4 ways your site should support year-end virtual fundraising

July 3, 2023 | Cornershop Creative
4 ways your site should support year-end virtual fundraising
This week, our friends at Cornershop Creative are dropping in to talk about the best ways for nonprofits of all sizes to improve their website performance, increase user engagement, and ultimately boost digital fundraising.

Although it’s hard to believe, we’re approaching the middle of the year. That means now is the perfect time to take stock of where your organization stands, especially as we head into the always-busy year-end giving season.

Which strategies have worked well to keep donors engaged with your mission? Are there any gaps in your current digital fundraising and engagement strategy? What will be the most important strategic asset for your organization at end-of-year and for years to come?

The answer to that last question is almost certainly your website.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that digital-centric strategies have proven to have many benefits and are here to stay. This means your website is one of your nonprofit’s most valuable tools for staying connected to your supporters and bringing in end-of-year donations.

At Cornershop Creative, we partner with nonprofit organizations to develop web solutions and build dynamic, easy-to-maintain websites. After helping hundreds of organizations prep their own sites for year-end fundraising, we have a few key recommendations:

  1. Use integrated tools whenever possible.
  2. Prioritize a streamlined user experience (UX) for donors.
  3. Make full use of your blog content.
  4. Ensure your site is easy to maintain.

Virtual fundraising is here to stay. Nonprofits with well-designed, highly functional websites will have a definite advantage when it comes to reaching, engaging, and retaining more donors in years to come. Let’s get started.

1. Use unified or integrated digital tools whenever possible.

Donor data is most valuable if you’re able to capture and use it in future messages, engagement efforts, and more. That’s why software integrations are extremely valuable for any organization that relies on technology to get its work done, including nonprofits. Integrations allow data to flow freely from one platform to another, making it easier to generate the performance insights you need to make strategic improvements over time.

The tools that you use to engage supporters online should integrate with your website and, ideally, your database or constituent relationship management (CRM) platform. These include your donation page, email sign-ups, advocacy forms, and any other features that generate or collect engagement data from site visitors. Using an integrated toolkit has a number of key benefits:

  • Real-time insights into the performance of your virtual fundraising tactics.
  • More data generated over time to help you continuously improve your fundraising and marketing strategies based on what’s been proven to work.
  • More comprehensive and standardized data in your CRM.

For instance, EveryAction’s unified CRM combines all of your digital and development tools for more efficient and effective fundraising. When a donor fills out an automatically mobile-optimized EveryAction donation page, you’ll be able to instantly use that data to inform campaigns in other channels, from email to telemarketing.

Plus, the data hygiene benefits of software integrations can’t be overstated. AccuData’s data hygiene guide lists standardized data entry and formatting as critical elements that help organizations generate more value from their data. This is especially important for nonprofits seeing surges in new visitors and donations during the year-end season. Use this key moment of increased traffic to grow your support base by accurately recording all of your new contacts, and let your integrated web tools help you offer supporters a more seamless user experience that encourages further engagement. Ensuring a smooth user experience is especially critical for complex virtual campaigns like peer-to-peer fundraising, which relies heavily on your website to facilitate a number of different interactions between donors, their networks, and your organization.

Integrated functionality is critical for nonprofit virtual engagement. For year-end virtual fundraising campaigns that involve online events, a centralized user experience is essential for engaging supporters. Plus, backend integrations ensure that all of the valuable data generated by these campaigns, such as new supporters’ contact information, is automatically and accurately recorded for future use.

2. Prioritize a streamlined UX for donors.

Integrated tools hosted directly on your website can help boost engagement by simplifying the user experience for your supporters. However, you should prioritize user experience for every aspect of your site that donors will directly engage with, not just campaigns that involve a variety of tools.

Modern virtual fundraising standards have led donors to expect high-quality, user-friendly interfaces for every nonprofit they support. Streamlined user interfaces also show your users that you care about their time and aren’t taking their patience for granted.

This is particularly important when it comes to your online donation process, where lengthy forms and poorly designed interfaces can lead to page abandonment—the phenomenon where donors begin to fill out your donation form, but give up before they finish and click the ‘submit’ button. Follow these best practices to ensure your donation page offers a streamlined experience:

  • Clearly label your fields and steps.
  • Keep the number of required steps to a minimum.
  • Host the donation page directly on your website rather than requiring donors to leave your site to use a third-party donation tool.
  • Offer intuitive options, like recurring gifts and email sign-ups, directly in the donation process.

