5 Essentials for Websites That Support Virtual Fundraising
Different nonprofits have adapted to the shift toward online fundraising in different ways. While traditional fundraising strategies, such as direct mail and telemarketing, still have their benefits, every nonprofit is expected to have an online presence and make the most of it to collect donations online.
Effective virtual fundraising requires comprehensive online marketing and outreach, and your website should be at the heart of your campaigns.
You don’t need to be a tech expert to set your website up for success, either. The best nonprofit websites adhere to basic design and accessibility principles that can be implemented with limited understanding of coding.
While bringing in an expert always helps (and is appropriate for major website updates or overhauls!), you can get started on optimizing your website for virtual fundraising on your own by implementing the following essentials:
- Design and branding
- Donation form optimization
- Security and payment processing
- Social media integration
- Website relevancy and communication
This article will explore best practices for these five basic website elements to help your nonprofit get started upgrading its website. As you go through each point, remember that virtual fundraising is a broad concept and each nonprofit has specific strategies that work better for their specific mission. Decide what kind of virtual fundraising you want to optimize your website for, then focus on the aspects of your website that will best help support your next online campaign. Ready? Let’s get started.
1. Design and Branding
While being tech-savvy will benefit your nonprofit, knowledge of web design and virtual fundraising best practices alone aren’t enough to make your nonprofit stand out. Your nonprofit’s unique identity is one of your strongest fundraising tools, and it should guide your website’s design.
Combine strategic design and technological application with your nonprofit’s brand identity to create memorable content that encourages further donor engagement.
Consistent branding helps supporters identify your nonprofit on sight and connect it to previous marketing materials, creating a stronger connection between different messages across multiple platforms. On your own website, you can integrate your brand identity into your website’s design through:
- Image choices. Images draw the eye and are likely to be your visitors’ first impression of your website. Along with your logo, your website should include other bold images that represent your nonprofit’s work and values. For example, consider your homepage’s hero image. This image should be large and focused, and invoke emotions in visitors. Do you want to create a sense of awe? Inspiration? Hopefulness? If your chosen images have colors that clash with your brand’s, consider using a filter or gradient to ensure they don’t feel out of place on the page.
- Consistent design across pages. Every page on your website should have a few of the same elements, so visitors never forget what website they are on. Displaying your logo on every page (usually in the upper left-hand corner) is also good practice for navigation, creating a visible link for visitors to return to your homepage.
- Branding third-party tools. Third-party fundraising software is a necessity for some of the most effective virtual fundraising strategies. As you research virtual fundraising software like the ones listed here, check to see what their branding and customization options are. Choose software solutions that allow you to incorporate your brand visuals to create a consistent experience for your supporters when donating, registering for events or volunteering.
Consider making a style guide documenting key aspects of your nonprofit’s brand identity and design such as specifications for your logo and its variations, colors, tone for written documents, and any common phrases or slogans. Keeping track of these elements will help your growing nonprofit retain brand consistency as your team creates more fundraising and outreach documents.
2. Donation Form Optimization
Donors who reach your donation form are at the most critical moment of engagement, and your nonprofit should take every opportunity it can to optimize their experience. Supporters who reach your donation page have likely already done their research on your nonprofit and mission, meaning the presentation of your donation form can be the difference between whether they finish their donation or not.
Your website should design its donation form around two things: convenience and optimization. Convenient donor forms encourage donors to complete their initial gift whereas fully optimized donation pages can turn one-time supporters into recurring donors. To improve your supporters’ donation experience, make sure your donation page:
- Is easy to find. Many nonprofits have bold, brightly-colored donation buttons visible on their homepage to ensure donors never struggle to navigate to their donation pages. According to Double the Donation’s fundraising statistics report, the presence of a donation button can increase giving by 190%, almost tripling donations received.
- Contains only relevant information fields. Lengthy donation forms can lead to donor abandonment where donors press the back button before finishing their gift. Donation forms let you learn more about your supporters, but limit your form to a single page so as not to overwhelm or waste your supporters’ time.
- Has a recurring donation option. Recurring donations add up and help your nonprofit create a reliable base of monetary support. Give donors the option to opt-in to recurring donations on your form as well as recommended donation amounts to help guide their decision. For example, a donor might see that the recommended recurring donation amount is $10 less than the first one-time gift suggested amount, encouraging them to give recurring gifts that ultimately add up to more than the one-time gift.
