Simple = successful: 4 tests for your next nonprofit digital campaign

publication date: May 22, 2013
author/source: Taslim Somani

Right this very moment, you have a multitude of things you’re working on – you’re reading this article while Taslim Somaniignoring an email or two; you’re doing your best to resist the lure of your favourite e-retailer’s flash sale; a project deadline is looming; you’ve just received a text about your upcoming girl’s (or guy’s) night out and you’ve got seven minutes until your next meeting.

There are so very many pulls on our attention these days.  With multiple screens, the fusion of work and personal life, and more entertaining content (both commercial and otherwise)  what stands out most for me,  when it comes to nonprofit digital campaigns, is SIMPLICITY.  This includes the simplicity of messaging and of design.

Mark Twain famously said, “I wrote you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”   And Leonardo DaVinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Coco Chanel would have agreed too I think!

For nonprofit digital campaigns, there’s no reason to have tons of content or imagery on your site.  Let’s reserve that for the entertainment and news sites.  Instead, your objective should be to get viewers to take an action, to do something, and to get to that action as quickly as possible.  Whether that’s registering for an event, signing a petition, making a donation or sharing something on social media, keep this objective in mind when designing the campaign.  Use simple graphics, short video and large headings where possible.  Be ruthless about weeding out excessive supporting content from the campaign homepage.  (You can always include links for more information, allowing for visitors to dive deeper if they wish.)  This applies to your display ads too, by the way.

Here are some quick tests to see if your next digital campaign passes the “simplicity test:”

Test #1:  Can you describe your campaign in 140 characters or less?  No, this isn’t about Twitter.  It’s about being able to convey your cause, what you want people to do and why they should do it, all in a bite-sized, easy-to-understand statement.      

Test #2:  Is your campaign’s call-to-action clear, compelling, easy to find and easy to execute?  Often there are multiple calls to action in a campaign – register, donate, tell a friend, etc.  Is the most important one dominant?  If there are multiple calls to action, are they well-organized and easy to understand?  Define your campaign’s call-to-action in a short, punchy statement and position it so that it’s impossible not to act on. 

Test #3:  Is there a simple, short video displayed prominently on your campaign homepage?  People that love online video, really, really love it!  And, it helps keep visitors on your site 2 minutes longer than on pages without videos, according to a 2010 Comscore study.  Plus, if done well, video has a high share factor, can be easily distributed on channels like YouTube, and be used for advertising as pre-roll for online TV shows.  A bonus: sites with video tend to get higher placement on Google search results.

Test #4:  Do your online ads stand out amid the clutter?  First, I hope you’re using online ads in an attempt to get as many people exposed to your campaign as possible.  Second, I hope that those ads make your audience stand up and take notice!  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Use teasers, an amazing image, simple typography and a brief statement on a plain background... you get the idea.  Test a few different variations before you settle on one or two designs to roll out in market.  If you’re promoting your campaign on your charity website’s homepage, make sure you’re first in the rotating slider and better yet, ask to remove the rotation altogether for the duration of your campaign so you get dedicated eyeballs on your message.

Simplicity does equal success when it comes to nonprofit digital campaigns.  Here are a few of my favourite examples:

 I hope you take few moments to browse and be inspired.  Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Post a comment, or email me at  I promise to reply to everyone.  Cheers!

As Director of Digital Marketing at Stephen Thomas Ltd., Taslim Somani is passionate about all things digital marketing – from the latest trends and analytics, to digital strategy and best practices.  Taslim’s work is award-winning and has been featured in Marketing Magazine and other industry publications.  She is a member of the Canadian Marketing Association’s Digital Marketing Council, is a frequent speaker at non-profit marketing and fundraising conferences and writes a blog at

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