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How to get donations on nonprofit and charity websites

In years past, charitable and other non-profit organisations had pretty specific methods of soliciting donations.

Many organisations were, and still are, able to obtain free TV and radio time, because those media outlets could use that donated time to reduce their tax liabilities and to perform a certain amount of 'public service' time, as required.

Organisations held fund-raising events at the local level, publicised them as much as possible, and hoped to get enough participants and donations to make those events worth the time, effort, and cost.

Such organisations have also held fund-raising drives by regular mail, soliciting donations which could be sent back in a pre-addressed envelope. Some even continue to have door-to-door campaigns.


Get a great website

A standard, rather dull website will not engage and motivate visitors to stay, navigate around, learn more about you and then feel good about giving. The best non-profit and charitable websites have certain basics:

A solid description of the organisation’s mission. Just like any product or service, you need to show the value of what you offer. Visitors need to see the benefit of your mission to the cause you have. Your mission must be on your homepage – the details can be filled in later. How you explain that mission will be important too – it must be compelling (more on this later).

  • Provide plenty of detail about the people, or animals, or caregivers, or facilities, or environmental cause that you support. Tell stories in engaging ways. This will make your cause very personal. The additional detail might include statistics related to how many people have been served; how many animals have been saved, how a cause’s funds have been used, etc.
  • Visuals and other media are critical. You cannot share who you are and what you do without visuals. This is the best way to tell your stories. Check out the website of Paw My Gosh. When a visitor lands on the site, s/he is immediately provided with rescue videos that are poignant and heartwarming. It is just hard to resist watching the several that are always there.
  • Look through the visuals on the site Too Young to Wed. The photos will touch your heart, and you will wonder what can you do? A good website will show visitors exactly how they can become involved and, as well how they can donate to the cause.

Non-profits depend on two things – volunteers and funding. The ability to appeal to emotions will go a long way.

  • Set up donation ability online. It’s often said in marketing that you have to 'strike while the iron is hot'. There must be a clear path for a visitor to donate right then and there. The other part of getting donations is to show the visitor exactly how his money will be used. Some organisations ask visitors to sponsor a child; some ask for a donation to buy a cow or dig a well for clean water. Feeling that their donations are very specifically used is compelling.
  • Tell the story of the organisation. How did the organisation stop? What moved the originators to begin their mission? People want to know and understand the passion that founders have had for their non-profit.
  • Publicise any events that are on tap and keep that section of your site very current.
  • You want any text to be creative and engaging. This is an area in which lots of designers falter, because they are, after all, artists, not necessarily good writers. Get professional help. There are many paper writing services that have copywriting departments full of creatives who can provide engaging and exciting text.

Use social media avidly

Charities and non-profits that want to spread awareness and build support for their causes cannot ignore social media. The issue can be this, however. Non-profits want to appeal to a broad demographic, unlike most for-profit companies that market products or services. With this in mind, non-profits must have a presence on many platforms, and this is a tall order. Regular, scheduled postings are a must. Just as companies have competitors, there are competitors for the money that donors are willing to give. Any non-profit must make itself well-known and promote its cause. Here is what social media can do for you.

You Can Connect with Your Current Supporters and Obtain More

When you post compelling content, your current followers will share that content with their social media communities. This is just like companies spreading their brands. You need exposure if you intend to grow your support base and, in doing so, financial funding. And as you continue to post, your analytics will let you know which platforms are doing the best and where you may need to re-evaluate your strategy.

You can also use tools to monitor conversations that are occurring about you. And you can express your appreciation publicly to individual supports and donors.

You Can Drive Traffic to Your Website

You want people to come to your site and you can use your social media presence. It is on your site where they will learn all about you, get involved, and be able to donate. Your current supporters will perhaps check your site once in a while. But if they follow you on social media, they have an opportunity to share each of your posts that appear on their pages. If your URL appears in your posts, it will be easy for readers to link to your site. Remember, your social media posts are not asking for donations. They are supposed to garner engagement with your stories and your cause.

At the same time, your website and your blog, if you have one, will have sharing buttons, so that your brand is spread even more.

You Can Run Campaigns That May Go Viral

A couple of years ago, the ALS Association issued its Ice Bucket Challenge. People were challenged to be drenched in ice/ice water and then to challenge their friends to do the same. The year prior to this campaign, the ALS Association received donations of $2.5 million. The year of the challenge, however, donations rose to $70 million. The challenge began with a few celebrities and spread with amazing speed. You might consider a similar activity – people love having those kinds of challenges and the chance to tag their friends. The ALS challenge was creative. How creative can you be?

On social media, it is a good idea to vary the types of posts. You certainly should publicise your events and campaigns, but choose to feature your volunteers, your donors, your staff, and, often, the recipients of your activities. These posts make your organisation personal. Use photos and videos as much as possible – these are the posts that are shared.

The Internet has drastically changed marketing for every enterprise; charities and other non-profits have great opportunities in this digital world. Taking advantage of these opportunities in creative ways can really give such organisations a competitive edge.


Page last edited Sep 15, 2017 History

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