Why is conversion optimisation important?
Conversion rate optimisation can seem like a scary and daunting task. However, in essence, the practice of optimising a charity’s website is simply making small changes, one by one and then letting the data tell us what is and isn’t working.
There is after all, a lot to be said for the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid).
Often the best websites make it blatantly obvious what they would like people to do and what action they would like people to take next.
This is particularly relevant for charitable organisations, as all content should have a clear next step or goal in mind.
The main objective of any charity website should be to convey information about a cause and let your audience know what action you would like them to take next.
Whether it be donating money, fundraising, or getting involved by volunteering.
This article will outline several simple changes, which can be made to an organisation’s website to help to improve conversion rates.
Data is key
Before we dive into the examples, it is important to remember that data is the single most important tool a marketer has in their arsenal to help understand what content is working and to evaluate digital performance.
So track and monitor everything!
1- Clearly state the core message
WaterAid clearly signposting their core mission
Conversion – Clearly signposting where donations will be spent will increase donation signups
Far too many websites and companies hide behind complex language and endless copy.
Stand out from the crowd by getting the key point across fast!
When people visit your organisations website, let them know straight away what cause or issue is being worked towards and what form of help is needed.
People aren’t likely to donate unless they know what the money is for, where it is going and what challenges your organisation is fighting against.
So tell them as soon as they hit the site, in plain, simple language
This can be achieved via clear messaging on the homepage. Above the fold, front and center.
Or as a reminder in navigational elements across deep level pages of the website. Often this is displayed next to the site logo as a tagline.
2-Make donating obvious and easy
WaterAid has a short and simple form which only collects critical info
Conversion – Keeping the conversion funnel short and simple will encourage higher conversion rates
When asking for donations, don’t collect information which isn’t critical. Only collect the bare essentials, whilst keeping in line with GDPR.
Far too many charity websites adopt long drawn out sign up processes.
Don’t make people create an account before donating, as often people will just leave the site.
The ideal donation funnel should be clear and simple.
There is no need to be more complicated than the following:
Donate -> Name and email -> Enter payment details -> Thanks for donating
Initially, people should click on a clearly signposted donate button which stands out visually from other site content.
Also, make sure this donate button is present on every page of the website.
The right-hand side of the header bar is a good place for a donate button.
After clicking on the donate button, users should be taken to a payment page to collect payment information, ideally with a third party payment integration like PayPal.
Then whisked away to a thank you page.
That’s it, now you have the donation and have captured contact information so can follow up at a later date to demonstrate where the money went and to thank people for their support.
When creating forms or signup processes, one thing that often bugs me is visibility.
Nowadays people are busy and or have the attention span of a fruit fly, so keep it simple stupid (KISS) and don’t make people think or they will bounce away.
Show all the steps of a form up front, so people know how long the full form is. Or at least visually signpost the length of the form.
This can be done either by a progress bar or marker showing text along the lines of ‘1/5 pages’.
This way people know what they are in for and there are no fears of endless form paranoia.
3- Tell people what you want them to do
Oxfam effectively signposting the various ways to get involved
Conversion – Clearly signpost conversion points to keep conversion rates high
This ties into the above point. Simply put, if you make people think, they will leave.
Ensure your charity website has several options for engagement.
Make sure your most important conversion is front and center, then work to highlight other forms of engagement as secondary paths to work with your organisation.
If the main priority is raising money then it makes sense to ask for this upfront and show where the money will go and whom it will benefit and why it is needed.
Then you can suggest secondary engagement methods like volunteering time, signing a petition subscribing to a newsletter or taking part in fundraising events.
4- Showcase different levels of engagement
NSPCC outlining the various ways to help protect children
Conversion – Welcome non-monetary conversion points
Money is tight for most people in the modern world, so make sure people are able to engage with your organisation at different levels.
Signpost multiple donations levels and outline non-monetary engagement opportunities.
Often websites can treat different audiences with a different attitude. Your website should be open and grateful to all forms of engagement.
Not all conversions are equal.
What I mean by this, is you can’t view all conversion points on the same merit.
A newsletter signup could be more valuable in the long run than a one-off donation.
So be thankful for every type of engagement from your audience.
Often people will work with charities on a long-term basis or have a sense of connection with a cause.
That journey might start off with a one-time donation which leads into regular donations and then high-level fundraising.
There is a lot to be said for the phrase never judge a book by its cover.
Don’t treat non-monetary engagement points like newsletter signups or volunteering as one-off engagements.
All engagement from your audience should be viewed as an opportunity to work together again in the future.
5- Capture email addresses
Stroke Association encouraging email signups
Conversion – Don’t always ask for money straight away (future value of micro conversion)
Similar to the above point it is important to consider the future value of micro conversions.