The best nonprofit websites prioritize user experience at every step in the donation process. An intuitive donation experience is critical for securing first-time gifts and encouraging future ones. Out of EveryAction’s FastAction network of saved donor profiles, 70% of forms have at least one field pre-filled, and many donors are able to easily make one-click donations.

Donations are the most important example when it comes to securing support, but your website’s navigation and design play key roles, too. Think about why supporters visit your website. Is it easy for them to find what they need? Is everything clearly labeled? How long does it take to sign up for emails, make a donation, or navigate to your blog? Answering these questions will be a great way to get started making UX improvements across your website.

3. Make full use of your blog content.

In the era of virtual fundraising, content is king. There’s a ton of competition for your donors’ attention online, especially during the year-end season. Digital content, including blog posts, videos, interviews, and constituent stories, will help to:

  • Engage supporters and keep your organization on their minds.
  • Illustrate your mission, work, and community to make compelling cases for support.
  • Create more touchpoints to reach new donors, like social shares.

However, your digital content strategies need to be cohesive and centralized. Rather than post completely separate content to separate outlets, use your website’s blog as the central location that anchors a complete omni-channel strategy. Here’s how this type of strategy might work for your organization:

  • Post new digital content to your blog, like a post about how your recent project or program benefited the community.
  • Ensure that your new blog content is well formatted and encourages readers to take a next step, like making a donation or signing up for a virtual volunteer opportunity.
  • Direct your readers and followers on other outlets, like social media and email, to check out your new blog post and link them directly to it.

This strategy allows you to make full use of your website’s blog as an outlet for showcasing your accomplishments, your donors’ impact, and your gratitude. By optimizing your website with integrated tools and a streamlined UX, and then directing web traffic from other sources to your blog, you can dramatically boost engagement and take a more focused approach to marketing.

If your blog hasn’t seen much activity in recent months (or if you don’t have complete blogging functionality), add creating content to the top of your to-do list. Digital marketing is more important than ever for nonprofits to stand out online and keep their donors’ attention. Make sure to start this process early, so you can drive traffic to your website for your year-end fundraising. Regularly posting to an active blog with valuable and meaningful content will give you a solid foundation on which to build engagement across all of your other online channels— building an active website for your year-end donors to discover and engage with.

4. Ensure your site is easy to maintain.

Between using integrated tools, offering a streamlined user experience, and catching supporters’ attention with engaging content, your website will be in a strong position to help you make the most of the year-end giving season. However, there’s one key element still missing: long-term maintenance.

As Cornershop Creative’s guide to web maintenance explains, website maintenance involves both the ongoing review of your site’s performance and ad hoc solutions to address unexpected problems as they arise.

While some major issues will require the help of tech experts, you can take steps on your own to ensure your site is easier to maintain and tune-up over time. Here are a few best practices we recommend for nonprofits to maintain high-quality websites:

  • Reduce duplicate files and images. As you use your blog to create and post more engaging content, make sure you’re not also inadvertently slowing down your website with a clogged library of unused or duplicate files. Specialized plug-ins and tools can help you automatically identify and delete or replace these files.
  • Keep your website organized. A clearly-defined structure for your website will help to keep everything organized and make it easy to tidy up in the future. If you find that your website has a number of unused, irrelevant, or outdated pages, redirect them to a more relevant live page or your home page.
  • Regularly update your navigation. The last thing you’d want is for a visitor to click on a link in your navigation bar and receive a “404 page not found” error. As your website grows and evolves, make sure your navigation bar still accurately reflects its structure.
  • Double-check the functionality of your integrated tools. As third-party software (like your donation tools) gets updated over time, the integrations that connect them with your website may also be affected. Regularly check that your integrated web tools are still functioning properly on both the front and back ends.
  • Make a plan for site crashes. It’s always better to be prepared, so while no one wants their site to crash unexpectedly, it does happen, and you’ll need a mitigation plan in place to ensure it gets handled properly so you don’t find yourself scrambling to figure out what to do in the middle of an already-frantic day.

By incorporating these best practices into your approach to website maintenance, you can safeguard and make the most of the hard work you’ve put into offering a positive, streamlined user experience.

Going forward, your nonprofit’s website will be more important than ever for reaching, engaging, and retaining donors. With a solid back end of integrated features, a donor-centric UX, engaging content, and tidy maintenance protocols, your nonprofit’s website will be able to power your year-end fundraising and many campaigns to come.

Looking for even more advice on nonprofit digital fundraising and engagement? Check out our digital session on demand with Cornershop Creative about digital advocacy tactics and techniques to help you power your programs and purpose.

This blog was originally published in December of 2021 and has since been updated.