In addition, don’t forget about making your donation form accessible. Always include a secondary marker on required information fields other than color. For example, consider adding an extra visual aid like an asterisk or exclamation point in addition to red coloring for incomplete fields.
3. Security and Payment Processing
If you host an online fundraiser, you’ll need to be able to accept online donations. Online payment processors handle financial transactions between your donors’ bank accounts and your nonprofit’s. They also create online payment gateways and implement security measures to protect against fraud.
Choose a payment processor that prioritizes security to ensure your donors’ financial information stays safe. In addition, there are steps you can take to provide extra assurance to your donors and generate more value from the process:
- Keep your donation form on your website. Changing URLs can make your donors unsure who they are giving their money to. Even if everything is safe, you can help your donors feel secure by integrating your donation form with your website, accepting multiple kinds of payment options and providing confirmation emails immediately after a donation is completed.
- Integrate your payment processor with your donor database. The information donors give you when making a contribution should inform your nonprofit’s strategies for future campaigns. Adding collected information to donor profiles helps your nonprofit, while also creating a record of financial transactions for improved transparency.
- Practice regular website maintenance. Outdated websites with broken links seem inherently insecure to potential donors. Run through routine checklists like the steps of this guide to nonprofit website maintenance to reduce load times, ensure forms are working and fix broken media assets.
Online payment processors come at different levels of security, so research your options and choose one that’s both PCI-compliant and makes sense for your business model. However, even if you implement the highest level of security, your website’s design and presentation is what makes donors initially feel secure. A modern design reflects a financially healthy organization that can keep their donors’ information safe.
4. Social Media Integration
After creating a secure, well-designed website, you’ll need to ensure your supporters can find it. Treat your social media profiles as an extension of your nonprofit’s website by marketing and hosting your virtual fundraisers across multiple platforms.
Virtual fundraising comes in many forms, several of which work well through social media platforms. For example, peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns encourage your supporters to fundraise on behalf of your nonprofit. Most of your supporters will use their social media profiles to attract attention to your cause, and your nonprofit should have a social media page that your supporters can link to.
During these kinds of social media campaigns, you should also be able to direct visitors between your site and your social media pages so they can easily participate. It might sound counterintuitive to direct visitors away from your website, but creating cross-traffic between your website and social media accounts provides your supporters with further interaction opportunities.
Create obvious buttons or links to your social media pages on your homepage or consider integrating your social media posts into a newsfeed on your website to invite your supporters to comment and like posts on your accounts.
5. Website Relevancy and Communication
Your website should be more than donation forms and “about” pages. To show your supporters that your nonprofit is active, healthy and approachable, implement a newsfeed and communication features to help your supporters stay connected.
To position your nonprofit as a leader in your field, regularly update your website with engaging content such as:
- Project updates. When your nonprofit accomplishes something, update your website’s newspage to let your supporters know. Doing so helps communicate a sense of progress toward your mission’s goal and shows your supporters that their donations create meaningful impacts.
- News about your field. Major advances, crises that need responses and anything in between that’s worthy of an article should receive a blog post from your nonprofit. Keeping a regularly updated blog with interesting, relevant information about your field shows your supporters that your nonprofit is participating in current events.
- Spotlights on supporters. Spotlighting key volunteers and donors on your website or in newsletters helps build a sense of community that can lead to long-lasting relationships between your nonprofit and its supporters. Regularly updating your spotlighted supporter can also inspire more supporters to get involved with the knowledge that they can receive public recognition for their efforts.
Up-to-date websites also stand out to search engines looking for active, relevant websites to rank in their search results. Routinely updating your blog can drive more traffic to your website, broadening your audience and range of potential supporters.
Virtual fundraising is a staple for modern nonprofits, and your website is one of your greatest tools for making a good first impression online. Design, optimization and security all play a role in determining whether your website casts doubt on your current virtual campaign or encourages increased support.
Many essential practices can be implemented with the proper research and basic understanding of the backend of your website. For large-scale changes or complex problems, consider seeking out nonprofit web design consultants, who have years of experience working with hundreds of nonprofits just like yours.
With 15 years’ experience, Ira Horowitz is an expert in nonprofit online communications and online fundraising. His work has resulted in increased funds and resounding supporter engagement for hundreds of organizations.
Ira oversees the Cornershop Creative project management team and works with clients to provide our clients with the best possible final product. He also manages all of our strategic engagements and helps guide nonprofits to determine their long-term strategy goals for online communications.