Salsa Blog

Conversion Funnels: Turn Visitors into Lasting Supporters

Full article was originally published in the printed June edition of The Nonprofit Times.

Let’s face it, rarely will someone visit your website and make an immediate commitment to your cause. Visitors need to be sure that they have all the information they need before making a decision to become an engaged supporter.

It’s your job to make sure their journey through your nonprofit’s website connects them to the information they want. The best way to accomplish that is to make sure you are thinking about creating a one-on-one connection with your visitor.

A vital part of this is an effective conversion funnel. It’s a term often used in commercial marketing but it also applies to the nonprofit world. Think about it as tracking a supporter as they navigate your website – the pages they visit, the content they download and the actions they take. The knowledge gained can help you take actions to improve that flow and convert more site visitors to active supporters.

Here’s how you can use the conversion funnel to build a one-on-one path for supporter engagement.

Step One: Define Supporter Personas

The first step in your conversion funnel is to define supporter personas. Personas are a way to define your audience by their interest, concerns, questions, motivations, and needs. As with all marketing, one message doesn’t work for everyone. By understanding the persona of your site visitors you can create content and pages that are relevant to each persona – at every stage of the supporter cycle.  Read more about creating and talking to different personas.

By taking into consideration the personas of your supporters you can better identify the type of information they need and will respond to at the three key stages of the supporter cycle:

  • Awareness: A potential supporter has found your nonprofit and visited the site for the first time. Perhaps after reading a blog post or seeing a shared link on Facebook.
  • Evaluation: This is the exploration stage. The potential supporter is eager to learn about your nonprofit, but not yet ready to fully engage, nor are they convinced that your nonprofit is the right fit for their own charitable needs.
  • Engagement: Success! The person is ready to make a donation, volunteer, share your materials, get to know you on social media, or take that critical next step (whatever it may be for your particular organization).

Step Two: Don’t Assume that Everyone is Ready to Engage

When you think about structuring web content according to personas, it’s critical that you don’t assume that everyone is ready to engage. This is something you see reflected on many nonprofit websites, they often focus their content on the final stage of the supporter lifecycle – making an ask. The problem with this approach is that only about four percent of your website visitors are ready to take action at any given point. What about the other 96 percent? How is your content addressing their needs?

Think of it this way, with few exceptions, a supporter is going through a journey and your website content should play a critical role in every stage of the cycle to create awareness, generate supporter leads to grow lists and convert those leads into long-term valuable supporters.

In order to achieve all this you need to have the right conversation at the right time and educate site visitors about your cause, which leads to the next step:

Step Three: Use Content to Educate Visitors About your Cause

Whatever you do, don’t dive in too early with a hard-hitting ask, be sure to create a conversion path for each persona type and stage. Use blogs, case studies, and infographics. Showcase your people and tell your story on your “About Us” page. Tell people how their donation will make a difference. These are are all great ways of attracting visitors, informing them about your cause and influencing the consideration and evaluation cycle.

Step Four: Build your Conversion Funnels

Once you have your content organized, it’s time to build the key elements of the conversion funnel – the call to action (such as a “Donate Now” page), landing page (which could include preset donation options and a form), thank you page, and confirmation email.

Step Five: Get Supporters into the Right Funnel and Keep them Moving

As you drive supporters to your website, don’t forget that every outreach campaign and channel will touch different supporters at different stages of the supporter engagement cycle. For example, supporters who are early in the cycle might be driven to your site through social channels, news stories, or banner ads. While supporters who are later in the cycle (and close to engaging), might discover your site by using Google to find specific nonprofits affiliated with a certain cause or perhaps they are already digging in deeply to your site for more info on your mission and past successes.

Regardless of where your supporters are in the funnel stage, you need to keep the users moving through it and minimize funnel drop off. The best way to do this is to design a user flow during your campaign planning stages matching content and call to actions with all site visitors and supporters in mind.

What does a site that is designed with the supporter in mind look like? Take a look at Bikes for the World and Endangered Species Coalition for some great examples.

Give it Time

Building an effective conversion funnel doesn’t happen overnight. Keep steps small. You can minimize viewer drop-off at every stage by fine-tuning your steps into clearly segmented paths to zero-in on strategies that promote engagement and long-term support.

By focusing on delivering quality, up-front user experiences, with content custom tailored to your audience, you will drive traffic through your website, have better responses and long-lasting supporter relationships.


Topics: Strategy