As I was preparing to lead a webinar a few weeks ago, I invited participants to send me a link to their website so I could choose several to review during the webinar. The response was overwhelming! Well over 100 nonprofit leaders requested a free website review.

As I reviewed all the websites, something became clear: Most nonprofits make common mistakes that work against them and cost them donations.

Is your website working for you or against you? Even if your site looks great, that doesn’t mean it’s working effectively.

Here are three keys that can help turn your website into a marketing machine that converts visitors into donors:

Key #1: Your 
website should be clear, simple and scannable.

Websites don’t function the same way they used to. Up until a few years ago, people would visit a website to read in-depth information about a company or organization. But people no longer take time to read; instead, they scan. And as more web traffic moves from desktop to mobile devices, that trend is only going to continue.

If you want potential donors to listen to what you have to say, the messaging on your website must be simple, clear and compelling. And nowhere is this more important than in the header of your site.

When a visitor lands on your website, the first thing they see is what we call “above the fold,” referencing back to the front page of a newspaper. Whether they are on a desktop computer or a mobile phone, your website header, which includes your headline, determines whether or not they scroll down and keep reading. If they are confused or unmotivated by your headline, you’ve already lost them.

Is your website smarter than a 5th grader?

Well, hopefully it’s not! If a 5th grader can’t quickly and easily understand what you do, you’re probably overcomplicating your message. Avoid the curse of knowledge – don’t assume that people know as much about your cause as you do. Use words and concepts that anyone, even a 5th grader, can easily understand.

At Leading Good, we help our clients clearly articulate the reason their nonprofit exists. Your headline should convey who you are and what you do, in a short, precise phrase.

Good Advice: Write a headline for your organization, and make sure it’s easy to understand. (If in doubt, ask a 5th grader!)

Key #2: Your website should clearly explain why the problem exists.

You have a complete understanding of the problem your nonprofit is working to solve. You understand the nuances and cultural factors involved. To you, it makes perfect sense. But that’s because you’re immersed in it every day.

But what about someone who is just visiting your website for the first time? Could they quickly and easily understand why the problem exists?

One of the most common mistakes we see nonprofits make is this: They assume too much. They are intimately familiar with their particular issue, but they forget that the rest of us are not.

Many of the social problems that nonprofits help solve are complicated. Do you fully understand why refugees are arriving in the U.S.? How about the reasons behind homelessness? Or hunger?

Take, for example, the issue of sex trafficking. Most people know it exists, at least abstractly. But by breaking the problem down into simple, bite-sized pieces (see the screenshot, above), donors can more easily understand it.

And here’s the kicker! When donors understand the problem you’re solving, three important things happen as a result:

1) they develop trust in your organization as an expert on the issue

2) they better understand how your nonprofit’s work makes a difference

3) they feel more empathy for the people or animals you’re helping

Good Advice: Break down the problem your nonprofit solves into simple, bite-sized pieces that anyone can understand.

Key #3: Your website should outline your simple plan for solving the problem.

No matter how simple or complex the work you do is, it’s essential that you explain it in simple terms. When donors know you have a plan, it sets their mind at ease. They can more easily see how their donation can make a difference.

One helpful rule of thumb is to try to break down your plan into three simple steps. For example, if your nonprofit provides meals for people in need, your simple plan might be:

  1. We qualify families based on need
  2. We prepare nutritious, homemade food
  3. We deliver meals – and smiles!

Don’t worry about trying to explain everything you do and exactly how you do it. The objective is to make it simple and clear so that people understand and want to help.

Good Advice: Outline the work you do with a simple three-step plan. Be specific and clear, but don’t try to include everything.

These three keys are the first steps to turning your website into a marketing machine that converts visitors into donors. If you’d like us to help you clarify your messaging and maximize your marketing, take the next step and 
schedule a call with me.

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