get people to your website

We’re thinking of easy, cost-effective ways you can increase your online donations. We’re going to focus on some easy, but overlooked basics.

An April 2009 survey offers an interesting perspective. ForeSee Results surveyed 2,000 respondents to gauge their satisfaction with nonprofit websites.

There were a couple of easy “take-aways” for me out of this report that were not part of the topline summary. The first we discussed Monday, on how to improve website traffic.

Today I’d like you to think about:

Search dogWhere do people hear about your site?

The ForeSee Results survey reported these statistics:

62% the organization’s website
39% the organization’s email updates or newsletter
26% word of mouth
21% direct contact with the organization
14% traditional media
9% work
5% blogs
4% other
4% another nonprofit resource
6% to look for a job
6% other

Conclusion: people find a nonprofit’s website in some pretty traditional ways.

Let’s take a closer look at the top four ways people find your website: your website, your materials, word of mouth and direct contact with you.

3 of these 4 are pretty easy and the 4th is manageable.

The bottom 3 are improved with these kind of steps:

1. Make sure your URL is on every piece of paper your donors (or prospects) could see.
I prefer a client’s URL be on the front and back of a newsletter, on the letter and response device of an appeal letter, in at least a couple of places in a receipt, etc. I’m amazed at the times I have worked with a new designer only to discover that the client’s URL is in only one place. You never want your donor wondering how to find you online. It should be everywhere (nearly everywhere).

2. Make sure your URL is easy to remember. Reasons 3 and 4 are one person telling another person where you’re located on the web. If you have a convoluted 27 letter URL consider shortening it. If you have a URL that isn’t obviously connected to your organization do something about it. You don’t have to change all URLs, you can get another one and forward to your existing site (or vice versa). The key is easy to remember. If it is going to be a long URL get one that is easy to remember with no weirdness. If you’re a rescue mission and your current URL is impossible to remember, get one that describes your work (www.feedingthehungryinseattle.org) or one that calls the donor to action (www.iwillfeedthem.org). Those are a little long but easy to remember and pass on to someone. If you can’t get to the shorter URL, figure out an easy way for people to remember it.

3. Make sure everyone in your organization knows your URL. No hesitations or confusion allowed. Absolutely everyone who interacts with donors should know it–intimately. (I suspect you think this is a dumb idea because everyone knows yours but I personally heard the receptionist at fairly large ministry tell a donor she wasn’t sure what the web address was but that she’d find someone who did know. YIKES!)

The top reason people come to your website (according to this study) is from your website. That may be a head scratcher for you but this item represents 2 actions:

1. Entering your organization’s name into their browser and finding you.
2. Entering your organization’s name into the search function of their browser and finding you.

A surprisingly large number of people enter the URL they are looking for in the search box of their browser even if they aren’t really searching. That means how you appear in Google is very, very important. If you aren’t googling your URL and your organziation’s name regularly, you should be. If you are a rescue mission located in say Phoenix, you should know what the results are to googling “Phoenix” and “rescue mission” (or whatever is logical for your situation).

Improving your search results and rankings is complex and important. Tomorrow’s blog will deal some basic search optimization ideas. For today, make strides on getting your URL out there.

For today, get the word out. What about you, is your URL everywhere?


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity


(photo credits: Contadini)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

2 thoughts on “get people to your website”

  1. Great suggestions. Thanks for giving us the basics. I’m trying to get our NPO to begin with baby steps. Keep up the good work we’re learning a ton.

  2. Thank you so much for your useful information. I am a development officer for a rescue mission. Our director keeps talking about blogging and Facebook but our website isn’t current. We are struggling to update the content regularly. I can’t figure out how to get our newsletters and information posted quickly. I guess what I’m asking is about priorities. Should we wait until our website is better before we jump into all this other social media outlets?

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