Creating Credibility & Culture: Part V Branding, Call to Action, and Website Audit
Oh boy. That’s right. It’s time to address it. The big W. Your Website.
Nonprofit websites, in particular, can be a little overwhelming and are known for being the cause of one too many headaches. With the prevalent combination of tiny fonts, non-contrasting colors, and a scream to “Give! Give! Give!” with no clear vision of why one should give or an easy way on how to give. ARRGH!
This episode is a nonprofit’s crash course on different types of websites, how to communicate your brand, and what you should NOT do on your website. On the last podcast, we covered: Why your nonprofit needs to have a website and not just a Facebook page. We established a need for your virtual home, now it’s time to find a way for people to feel comfortable in your home and to form a relationship with those visitors.
A disclaimer here: We are not going to go into how to build a website. Nope. There are plenty of other podcasts, YouTube videos, and blogs out there for that. We are going to go into the overall approach to your website, give some tips on how to get the traffic it deserves, and reveal ways for visitors to take the call to action that you provide. It doesn’t matter if you use WordPress, Square Space, Wix, or any of the other countless web platforms that are available. The formatting that we are going to discuss will work for them all in providing a better way to communicate with your brand.
The “Why” Behind Websites
First of all, why do people even visit websites? Well, according to Vincent Flanders, author of “Web Sites that Don’t Suck,” there are four main reasons, that include:
They want / need information
They want / need to make a purchase / donation
They want / need to be entertained
They want / need to be part of a community
This is actually pretty accurate in my experience as a web-surfer. I am sure that you can relate to one or all of these reasons. A lot of the times that I visit a website, I want to receive all four of these benefits. For example, why would people want to go to a nonprofit’s website, let’s say if the organization has a community garden in an inner-city? They may want information – like where the community garden is located, they may want to rent and pay online for a community garden lot or donate to the cause, they may want to see a video that was put together of a concert that was filmed in the community garden, or they may want to connect to other like-minded individuals who aim to grow their own vegetables in the city. It really is important to fill all four of these needs.
Does your website offer a fulfilling experience to viewers who are potential donors/volunteers/partners? If you aren’t sure, let’s see how to make this a productive experience that leads to your call to action.
Let’s face it, your website does not exist as a boutique or fancy brochure just to show off information about your organization. Instead, it’s a tool to mobilize your audience/visitors. As such, ensure that your content on the homepage is focused on three key items:
MISSION: What does your organization do and why?
SUCCESSES: What are the impacts and results of your actions?
CALL TO ACTION: How can your audience help?
We’ve talked about the importance of your mission statement a lot in previous podcasts because it really is the glue that holds your organization together. Is your mission statement communicated on your website? It doesn’t necessarily have to be front and center – that is what your slogan is for – but it should be on your website and your website should reflect your mission statement. If your mission statement for the community garden is, “To enhance health with cost-effectiveness for city dwellers,” yet viewers don’t see any information on how eating healthy can be cost-effective on the website, will the mission really reach the viewer? We think not. To reiterate, your mission statement should:
“…a catchphrase or small group of words that are combined in a special way to identify a product or company,” or a mini-statement.
According to Quora, the word “slogan” comes from a Scottish word meaning “battle cry.” Isn’t that cool? A battle cry for your products and services!
A slogan can be a direct answer to a problem or an innuendo. Either way, a slogan will focus on the benefits of your products and services rather than the features.
How do you develop a slogan?
A slogan should be simple, easy to memorize, include a solution, and kindle warm fuzzies about the brand. Many nonprofits use very boring language and slogans such as, Support us so we can give. Give to what? Why would anyone support you?
In contrast, catchy slogans are easy to memorize and ignite the imagination, such as:
Taste the Rainbow
Where dreams come true
You could learn a lot from a dummy. Buckle up!
These are all so easy to memorize and really feature the benefit of the product.
For example, when someone says, Taste the Rainbow you may start craving candy. They are explaining the benefit. Can you imagine what would happen if these organizations explained the product features instead of the benefits for their slogans? Are you scratching your head and not sure of the difference I am talking about?
Let’s have a look:
Product or Service Benefits
Product or Service Features
Taste the Rainbow
Small round candy in various colors
Where dreams come true
An amusement park filled with fun games and rides for all ages
You could learn a lot from a dummy. Buckle up!
A seatbelt keeps you safe in a car.
You can see how these slogans describe the benefit or outcome.
