The embarrassing state of the Canadian web nation

publication date: Nov 6, 2014
author/source: Holly Wagg

About 90 per cent of your major donors are visiting your website before making their first gift. But almost half of you don’t have a web strategy in place.

Are you okay with this?

Probably not. And you’ve probably heard stats like this before. You maybe even quote them. You also probably have no idea where they came from or if they’re accurate.

Digging through to the truth

Nearly a year ago, my colleagues Fraser Green, Todd Jamieson and I decided to poll Canadian charities to get a better sense of what the state of the web nation actually is. The goal was simple – to determine website baselines and benchmarks for the Canadian charitable sector.

Holly WaggMore than 500 charities of all different sizes and from a variety of sectors across the country completed the survey.  We asked 26 questions about everything from website strategy and revenue tracking to metrics and digital fundraising activities.

We’ve crunched numbers, looked at the data while standing on our heads, and now we’re pleased to share the findings.

Key findings

If you’re not into reading the entire report right at this very moment, let me give you the low-down. Here’s a snapshot of the bad, the good, and hopes for the future.

1)     Let’s start with the not-so-great.

It likely won’t surprise you, but charity websites are not delivering when it comes to donor expectations. Organisational leadership has remained skeptical of the power of digital, while many on the front lines are struggling to meet the needs of donors with little investment. Strategies are not in place, and organisations are struggling to create and maintain meaningful online spaces.

  • Only 27 per cent of respondents say their charity has a web strategy in place
  • 60 per cent of respondents say the web is not valued by organisational leadership
  • Half of respondents are embarrassed by their charity’s website
  • Most respondents indicated challenges in using and integrating different web tools, such as social media, search engine optimization, and data collection
  • The number one website challenge organisations face is capital investment and cultural buy-in

2)     Give me the good news

Despite the challenges mentioned above, it seems like many of you are already on the right track.

  • Almost two-thirds of respondents say they use some kind of open source content management system for their site
  • Over half of charities are using custom-built or customizable web donation forms, which means built-in ability to respond quickly to online donors
  • 50 per cent of charities are using social media, and one in three have integrated these platforms into their websites

3)     Yes, there’s hope for a brighter web nation.

We’ll let the data do the talking, but it’s clear we’ve got a long way to go to ensure our websites are in the best shape to welcome and convert visitors into donors. While many charities are missing the mark, responses indicate that there is a great desire to make change.

  • 40 per cent of respondents said they tried to focus on user experience in designing their website
  • 60 per cent said they were using forms of storytelling, but want to incorporate a lot more
  • More than half of respondents update their website at least once a week, and a third say that this is easily done by anyone in the organisation
  • About 50 per cent of respondents are seriously working towards becoming mobile-friendly, and really need to be moving in the direction of becoming mobile-optimized

The tipping point is here

It’s 2014, yet our approach to our websites hasn’t changed much since 2004. 

We’ve had five Harry Potter movies since then, people! Harry has slain the Dark Lord, but we’ve yet to tame the web dragon.

Your website should be your primary and most important communications asset. Increasingly, it plays both a direct and indirect role in your fundraising activities.

All of this culminates with the donor – and right now she is on your website. Are you confident she’ll make it through the donation process, or will she leave and never return? Let’s welcome her and keep her happy. Your website really does matter.

Download your copy of the 2014 State of the Canadian Web Nation benchmarks report. If you happen to be an auditory learner and want the chance to ask questions, join us on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 from 2-3pm EST for a free webinar hosted by CanadaHelps

Holly Wagg is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional, now working consultant-side with the team at Good Works.  Although she had an eight-track player in her childhood bedroom, she doesn’t consciously remember a time where you couldn’t fundraise without the internet.  Given her involvement in start-up and grassroots organizing, the digital realm has always been a part of her efforts and expertise.  Holly would love to hear from you at

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