With so many marketers vying for our attention online, both small and well-established charitable organizations often are left wondering what they can possibly do to grab some of their supporters' screentime.
If that sounds familiar, don't worry. Here are five things you can do to enhance your web presence and develop a sustainable digital marketing strategy that won't disappoint:
1. Optimize your website for user engagement. While it can seem as if there's a limitless number of channels and platforms you can use to connect with donors, don't forget that your website is still the hub of your organization's online presence and marketing efforts.
When it comes time to refresh your site, keep these factors in mind:
- Mobile-responsiveness. A vertical layout, clean font choice, and large buttons will help make your site usable on any device. Not sure it passes muster? Pull out your smartphone and navigate around the site or try to complete an online form. Easy? If not, back to the drawing board.
- User-friendliness. Be sure to create a site that works for all your visitors. Logical navigation, short paragraphs, and forms you can complete in under sixty seconds will keep user frustration (and abandonment) to a minimum.
- Search engine optimization. Although designing an SEO-friendly site may seem like a bridge too far, you can take a step in that direction by simply following a few best practices, such as keeping page-load time low or including relevant keywords in your content and page headings.
Need some help with your site's design? Check out to learn how to make your own site both beautiful and functional.
2. Evaluate your site's performance using Google Analytics. So you've designed the perfect website — now what?
Test out how well your site is performing across a variety of metrics by setting up a Google Analytics account. Free and fairly straightforward to learn, Google Analytics can provide insight into some of key aspects of your site, such as:
- Website traffic. Which "referring" sites or channels drive the most users to your site? Analyzing referral data can show you where your visitors come from, be it organic search (Google, Bing), a social media platform, your marketing email, or a third-party site.
- Most popular landing pages. It's important to understand not only where your users are coming from, but where on your site they're landing. This will give you a better idea of which of your programs, initiatives, and/or content is engaging the most visitors.
- Conversion rates. You can set up a feature in GA called "goals" that will allow you to determine how many individuals are completing your donation/volunteer forms, as well as the source that brought them your site.
Once you have an understanding of how your site is performing, you can start developing strategies for improving your online engagement with visitors and donors. For example, if you see that a high number of users are landing on your but a much smaller number are actually completing the form and making it to the confirmation screen, you might consider optimizing your form to create a more streamlined/user-friendly experience.
3. Understand your email marketing metrics. As one of the most critical channels of communication between your organization and your supporters, email is simply something you can't afford to ignore. To get the most out of your email marketing efforts, spend some time learning the different metrics tracked by your email service provider and pay special attention to new ways to measure your performance and improve your processes. These include:
- Open rates. Sometimes it feels like no one is reading the emails your team puts so much time into creating; your open rate can show whether that's the case. Low open rates might signify unappealing subject lines or content that's not targeted to right audience.
- Click-through rates. A user who reads your email and then hits "archive" isn't engaging with your content. Include relevant links, enticing calls-to-action, and bright buttons to increase your CTR and drive users from email to action.
- Unsubscribe rate. If users are actively dropping from your email stream, take a closer look at your subscriber list. You might consider segmenting your list to create more targeted groups that receive campaigns more aligned with their interests or preferences.
Email is a great opportunity to keep your organization top-of-mind for your supporters, but only if you use it to deliver high-quality content. Take advantage of analytics to learn what works for your subscribers — and what doesn't.
4. Apply for a Google AdWords grant. Did you know you can get free online marketing for your nonprofit? It's true! Google AdWords grants provide eligible nonprofits with $10,000 in AdWords spending per month. You can use your grant to bid on promoted ads that appear at the top of a user's Google search results when Google users are searching on terms related to the work of your organization. And while there are some restrictions on what you can do with those ads, to drive traffic to your site and raise your profile on the Web.
Here are a few other things you need to know about the Google AdWords grant application and eligibility process:
- You'll need to be a registered 501(c)(3) organization.
- Government entities, hospitals, and schools are not eligible.
- You'll need a functional website to link to your AdWords account.
- Once approved for a grant, you'll need to meet certain criteria to keep your account active, including a minimum 5 percent click-through rate on your ads.
If you're new to the AdWords world, you may want to consider bringing on a specialized consultant who can help you secure the grant, set up your account, and help you maximize the impact of your ads.
5. Start planning an online fundraiser. Getting the word out about your organization's needs through email, your website, and social media is a good first step, but you can take your digital fundraising strategy to the next level by hosting a fundraiser explicitly designed for an online audience.
Here are a few ideas that can help you build an engaged online community while reaching your fundraising goals:
- Peer-to-peer fundraising. While you may want to host an in-person event to anchor your fundraiser, the meat and potatoes of a P2P campaign should happen online. Be sure to provide donation request templates to your participants, give your top fundraisers shout-outs on social media, and offer gamification features designed to help your supporters stay active for the duration of the campaign.
- Online auction events. Charity auctions are a nonprofit staple, but this classic fundraising technique can be even more effective when you use an online auction tool and pair your digital fundraiser with a silent or live auction event.
- Social media contests and giveaways. Create an online raffle and give donors willing to share their donations on social media a chance to win special prizes. You'll boost awareness through their social media shares while bringing in a ton of additional funds.
Looking for more inventive fundraising ideas both online and off? Check out for organizations of all sizes and levels of tech expertise.
It's never a bad time to refresh your digital marketing strategy, so start thinking now about how you can leverage the techniques outlined above at your nonprofit. Good luck and happy fundraising!
Carl Diesing is co-founder and managing director of , where he works with nonprofits and their technology to foster fundraising, create awareness, cure disease, and solve social issues.