i on Fundraising Technology: Your Online Presence — Is a Web Site Enough?
Is Google stealing traffic from your Web site? Maybe not intentionally, but the increasing sophistication of the search engine giant’s results page may be diverting your current and potential donors away from the very messages you want them to read. Try searching for any reasonably well-known charity on Google, and you’ll get the search engine’s results page, which is known as a SERP in the IT business.
What the SERP provides is very useful — it’s usually a condensed version of the main links on your Web site, such as “About Us”, “Contact Us” and “Get Involved.” Sometimes you’ll see phone numbers and opening hours displayed on the SERP. This is great for the user, but what about all of that carefully crafted content you wanted your Web site visitors to see? The user is often getting the information he needs from Google’s ability to skim the main details from your site and present them in the SERP, along with maps showing your organization’s location and even some images.
So, while Google is not necessarily stealing your Web visitors (it’s still the largest source of click-throughs to charity Web sites, after all), this conundrum is leading some analysts to re-think the purpose of the Web site or at least how we use alternative methods of reaching supporters via the Internet. And, as use of the Internet matures, there are increasingly innovative solutions being used. Here are a few of the more effective ones I’ve seen in recent months.
How about giving your donors the ability to express their support for you by updating their Facebook statuses when they’ve made a contribution online? Their status updates will include a link back to your Web site and encourage their social-networking friends to click through and make contributions themselves. This can be especially powerful when related to events; friends like to donate when their friends are taking part in some kind of challenge or sporting event. Don’t forget to maintain your organization’s own Facebook presence; current and potential donors may well prefer to look for you on the social network rather than going to your Web site.
Although it hasn’t reached the ubiquity of Facebook, an increasing number of people are relying on Twitter to receive information from their chosen sources — be they celebrities, friends or the charities they support. So, a Twitter feed from your organization with regular campaign updates will help reach those who choose to get their information this way. It’s, of course, important to link those tweets back to the Web site.
So, where does this leave our old friend e-mail? E-mail is still a powerful way to reach existing friends, if not for donor acquisition. Yes, the wastage is high, but the cost is still relatively low, and you can track how many people opened the message, clicked on the links or forwarded it to friends. But, fundraisers should bear in mind the fact that, globally, more mobile devices have Internet access than PCs, and the primary Internet usage on smart phones is e-mail. Therefore, long messages with large images may not be appropriate.
Robin Fisk is senior charity technology specialist at ASI.