Building a beautiful and high-converting nonprofit website is important, but it doesn’t have much value if no one sees it. Once you’re happy with the state of your site and donation experience, your next step is to drive traffic to it. This takes a fair amount of work, but it’s not that complicated.
In this article, we’ll offer some actionable strategies to drive traffic to your nonprofit website and, ultimately, your donation form. Make sure these tactics are part of your overall marketing strategy.
1. Give Them a Reason to Visit
Arguably, this is the most important technique to drive traffic to your site. You have to give people a reason to visit; something magnetic they can’t help but explore.
You see, people don’t randomly browse the internet looking for nonprofits to donate to. You can’t spam a link to your donation page everywhere and expect people to show up. They have to get something in return, even if all they get is a few moments of entertainment, some useful information, or a heartwarming story.
Use your website as a home base for content that resonates with your audience. Tell stories about your cause, educate people about your mission, and highlight supporters, donors, and volunteers. This could take the form of articles, video, podcast episodes, image collages, or anything else that makes sense for your brand.
Post all of this content to your blog. It will become a great resource for first-time visitors as well as long-time supporters. Encourage comments, constructive criticism, and community involvement to help you understand what kinds of content your audience wants to see.
2. Optimize Your Website Content
Your website content is a powerful tool to bring traffic to your website, but only if it’s optimized for Google. If Google doesn’t think your site is valuable, it won’t display it on its search result pages. So it’s important to practice smart SEO.
SEO (or search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your pages for Google. This means using keywords appropriately, building the proper links, adding rich media (like images and video), and getting all of your website’s technical details right.
Which pages should you optimize? All of them, but most importantly the pages you expect to bring in outside traffic, such as your blog content. You want searchers to find these pages so they visit your website.
3. Host Your Own Donation Page
There are plenty of tools you can use to quickly create your own donation pages from templates, but these products have several drawbacks.
- You’re usually stuck with their template.
- They take a portion of whatever you collect (larger than a normal processing fee).
- You don’t have access to analytics to see where your traffic comes from.
That third drawback is the big one. It’s important to understand where your traffic comes from and to what degree it converts. Once you notice something working, you’ll want to double down on those traffic sources. And if it doesn’t work, you want to invest time and money into alternatives.
But you can’t gain these insights if you don’t host your own donation page. This should be a page on your site on your own domain like any other page, except this one will have a donation form that you control.
4. Leverage Cross-Promotion Campaigns
Cross-promotion campaigns are when you work with a similar organization (or several organizations) to promote both brands. It’s an easy way to expose your organization to a group of qualified people who are already interested in causes like yours and (hopefully) willing to donate.
Cross-promotion campaigns work best when the brands are as closely related as possible. For instance, a charity that helps struggling communities build energy infrastructure and a charity that helps struggling communities get water would pair nicely, but neither of those charities would pair well with a labor rights nonprofit or a political action committee.
These kinds of campaigns can take any form. You might host a live event, organize a giveaway, or create a video series. Just make sure to share the campaigns with both audiences.
5. Cultivate an Active Social Media Presence
Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? In just a few weeks, the viral campaign raised more than $100 million through online donations on the ALS Association website. It all started on social media with a good idea. If you create share-worthy content, social media is free advertising.
Make sure to be personal throughout your social media content. You aren’t a faceless brand pressuring people to buy products. Donors won’t support that. You’re a cause with a mission. Together, you and your donors will make a difference. Don’t be afraid to get intimate and emotional with your social media fans.
Most importantly, remember to link to your donation pages regularly on social media. Leverage emotionally charged content paired with strong calls to action. Try to make people understand why your cause deserves their help while simultaneously giving them an opportunity to do so.
6. Send Lots of Emails
Collect email addresses wherever you can. You might ask them to subscribe for news and updates. You might collect emails through a giveaway or live event. These little strings of text are extremely valuable for driving traffic to your site.
Your email subscribers have already indicated that they’re interested in your organization’s work. They want to receive your email content, so don’t be shy about it. Send weekly emails that highlight the work you’re doing and the results you achieve.
You don’t have to end every email with a “donate now” button, though that’s an appropriate call to action for many of them. Send email readers to your blog posts, social media pages, or even other websites where you’re mentioned (like news articles). Instead of using every opportunity to squeeze money out of your subscribers, play the long game. Make them part of your community so they donate regularly over time.
Using email marketing to solicit more donations is a big topic, but we’ve already prepared a guide on that subject. Check it out: How to Use Email Campaigns to Collect Donations
7. Use Paid Ads
With paid ads, you can rocket your website to the top of a Google search result or force your site in front of social media users. If you’re willing to pay, you won’t need to achieve these choice positions organically. You can buy traffic through search (like Google AdWords), display (banner ads on other websites), and social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
Keep in mind, however, buying paid ads can be tricky, especially at first. If you aren’t familiar with the optimization process, you’ll have to spend some time and money figuring it out. Trial and error is unavoidable.
Many organizations opt to outsource their ad campaigns to experts. This costs a little more, but an ad specialist can make your campaigns profitable pretty quickly.
If you haven’t already, look into Google Ad Grants. Eligible nonprofits can receive up to $10,000/month in free advertising through Google’s platform.
Final Word of Warning
Before you dive in and start generating traffic to your site, take this word of caution: Not all traffic is equal. Don’t spend a lot of time and money driving traffic to your site if they never convert. Focus on the people who will actually make an impact with your organization. If a traffic source doesn’t produce donors, it’s not worthy of your time.
Your donation website is a key part of your business, but only if people see it. Use the strategies we outlined above to build out a robust marketing program. With a little effort, you can drive plenty of traffic to your website that ultimately turns into donors.
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