A website is not a digital fundraising strategy
I’ve been reminded lately of how much we digital marketers focus on websites. If you’ve ever been involved in a website design or development project, you’ll know that they are fraught with complexity and frustration. You see with websites your internal department structures can’t hide and so, for example, when you design your homepage there are lots of difficult internal conversations that have to go on.
But my point is I think we focus too much on websites and website visitors and not enough on why people visit and where they come from. We need to focus more on the source and less on the destination.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s really important to focus on the user experience of your website as a destination experience. It’s really important to have a website that is structured for the end-user, not the organization; that it’s easy to use and easy to give; and it’s important that the content is engaging. But a website is not even half the story of your digital strategy.
Websites in themselves don’t magically produce visitors or donations. It may come as a shock to you but your supporters don’t suddenly get out of the bed in the morning with the idea in their head that they’re going to visit your website. Its cause and effect and there is a reason why they visit.
Even visitors that come from search engines (in my experience around 70% of most visitors to your website if you are a typical charity) don’t really ‘come from search engines’. They pass through them. There is a reason they are searching for your brand or cause. They’ve been triggered by something. Maybe they’ve been tipped off by TV, pushed by some press or by engaged by an email.
So if you focus less on your website what should you be focusing on? Well how about the following five things as a starter:
1. Search me?
Understand why people are searching for you. If most of your traffic is coming from natural search keywords then there is a reason. Something has triggered them to search. A lot of offline campaigns (especially media campaigns) involve landing pages, but most users will simply type in your brand or organisation name into their chosen search engine. If you are running offline campaigns, then track the uplift in traffic from natural search to your campaign over set time periods and attribute the results to that campaign.
2. Email is still a killer app
You may think email is really old news, but it’s still the killer app. A survey by JustGiving (Sept 2009) found that the main source of donation asks was email – a massive 68%. It’s cheap and effective and we aren’t good enough at it yet for it to be old news.
3. Cultivate your digital advocates
I could do a whole other blog post about how organisations are obsessed with their own social media profiles. But it’s your supporter’s profiles you should be obsessed about. They’re the ones that will spread your message if you give them something interesting. Find out which supporters are keen bloggers, which ones have huge Twitter followings. Contact them. Make friends. Then you will start to influence people.
4. Banners. Banners? BANNERS? Yes banners.
OK, calm down. Depending on the campaign banners can still work well. If you’ve got a big budget, a large amount of awareness and cut-through creative, then banners can still work.
5. Out there, not in here.
Forget engaging people on your website. Engage them on websites they like! If you put half the effort into creating interesting content on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as you do on your main website then you’d engage more people and build better, deeper relationships with supporters.
I know there are people who might say that unless you create a decent website experience there is no point in driving people there. And I would broadly agree – you don’t want a ‘leaky bucket’. But I’m not suggesting you totally ditch creating great online experiences on your website, I’m simply suggesting you re-balance your energies and make sure your not forgetting some really important principles behind your digital strategy. You’ve got to focus on the source of visits at some point and I think now is the time. Who’s with me?