackbaud: The Next Generation of American Giving, 2018

[2] Ibid.

About the Authors

Dan Altano is a professional communications and marketing specialist who leads the corporate marketing department at CCS Fundraising. He has spent his career creating, executing, and overseeing marketing strategies for companies that aim to leave a positive impact on the world. He has advised nonprofits from all over the country on digital strategy and best practices as they pertain to fundraising.

Christine Cook is the Marketing Associate for CCS Fundraising with a passion for the field of philanthropy. She oversees the firm’s social media efforts and organizes corporate conferences and events with an expertise in communications. She has also provided insights and best practices for nonprofits on their digital strategy and social media presence.