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10 Tips for Raising Money from Your Website

Although online donations still represent a modest percentage (7.5 percent as of 2012) of total giving to nonprofit organizations, that percentage is growing, and your nonprofit's website is an important fundraising tool.

People give online because it's fast and convenient. Online giving is particularly strong at reaching donors who know your organization well, trust it, and like the convenience of giving online. It also is successful at attracting donors who contribute on impulse. Charities that respond to emergencies have succeeded at raising money online when a disaster strikes.

How can you make your website do its fundraising job well? Here are ten tips:

  • Evaluate your website's content. If potential donors are meeting your organization for the first time through its website, you want them to quickly understand the essence of who you are and what you do. Ask yourself, what do they see when they arrive on your home page? Your purpose and mission should be clearly and succinctly stated. Don't use your full mission statement: instead, present your purpose in a phrase or short sentence.

  • Pay attention to your website's look. Don't present a cluttered layout or dense text. Remember that it's a visual medium. (You can search online to see examples of the previous year's best nonprofit websites for some great models.)

  • Invite your website's readers to get involved. Include sections labeled, "What You Can Do," "Join Us," or "Make Change." In all online fundraising, using the word "you" is the most powerful way to get your readers' attention. When you have that attention, give that reader some choices. Making a donation should be a clear and prominent option, but it shouldn't be the only way for someone to help you.

  • Show the outcomes. Online donors want to know about results. They want to know your work is effective and that their contribution makes a concrete difference. You can show them the stack of school supplies their $50 gift could buy for refugee children or the well you could dig in a drought-parched part of the world for just $300.

  • Keep it simple. Make it oh so easy to find your "donate" option and follow the steps to make an online donation. Services such as Just Give and Network for Good can help you collect and acknowledge your online donations.

  • Be honest and clear about how you're spending your donors' money. Earn their trust with your candor. And always provide an easy-to-use "contact us" feature so they can submit questions and comments.

  • Ask. Be clear about what actions you want your web visitors to take. Don't be shy about requesting donations and calling on them to take action.

  • Use keywords to describe the work you do. You want to make those words prominent in your headings and introductory copy. Remember that your online readers will include people who have come across you by searching online for information about the subject of your work, as well as those who are looking for your nonprofit by name. You want to be certain that those "searching by subject" readers will find you.

  • Experiment with investing in search engine marketing (SEM). Google Grants and its paid-search service AdWords is a good place to begin.

  • Pay attention to what people are saying about your organization. Set up Google alerts to see when and how your organization is mentioned in blogs, the media, and other online contexts (and participate in the conversation whenever possible). Also, check to see how your organization is ranked on nonprofit rating websites such as Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving, or how your clients and volunteers rate you on Yelp.com or GreatNonprofits.org.

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