Cosmic

Your Organization’s Credibility Rests on the Shoulders of Your Website

Your audience judges your organization’s credibility based on your website. Represent your organization well and you’ll turn users into supporters.

Eric Ressler
June 9, 2021
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There’s a constant calculation going on inside our heads. A relentless, rapid judgment of quality and credibility — in our news, on our social media feeds, and on the websites we visit.

Social impact organizations: Your supporters and donors are not immune from making these nonstop judgment calls.

That’s why it’s vital for your brand to exhibit undeniable credibility at every digital touchpoint — especially your website. Because your organization’s credibility is inextricably tied to its digital presence. Though you may have scaled mountains of impact in the real world, if your website doesn’t look credible by itself then that’s almost as hindering as having no credibility at all.

For social impact organizations looking to scale their impact, one thing is certain: Credibility matters. And your organization’s credibility is directly tied to how modern — or not — your website is.

It’s now or never to go all-in on fortifying your digital presence to communicate the credibility you’ve worked so hard to earn in the real world. Your digital audience awaits.

The Crucial Combination of Your Digital Dependability and Real-World Reputation

We’ve been conditioned to be leery of what we see and read online before engaging with a brand. But with this rise in healthy hesitation comes a challenge for social impact organizations. Not only must you establish credibility through the work you do, but you must also exhibit credibility throughout your brand’s digital presence — on its website, social media channels, and emails.

But all too often there are credibility gaps between an organization's digital presence and its real-world actions. Gaps that supporters and donors can easily suss out in seconds — and therefore choose to avoid altogether.

And since the support of a cause is increasingly aligned with one’s identity and connections to community, it stands to reason your supporters will put on their skeptical spectacles before they choose to engage with you. After all, who wants to be duped?

This means you need to craft and maintain an engaging, updated website that tells your story, provides up-to-date information, and consistently posts scroll-stopping content.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of unethical brands that don't do good work but look great online. A modern-looking website does not a credible brand make. If your organization’s website is up and running with a cool, sleek vibe — but you're not actually making an impact in your niche — you’re far from off the hook.

You need to do the work and do it well for your credibility to ring true, in the real world and on digital.

In other words, you have to walk the walk before you can talk the talk.

What Does Credibility Look Like for a Social Impact Organization?

Credibility means the quality or power of inspiring belief. It’s inherently emotional, sparking something deep within. So what does this look like on your social impact organization’s digital channels?

There are four elements you need to embody across your brand to ignite an emotional connection and gain credibility:

  1. 1.
    Trust. There is no credibility without trust. To establish it, your organization must communicate its purpose, vision, and mission. On your website, you need to clearly convey what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, and the milestones by which you’ll measure your progress. Then you need to tout your impact and inspire interaction because of it, consistently.

  2. 2.
    Relevance. Your cause is likely a worthy one, but a worthy cause alone is not enough to gain credibility. Your cause must be presented in a way that addresses a timely issue people care about — a way that makes them want to get involved. And you need to figure out where your social impact organization fits into the larger conversation. Otherwise, you will struggle for relevance.

  3. 3.
    A cohesive, clear story. Because of the rise in causewashing, telling your brand’s story in a compelling, veritable manner is more important than ever. As your audience grapples with sorting out what is and what isn’t empty virtue signaling, your brand’s storytelling could be the difference in turning them into believers. Your story needs to be clear and powerful from the get-go, regardless of which page on your site a user enters first.

  4. 4.
    Proof of impact. No one can argue with facts. They only bolster your call for support. And sharing your organization’s successes through your social impact statistics paints a picture your supporters and donors can imagine themselves being a part of. Not only does communicating your progress show you’re transparent, but your shared data also proves that what you’re doing works.

Imprinting Credibility Onto Every Aspect of Your Brand

Of course, your brand is made up of more than a website. It’s a collection of elements that define who you are, what you stand for, and how you’re doing the work.

With that said, there cannot be any dissonance between all the elements that make up your brand. This means thinking holistically about how your organization’s credibility is viewed through the lens of your:

  • Visual brand
  • Messaging
  • Digital presence
  • Cross-channel communications

If your website has an inconsistent logo across your channels, that’s a hit on your visual brand.

Poor grammar, misspelled words, or inaccurate information on your website (or even in your emails) communicates that you may not have it all together.

If your website is modern, but your other digital channels (i.e., social media) look neglected, that can be a red flag, too.

Think about it this way: If you had the opportunity to give a TED Talk, would you piece it together from a bunch of templates online? No. And your website — and digital presence — is basically your digital TED Talk.

Your digital presence is your virtual spokesperson. What’s it saying?

Make Digital an Extension of Your Boots-on-the-Ground Work

It’s time to make room in your budget for building and maintaining your digital presence. No longer can you expect to build a credible, robust website and subsequent digital presence without treating it as part of your impact work.

Because in today’s digital-first world, it most certainly is.

Therefore, tasking interns or volunteers (who likely lack the necessary skills to drum up a modern website and all the necessary components that go with it) isn’t a smart move. After all, you probably wouldn’t task them with building a case to convince your high-dollar funders to give, would you? But that’s exactly what your website is.

Not to mention, your supporters deserve to see a bespoke, exciting website that reflects the time, energy, and resources they put into advancing your cause. Funds going toward the design, development, and upkeep of your website guarantee that their investment in your organization is a sound one. And one they’ll continue to support.

It’s true that many social impact organizations are barely getting by as it is. The starvation cycle runs rampant. Maybe carving out room in your budget for a digital overhaul may not be in the cards. When this happens, it’s imperative to include building a robust digital presence in your strategic planning. That way, when you’re presenting a fundraising pitch to support your bold digital vision, it’s already built in.

Social impact organizations have to work harder to be seen as the digital world advances and the attention-and-algorithm economy reigns supreme. When you are trying to break through the digital noise, make sure you don’t also have to fight for credibility on top of that. Your brand’s digital presence should speak for itself — no skeptical spectacles necessary.

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