“Your website will be seen by more people more often

than any other marketing piece you will ever do COMBINED.”

– Branded Out Loud

For better or worse, your website acts as the initial and recurring interface with potential supporters. Your organization depends on an engaging website to connect with donors and make a first impression that will bring them back for more. Yet, nonprofit website traffic declined by 14 percent year-over-year(2011-2012). Mike Snusz of NP Engage suggests four possible reasons for the decline in visits:

· Declining nonprofit email click-through rates;

· Election year politics dampening giving;

· Constituents using social media as a means of interacting instead of visiting a website;

· Nonprofit websites not optimized for mobile have experienced less traffic.

Are websites beginning to lean towards extinction? I don’t think so, even if changes in technology constantly feel like they’re accelerating. Instead, nonprofits at large have yet to maximize the benefits associated with a strong Web presence.

Website use-ability is also important for generating website traffic. If a website is easy to navigate, then donors will stay. Excelling at website fundamentals in conjunction with ease of use will assure that donors interact with the website as a base of operations for staying informed and contributing with financial gifts.

Let’s revisit five ways to optimize your nonprofit’s website

1. Stand out with consistent messaging: Holly Ross, former Executive Director of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), suggests “organizations stand out when they have a clear sense of ‘who they are’ and evenly reflect their image across all communications channels.” What’s your nonprofit’s key message? Is it intertwined with your branding? Do you project your message consistently across all channels? For example, a visitor to Red.org can’t miss the message: “Fighting for an Aids Free Generation”.

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A few other of my favorite websites with clear, “front and center” messaging include: Charity Water (“We’re a nonprofit bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries), Wounded Warrior Project (“The greatest tragedy is being forgotten.”) and Kiva (“Empower people around the world with a $25 loan.”) For a recent list of great nonprofit website designs check out the “38 Best Nonprofit Website Designs in 2013” by Social Driver.

2. Create easy to find “Calls to Action”. No one wants to work hard when visiting your site. Provide multiple opportunities to take action such as: “Donate”, “Get Involved”, “Fundraise”, “Shop”, “Join”, “sign up for an E-Newsletter”, “Sign a Petition”. Most importantly, a “Donate” call to action should appear in multiple locations on your Home page.

Provide your supporters with plentiful giving options and get involved opportunities, to meet their needs including: monthly/recurring gifts, large transaction capabilities; appropriate Ask Strings (which reflect past giving history) Giving Societies; Signing up for a Newsletter or an Email List; and “Forward to a Friend”.

Call to Actions must be obvious for a visitor. In fact they should be almost glaring (but not obnoxious), like the home page of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research:

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In addition to multiple calls to action, this website offers strong metrics with quick links to learn more about its research and how monies are spent.

3. Repeat messaging and calls to action on the donation page. Water for People’s “Pledge your next birthday campaign” is a perfect example of consistent messaging and clear and concise call to actions. Notice in the visuals (below) how the campaign messaging is repeated on the Donation Page.

Web page

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Donation page

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4. Utilize digital tools for connecting your supporter emotionally to your cause, including social media. Water For People’s Donation Page includes links so that donors can share their charitable actions with their social media community. It also includes a video of a supporter making a birthday donation. Strong visuals and videos create emotional ties with the supporter. Info-graphics are an additional way to tell you story as well as define impact.

5. Blog! Blogs increase search engine optimization (SEO) as well as provide potential supporters with current information about the nonprofit.

Review these five steps. Decide what you do well as well as determine where improvement can occur. Go for “Easy” with regard to locating each “call to action”, providing attractive visuals and posting to social media. Visitors don’t want to work hard. Do your best to help supporters stay engaged on your website, visit again and make a donation!

Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the non-profit sector. For more resources, please see her blog.