Your website can be a great tool in
engaging prospective donors and volunteers. To do
this you need to foster a sense of community with your target audience, and
then call them to action. Here are a few things you might want to consider:
Build meaningful relationshipsA blog (short for the term “Web log”) is a great place to tell stories about what your non-profit is doing, if it is personable enough and genuine in approach.
You can use a blog to share with potential donors/volunteers:
- what your group or organization did recently to save or change lives.
- what testimonials, awards or other sources of praise your non-profit has been singled out for.
- what upcoming events that your organization will be hosting or participating in.
- what strategies or tips that have helped your organization achieve its goals.
You can also use your blog to ask for help from your community. For instance, you can ask for help obtaining in-kind gifts or other items that your group requires: food, clothing, supplies, etc.
Ask visitors questions and invite them to leave comments on your Web site or blog. Show people you genuinely care about their opinions.
Be personal and approachable
Strive to put a human face on your Web site. Put up bios of the key members of your organization, and allow site visitors to easily reach them. Be sure to place contact information up on your site linked to the individual’s name, not their position. Reply as soon as possible whenever anyone reaches you.
Similarly, if your organization is using a blog to add participation to its Web site, consider having the Executive Director or someone doing proactive work for your non-profit create the content. This helps to put a more human and authentic face on your organization, and “personalizes” your non-profit’s story.
Share photos, wherever relevant, of projects your organization is undertaking on your blog or via photo-sharing Web sites like Flickr.com. Introduce your staff by showing them in action in your pictures. Show your visitors and donors exactly where their hard-earned money is going.
Reward participation (and, sometimes, patience)
Once you have people actively becoming involved through your Web channel, you can start to reward people who make significant donations through your site with gifts or premium items. For instance, you might consider using a Web site like cafepress.com to make customized mugs and T-shirts that you could give away to further encourage positive word of mouth and further donor loyalty.
Incentives are also great for saying “I’m sorry” when things go wrong, too. Canadian social marketing guru Tara Hunt recounts a great story on her blog about what happened when the Flickr Web site went down for a period of time in July 2006: the photo-sharing site posted two circles on what would have normally been their home page. Visitors were then invited to colour them to win free premium membership account access to the site.
One blog noted that as many as 1,000 people participated in the contest, which meant Flickr was able to turn a potentially negative event into free, positive publicity. You might not be able to do precisely the same thing Flickr did, depending on the tone you wish to strike with users, but think about ways in which you can creatively reward your visitors.
The bottom line is that you want to make your donors know that you care about them. Get visitors contributing information and feedback, and they might soon start contributing more tangible items such as money to your organization.
This post is from contributing writer Zachary Houle, who has been published in SPIN magazine, Canadian Business, The National Post and the book, TVParty!: Television’s Untold Tales. He was nominated for a U.S. Pushcart Prize for his writing, and also received an arts grant from the City of Ottawa in 2005 to complete a short story collection.