This is the final post in a series of articles on the topic of digital marketing for nonprofits and creating the perfect nonprofit website. In the first four articles, we discussed creating mission pages, impact pages, volunteer pages, fundraising pages, and your homepage. Using the lessons learned in those five articles you can create an extremely effective nonprofit website that engages your audience and creates volunteers and donors.
In this sixth and final web series post, we focus on a few additional considerations that will help speed up your site, organize your contacts with a nonprofit CRM, and integrate other nonprofit software like peer to peer events and advocacy campaign tools.
Adding features can make your website a more dynamic and more enjoyable experience. But...they can also add complexity and (potentially) more cost. The possibilities are limitless and we recommend sticking with the philosophy mentioned at the start of this series: KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Applications You Can Integrate with Your Campaign Website
CRMs for Nonprofits
If you ask viewers for their contact information you’ll want a way to keep that information organized. Salsa CRM allows you to embed forms on any website and information collected on those forms goes straight into your CRM.
You can create an unlimited number of forms and match them to the page and its call to action. You can also create and map custom fields that are meaningful to your organization, or the contact.
Digital Marketing & Email Marketing Automation
Whether you download info from your CRM and input that into your email program or if you use an all-in-one nonprofit marketing automation platform, you’ll want to automate, as much as possible, communications with your site visitors and subscribers.
To make this happen, you’ll need to integrate your forms with email providers, or use a system like Salsa Engage which handles this all for you and works directly on any website where the forms are placed.
When someone fills out a form they should receive an automatic confirmation via email or sms/text message. New members to your list should be put into a drip campaign where they receive several messages over a short period of time aimed at introducing your organization, providing additional information and context into what you do, and appeals for volunteer and fundraising campaigns.
Keeping in constant communication with your audience in this way also provides additional opportunities to gain valuable information from your supporters that you could not get from your first engagement.
If your website promotes advocacy campaigns you’ll want to integrate it with software that can help generate petition signatures, allow your visitors to look up their legislators, or send messages to local elected officials. Salsa Engage with Advocacy Campaign tools can handle all that and more, and integrates with any web platform.
Online Fundraising and Credit Card Processors
Taking payments online is a necessity for any nonprofit, and this is handled through an online fundraising program or credit card processor. There are dozens of ecommerce systems and credit card processors out there you can choose from. They charge different fees for processing online donations. Some have monthly maintenance fees, others do not. Some allow ACH, Google and Apple Pay, even bitcoin transfers. If you go with an external system, remember that you’ll have to link the donor away from your site to complete the transaction, increasing the chances that person does not return to your site when the donation is complete.
You can also use a system like Salsa Engage, which allows you to put customized donation forms on any of your website pages. The donor is kept right on your site and the donation information is automatically synced across your CRM and marketing automation platform for immediate use.
We dedicated several articles to helping you create nonprofit donation pages that convert. You can find two recent ones here:
Using an integrated system like Engage also gives you the advantage of rich donor profiles, and advanced reporting. You'll also benefit from artificial intelligence for nonprofits with Smart Engagement technology, machine learning, and predictive analytics.
Make no mistake - slow web page speed CAN effect nonprofit fundraising. There is always an interplay between form (what our site needs to be visually appealing) and function (what our site needs to run well). As a recovering engineer, I could argue that the entire web should be black and white and square. It would certainly run faster. But it would be an amazingly boring and visually unappealing world.
When building a nonprofit website you must balance form with function; visual style with speed and performance. And while one often comes at the expense of the other, there is a balance you can strike. If performance suffers, try cutting back on visual elements. If the site is fast, but devoid of any personality you can probably spare a few seconds of load time to add some emotion and visual flair.
As you design a website, start with speed in mind. You’ve got just a few seconds to grab your reader’s attention. DO NOT overload your homepage trying to pack in everything you do. Keep it simple, use smart calls to action that will motivate your readers to learn more and navigate to other areas of your site.
