Just Say ‘No’ to Online Brochures!


We’re nearing the end of sharing the stories behind my fundraising posts that got the most reactions on social media.

Here’s #7, #6, #5, #4 and #3.

And today, here’s #2…

A nonprofit’s website is only as effective as the questions asked when work starts. “How can we tell people all about our work?” results in a less effective site than asking “How can we make it easy for people to do something?”

I want to help smaller nonprofits avoid a very pretty trap.

The trap is the belief that a sort of magic will happen when they get a new website up. There’s an unspoken belief that the new site will cause more people to find them, be attracted to their mission, and give gifts. Big gifts, even!

What I want nonprofits to know is that the websites that help an organization’s fundraising are just as rigorous and measured as good fundraising. There’s a plan for how the site will drive donations. There’s a plan for how the site will capture names. There’s a plan for the email campaigns that will turn the “names” into donors.

And ultimately it all comes down to the question that’s asked at the beginning of the project. If the question is any version of, “How can we show all that we do and inspire people to give?” the resulting website usually isn’t good at capturing names or donations.

The site becomes a place donors go to give gifts, but not an effective tool for acquiring names and turning visitors into donors.

On the other hand, if you begin with a question something like, “How can we make it easy for people who care about our [BENEFICIARIES]/[CAUSE] to give a gift today?” you’ll end up with a much more action-oriented site that, well, causes more action.

Because you want a fundraising tool, not an online brochure that accepts gifts.

Sing from the Same Song Sheet

Donate page.

Here’s a quick, easy-to-do tip to help you raise a little more this year-end…

The copy at the top of your giving form should promise the same thing – maybe even be the same copy – as the call-to-action in your year-end fundraising.

Here’s the thing. Most people who end up on your giving form over the next couple of weeks will be driven there by your letters or emails.

So make sure the copy at the top of your form – the copy that says why the donor’s gift is needed and what it will accomplish – echoes what you said in your year-end letters and emails.

This will help your donor know that they’ve landed on the right page. It will reinforce what they expect their gift is going to do.

And it will increase the number of people who fill out the form and give you a gift.

If the copy is different, say a statement about your mission and how a gift supports the organization… that will cause some donors to be a little less sure of what their gift is going to do. And that tiny lack of certainty will cause some of them to click away without giving you a gift.

Example Time

Say your year-end letter asks people to “send a special gift to keep a missionary in the field next year.”

Your giving page copy should say that same thing. It should not be boilerplate language about your organization! It should not say, “We believe that blah, blah, blah, and your gift supports our holistic approach to missions…”

If your year-end email says, “Your gift today will provide the food, medication, and loving care an orphaned Bonobo needs to survive,” then the copy on your giving page should not say, “Founded in 1972, our organization is relentless in our striving to care for endangered creatures, and your gift supports our synergistic efforts to…”

Are you with me?

Then make sure the copy on your donate page matches what your year-end fundraising promises to donors that their gift will do. To your donors, you’ll look like you have your act together. More people will complete your form, and you’ll raise more money!