Cosmic

Nonprofits, Fundraising Success Depends on the Strength of Your Website

Nonprofits with outdated or DIY websites: You’re hurting your fundraising potential. Learn how the right website will do your cause justice — and more.

Eric Ressler
May 20, 2021
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What do today’s most inspirational, impactful social impact organizations have in common? Is it their ability to connect with and mobilize their supporters? What about the sharp fundraising strategies that sustain their work?

Could it be that behind it all, they have a strong digital presence driving everything? The mark of a modern, sterling nonprofit is their relentless digital-first approach with a neoteric website at the center of it all.

When done well, a website isn't just an accessory to what you do. It's the lynchpin of how you fundraise and mobilize your supporters.

It’s not enough for your organization to simply have a website and check it off your list. If you want to convince anyone your cause is worth getting behind, you need a rallying, dynamic digital hub. One that amplifies your message, attracts supporters, and gives donors a glimpse of how they could help move the needle.

No longer can social impact organizations eke by with an outdated website and expect to compel change. The only sure way forward is through your organization’s website.

Your Nonprofit’s Website is How You Prove Your Work — and Worth

It’s happened: You’ve finally transitioned from a scrappy organization to one with an audience and influence. You’re making moves, experiencing progress, and setting new goals. When was the last time you updated your website to reflect your growth?

You know you’re going to need more sustainable support to keep going. But it certainly won’t happen by relying on the same digital platform you drag-and-dropped content into five years ago.

Sure, DIY platforms like WIX may have been great to get you off the ground. But now? They’re easily sniffed out as out-of-touch. And frankly, you’ve outgrown it. To your supporters, that DIY look does not translate as a badge of thriftiness. In fact, it’s a turnoff.

Most supporters aren’t so patient as to click through old web pages with missing information to find what they were looking for — let alone make a donation. Instead, they will search for an organization whose digital presence is wonderfully fresh. One whose website tells their story with engaging calls to action. And likely has a collection of content so compelling they couldn’t not share it with their friends.

Creating and maintaining a website that reflects a digital-first mindset is nonnegotiable for today’s social impact organizations. And for your potential funders and supporters, your website is crucial in their evaluation of whether or not your organization is capable of executing its mission.

If you don’t build and maintain a quality digital presence, you can’t expect your supporters to enthusiastically connect with your cause.

Maybe the reason you’ve put off updating your website is because of your limited time and resources. But in today’s digital world, building and maintaining an intriguing website is not separate from the program work at all. It’s how you magnify the work you’re already doing — and make it count.

Sustainable Revenue Streams Made Possible by Your Website

You need a digital space where your supporters can read your impact story, learn your theory of change, and subscribe to your email newsletter. You also need a place they can connect with each other to build community and inspire each other to further your cause.

All of this is important for creating awareness of and involvement in your mission. But there’s another motive: securing sustainable streams of revenue. Your website is a goldmine of opportunity. See how:

  • Compelling content — Whether it’s your organization’s origin story or your most recent impact report, you have something to say. And supporters and donors? They should hear about it all. Scroll-stopping content, blogs, videos, supporters’ personal stories — produce it all to live on your website and share it via your digital channels. It’s evidence that what you’re doing is working, and it keeps them coming back for more. And it shows you deserve more funding in order to achieve your mission.

  • Membership model — What better way to move your supporters up the pyramid of engagement and secure a steady stream of revenue than a membership model? Create a lasting membership program that builds community, encourages action and involvement, and guarantees funding for your organization. More than ever people are searching for community and a cause they can get passionate about. And your website can be the virtual clubhouse where it all happens.

  • Established credibility — Without credibility, donors will pass you by. An established website is your first step in showing that you walk the walk. Plus, taking your digital presence seriously shows donors you have a sustained approach to achieving your mission. Another point in your favor? When your website answers their questions before they even get a chance to ask. Large-dollar donors want to see that their money is going to have a significant, sustained impact where it can really make a difference. And they simply won’t do that with an organization that they don’t believe is legitimate. Would you?

  • Connection to real-world efforts — The movement between your digital presence and real world efforts should be fluid and constant. Of course, you need boots-on-the-ground efforts to see sustained growth and change. Events, petition campaigns, connecting your supporters with their legislators — all of these actions can start from your website. Even your real-world fundraising efforts will have a digital touchpoint component to them. For example, information about your annual gala should be front and center on your website leading up to the big night. A digital hub like your website is what informs, instigates, and amplifies the work you and your supporters do offline.

  • Donation user flow — You probably have some sort of digital donor system set up. But how easy is it to use? When it comes to the donation user flow, the less friction, the better. Fewer frictionless steps are tied to more donations because people don’t become frustrated and prematurely exit. Digital donations are the easiest way to secure unrestricted funding that enables your organization to stay focused on the work. If your website’s donation user flow is stuck in 2016, it’s probably turned away potential donors. Updating your donation user flow to keep pace with today’s payment processing systems could usher in a steadier cash flow.

The Catch-22: You Need Money to Make Money. Here’s What To Do Next.

So you’re sold on getting a new website that does your cause justice and supports your fundraising efforts. There’s just one problem: You need more money to make it happen.

Don’t worry, you have options that aren’t another Weebly site.

  • Build an action center. An action center is a digital space specially designed to foster engagement by inviting supporters to take a variety of interesting and impactful actions. It’s a smaller undertaking than building a new website that still gives your supporters immediate reasons to interact with the digital presence you already have.
  • Make a plan. Develop a comprehensive phased-out roadmap of what you know you need to build. You could do this in-house or through a diagnostic with us. Talking to a social impact creative agency like Cosmic will tell you how much money you really need for each phase of work. This same roadmap and pricing can be used to raise money from foundations that have grants specifically for building out organizational capacity or infrastructure.

  • Prepare to ask. Give a presentation to your large-dollar donors. Share the details of the website roadmap and the costs associated with the work. Donors who understand the need will often write a check for the first phase of work or all of it. After all, they understand that their one-time gift will be the kickstart you need to create ongoing, unrestricted revenue — a long-lasting impact they can hang their hat on.

Your website is one of your greatest assets to put on display for future funding. It can’t be underestimated. Leave the DIY web templates to the organizations that don’t want to innovate. And when you’re ready to take the next step toward your digital transformation, we’re here to help.

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