Consider the following research from Google which analyzed bounce and conversions rates of sites that load with differing speeds:
“...as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%. Similarly, as the number of elements—text, titles, images—on a page goes from 400 to 6,000, the probability of conversion drops 95%.”
Google found that when a website load time increases from 1 second to 5 seconds, the number of bounces almost doubles. Bounce rate is the number of people who visit your site and then leave without doing anything else. That is a staggering number.
Consider these results from a study by Akamai, a global content delivery network (CDN):
- A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7 percent
- 53 percent of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load
Akamai found that a delay of just 100ms (1/10th of a second) causes a 7% drop in conversion rate. If you fundraising online, a 7% drop in conversions means that you lose 1 in 14 donations.
Try looking at this in a positive light. If you speed up your site by just a few fractions of a second you can increase your conversion rate by 7%. No content changes, no more social media sharing, etc - just simply speed up your site and for every 14 donations you receive add one more on top.
Factors that Affect Website Speed
There are a few factors that affect your nonprofit website speed. They include:
- Website Hosting
- Website Code
- Location of the viewer to your website
- Website Content, Images and Media
Some popular nonprofit website hosts offer free hosting to nonprofits. Free hosting is NEVER a good idea, even if you are just starting and you have no traffic yet. You are placed on shared servers that load slowly and provide no benefit to the function of your site. What you gain in not paying for hosting you will lose in potential donors leaving your site because they can read two Dostoevsky novels (in English and Russian) before your page loads. Paying just $5 per month will put your site on a much better tier of hosting with better specs for your website.
Websites are bundles of code, documents, files and media. Since browsers read and display your site based on its code structure, how you build your nonprofit website matters. A poorly coded site will take longer to load than a well coded and organized site. Platforms like WordPress have made building sites very easy and very quick to launch.
Using an experienced web developer and designer to build your site will ensure your site loads quickly and performs well. Using your third cousin’s nephew’s kid who is in junior high school who offered to build your site for free will probably not get you the same experience.
Location of the viewer to your website
The distance from your website files to the viewer can make a difference in web page load time. If your site is hosted on a server in New York, it will take longer to load for a viewer in Paris, France than a viewer in Pittsburgh, PA. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) were created to solve this issue. CDNs create snapshots of pages on your site and make them available at points closer to the viewer so they load faster. There are free CDNs that will help you increase page load time a bit, but they’re typically just introductions to paid plans that can drastically improve page speed time. Using a CDN can get very technical and you should turn to a web professional for more help here, especially if you have a very large site with a lot of media.
Website Content, Images and Media
What you put on your website will affect its speed. If you place an image with a file size of 5mb at the very top of your page it will take a long time to load. Considering that some viewers only use mobile phones to browse the web, a 5mb image can take an eternity to load. That person will likely leave your site before they read a single word.
Trying to jam your site with section upon section of material, extremely long blocks of text, and tons of images where they really aren't needed will bog down your site and increase load time.
There are programs you can install on your local computer and others you can use in the cloud that will optimize your images and make their file sizes smaller without losing any quality in that image. For example, an image optimizer can cut a 5,000 x 5,000 pixel image at 5mb of size down to 1,600 x 1,600 pixels and 100kb in size. That’s a 98% reduction in size without any reduction in quality. The resulting image will make a world of difference on the load time of your site and a much better viewing experience for your visitors.
Video takes even more space than images. One second of HD video can be as much as 50mb in size. These days, it's very easy to host your video on places like YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia and embed those videos on your site for playback.
Testing Your Nonprofit Website
Websites are generally not meant to be static. The web is a dynamic medium that changes quickly, and often. Your website should grow and change as your organization grows and changes. If it’s been a few years since you’ve developed your website, consider a fresh new design or some new content. If you use different material on the mobile version of your site make sure you test that separately from other devices. Don’t just look at the desktop version and assume everything will be the same on mobile.
You can and should test everything on your website. Try a design for a period of time between a few days and a few months. Maybe you want to change the big header and long intro text. Try a different image for a few months and see how that affects conversion rates. Try changing the heading text to something different.
