Yesterday Tom outlined how to destroy your website. Today, in the best yin and yang tradition of The Agitator, here’s how to make your website the very best of breed.

WAGER:  I’m betting there’s no more than one out of every 10,000 nonprofits in the world with the guts or patience to follow the process I’m about to report. It’s donor-centric but also so very, very counter-intuitive to what most fundraisers would do if they were in charge of re-making a website. I’m pretty certain (sadly) my bet is a sure thing.

Please prove me wrong. Because, if you implement this process you’ll likely see:

  • A 250% increase in revenue from your website;
  • A 90% increase in monthly donors; and …
  • A 150% + increase in folks willing to register or signup for more information and engagement.

Let’s get started.

Recommendation #1: Begin by removing the ‘Donate’ button from your homepage and just about everywhere else on your site. Unless users of your website are hiring it to make their giving of money easier, ‘donating’ is not a Top Task.

Ah, I can hear the screams of ‘heresy’ already. All those blogs. All that misinformed, non-empirical advisory bullshit indicating the ‘donate’ button has to be prominent and frequent.

Here’s the reason why I’m suggesting something far different. And it’s related to Recommendation #2.

Recommendation #2: Find out — as in actually survey, talk to users of your website — what Top Tasks the users want your site to enable or perform. Chances are their priorities aren’t at all what you think.

At this point, enter The Norwegian Cancer Society and a user-consulting firm named Netlife Research and witness the most extraordinary marriage of nonprofit and consultant I’ve ever witnessed and I’m dying to share with you.

Convinced they weren’t realizing the potential of the web for fundraising and public education, the Society hired Netlife and together they set out on the task to remake their website. To answer the question: What matters most to website users and what matters very little? The only question that really matters regardless of what your 22 year old webmaster might tell you.

Before I report on what happened, a bit of background. The ‘old’ society website had 4,000 pages. Between 40 and 50 people in the organization could post content. There was no central editorial control on what content went in, what came out, or in what order.

So far, sound familiar?

At this point the scenario changed dramatically from what most of us have experienced. The Society and Netlife gathered together all the stakeholders — at this point I’d call them silos — and they agreed they should really ask the users what mattered. They drew up a list of 70+ ‘tasks’ they thought the website performed.

Then they asked actual website users to vote on what features were the most important to them. Here’s what they found in order of user priority:

Top Tasks:

1. Treatment

2. Symptoms

3. Prevention

4. Research

Tiny Tasks at the bottom of the priority list:

1. Donations

2. Gifts

3. Annual report

4. Press releases

That’s right. Out of 70+ tasks, users voted ‘donations’ as about the 66th most important priority.

So … fighting a tidal wave of denial, the group met again, discussed the finding and agreed (there was a lot of gnashing of teeth, lest I over-simplify this stage) they would remake the website to reflect the users’ priorities.

Here’s what they did:

  • Everyone representing a silo within the organization signed a contract promising to abide with the ‘new rules.’
  • The site was reduced from 4,000 pages to 1,000 pages.
  • Whereas 40 members of the staff were authorized to post content before the reforms were made, today only 5 people can add, modify or delete content.

I reached Beate Sørum, head of Digital Fundraising for the Society, and we had a great chat as snowflakes flew in the background of her Skype screen. (The Agitator is weather agnostic and will brave all conditions for you, dear Reader).

Here’s how Beate summarized this marvelous and extraordinary adventure:

  • What was very obvious was that making a donation was not a top task for people who visited the website.
  •  In trying to get more donations, the traditional approach would be to devote much of the space on the homepage and other major pages to asking for donations.
  • The logic goes that the less attention people are paying the harder we have to work to attract it. And that is in fact how the old homepage for the Cancer Society looked. It had lots of banner ads asking for donations and support.
  •  The new approach is very different. It now focuses on helping people get the information they need (treatment, symptoms, research) as quickly as possible. There are no banner ads for donations.
  • This is true customer-centric design — putting the needs of the customer front and center. In appropriate places, such as on research pages, there are carefully phrased requests for donations. Why? Because if someone is reading about research, then it is appropriate to ask them in that context.

“So Beate”, your intrepid Agitator asked, “How has this worked out for you?”

  • Year over year comparisons of giving on the old website versus the new find the new producing 200% and possibly more than the old. (The exact increase will be known when all year-end gifts are tallied.)
  • An 88% increase in monthly (sustainer) contributions.
  • Average gift is up and, even more significantly, the conversion rate (web browsers to web donors) is up. Conversion rates from their Christmas appeal were 13% overall … 10% by mobile … 17% by tablet … 13% by desktop.
  • Perhaps most important of all, by sharply focusing the site to meet users’ top needs the Society has reached its strategic goal of making the Norwegian Cancer Society the most trusted name where the issue of cancer is concerned.

The reason this is working so well from a fundraising standpoint is that the Society is paying attention to the ‘job the user is hiring it to do.’ And the discipline displayed in asking for donations only in the context of the prospective donor’s needs and interests is paying huge dividends.

Beate and Netlife you both deserve a great big Agitator Raise. Go to Beate’s blog for more detail on the fundraising decisions made in this web project


P.S. For those Agitator readers who are thinking about or working on changes in your website I recommend you listen to the webinar and download the power point on this remarkable piece of work.  You can access both here.

P.P.S. Special thanks to Gerry McGovern for his post alerting The Agitator to this special case history. If Gerry’s blog New Thinking isn’t on your ‘must read’ list it should be.





This article was posted in: Media usage / trends, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing.
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