Whether you’re new to the world of fundraising or you’re a professional who’s been running campaigns for years, you know that there are a lot of options out there for raising money for your cause. Between the many online fundraising platforms to choose from and Google searches that yield thousands of unique fundraising event ideas, it can be difficult to know where to start!
So, what if we told you that you’re capable of building a customized online tool that can help you raise incredible amounts of money for your cause both now and for years to come?
If that sounds too good to be true, think again! The online tool we’re talking about is: a website dedicated to your cause. You know a nonprofit website is essential for marketing purposes, but when it’s created and optimized for fundraising, it can help you maximize your funding, too! And even if you’re not moonlighting as a webmaster, you can create a site that looks great and helps you effectively pull in support.
To help you get started, we’ve created this five-step guide to give you a leg up in the process. In it, we’ll cover:
- Choose a CMS.
- Brand your website.
- Offer useful information and resources.
- Add an online donation page.
- Promote your cause and campaigns.
By following these tips, you can create a website that not only helps you fundraise, but also helps you promote your mission, recruit volunteers, manage events, and offer exclusive resources for staff and members. Ready to take the plunge and start designing a website dedicated to your cause? Let’s begin!
1. Choose a CMS.
Before you can start designing the website of your dreams, you need to have the tools that make the design experience easy and efficient. The most important of these tools will be a content management system (CMS), also known as a website builder.
A CMS is a software platform that allows you to easily create a website without having to build it from the ground up with code. Typically a CMS will come equipped with all the themes, templates, widgets, plugins, and other tools you need to create a distinctive look, set up individual web pages, and build out resources like a blog or a donation page.
There are a number of CMS platforms to choose from, many of which you likely already know about, such as WordPress or Squarespace. These are generic website builders that are best suited for individuals or small businesses. However, they can still be useful for nonprofits or other cause-based organizations — if you’re willing to take on a steeper learning curve and occasionally incur additional costs.
The preferable option is to invest in a nonprofit-specific CMS. Website builders like these offer easy-to-use tools and the particular functionalities that nonprofits (and similar organizations) specifically need, like on-site donation forms, event registration capabilities, or members-only pages.
As you shop for different CMS options, consider the following:
- Your organization’s specific needs
- Your level of technical expertise
- Your budget
2. Brand your website.
The first thing you’ll want to do as you embark on your website design journey is to brand your site to your group or organization. And if you’re wondering, “What on earth is my organization’s brand?” don’t worry! You already have one.
Your brand is simply everything that sets you apart from other caused-based organizations. This includes how you talk about your cause, how you treat constituents and volunteers, and the attitude with which you approach your work. But it also includes visual elements that you can leverage for a sleek, professional website look.
These visual elements include:
- Logos: Typically a logo is an abstract design that serves as a visual shorthand for your organization. Think of the American Red Cross’s signature red cross or McDonald’s famous golden arches. You can prominently display your logo across all of your web pages and include a link to go back to your homepage when it’s clicked.
- Color schemes: Colors can do a lot to set the emotional tone of a website. For example, dark and heavy colors might leave a website visitor feeling solemn and serious, whereas bright pastels might make them feel happy and optimistic. Try to use colors that are logically connected to your cause. For example, if your organization champions environmental conservation, you might use green and blue hues throughout your website.
- Fonts: Yes, even the look of the text on your website matters when it comes to your visual brand! Pay attention to the fonts you’re using, and always opt for professional and easy-to-read fonts over more swoopy and calligraphy-based options. If you’ll use different fonts on your website (for example, between titles and body text), make sure they look cohesive with each other.
- Imagery: Images, whether they’re stock photos or illustrations, make a big difference in the look of a website. Try to use photos of real people in action. For example, say you’re a school group that runs read-a-thon fundraisers. To inspire your audience, you’d likely want to include pictures of students engrossed in different books or browsing your library. Choose your images carefully and use them to evoke emotion in your website visitors!
The key to using your visual brand on your website is to ensure it’s consistent with the rest of your operations. If someone were to, for example, receive an email newsletter from your organization, would the branding on that newsletter match the rest of your website? What about the posters you’ve put up in community centers in your town? Making your brand consistent between your online and in-person activities can make you look more professional and help your supporters more easily recognize your work within the community.
