Digital Presence: The High-Impact Guide to Boosting Your Nonprofit’s Online Footprint

Executives holding a meeting
April 19, 2024 |
Article | 7 min
| Business Insights

Running a successful nonprofit comes with a unique set of challenges. The very nature of your organization means tight budgets and limited resources. But maintaining a digital presence in today’s internet age can help you raise money and spread awareness. Specifically, you can reach broader audiences, generate funds, and help those in need.

Consider this: Of the 18- to 29-year-olds who increased their charitable giving during the Covid-19 pandemic, 25% said they want their favorite nonprofits to communicate with them via social media. So, how robust are your nonprofit’s social media communications?

In this high-impact guide, we’ll dive into all the tips, trends, and best practices that have the potential to boost your nonprofit’s digital presence. From building a user-friendly website to using search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your Google rankings, nonprofit leaders should be ready to embrace digital trends.

Website Best Practices

Poor web design is one of the quickest ways to turn away donors. After all, how can you expect them to contribute if the ways to give or volunteer are unclear?

For one thing, your entire website should be easy to navigate. What’s more, your homepage needs to get your message across ASAP. Consider featuring:

  • One quick, compelling primary headline
  • An eye-catching image or video
  • A brief version of your mission statement.
  • A clear call to action (CTA)

From there, visitors should be able to branch out to different pages. These might include your full mission statement, nonprofit goals, blog, and ways to get involved. Basically, your digital presence boils down to the usability and functionality of your nonprofit’s website.

Once you build a visually appealing and easy-to-use site, it’s time to grab the visitor’s attention with content. Consider these four key features as you separate your operation from others in cyberspace.

1. A Message That Aligns With Your Audience

Picture your ideal donor in your head. How often do they donate? What do they believe? How do they think, feel, and act regarding your cause? That’s your target audience. If your website isn’t tailored to them, you could miss a swath of potential donations.

Consider conducting surveys and doing leg work to get to know your target audience better. Doing so will help you craft content and visuals that align with their needs and interests.

Trying to toe the line between too much and too little content isn’t easy. You may want to share all the great things your nonprofit does—but you don’t want to overburden visitors.

Try to remember this one simple rule: Less is more. Websites that feature less content have an easier time getting their message across. Beyond that, consider keeping these best practices in mind in your efforts to enhance your digital presence through effective messaging:

  • Content should be concise, simple, and brief. In addition, plain speech can be more impactful than confusing jargon.
  • Using larger text and highlights can call attention to your main messages.
  • Ways to get involved should be clear. This includes both monetary donations and volunteer opportunities.

2. Omnipresence Across Channels

While your website can be your base of operations, you may also want to expand your digital presence into other channels

Person marking box as a donation

According to a recent Global Trends in Giving Report, 48% of those who donate on social media will do so through Facebook. About 24% will donate through Instagram, while other channels (like TikTok) come in around 10%.

Your nonprofit doesn’t need to have accounts on every social media platform. In fact, it’s wiser to choose the ones that attract your target audience.

X (formerly Twitter) is a great place to share quick updates. You’ll often see nonprofit leaders talk up an upcoming event to spread awareness and remind donors. Meanwhile, Facebook excels at sharing events, videos, images, and longer-form content. What’s more, Facebook and Instagram’s live stream functions can help you engage people in real time.

3. Storytelling Through Video and Podcasting

Written content and images are great, but there are other ways to spread your mission online. Video and podcasting are two trending platforms nonprofits use to grow their digital presence.

Think about it: Someone has to stop their day to read a blog post on your website. But if you turn that blog post into a podcast, visitors can listen while they do other things. Podcasting also lets you expand upon ideas and explain your mission more openly. You can feature special guests, frequent donors, and impactful contributors to show how your nonprofit makes a difference.

The best part about video content and podcasting is that you don’t have to create new content. You can easily repurpose existing content for an audiovisual medium. All three types of content can live harmoniously on your website, which lets visitors choose how they want to consume it.