They sell the sizzle and not the steak. It is more emotional and clever. There is no reason your branding can’t be clever too.
Your community garden may have a slogan like, “Sunshine city” or something similar where you are implying that if you don’t have a plot in the garden, it isn’t going to be very sunny around your house.
Or you could feature the benefit more with, “Fresh food, a fraction of the cost.” Really these ways could be endless, but make sure it reflects the language your organization uses.
Do you also see how the slogan is not the mission? Let’s go back and use the earlier mission statement for the community garden nonprofit, “To enhance health with cost-effectiveness for city dwellers.”
If you were to put the mission statement and slogan together it would look or read like this:
“To enhance health with cost-effectiveness for city dwellers”
Fresh food, a fraction of the cost
Thoughts to consider with Slogans
Recognizable: Is the slogan quickly recognizable? Will people only have to spend a second or two thinking about it? A brief, catchy few words can go a long way in advertisements, videos, posters, business cards, swag, and other places.
Includes a key benefit: A great slogan makes a company or product’s benefits clear to the audience.
It differentiates the brand: How does your slogan stand apart from your competitors?
It is emotional or touches on a sensory feeling: Be positive in your slogan and lead to an emotion or sensory pleasure. Taste the rainbow is great in that it makes you think about taste and gives you a visual. I love You could learn a lot from a dummy. Buckle up! As they are straight up calling you an idiot if you don’t buckle up, albeit in a clever way.
Be sure to include the success your organization has had in reaching its mission so far. You need to validate your positioning and that you are a credible organization. It’s especially important to explain that your organization has addressed and will continue to address the needs that you have highlighted. There are a number of ways that you can do this. Some examples include:
Charts and graphs
This is very important, if you are perceived as inactive or unmotivated to support your cause, potential donors and website visitors won’t buy into your commitment.
Call to Action
When people come to your website, it is extremely important to have them take an action. This could be as simple as a “Learn More” button where you direct them to further resources, a “Donate” button to donate to a specific cause, a “Sign Up” button to sign up for an event, or a “Get Updates” button to subscribe to your mailing list, etc. But whatever it is, be consistent throughout your website.
It really depends on what you want visitors to do when they come across your website. Are you trying to get more volunteers? Are you building a list of donors? Are you wanting to simply give more information and resources to people for particular causes? For any of these cases, you must clearly lead them towards that action. Oftentimes that is done through a button or requesting for emails and names.
Website Branding Review: The Top 15 Audit
Okay, now that we have really described what the approach is for the website and how to communicate your brand, let’s look at what TO DO and NOT to do. It is now time to get into the nitty-gritty review of your website. See below for a checklist of items to check on your website:
Visitors know what to do when they first land on your website
Visitors know what your website is about within a few seconds
Your website is not a lengthy brochure but communicates solving problems and appealing to senses and emotions
Your website lists its successes and clearly establishes itself as a valid source
Your website loads quickly
Your website has lots of white space and does not use dark backgrounds with light text (headache alert!)
Your website has clear calls to action
You use simple, standard fonts
All website links lead to active pages
Your news and events are very recent and up to date (within the last couple of months, tops)
Your logo and graphics are clean and professional (no terrible selfies or stretched photos)
Your wallpaper is not super busy or distracting
Your website can be easily viewed on different devices
The navigation is clear on your website
Your website design is appealing to your specific demographic
According to Online Funding ScoreCard, 84% of nonprofit donation landing pages are not optimized for mobile phones. Blackbaud states that the conversion rate is 34% higher when nonprofits optimize their websites and donation forms to make them mobile responsive.
Just remember that more isn’t actually better for websites. The number of people visiting your website via their Smartphone is increasing exponentially and the experience should be optimized for that platform. You can see why your call to action has to be prominent, you don’t want your website visitors accidentally ‘going down the rabbit hole’ – and thus getting lost in unnecessary details. Cut out what isn’t needed and be clear and succinct. As an author, we call this, killing my darlings. It’s a necessary fact to get rid of the beautiful junk and keep readers on track.
That sums it up. Have a mission and a slogan. Discuss successes and give clear calls to action. Simplify and clarify. Review your website, or better yet have a few other people review it using the checklist. By doing all of these things, you will get much clearer on your branding. Just ask yourself and your organization what you want viewers to do when they visit your website and how that will benefit your organization in the best way. This will do wonders for your clarity and improve your nonprofit’s ability to actually increase your stakeholders and accomplish your goals.