A macro conversion is considered a large form of engagement whereas a micro conversion is a smaller expression of interest.
A typical macro conversion for a charity could be signing up for regular monthly donations or a legacy donation.
A micro conversion could be a newsletter signup or following your cause on social media.
However as mentioned previously one small initial step can lead to larger engagement and patronage.
This is why it can be important not to ask for money or financial support straight away as this can scare people off.
If someone has expressed a small interest in your cause, by all means reach out to them via email to offer additional information or highlight recent work. However, it perhaps isn’t the best next step to ask for money.
Also, it is important to consider the value of capturing email addresses at multiple stages of engagement or various expression of interest points.
There should be multiple ways people can opt-in to be contacted via email on your website and across your content.
Clearly signposting how to subscribe to your newsletter is the most obvious starting point. This should be outlined in navigational elements, sitewide messaging or within content sidebar elements.
Following up via email post donation or even on the donation thank you page, is another good opportunity to ask people to stay informed.
Often charities will demonstrate the impact and results of campaigns on their websites. This is a great place to capture email addresses of your target audience.
Perhaps you could prompt people to access additional campaign information by entering their email address to receive information about future campaigns.
6-Mobile optimised content
WWF employing a mobile friendly experience
Conversion – Ensure user experience is good to avoid people leaving the site without converting
Everyone is advocating the importance of mobile optimisation these days, for a good reason too!
More people now use mobile devices than desktop computers to view websites, search engines are giving preference to websites which are optimised for mobile site visitors.
That means it is more and more important to ensure that mobile visitors have a great experience when viewing or interacting with your website.
In terms of charity websites, this means ensuring you are accepting donations on mobile via optimised forms, serving tailored content which is specific to mobile visitors and offering a seamless experience when viewing website content.
7- Show who benefits from your organisation
Unicef showing who directly benefits from donations
Conversion – Showing who will benefit from donations will encourage monetary donations and engagement
When people are donating money or time to a charity, a common decision making consideration is who will benefit from the money or resource.
It is important to ensure that your organisations website is full of images and video content of people who are benefiting from your work.
Show people not numbers and work to use real people with real examples. As this will make your work and messaging more authentic.
8- Put donations into context
Oxfam demonstrating where donation money goes
Conversion – Putting donations into real life context will increase the chance of donations
As previously mentioned, one of the key criticisms of charities is not having enough visibility of where the money being donated will be spent.
More and more charities are showcasing where a donation will be spent and what resources it will help to support.
People donating to charities want to know that a large proportion of their donation is going to supporting the cause and not towards the running costs of the charity itself.
One of the main fears of giving money to a larger charity is the fear of the bulk of your donation going towards operational costs.
Another common tactic is to contextualise what levels of donations mean to people donating and also the people benefiting from the donation.
For example by demonstrating what the cost of one or two coffees a week at work could mean to your causes benefactors.
Putting monetary levels into context can help people understand the imbalance.
9- Keep people updated
Surfers Against Sewage demonstrating impact of activity
Conversion – There is a higher chance of conversion as the charity will keep on people’s radar
Never view a conversion as the final interaction. Think about the lifetime value of engagement.
Follow up all interactions with tailored thank you messages, reach out via email (when permission has been given).
People will want to hear about campaign updates or see how their contribution has benefited a specific campaign.
Personalising the donor experience is a great way to build a relationship with your patrons.
Make sure all contact is tailored and specific.
All communication from your organisation should be authentic, no one likes talking to a robot!
10- Track everything
Conversion – Use data to focus on what works to drive conversions and drive future interaction
Data is probably the most important aspect of online marketing. It helps to inform what changes to make, evaluate what is working and what isn’t also it should be used to gauge impact once changes have been made.
Without data, changes have to be made on opinion alone which is ill-advised.
All decisions should be backed by data or best practices.
If you don’t have sufficient tracking in place, this should be the first step.
Without knowing your current performance levels you can’t know what is working and what needs improving.
Everyone needs data to tell them which elements or content on a website is driving traffic, conversions or generating interest.
All conversion points of a website from key engagement points, to small conversions should be tracked.
Expressions of interest or micro conversions are a great starting point to build a relationship and should be viewed as an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship.
Improving a websites conversion rate is an ongoing task with no completion goal.
Small continual changes and improvements should be made to a website’s messaging, content and design with the aim of continually improving over time.
All changes and experiments should be backed by, tested with and refined using data.
The best way to approach conversion rate optimisation is to make reviewing your website a habit. Have fun coming up with experiments to address specific elements of your site and test out new theories.
We hope this article has been useful to provide ideas of areas to optimise from a conversion rate perspective.
The suggestions within this article come from our experience of working with a wide range of charitable organisations.
Good luck and enjoy!