Testing Elements Before Calls to Action
Test the text and images on pages immediately before your calls to action. On your volunteer page, try changing the text or images before your volunteer form to see which combination of image and text drives the most form submissions.
You can test the design of the newsletter signup form to see which wording or placement drives the most signups to your email list. You can play with the color and design of your social media share buttons, and their placement, to see which one increases the share rate of your pages and posts.
This also works really well with fundraising forms. You can run A/B tests and make two versions of a single page available at the same time, but split traffic between them. For example, you can create two versions of a fundraising page with different text, colors, buttons, images, required information, etc. You could then send 10% of your audience a link to form A, and 10% of your audience to page B. Whichever gets a better conversion rate is the page you send to the remaining 80% of your traffic. These kinds of tests are easy to do when you use fundraising software like Salsa CRM + Engage.
Does A/B testing take time and some technical knowledge? Yes it does.
Not convinced of the efficacy of A/B testing? Consider how a political candidate named Barack Obama raised $60 million more by changing one image and a single button on his home page in 2008.
Tips for A/B Testing Your Nonprofit Website
- Change Only One Thing at a Time
- List Size Makes a Difference
- Have a Goal In Mind Before You Start Testing
- It’s All About Timing
Change ONLY 1 THING at a time. If you are testing button colors, change just that. Do not also change header and title and content. If you want to test buttons and headers and titles, you'll need quite a few tests and that can take months to complete. If there are too many tests running at the same time, it can be hard to prove the significance or impact of any one of them on the final results.
You need a decent list size for the test to be statistically relevant. Testing changes with only three or four people is not a good sample size. If your site gets less than 100 pageviews a month, A/B testing is not going to be a worthwhile time investment for you. Take your best guess and run with it. Do some simple metrics with conversion rates. Then, when your audience is larger, you can venture into more sophisticated testing.
Have a singular hypothesis in mind before you start testing. For example, you believe that changing the old stock image on your donation form to a more contextually relevant image of your staff at a popular event might raise donations. That is a hypothesis you can A/B test. Your goal might then be to raise donations 5%. You create a copy of your donation page, change the image, and then an email to your list. Half your list gets sent to the original page and half your list gets sent to the new donation page. Since your goal was higher donations, you’re not interested in things like open rate, click rate, or even page traffic. You’re only interested in higher donations. If donation page 2 gets higher donations your hypothesis is confirmed, and hopefully you’ve met your goal too!
Keep in mind that the results need to be statistically relevant for you to gain any insight from them. Using the same example, if the first page generates $50,000 in donations and the second page generates $51,000 in donations - on the surface, the results may be too similar upon which to draw any conclusions. You may need to dig into the data further.
A/B tests need time to run. Give them at least a few hours up to a few days to grab those who might not see it right away. Statistical results may not be as relevant for tests with a short time frame unless your audience size is particularly large. You can get away with an A/B test that lasts just a few hours or a day if your participating audience is 50,000 viewers.
For many nonprofits, the thought of creating (or changing) a website generates enormous amounts of stress.
Using the tips in this guide, you’ve learned about the essential pages for every nonprofit website and what to put on them. Taking it one page at a time will help you get organized, and present a clear vision to your readers. Remember the lessons learned in all five of the previous articles:
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website About / Mission Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Impact / Program Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Volunteer / Take Action Page
- How to Create the Perfect Nonprofit Website Fundraising / Donate Page
- How to Create a Nonprofit Website - Homepage
At Salsa, we love sharing creative websites from our nonprofit community. Take a moment and share this article with a friend or family member or colleague you think can benefit from its lessons. When you do, share a link to your own website and tag Salsa so we can amplify your message and help bring more traffic to your site!
Good luck and happy designing.
Articles in the Nonprofit Website Design Series:
- Part 1: About Pages & Mission Pages
- Part 2: Impact Pages & Program Pages
- Part 3: Volunteer and Take Action Pages
- Part 4: Fundraising and Donate Pages
- Part 5: Homepages
- Part 6: Integrating Your Nonprofit Website with Other Tools