These days, the internet is king. If you need to know or find something, you Google it. If you’re looking for a specific product or organization, you visit their website. And there’s nothing worse than landing on a page that’s cluttered, unorganized, and/or hard to navigate. We all know how fast we’ve hit that little red “x” on sites like that.
Designing and writing content for your website can seem challenging, but we’re going to walk you through the most important, and sometimes overlooked, aspects that will make your website effective, navigable, and memorable.
As a nonprofit leader, this is especially vital. Not only do you want to spread your message and goal, you want to raise money, and fundraising online is essential. It’s convenient, fast, and easy, and if done correctly can generate more money, more visitors, and more supporters.
This is important for everyone, though, not just nonprofits! Cause-focused organizations of all kinds also need web content that clearly informs readers of the issue and what they can do to help. You need to make an immediate and strong impression in order to gain supporters and grow your business. Everything must be clear, concise, and always lead back to the cause. So, let’s get to it!
You need to keep all of your web content clear, easy to understand, and catered to your specific audience.
Who are you trying to reach? Who is your ideal donor or supporter? What do they do, what do they like? Figure out these questions and then tailor all your content to reach your audience. In return, answer questions for them. What do you do? Why should they care? How can they help?
Make all of your writing clear and concise, don’t add any extra information that doesn’t need to be there and that may confuse or mislead them. Avoid jargon. You might know the language of your specific industry but others probably do not. Get an outside, third party to read everything over and ensure that it is easy to understand. Your purpose should always be clear.
Additionally, keep all of your paragraphs short and sweet. Break up chunks of writing into easily-digestible content that one can easily scan through should they want to. Highlight the most important information so they can’t miss it. This also makes it easier for people to read and look at if they are on their phone or tablet, which let’s be honest, most of us are.
Keep your home page and all of your pages simple, not cluttered with text.
Your home page is the first thing viewers see, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with a ton of written information. They won’t know where to look or what to look for, and probably won’t read much of it at all.
Instead, use images to draw viewers in and interest them. We live in a visual world, so use that to your advantage and choose strong, eye-catching pictures that support your narrative. These will intrigue viewers and guide them to the written information.
This goes for your other pages as well. Save yourself and the reader time and cut the clutter. Only write what is most important, clearly and succinctly. Keep it simple.
Also worth noting: watch the number of pages you have on your website as well. If you have lots of different pages and categories this can also make your site look cluttered, and confuse or overwhelm the viewer. Most people won’t read an entire site as it is. And this means less writing for you too! Sounds like a win-win.
Use storytelling to attract and intrigue readers, inviting them to be a part of your cause.
No one will want to read a bland, boring, or strictly technical website. People respond well to stories, something that draws them in, appeals to their emotions, and makes them think. If you want to make your website more effective, creating a story around your mission and goal is a surefire way to garner more support. Storytelling is powerful.
You’re passionate about your work, so put that to paper (or rather, keyboard) and make it show. Make others passionate too. Tell readers about your organization, introduce a character and a conflict, present the solution, and show them how they can be part of that resolution.
However, choose your words wisely. This isn’t a novel; you only have a few seconds to pique visitors’ interests and keep them on your website. Keep it concise, to the point, and powerful. Every word counts, and you don’t get many. Make sure each one is impactful and furthers your cause.
You may also consider using statistics or numerical data to further your story and prove that readers can make a difference. How will their contribution really help? Show the success and make it real for them. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with stats.
You can find more resources for effective storytelling here.
Make your website customer or donor friendly--donation buttons or calls to action should be on every page and easily accessible.
You want viewers to take action, so communicate clearly what you want that action to be and what they need to do. Don’t forget: always keep in mind who you’re writing to! Use action and power verbs and convince them to take the necessary action.
A call to action can be anything from donating, to buying a product, to getting on your email list. Whatever you want your audience to do, this is what you need to call attention to. These are powerful marketing tools, and should get an immediate response from the person viewing it. They should directly let your audience know what to do next if they’re interested in what you have to offer.
These calls to action are what drives donations if you’re a nonprofit, or sales if you’re not. Keep your statements direct and concise. Use “you” to make the reader place themselves directly into the situation. Appeal to emotions, just like storytelling, and create a sense of urgency. This will make your content more compelling and effective.
Your goal should be to keep supporters one click away from donating or making whatever action you need them to make at all times. Design-wise, you need to be placing clear, easy to locate buttons on every page. Make them stand out by highlighting them in a color that is different from your written content so visitors will be sure to see it.
Your “About” page also needs to contain client/customer/donor language.
Did you know that the About page is often the second most visited page on a website? If that’s also the case for you, it should probably be working a little harder on your behalf.
Yes, it’s about you or your organization, but it also needs to appeal to the reader. You’re writing it for them, so they can determine who you are and if they want to support you. So convince them!
Talk about what you do and how it can help them, or how they can help you and why they should. Tell them why they should spend their time reading your website or supporting your cause. Remember what I said before, everything should be about your audience, even your About page.
This is also the perfect place to include your social media. Your website should have clear social media icons sprinkled throughout, but you should also include them here. Don’t be afraid to add a call to action button here as well. (See our About page as an example.)
You also need to make sure you establish trust with your audience, whether it be a donor, sponsor, or customer.
Prospective donors and customers are going to want to know where their money will really be going and if their financial information is safe and secure. You need to consider this when writing content and build that trust. Address these issues and put their minds at ease.
Demonstrate your organization’s use of funding, maybe with an eye-catching graph or some other graphic. Make sure your audience knows you value their support as well as their financial information, and take all necessary measures and precautions to ensure that it is secure.
Speaking of graphics...
Your content needs to be visually pleasing, so use pictures, graphics, and make it all look clean and appealing.
While your content is obviously important and will ultimately drive visitors to take action and support your cause, things need to be aesthetically pleasing as well, like I mentioned earlier. Choose your fonts wisely. Pick fonts that are easy to read and large enough for all screens and eyes.
Choose pictures and graphics that are also strong and only relevant to your organization. You need these visuals around your website to support your written content, catch the audience’s attention, and generally just look good! Make sure all images are clear and not too distracting. Create a color palette for your website and match your pictures to that palette. Be careful to only use royalty free images as well!
Remember that this is especially important for your homepage and your donation/product page. These need to be clear and visually stunning, but still not cluttered or hard to navigate. On your homepage, make sure your page categories are easy to spot and organized. On your donation or product page, include bold amounts, payment methods, frequencies, and how their donation or purchase will help your cause.
Clear, concise, beautiful!
Your website is the face of your organization and communicates with the world what you do, why they need to know, and how they can help. Make sure your content is powerful and your visuals are stunning, and you’re more likely to reach your intended audience—and your goals!
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Megan Westbrook holds a B.A. in journalism with a focus in public relations and a minor in Spanish from Georgia State University. An aspiring writer, her interests reside in blogging, social media, content creation, design, and photography. She is also a passionate social justice advocate and interested in nonprofit or cause-focused work. Megan is currently a receptionist at Servcorp in Atlanta, Georgia.