Understanding ROI for Non-Profit Websites

How should your non-profit justify a new website to your board and donors?

Non-profit organizations have special considerations to bear in mind when they consider investing in a new website. On top of the needs they share with most other businesses (a user-friendly design that represents their brand and conveys their core messaging), they must also think carefully about their audience, which includes their donors, their members, and their board. With so many parties passionately invested in their success, non-profits know they will face added scrutiny in how they use their resources.

Because of this, many non-profits think carefully before devoting significant funds to a new website. And they’re not wrong to do so: a custom-built website requires care and consideration. But it’s also one of the best marketing tools a non-profit could ask for.

In fact, we’ve seen non-profit organizations recoup the cost of their investment within a calendar year, just by increasing the ease of their donation process. That’s the kind of ROI that will impress your entire board. Wondering how it works? Let’s take a look.

1. Start with the goal of your organization.

Do you seek to raise public awareness for a certain cause? Grow your volunteer base? Build your donor list? All of the above?

The first priority of any marketing strategy should be to define the objective. The approach you take to organizing your website content and marketing strategy will depend heavily on what outcomes you are trying to achieve. By setting those goals up front, both you and your web design and marketing team can set metrics to track the success of your investment.

2. Your website serves as the focal point for your content strategy.

Non-profits rarely suffer from a lack of things they want to say, even if they struggle to find the time to write about it themselves. They have a mission, they simply need help executing it.

A non-profit website serves as both a focal point for your marketing efforts, and a functional tool your organization can use to interact with members, donors, and the public. Furthermore, by publishing regular content, your website will grow in search engine rankings, which can attract organic content based on user searches.

If you have a social media strategy, then sharing links to articles, events, and press releases from your website will help to draw in new visitors. For upcoming fundraising events, your website can help sell tickets. And of course, your website not only provides another way for you to gather donations, it makes it easy for you to turn a one-time donation into an automated monthly process.

3. Strategic, persona-focused design directs your message to the right audience.

One factor that sets non-profits apart from many organizations is that they often have several very diverse audiences they need to address. These audiences include donors, members, volunteers, special interest groups, politicians, the public at large, and the specific demographics they aim to serve.

With so much to accomplish, it’s easy for messaging to lose its direction. Fortunately, websites offer user tracking tools that can help non-profits better organize their content to speak to each of these diverse audiences. By using a careful design that subtly diverts visitors toward parts of the site written for their personas, you will be able to speak to the interests of each group more effectively, which will increase your chances of winning them over to your cause.

4. Use your website to attract email leads and follow up with content.

The goal of most websites is to elicit some kind of action on the part of the user that will turn them into a lead. This may involve asking a visitor to create a user account, purchase a product, or sign up for an email list.

For non-profits, the easiest and most effective lead generation strategy is through an email mailing list. By generating a list of visitors who know your site and trust your message enough to offer up their email, non-profits have a highly dependable means of speaking to a favorable audience.

However, to maintain that audience’s interest, organizations need a way to keep in contact with them. This is where regular blog content not only grows your search engine rankings, it also provides regular material to send to visitors once they’re on your list.

5. Measure your investment against goal-oriented outcomes.

As we said at the start, beginning your website project with a goal is one of the keys to success. It allows you to identify metrics that might indicate success over time, and assess whether your goals are attainable.

If you plan to invest 60K in a new website and want to have recouped that cost within a year of your launch date, then that means increasing your current monthly income by 5K. Of course, if your current monthly income is only 2K, that may not be a reasonable expectation. But if you currently bring in 20K a month, then raising those donations to 25K is more attainable. And user tracking will give you the feedback to know how many visitors you’re bringing to your site, how many of them are signing up to your newsletter, and how many later become donors.

With that information, calculating ROI for your website becomes fairly straightforward. If, on average, 20% of your visitors become donors, and if the average donation from each of these visitors is $5, then you need to attract 5K new visitors to your website a month to hit your donation goal.

If you’re seeking a results-oriented investment, your website is the place to start.

Websites are one of the most efficient means of generating steady income that most non-profits have. While billboards and TV spots can attract attention, don’t usually bring in donations or sell products. They also don’t build communities around them, report on user behavior, or generate lists of interested individuals who have opted-in to receive more marketing content.

A website can do all these things, and more. If you want a way to show ROI to your board or donor base, your website will deliver all the data you need to back you up.

Published 08/28/18 by Laura Lynch