Of course, your videos and podcasts can also exist outside of your website. For instance, YouTube for Nonprofits can help reach your target audience easier and more affordably. You’ll gain access to the YouTube Creator Academy, where experts will help you create engaging videos that stand out.

You can also use Twitch, the popular video game streaming website, to enhance your digital presence. Twitch Charity can help you partner with popular streamers to raise money for causes they align with. The bridge between gamers and charity may seem odd, but 78% of users want to see more charitable connections in the video game community.

Non profit worker holding a box of food

4. Testimonials

Most users lean on reviews and testimonials before engaging with a company or product online. There’s a reason why 99% of shoppers read reviews before buying something. The same is true for your nonprofit.

By showcasing compelling testimonials, you may highlight your nonprofit’s impact on society. This can help inspire others to donate to your cause and get involved.

Testimonials are a form of social proof—a way of using your current supporters to motivate others. For example, if you have a local (or significant) celebrity donating to your cause, have them post about it to their followers to generate more funds.

Detailed testimonials can help you build trust with donors, volunteers, and customers. To begin, you might email previous donors, volunteers, or people you’ve helped and ask for feedback on their experience. You can also see if they’d consider recommending you to others in their circles.

It’s important to ask permission to include someone’s testimonial on your website. The message will be more impactful if you can share their name, job title, and professional headshot. Testimonials work best when posted on your homepage and throughout your entire website.

The Role of Blogging in Getting Found Online

Google is the bridge between your digital presence and your target audience. The nonprofits that find the most success online are easy to find and connect with.

Effective blogging can help build that bridge. If you don’t have an established website, you can try publishing blog posts on LinkedIn or Facebook. Those posts should always link back to your main page. From there, readers can donate, sign up for your newsletter, or follow your channel.

Businesswoman working on laptop

If you have an established website, it’s important to optimize the content so Google can find it. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play.

You’ve likely heard of SEO, but what does it mean? And how can it help your nonprofit improve its digital presence?

Google Rankings and SEO

SEO is the practice of earning organic traffic from search engines—most likely Google. The goal is to rank as high as possible for certain keywords or phrases that may relate to your nonprofit.

If you’re not appearing on Google’s first page, chances are nobody is finding your website. According to one study of 4 million Google search queries, fewer than 1% of people clicked on the second page. Furthermore, the top-ranking result on Google gets 27.6% of all clicks.

Google’s algorithm considers everything from your webpage’s usability to your contributors’ credibility. Its artificial intelligence (AI) scans the quality of your content to see if it aligns with user queries.

Let’s say your nonprofit centers around animal shelters. If someone searches for “animal shelter charities,” Google will find the most relevant and authoritative website related to that search.

However, scattering the phrase “animal shelter charities” across your website doesn’t mean Google will rank it first. Notice how you’ll never find a “bad” or non-user-friendly website ranked at the top (unless you go looking for it).

Google’s algorithm can identify pain points (like poor design) that hurt the user experience. As a result, it will rank that website lower, even if the SEO is otherwise perfect. This goes back to building a user-friendly website before filling it with content.

Try not to overlook local SEO strategies, either. Creating and claiming your Google Business listing can help ensure it appears when people type in local keywords like “animal shelters near me” or “soup kitchens in El Paso.”

Public Blogs, Newsletters, Gated Content, and More

Many nonprofits understand the importance of blogging, but they don’t know where to start. Here are some places you can go to find inspiration:

  • Source FAQs: Consider your most frequently asked questions. Blog posts that answer those questions will automatically resonate with both new and old donors. If they type that question into Google, you want to ensure the answer comes from your organization.
  • Read Other Blogs: What do other nonprofits write about? There’s nothing wrong with borrowing an idea or concept and applying it to your nonprofit.
  • Practice Keyword Research: It can also help to search for the keywords and phrases for which you want to rank higher. Click on the first few results and see what they’re posting. Google’s “people are also asking” feature can also inspire related ideas.

