What Fundraisers Can Do Better

Potential donors know what they want to see on the Website of a worthy cause. Yet fewer than half of nonprofits put that information on their home pages.

Those are among the key findings of a recent study by usability guru Jakob Nielsen. If he is right, nonprofits leave a huge amount of money on the table. Today, they receive about 10 percent of their donations online, a figure destined to balloon to over 50 percent by 2020, by Nielsen’s estimate.

Nielsen paired similar nonprofits’ sites and observed how users interacted with each of them as they decided which should receive their donations.  Those observations revealed that by far the most important factor in users’ decisions was whether or not the organization offered a clear explanation of its mission, goals, objectives, and work prominently on its home page.

Nielsen cautions that this explanation needs to be specific to attract the potential donor’s interest:

Most people probably agree that, for example, it’s good to help impoverished residents of developing countries or patients suffering from nasty diseases. … The question in a potential donor’s mind is how the organization proposes to help.

Conversely, Nielsen found that the biggest donation-killers were about equally divided between poor design on the one hand (including cluttered pages and unintuitive site architecture), and writing badly suited for the Web on the other (including unclear or missing information and confusing terms).

So who does it right? We asked Kurt Hansen, founder of CharityWeb, which has processed over $150 million in donations to 100-plus clients since 1997. At the top of his list of fundraising superstars:

Check them out.

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