1: Choose one primary audience of your homepage.
This might be the most important point in all of our websites for the nonprofits series.
Choose one audience, and focus your energy on it.
Simplify your home page’s message. Remember, you only have 3 seconds.
At first, this seems impossible to our clients. But if you understand the importance of targeting your demographic, it makes the approach much easier. Because if you chase three demographics, you will lose them all. Choosing one actually makes it easier to connect with all of them, strange as this seems. Choose one, and all good things you need will follow.
What is the primary audience for most nonprofits? Donors. There are exceptions to this of course, like the organization we work with that wants to reach visitors to their hot springs, which are at the center of their cause. Or the organization that is government-funded and cares more about raising awareness among recipients of their food programs online so they can maximize the impact of their mission.
What is the desired action of your primary audience?
The obvious answer, “to click on a donate button,” is the right answer for most nonprofits. But this may not be the right answer for you. If you’re the kind of nonprofit that relies heavily on selling a social good product (like Sevenly or Trades of Hope both do), you may want your donors to buy a product or service. Maybe you want your audience to primarily focus on signing petitions or hosting awareness events (though this is usually secondary or hand-in-hand with donating, like in the case of IJM.org). Or maybe your primary need is for volunteers, but again, most nonprofits who need volunteers also need donations to fund the efforts of those volunteers (but not always).
Or maybe it’s not your donors at all. Maybe, like above, it’s actually those who are impacted by your cause—the humans you’re empowering and helping. Maybe your online purpose is to engage them to take advantage of certain goods or services, like our client who provides meal programs to school children and needs schools to enroll.
The most effective nonprofit websites choose one purpose for their homepages. This is not to say that other key people cannot use your website. It’s just that it is built with a primary audience in mind. We have many tips for tailoring your homepage to your target audience, but the key is to get that main purpose nailed down and to not waver from it. Other constituents of your organizations will follow along if you can hook your primary target. This is because your cause is heading in the right direction and you’re mobilizing people by intentionally choosing a focus. Once you do this, people who, for example, advocate for you in government positions will be more likely to jump on board. This is an example of how you can reach more than one target market by only focusing on one.
Amazing, isn’t it?
This is a principle that applies to all of life, but especially here.
So how do you grab your donors or other target audience members by their heartstrings?
By knowing who they are. Which brings us to to point number two.
2: Know Your Audience
Even if you’ve already chosen your target audience, you have to know a little bit about them so you can tailor your communications (which includes your website) to those humans.
We’re so used to throwing words around in marketing like “demographic,” “user,” “audience,” and “profile,” that sometimes we forget we’re talking about humans.
Humans who have stories and histories themselves. Humans with interests or who have been personally affected by the cause you champion.
If your audience is your donors
Knowing your donors is hard and takes focus, research, and communication. But before you get to all that (we’ll cover it as we go along), remember why you created your nonprofit in the first place. You were passionate about the cause, and just like in business marketing, your target audience usually is a lot like you. They are going to be people who connect with your passion. Maybe you love kids and sports, so you started your nonprofit to engage inner-city kids in after school sports programs. Your target audience might be others who love kids and might even include people who love sports. Maybe it’s an arts program. Go after artists. Make sure your homepage appeals to the sorts of people who will want to donate to your program. Even people who love to give usually have certain areas in which they really love to give—the environment, sexual abuse aftercare and prevention, music programs, etc. The list of possible donors is as long as the list of nonprofits. Make sure you’re speaking their language, showing them what they’re capable of by partnering with you.
(A word about age groups. Maybe you know your audience is all major donors or they’re baby boomers, but remember that while you retain your current donations using things like mailings, you’re going to want to target millennials and younger online if you want your organization to endure. If your current donors are all over 50, you want to begin to broaden your focus. Your website’s homepage is a good place to start.)
If your audience is your beneficiaries
Similar to the idea above, your beneficiaries may be who you had in mind when you started the organization (or joined it).
How are their lives personally affected by the challenges they have faced? If they have dealt with abuse, how can you use the precious real estate of your homepage to say, We know. We’ve been there. We can help you be an overcomer? If you want to connect with refugee families and connect them with helpful resources, how can your homepage paint the story that a refugee family has lived and offer hope, giving them a cue that you have the resources to help them?
3: Tell their story, not yours
This point is especially for organizations who are choosing to target their beneficiaries with their website homepage. Speak to, not at, the people you’re trying to help. Acknowledge the strength they have to get through the particular challenges life has dealt them, and speak a language of dignity and respect. Make sure your imagery and verbiage honors the human spirit and will to survive and thrive. Avoid making them feel like a victim in need of saving. Make sure they know you admire their courage and are willing to learn from them and want to partner with them on their journey.
4: Partner with your humans, not the other way around
This point is especially for those organizations who are choosing to target their donors with the homepage of their website.
Know that today’s givers already are aware of more causes and reasons to give than their parents ever were growing up. They are aware, engaged, and concerned. They already are over-burdened with the world’s problems—refugee crises, wars, human trafficking, the environment, arts and music being cut from schools, homelessness, hunger, children with no one to look after them. Being a millennial myself, I can be overwhelmed with depression just beginning to type this list. For this reason, I stopped short. I didn’t want to go on. This is why the website we’re going to help you create isn’t going to be one that shouts the cause into already cause-exhausted hearts. Instead, it is going to be one that proclaims what you’re doing about the world’s problems to your donors.
Try borrowing from Point 3 and tell the story of the amazing humans you are helping through your cause.
Trust me, your audience will want to help. They already do. They are looking for the right organization to join ranks with.
Will it be yours?
- Giving Page 101: The Anatomy of An Effective Donation Page - October 20, 2017
- Tips for Creating a Nonprofit Website Part I: Choosing Your Primary Audience - September 11, 2017
- A Look Behind the Design for the Denver Analytics Forum Event Website - August 22, 2017