I am sure there are many reasons why nonprofits fail. Lack of people who are willing to donate is definitely not one of them. Some nonprifits have quite the opposite problem - even if you want to donate to them online, you can't. One important reason why nonprofits fail is bad websites.
I am not talking about bad visual design. The problem is that nonprofits fail to treat their websites as revenue-generating machines that they can be. They fail to utilize the power of the Internet. Specifically, nonprofits fail to provide an easy way for people to support their cause, to give them money.
Here is what I mean. I spent hours today trying to donate money to an organization that supports small businesses. I had a list of candidates and I was visiting site after site and not donating. The only reason was that those nonprofit organizations failed to put "Donate" button on the website. How sad.
First up - NSBA.biz. I searched for small business advocate and they rank high in search results. Good choice, right?
I went to the NSBA.biz website and nowhere on the page could I find a "Donate" button. I can stay connected with them on Facebook or LinkedIN, I can sign up for a newsletter, I can even contact them. But I cannot donate. Don't you want my money?
They thought of social media, and news, and events, and membership, and even fancy and distracting Flash that takes up half of the screen space. However, they did not think of providing a simple way to get money.
Most people would leave right away. Not me. I am sure there is a way I can donate the money. Next step - site search.
Sadly, the search for "donation" produced results from all over the web with not a single result from their website. People! If I want to search the web, I will go to a search engine. When I use the search field on your site, it is a clear indication that I want results from your website only! I understand that you got excited about this Google-provided search functionality. I also see how you slapped it on to your website as quickly as you could. But don't be lazy - switch the setting to your website only. Seriously. It is not that hard.
Final result - I eventually moved on to look for another nonprofit organization to give money to.
This time I decided to find a local California organization that supports small businesses. The state is in financial trouble and, of course, the nonprofit organizations will not fail here. They will want to take my money.
Obvious choice was SmallBusinessCalifornia.org. The site looks as outdated as NSBA's website and has no donation button either. I'm not giving up yet. "Contact Us" button in the main navigation could potentially lead to a donation link, right? Wrong!! "Contact Us" button in the main navigation is linked to the home page!! What??? Who had this brilliant idea? Does anyone see a huge problem here?
All the other main navigation links led to pages with no top navigation bar. Yet, I could clearly see that the navigation bar securely resides on the desktop computer of a person named rusilaha, in their documents folder. Does anyone from SmallBusinessCalifornia.org ever look at their website? Do you care at all about your online reputation?
Final result - another failed nonprofit website. No money for you!
Finally, NFIB.com had a donation page on their website. The link to it is hidden, however, at the bottom of the page. Strangely, it is named "Contribute to NFIB". I do not want to contribute. I want to donate - that is the word we, people who donate, use to express a desire to give money away to organizations we support. Please talk to us using our language.
Another oddity is that the actual link to the donation page is an image. So, there is no text about donations for the search engines to store. As a result, when I search for "donate NFIB" their donation page does not come up in the search results! Don't you want people to know that they can donate to you?
The URL of the donation page ends in "give-voice". Is anyone familiar with SEO in the company? Even then, think like your audience. I do not want to give voice. I want to give money, i.e. donate.
And one more thing that I just cannot help but mention. Vertical scroll bar on the right? Really? In the 21st century web design? Nuf said.
Nonprofits That Do Not Fail
Are all nonprofits fail at making their website their Golden Goose? Not at all.
CustodialAbuse.org has not only well-designed site, but clear direction of how you can help - donate, join the community, share your story. As a website visitor it is obvious what you can do and why.
Michael J. Fox foundation has "Donate now" button up, front, and center. And you can learn more about community of people who, as you can see, running the 2011 marathon in New York. If you are a runner, you can be one of those 200 people who joined Team Fox. Don't you want to join? If not the marathon, you'd want to join the community. And the search returns results from the website. Nicely done!
There are many reasons that nonprofits fail. One of the reasons is clearly the inability to think of their website as a business asset. The existence of a nonprofit organization depends on donations. Therefore, allow people to donate to your cause easily and quickly. Your website is your life line! Don't ignore one of your main sources of revenue.
Nonprofit marketers, please learn! If you do not understand the internet, find someone who does; then hire them to help. Look at your website as a revenue-generating business opportunity. Start with your business goals. List the ways your business makes money. Outline your sales funnels. How can they apply to your website? Don't make it harder than it should be. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, newsletter are all fine channels, but the simplest one - donate now - is missing.
Stop chasing shiny objects and the latest marketing fads. Concentrate on your business objectives. Optimize your website. Having a YouTube channel will not triple your revenue. "Donate" button on your home page will.
So, why haven't you optimized your website yet?