Once you have some ideas, it’s time to start writing. These elements can improve your digital presence in Google’s eyes:

  • Visuals, including images, GIFs, and videos
  • Clear headings and subheadings that tell people what they’re about to read
  • Links to relevant content and statistics
  • A clear CTA
  • Consistent tone and branding throughout

Trying to Move Your Audience to Your Website

You’ve reached your target audience on social media. Now, how do you get them to click away from Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram?

Let’s look at three crucial keys that can help steer your audience away from social media and toward your website.

1. Funnels for Your Social Media Strategy

When we think of funnel metrics, we default to sales and corporate marketing. But you can apply the same principles to your nonprofit’s digital presence.

Funnels help track the customer’s journey from beginning to end. It starts when they find your nonprofit on Google or social media, and it ends after they donate.

Funnel metrics track conversation rates, revealing how efficient your strategy is. You may need to rethink your approach if your campaigns aren’t leading to donations.

One way to measure your conversation rates is to try using A/B testing across your entire website. This involves testing multiple ideas to see which performs better. For best results, you may want to run each campaign for the same length and measure the final metrics.

A/B testing can be as simple as CTA button placement. For instance, do you get more donations when it’s at the top or bottom of the page?

Two people conducting a podcast

2. The Importance of a CTA

While we’re on the subject, a clear and compelling call to action may also encourage visitors to donate or get involved.

Urgency is of the utmost importance. Long-winded CTA buttons won’t drive your message home. For example, “Click here to donate to homeless shelters in your area today” isn’t as effective as a button that says, “Become a Donor.”

Strong verbiage can help give your CTAs a sense of urgency. After all, they’re meant to inspire action, not simply suggest it. “Consider making a charitable donation” isn’t nearly as impactful as “Donate today!”

Where you place a CTA is as important as what you say. Try making it visible and present across all digital platforms. No matter what, someone who engages with your content should have an immediate way to contact your organization.

Your website’s navigation menu is one of the best places for a CTA. The menu contains all your primary pages and logo (i.e., what your nonprofit deems most important). The menu is also static across every page, ensuring that users always have the option to donate no matter where they are on your website.

3. Downloads, Webinars, and Other Free Goodies

People love freebies and giveaways. You can use free content to drum up interest in your cause while boosting your digital presence. Whether you’re giving away webinar content, white papers, or eBooks, these gifts let prospects “taste” your nonprofit before digging in. The most important aspects are promoting them and following up.

You can try promoting freebies on your website, social media pages, and other marketing channels. The graphics and copy should catch someone’s eye and hold their attention. Why does this free eBook matter to them? Why should they listen to this free podcast episode? The point is to give people a reason to click on your freebie (other than it being free).

Employees in a virtual meeting

Of course, nothing is truly free. Users will need to enter their email address to access the content. Once they submit, you can engage them with follow-up emails about your nonprofit and upcoming events in their area. This is a prime opportunity to push them toward donating or volunteering.

Finally, it’s wise to track your results like any other marketing strategy. The data on traffic and conversions can help you refine your approach.

Freebies don’t have to give away a digital product, either. You might consider contests or random drawings to spread awareness. For example, you could run a naming contest for a new nonprofit mascot. For every $10 donation, people can submit suggestions. Let them know that you’ll be announcing the winner on Facebook. Perhaps that winner gets a framed photo of them and the mascot.

A Savvy Digital Presence Can Make Your Nonprofit Stand Out

With the right strategies, nonprofits can quickly improve their online presence to generate funds.

A user-friendly website that clearly defines your goals and mission statement is key. It’s also important to provide actionable, SEO-driven content that ranks high in Google search results. You can then use this content to engage your target audience through their preferred social media channels.

Dubuque Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank can support your fundraising efforts by providing cutting-edge merchant services. This ensures you have multiple ways to accept charitable donations. Get in touch with Dubuque Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank to speak with one of our bankers today.

Our Commercial Banking Team is ready to help your business grow.