Non-profit Web Sites and Usability

by mqholt on April 15, 2009

Many non-profits see their “communications” department merely as a marketing tool for their development (fund raising) department. While this is certainly a valuable role, non-profits should also try to use their communications vehicles as a way to further their mission.

However, with this post, I am going to look at perhaps the main thing that non-profits want their web sites to do. Raise money.

I remember 10 or 12 years ago, when non-profits were afraid, for security and cost reasons, to even put online donation forms on their sites. Then things changed, and they thought if they just put the donation pages up, they would raise oodles of money overnight. Neither thought was correct, at least until the Asian tsunami of 2004. Then every international relief agency scrambled to find ways to spend all of the donations that were coming in. (The worldwide community donated more than $7 billion in humanitarian aid for tsunami relief.)

And you would think that these non-profits would then have quickly looked at their web sites to try to maximize their effectiveness. But, this really didn’t happen.

A couple of weeks ago, Jakob Nielsen had a great article called “Donation Usability: Increasing Online Giving to Non-Profits and Charities.” He makes the point that “Non-profits would collect much more from their websites if only they’d clearly state what they are about and how they use donations.” Seems obvious, but if you look around at the top non-profit sites you will see that not many of them do. They are all seemingly interested in huge banners that show someone in need with some sort of “donate now” slogan in front of them.

Not really confidence building. And they don’t really seem to know who their audience is. It’s not really their long-term donors. They don’t need those banners at all. Long term donors need good email newsletters that actually tell them what good the non-profit is doing with their money. The web site is mainly for attracting new donors, and for small first-time donations.

You have to give these new visitors confidence. Let them know what your mission is, and exactly how it is you will spend their money.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: