Competitive Charity Websites

You don’t need us to tell you that in a recession charities have to compete even harder to raise money. With greater pressure on everyone’s household budget it is often easier to cut your giving to charities than to make savings elsewhere, but in times of recession charities often need to spend more to help those most vulnerable to increased financial pressure.

Impact of the recession on charities

It is estimated that although the number of people donating in a recession, stays fairly constant, the amount they give has fallen by around 11%. Whilst many charities operate with sufficient reserves to make this a manageable drop in income, it does increase pressure on fundraisers to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible – there is no point collecting £1million per year if it costs £1.5m to organize, collect and bank the money. At the same time it is essential to keep engaging with your charity’s fundraisers and supporters, as their support will be critical for the future growth of the charity.

Reduction in Government support

It is estimated that 48% of all income earned by charities comes from central and local government funding (source: Guardian article ). With greater pressure than ever on that funding and the inexorable reductions in spend driven by the current ‘austerity measures’, charities can find themselves losing income at the same time as demand increases for their services and support. Driving your charity’s fund-raising efforts therefore becomes even more important.

The upside of the recession for charities

The impact of the recession will vary widely from one charitable organization to another, but those for whom economics and finances are a central consideration, such as charities that raise money to help people in poverty or with debt problems, the recession can actually have a positive effect on your fundraising activity as it can crystallize public opinion and encourage people to give more.

If your non-profit organization borrows money – the recession means you may actually be able to find better deals than in times of plenty, particularly as banks now tend to see established charities as good risks. If your charitable trust owns or buys property then the drop in values means it could be an excellent time to invest in the future.

It is also a great time to invest in projects that can improve the way your organization interacts with its supporters or by making it easier for them to fund-raise on your behalf.

Charity Websites

A Charity Website is a great way of engaging with your key audience: your supporters. Once built and launched the costs for maintaining and marketing your charity website are quite low, particularly if you enable your own team to update the content via a Content Management System. It can also provide an invaluable tool to help your supporters communicate with each other and the orgnisation to share ideas, promote events or talk about the good work the charity does.

Website Donations

In addition, this regular website traffic, can be encouraged to donate money directly through the website, which minimizes collection costs and overheads. You can encourage and develop new ways of giving like Spend ‘n’ Raise or other schemes that allow for a percentage of every online transaction to benefit your chosen charity.

Perhaps most importantly, if you are attracting a lot of traffic with an interest in your cause, you can develop an online shop or e-commerce website that allows you to sell products to your supporters. With well selected product lines and a keen competitive eye, the income these online sales generate can be used to benefit the charity.

According to Third Force News (the voice of Scotland’s third sector) British Charities earned £7.5m from online shopping site Ebay last year – an increase of 20% on the previous year. The money was raised via Ebay’s ‘give at checkout’ option for donations and more than £4m was raised by charities selling their own goods via Ebay stores.

Have a look at our case studies on Help for Heroes online shop and Army Rugby Union ecommerce platform to see how an Ecommerce Website could benefit your charity.

Best Practice

Innovative Consultancy adopts best-practice methodologies from multiple sources, including a specific Nielson study into what web visitors expect from charity websites.

This has helped us to define some specific requirements that will need to be adopted for any Charity website seeking to attain an industry-leading position.

What people want to know before donating?

Information Required Score
Mission, goals, objectives, and work 62%
Use of donations and contributions 57%
Legitimacy and reputation 57%
Local presence 19%
Site security 15%

Mission, Goals, objectives and work

  • All users reviewed the homepage and navigated to the About Us category in search of these details.
  • Many sites failed to communicate this vital information, and users were often confused or annoyed because they couldn’t understand a convoluted mission statement or put together various pieces of information to form a valid opinion of the organization. On average, it took users just under six minutes (five minutes and 52 seconds) to locate the information, which was far too long.
  • If users were unable to understand the goals and objectives of a charity, they were unlikely to make a donation.

Be explicit about the organization’s work on the About Us page.

Users wanted to know details about an organization and what they did before they felt comfortable making a donation. In our evaluation study, this was the number one piece of information that users wanted to know. Unfortunately, users had difficulty finding this information. All users reviewed the homepage and navigated to the About Us area of non-profit and charity websites in search of this information. Some sites vaguely alluded to these details, which frustrated users who were interested in learning more about the charities in question.

Promote your Charity

As well as potentially selling products to support your charity, a website provides an excellent tool for communicating with your fundraisers, stakeholders and even beneficiaries.

Think about it, when you give money to an organisation you want to know how it is spent and who benefits, so use your website to tell people about your good work. It may seem a little un-British to shout about your achievements, but how you spend the money and who you help are key questions people ask when they are considering a donation. By making your good work high profile and creating a direct cause-effect link between the money raised and the help it provides, it builds confidence that the money donated will be used wisely.

‘Search’ Traffic

These days many website visitors start off with a search in Google, Yahoo, Bing or one of the many other Search Engines. This means they type in words of interest and search for them, clicking on those website results that seem most appropriate to their query.

This provides opportunities to attract new supporters and website visitors once your site is optimized to attract them. You may be surprised to find out how many people search for fairly vague terms like:

  • Donating to charity (4m global searches p/m)
  • Donations to Charity (2.7M global searches p/m)
  • Where to donate to charity (2.7m global searches p/m)
  • Fund raising ideas (301,000 global searches p/m)

Any of these ‘searches’ could be used to attract traffic to your site by building an optimized landing page based around each term.

Attract Supporters and Fundraisers

Making sure your site engages with potential supporters is a great way of attracting more support from fundraisers and event organisers, so providing an easy way for them to interact with you is essential.

Every charity website should be encouraging website visitors to opt-in to their regular newsletter. Marketing newsletters can drive a huge amount of business to your site (particularly if it is an e-commerce site or online shop), or simply encourage and inspire your followers to pull out all the stops and raise as much money as possible for the cause. They can communicate with supporters in a timely way, for example using a seasonal aspect to focus attention on your appeals, like the RSPCA’s famous ‘A Dog is for Life Not Just for Christmas’ or the Royal British Legion’s long running poppy appeal.

A well timed and well written Email Newsletter could be just what you need to top up falling revenues.

Social Networking

Recent changes in the way Google delivers search results, mean that social networking cannot be ignored if you are hoping to attract ‘search’ traffic to your site via Search Engine Optmisation. Supporters, fund raisers and event organisers use social networking sites as a way of sharing ideas, promoting events and gathering support and ultimately donations, so a good strategy of blogging and posting using FaceBook and Twitter, not only engages with your audience regularly, but also benefits your website by providing lots of backlinks – a critical factor Google uses in determining your website’s ‘relevance’ to a search term.

In addition social networking sites can be used to issue product offers, communicate seasonal importance for your non-profit organisation and encourages people to ‘share’ what they do for the cause with their friends and contacts.

What does this mean for my Charity?

In short if you are not maximizing your website in terms of how it engages with your audience and how it encourages donations and support, then you are not competitive.

Greater financial pressure means charities have to work much harder to attract donations, and if your website isn’t doing all it can to reduce admin, encourage donations or enable your fund-raisers to carry on with their good work, then the money you are fighting so hard to attract could end up in another charity’s coffers.

If you are in any doubt, give Innovative Consultancy a call. We have many years of experience working with charities large and small and can use our expertise to improve your website. We can add value to any site, no matter how small or large your budget is.

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