Four rules for a donor-friendly website

publication date: Jan 25, 2012
author/source: Sumac Research
Research shows that you have about three to seven seconds to grab a website visitor's attention. When it comes to donors, however, you don't just want to grab their attention, you want to give them the information they need and make it easy for them to donate.

Does your organization's website do this well, or could it be a little more donor-friendly? Here are four rules to get you thinking about where your website stands and what changes you can make to help turn visitors into supporters. 

Rule # 1: have a good defining statement

The defining statement should be one of the first things a visitor sees when they get to your website. What's a defining statement? It's more than your mission statement. It's the statement that sets you apart from other nonprofits and tells donors why what you do is so great.

This defining statement is responsible for capturing the visitors' attention in those first few seconds and getting them thinking that your organization might be worth supporting. For that reason, this statement should:

a) Be on your homepage It shouldn't be buried away in the About Us section of your website, or somewhere else that makes visitors have to dig for it. Instead, it should be prominently displayed on the homepage, impossible to miss.

b) Be powerful "We feed the homeless," for example, is not going to cut it. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds of charities feeding the homeless. Why should donors support you?

You need to start thinking in deeper terms about what defines your organization and what makes it great. Is it the way you operate? The impact you have? The reach of your services? Charity: Water, for example, doesn't just tell visitors what they do, but that 100% of donations directly fund water projects. Now that's defining, and a good reason to donate! Here are a few more good ones:

The Cara Program prepares and inspires motivated individuals to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, transform their lives, strengthen our communities, and forge paths to real and lasting success.

Action for Children supports and speaks out for the UK's most vulnerable and neglected children and young people, for as long as it takes to make a difference in their lives ...

More than 3,000,000 reports of child abuse and neglect will be filed in the United States this year. Children's Rights is fighting to make sure that's not the end of the story.

Rule # 2: be transparent

Once you've captured visitors' attention with a powerful defining statement and some compelling pictures depicting the impact of your work on your homepage, they'll likely want to see more information on your services and programs before they decide to give. They want facts on how you use donations and the impact of your work: facts that show you are efficient, effective and accountable. Make sure you include this information and make it easy to find.

Rule # 3: make it easy to donate

Okay, so you've captured donors' attention, you've given them all of the facts they need, and now they're ready to donate. But ... they can't find the Donate Now button! After working so hard to convince them to give, you really don't want donors running into this problem.

The solution is simple. Put a Donate Now button on every page of your website. The upper right-hand corner, one of the most prominent spaces on each page, is a great place to put it. Make the donation process as simple as possible. Don't make donors set up an account or ask them for any more information than you need to process the donation. If donors have to do too much thinking or go through multiple pages filling out information, you'll lose them.

Rule # 4: make it clean and easy to navigate

Lastly, make sure your website is clean, easy to navigate, and clutter-free. Think about your website as a tool that guides visitors through the process of learning about your organization and eventually to making a donation.

The homepage should serve as an introduction, a glimpse at what you do and why it's important. Don't clutter this page with news and events. Instead, limit the text and pictures to just what's needed to tell people what you do and why it's important. Donor-friendly links like Programs, Services and Your Donation can then be used to guide donors to the information they need to make a decision to give.

Sumac is a complete, integrated software solution for nonprofits that tracks lapsed donors and distributes personalized electronic and paper communication easily and cost-effectively. For more information, visit

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