One of the greatest mistakes organizations make is separating the responsibility for the strategic development, management, and updating of the organizational website from development and fundraising.
Let me give you four reasons why this is a monumental mistake:
- The expertise needed for the most effective web presence for an organization is marketing and fundraising expertise, not technical know-how and execution. Too many organizations believe the person ultimately responsible for the website should be someone with technical expertise rather than the person ultimately responsible for donor relations. Big mistake. You need someone who is thinking donor engagement, then tapping into the technical expertise of someone facile in online execution. This priority is especially true today when websites are far less technically daunting than five years ago. Connection, inspiration, and persuasion require more attention than does code.
- Your website is the front door to your organization. It’s the first place prospective donors go to check you out… to see if there is something that would interest them or meet their giving desires. Fundamentally, they want to see if your organization is a charity they would want to support. Hence, it’s vital to make the content of your website attractive to the potential donor… rather than filled with organizationally-focused language and content with a weak value proposition that greatly increases the possibility that you will drive these potential donors away. What a loss to your organization… a self-inflicted wound that is unnecessary (see point 1 above).
- Increasingly, your website is where your donors want to go to make a gift. In fact, our latest research shows that the majority of donors who receive direct mail prefer to make their contribution through the charity’s website. This means your website needs to be optimized for the donor experience from the time they go to your website to the moment they click “submit”.
The key ingredients are:
- A clear pathway to making the donation from the homepage.
- An emotionally moving value proposition as to how the donor’s gift will make a difference in a life.
- A clean, easy-to-complete giving form with little to no friction.
- For specific campaigns, a landing page unique to that campaign that sells in the value of the gift with a clear relation to what the donor has read in direct mail or read/heard through other media.
- Too many organizations attempt to empower stakeholders from the four corners of the building to position and promote their respective initiatives and needs via the organization’s website. They then leave the prioritization of these competing voices up to those least equipped to make the right strategic decision… the IT department. This yields a typical mash-up of disparate interests utilizing real estate that should generally be devoted to the website’s core purpose. When the development officer has primary responsibility for the site, all other departmental stakeholders ride shotgun, which results in much-needed clarity and alleviating the need for the tech team to decide what’s most important.
Bottom line, you need to see your website as an increasingly vital part of the donor relationship, not just a place to put up information about your charity. So it’s critical for your website to be a fully integrated part of your development and fundraising program, under the responsibility of the senior development officer.
By: Rick Dunham