3. Offer useful information and resources.
Once you’re confident about the look and feel of your website, you can start picking the content you want to host. Of course, you’ll want to include important information about your fundraising campaigns, but you can also fill your website will other valuable resources.
Here are a few typical resources cause-based organizations like to feature:
- An “About Us” page: An “About Us” page is a great place to state your organization’s mission, vision, and goals. This page can serve as a useful resource for new supporters who are interested in learning more about what your organization does.
- A blog: Every cause-based organization should have a blog. Why? A blog is a wonderful place to share updates on your operations, whether you’re announcing you’ve met your fundraising goal or that you have a new PTA president. Blogging consistently is also a great way to add fresh content to your website on a regular basis. We suggest you outline a clear blogging schedule and stick to it.
- Volunteering information: In order to keep your volunteer program healthy, you need to consistently recruit new volunteers and provide fresh information about upcoming volunteer opportunities. Create a dedicated volunteer page on your website that you can revisit again and again to refresh with new information about joining your program and training for various opportunities.
By fleshing out your website with these important resources, you provide value to the supporters, donors, members, and constituents whom you work with. Without different resources and content, your website could just appear like a cash register for your cause. But by diversifying the resources you offer, you’ll communicate that your website is so much more than that.
4. Add an online donation page.
After you’ve added essential resources to your website, you’re ready to turn your attention to one of the most important cause-based website tools of all — your online donation page! Approaching your online donation page with the same amount of attention as the rest of your website will pay off as you open the doors to more support from your organization’s community.
Focus on creating a visually appealing and easy-to-use page that encourages donors to move forward with contributing a gift. Here are three ways to design your donation page effectively, according to Morweb’s guide to donation page design:
- Brand your donation page to match your website. A generic-looking donation page can look like a suspicious third-party page to donors, even if it’s not! To reinforce trust with your donors (and to appear professional and consistent), spend time branding your donation page to match the rest of your website. This will connect your cause to the experience of giving, making donors feel more secure about trusting you with their financial information.
- Keep the donation form short. Some organizations make the mistake of requiring too much information on their donation forms. While gathering as much information as possible about your donors can provide useful information for future events and campaigns, dozens of questions can often leave donors thinking, “This is taking too long. I no longer want to give this organization my money.” To decrease the number of abandoned donations, limit the number of questions or fields on your form to only include the necessary ones. Keep it simple and only ask for contact information and payment details. If you do want to ask additional questions, mark those questions as optional.
- Offer multiple giving options. Empower your donors to do more by offering multiple giving options. You might include suggested donation amounts on your form, or give donors the chance to opt into a recurring donation program. Many cause-based organizations like to advertise matching gifts, which are donations that a donor’s employer gives to match the employee’s gift dollar for dollar. To inform donors of their eligibility for matching gifts, you’ll need a matching gift tool that’s embedded directly on your donation page. You can partner with a matching gift software provider to get this on your form!
If your primary motivation for creating a website for your cause is to pull in more donations, your online donation page will be an especially critical part of your design process. And even if it isn’t, know that a well-designed (and regularly maintained) donation page can serve as a great passive fundraising tool and is definitely worth your while to set up.
5. Promote your cause and campaigns.
After you’ve got your website looking beautiful and hosting all of your important content, it’s time to put it to work!
Your website can serve as a great marketing tool for your overall cause and individual campaigns, such as a Giving Tuesday fundraising push. Here are a few ways to harness your website to make your marketing stick the landing every time:
- Create dedicated pages for different events and fundraising campaigns that you can direct supporters to.
- Integrate your website with social media and add a live social media feed to your homepage so that your website visitors can move between your site and your social profiles.
- Use a fundraising thermometer to give your website visitors visual updates of your fundraising progress.
- Add a QR code for your website to your physical marketing materials.
- Share the link to your online donation page on social media and encourage your followers to click through and donate.
If you’re new to having a website to use as part of your marketing strategy, don’t worry. As you integrate it into your marketing efforts over time, before you know it, supporters will move seamlessly back and forth between all of your channels, from your mailers to your social media to your website!
Leveraging a website can help boost giving year-round. So, whether you’re a booster club parent designing a website for the first time or a nonprofit professional who simply needed a refresher, know that your design efforts can truly help you pull in the support that moves your cause forward. Use this guide to get started and bring your organization’s website vision to life!