Your nonprofit’s website performs two important functions: marketing and fundraising. Not only does your website serve as the online hub for your nonprofit and its cause, helping you spread awareness about your mission, but it can also serve as a donation tool.
However, even if you do all you can to make your website the best it can be, from creating a visually-stunning design to hosting useful resources, you may still be missing part of the puzzle: user engagement.
After all, it’s one thing to set up your website with the goal of marketing your mission and pulling in fundraising dollars, but to get people to actually use it to learn about your cause and contribute is another challenge entirely.
That’s why we’ve created this short guide—to walk you through some strategies for taking your nonprofit website off autopilot and proactively planning how to maximize user engagement on your site. Let’s get started.
Get To Know Your Audience
The first step in engaging your website visitors is to understand who they are and what their needs and expectations are when it comes to your nonprofit’s website.
Here are some tips for getting to know your website audience:
- Examine your website analytics. Use a tool like Google Analytics to gain insights into your visitors’ locations, ages, and genders, as well as information about engagement on the site, page views, and conversions. With data like this, you’ll not only gain an understanding of who your visitors are, but how they behave on your website and what content and tools they’re most interested in.
- Ask your community for feedback on your website. Instead of wondering what is and isn’t working on your website, why not go straight to the source? Send out a short survey via your organization’s most actively used communication channels, like email or social media. Ask questions like, “What features or content on our website do you find most valuable?” or “How does our website compare to other websites you regularly use?”
- Develop a website visitor persona. Using website analytics and survey results, develop a fictitious representation of who you picture as your ideal website visitor. Outline the persona’s motivations, goals, and expectations for their website experience. Consider what they know about your mission and brand, and what gaps they may have in their knowledge. Then use the persona to determine how you can use your website to help them further engage with your cause and learn more about your work.
When you can clearly picture the people that are coming to your site seeking information, planning to donate, wanting to register for an upcoming event, or hoping to sign up to volunteer, you can better tailor your content and the user experience on your site to ensure it will be a useful tool in helping your visitors accomplish these goals.
Create Engaging Content
If you want your website visitors to visit your website and stick around and explore what your organization has to offer, you need to supply the content that will keep them interested (and wanting to come back in the future).
Here are some different types of engaging content that you can offer on your website:
- An “About Us” page: Your “About Us” page should share foundational information about your organization, including your values and your mission and vision statements. This is also a good place to keep publicly-available financial information and your most recent annual report.
- Blog posts: A regularly-updated blog gives website visitors a reason to continuously return to your website to access new content. Your posts will be especially engaging if you leverage storytelling best practices. For example, you could (with permission) share the story of a devoted volunteer’s decade of service or a beneficiary’s journey to finding your nonprofit’s services.
- Videos: Online video content is only increasing in popularity. In fact, according to a recent study, 91% of people say they want to see more online videos from brands in 2023. Jump on board with this trend by creating videos that explain your mission, feature testimonials from beneficiaries, recap your most successful events, or show behind-the-scenes footage of your team delivering your services.
In addition to these types of content, you might also build out a dedicated “Events” page where you can share a calendar of upcoming events, or start a podcast and share the episodes on your website.
Streamline Website Navigation
Fine-tuning your website’s navigation is your opportunity to design your visitors’ journey on your site. Similar to a map of a museum, the right navigation strategies can direct your visitors where to go to begin exploring your website, providing suggestions for different actions or routes of further exploration along the way.
The key is to keep your navigation intuitive and simple. According to Cornershop Creative, here are some best practices to implement in order to achieve these two goals:
- Keep your navigation menu short and sweet—avoid cluttering it with too many choices.
- Point your website visitors in the right direction for further exploration using internal links, calls-to-action (CTAs), and reading suggestions.
- When CTAs encourage website visitors to act, they should be directed to a form that is easy to use, whether they’re donating, signing up for an event, or inputting contact information.
To ensure that your website visitors always have access to the “map” guiding them through the site, make sure your navigation bar or menu is fixed (also called “sticky”) so that when your visitor scrolls on a page, the menu or bar is still visible on the screen. This will allow your visitors to always return to your core pages wherever their website journey takes them.
Ensure Your Site Is Accessible
When your website is accessible, anyone, regardless of their abilities or the device they’re using, can access and use it. This means that you’ll have more opportunities to engage more people in your nonprofit’s work online.
Here are some tips to help your website follow the current Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):
- Add alt text to images and transcripts to videos.
- Enable keyboard navigation for the whole website.
- Use high-contrast colors in your design.
- Use large fonts, no smaller than 16px.
- Use headers to organize your content—page titles should be marked as H1, with subsequent section titles marked as H2s, and so on.
- Ensure that important forms (like your donation form) are short and straightforward and that all form fields have clear and descriptive labels that stay visible after users start typing in the fields.
Making your website accessible isn’t just a nice thing to do—courts continue to characterize websites as public accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). So not only is making your website accessible good for your users and good for your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising efforts, but it will likely also become a legal necessity.
Drive Traffic To Your Site
Once you’ve done the work to make your website more engaging for your visitors, you should be proactive in directing traffic to your site. This will help you get more people on the site to explore your content and take action for your cause.
Here are some tools you can use to encourage visitors to check out your site:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO can help you boost organic traffic to your website. Essentially, it’s the process of working to make your web content more visible on search engines like Google. Cornershop Creative’s SEO guide for nonprofits recommends several SEO best practices, like targeting specific keywords in your written content to signal to Google the terms that your nonprofit is trying to show up for in Google searches, posting new content regularly to show search engines your site is active, and securing backlinks from authoritative websites to strengthen your own website’s authority.
- Google Ads: Google ads are the advertisements that show up on search engine results pages and are clearly marked by a little tag that says “Ad.” They can help you promote your web content and get people clicking on your pages, whether your events page, donation page, or some other important landing page. It does cost money to use Google Ads—but the good news is, your nonprofit can get funding to spend on these ads through the Google Ad Grants program, which awards eligible nonprofits $10,000 in Google Ad credits each month.
- Email: Guide your email recipients to your website by including links to your web content in your emails. For example, if you send out a monthly newsletter, you might highlight and link to your nonprofit’s recent blog posts, or plug an upcoming event with a registration link.
- Social Media: Similar to email traffic, you can also actively link to your website on your social media profiles and within posts, whether you and your community use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or other platforms. This will ensure traffic continues to flow between your social media pages and your website!
As you work to increase traffic to your website, rely on a tool like Google Analytics to evaluate how much traffic your website is getting from different sources so that you know where to focus your efforts. This will help ensure you’re connecting your most engaged audience members with your website in the right places!
Don’t take the “set it and forget it” approach to your nonprofit website. Instead, work with your team regularly to maximize user engagement on your site. Use the tips in this how-to post to get started fine-tuning your website to provide a great user experience with engaging content and tools. And remember, you can always turn to nonprofit website design experts for even more help. You can do this!