How to Make Your Nonprofit Website a Springboard for Digital-First Philanthropy

Jun 29 2022

It’s common for donors to give to organizations that hold personal significance to them. And your nonprofit’s largest gifts have likely come as a result of outreach and cultivation by development officers assigned to high-capacity prospects. 

But while that dynamic is still important, the game is changing. More and more, the savviest donors make their funding decisions based on independent research. And they find most of the information that informs their philanthropy online.

McKenzie Scott is the most high-profile example of this shift. She and her team of advisors quietly research nonprofits and then surprise them with mega gifts the recipients never saw coming. And she’s not the only one. Many of the largest gifts now come in the form of “big bets” — donors’ targeted efforts to effect meaningful social change. 

Modest donors want to make a social impact with their philanthropic dollars, too. Increasingly, they search for causes that match up with the difference they want to make in the world. Furthermore, prospective volunteers and members also seek out organizations that align with their personal values online.

So it’s time to take a hard look at your nonprofit’s website and ask: Are we providing the information a digital-first supporter is looking for?  

Tell Stories About Your Organization’s Mission and Impact 

A digital-first funding strategy involves a lot more than making it easy for donors to give online. Yes, your giving form should be intuitive. And you need to create a good user experience for members and volunteers who visit your site to access services and resources. But to inspire involvement, focus on creating a content strategy that grabs attention and elicits a response. 

Infuse Your Website With the Power of Storytelling

To reach potential donors, volunteers, and members of all kinds, your nonprofit website must clearly articulate your mission, purpose, and values. And the best way to do that is to tell good stories while simultaneously offering meaningful ways to get involved.

Compelling storytelling can take the form of:

  • Narratives
  • Pull out quotes
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Statistics
  • Testimonials
  • Infographics

By telling interesting stories, you can more easily guide users to take the actions you want them to.

The YMCA Atlanta does a good job of this. Beginning on their homepage, they talk about their programs in terms of the impact they have on participants’ lives. For example, if you enroll your child in soccer camp, the YMCA assures you you’re not just giving kids the chance to play soccer. You’re providing much-needed stress relief after a difficult year while giving them a chance to hone their character and make new friends.

This is not the time for facts alone. Connect the dots for your readers so they understand the value of your nonprofit in the lives of the people you serve.

Use Quantitative and Qualitative Insights to Guide Your Storytelling Efforts

To create content that resonates with your audience — and with the potential funders who could be researching your cause — you need to understand their interests. To that end, take a peek at Google Search Console to see the specific phrases and keywords visitors are searching for to land on your site. Pay attention to your most visited pages and use tools like Hotjar heatmaps to see what text, images, and other assets users are interacting with most. 

Then gather some simple qualitative information. Ask new donors and volunteers how they found your nonprofit and what inspired them to get involved. Or consider polling site visitors to learn whether or not they find your content useful. 

Finally, develop your content strategy with the results of that quantitative and qualitative data in mind.

Make Your Nonprofit Website a Holistic Philanthropy Hub

The best digital-first nonprofit websites tell good stories — but not simply for the sake of it. The goal is always to spur people to action. Your website should provide many exciting avenues for supporters to take up your mantle and further your mission. 

And keep in mind: While you certainly want to inspire your audience to make a monetary gift, it’s important to remember that support comes in many forms. In fact, the word “philanthropy” means “love of humankind” and there are many ways for your supporters to express this.

Specifically, consider how you can tell stories that motivate people to:

  • Attend an event
  • Enroll in a class or in one of your services
  • Give of their time as a volunteer
  • Become an activist for your cause
  • Share and promote your content on social media
  • Reach out to learn more about your nonprofit one-on-one

Make sure your website communicates the value and impact of all these ways to get involved. 

Be Transparent About Your Nonprofit’s Financial Status

Game-changing gifts only come after donors scrutinize organizations they plan to support. They want to see evidence that organizations take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. 

It’s always been common for corporations and foundations to require nonprofits to submit their 990, balance sheet, and consolidated financial statements as part of a grant application. Before approving a distribution of funds, these entities take a hard look at data such as revenue, debt, and expenses. 

It’s wise to make this information available on your website for any potential supporter to access. After all, even the donors who are closest to you may want to conduct their own research before making a gift. Development officers should be able to point donors to the website when they have questions or concerns. 

Being transparent about your books is a smart way to help prospective supporters feel confident about their philanthropic decisions. And it reinforces your overall health and vitality to members and the greater community as well.

Today’s Savvy Supporters Make Their Decisions Online. Is Your Website Up to Par?

We’re living in a digital world. And though many nonprofits will continue to rely on personal connections to further their mission, it’s important to invest in a strong digital presence, too. 

In a crowded, competitive sector, you can’t afford for your website to lag behind. You have a compelling story to tell, and there are donors, volunteers, and members who want to make an impact. It’s time to make it a priority to use your website to reach them.