I am a self-proclaimed do-gooder, and because of this, I absolutely love nonprofit organizations. The notion that entire groups of people come together to do good in this world is simply uplifting. There is so much to be hopeful for because hundreds and thousands of nonprofits set out to make this world a better place. Unfortunately, there are fewer donors ready to open their pockets to fund these NGOs. With so many other humanitarians, how can a nonprofit differentiate itself?
For the past twenty or so years, I've worked with dozens of nonprofits, and I have seen so many websites. Some websites like "Just Digg It" can convert any potential philanthropist into a surefire donor in a matter of minutes. Most websites, however, do not have this punch. These are the three biggest mistakes I have seen with NGO websites:
1. The unique selling point is nowhere to be seen
Standing out from the crowd means that you have to identify and convey what makes your organization (and/or approach) unique. If a nonprofit does not successfully link its brand's strategic value with its impact, several issues arise. For one, if your organization has not developed a strong statement of who you are (hint: it's not your mission statement), then you can easily be confused with other organizations. Also, there will not be coherent messaging. Lastly, donors will not buy in because there will be a lack of trust.
2. Using too much jargon
I get it - the technical space in which you work is highly nuanced, and there is a set of words that you believe EVERYONE uses and wants to read. Newsflash: they don't. Moreover, even if donors and others understand the jargon reading endless paragraphs of odd words makes for a boring lecture. Furthermore, abstract words generate suspicion. A 2010 psychology study found a "truth advantage" when people use concrete language, and conversely, increased mistrust when people speak abstractly.
3. Donor's funding priorities are not reflected
If your organizational website was not developed with donor persona's in mind, you are most likely alienating potential funders. What is a donor persona? It represents the "hot button issues" a particular funding institution (or individual) possesses. To develop a donor persona, some research will be needed to identify the challenges donors would like to address and their priorities. Then, you will have to craft your messaging around these items. Note: this is not a "follow the money" approach. Rather, it's a way of ensuring you transmit messages about your work in a way that the donor understands and will react to.
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