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Salsa Blog

How to Build a Website for Charitable Organizations - Optimization Tips

by Christine Schaefer, VP of Community and Marketing, Salsa

Studies show that you have 10 seconds to engage your supporters online. Yikes! So what can you do to ensure your charity builds a website that stands out, gets results, and doesn’t leave you reaching for the Tylenol?

In part two of this three-part blog series, we talked about the importance of having goals for your site, where to find help building it, and why and how to incorporate social media and mobile elements.

Now, let’s discuss the additional elements you’ll want to focus on: SEO, creating great content, optimizing your donation and volunteer recruitment pages, and drawing on the power of visual storytelling.

Here’s how:

Generate Traffic with SEO – It Isn’t as Hard as It Sounds

If you’re going to build a website and you want your cause to receive prominence on all major search engines, say hello to your new friend – search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO gets a bad rap, with what seems like hundreds of agencies hitting up your inbox promising to get your site to the top of the rankings (in fact, if you use a web design firm they should be able to help you structure your site for SEO by incorporating keywords into content and code).

At the end of the day there is no secret sauce for SEO success. There are, however, practices that you can implement now and over time to help boost your search engine rankings. Doing so isn’t as hard as it sounds, much of what SEO is truly about comes down to understanding what your supporters want from you and creating great content that’s relevant, easy-to-find and shareable (more on that later). For a primer in SEO, check out this online video on GrowYourBase.org: SEO, SEM and Re-targeting Aren’t as Scary as You Think. And check out this helpful guide for a few simple steps in improving your SEO. 

Content is King

I’ll say it again, 10 seconds. That’s all you’ve got to capture the attention of visitors when they land on your website. Once engaged, you can encourage them to do things like subscribe to your emails, volunteer for your events or make a donation.

Here are a few resources that cover the basic principles and best practices for creating content and landing pages that will increase the number of supporters who spend time on your site and get involved with your charitable foundation.

Make your Site Donor Friendly

Don’t be shy about giving your fundraising appeals and donor buttons prominence on your site as Protect our Defenders has done below:

Protect our Defenders

Simple and clean is best when it comes to donation pages – you want to make it as easy as possible for people to give their money. How?

  • Don’t ask for too much information on your donation page – a name and email is often enough plus any info needed to complete the transaction.
  • Suggest donation amounts (see below).
  • Make recurring donations an easy option with a “one-time” or “monthly” option.
  • Ask for smaller recurring gifts. This is a proven strategy for increasing overall annual gift size significantly. Read more about this and other tips for donor-friendliness on Cornershop Creative’s blog.
  • Consider incorporating video, compelling images, and keep text to a minimum.


Make Volunteer Recruitment Easy

Use your website to get supporters involved, beyond making donations. Create a page dedicated to explaining ways that supporters can get involved, whether it’s steps they can take on their own or info about who to contact about volunteering directly. Use banner ads and navigation tabs to draw attention to the page.

Incorporate Visual Storytelling

Great content isn’t just great copy, telling your story using visual methods is a great way to tell your would-be supporters about what you do and for whom, it also helps existing supporters see the difference that their donations make to your cause. You don’t need to be a videographer, great photographer or graphic designer to tell great stories with visuals – a smart phone that captures your organization at work is often all it takes.

This blog offers some quick tips for Motivating Supporters through Visual Storytelling.

Not convinced about the power of imagery and visual simplicity? Compare the home pages of these two water charity websites and you decide which site best communicates intent, results and captures your attention:

The Water Project

The Water Project

Water Charity




Topics: Marketing