Nonprofit organizations need effective websites

    The No. 1 New Year’s resolution for people is to lose weight and get more fit. Many of us have already eaten too much and failed to exercise enough because self-discipline is hard, and it’s only the second week of January!

    Now is the time to review your strategic marketing plans for 2010 and if, like most nonprofits, you resolve to improve your website effectiveness, do not get derailed because you think it is too hard or time-consuming.

    According to Joanne Fritz, an online nonprofit expert, and Jakob Nielsen, a web page usability expert, “Bad nonprofit web sites result in fewer online donations.”

    Nielsen conducted a study with real donors and asked them to choose and then donate to a charity, using their own credit cards, based solely on the charities’ websites.

    Not surprisingly, the study found that the decision to donate was based on seeing, understanding and agreeing with an organization’s mission, goals, objectives, and how the charity uses their contributions.

    Nielson noted that “only 43 percent of the 23 sites tested provided information about mission, goals, objectives, and work. And, shockingly, only 4 percent of the nonprofit websites gave information about how they use a giver’s donation.”

    In terms of what specifically impeded a connection with the donor, Nielson listed specific "donation-killers."

    • Nearly half (47 percent) of the usability problems related to poor page and site design with unintuitive information architecture. Surprisingly, 17 percent of the sites made it hard for users to even find where to make a donation.
    • More than half (53 percent) of the usability problems were related to unclear content, missing information and confusing terms.
    • One of the worst problems was poor integration of local chapter sites with their national parent sites. When donors moved to a subsidiary site to find out what was being done in their local area, these sites looked completely different than the parent sites.

    On a positive note, the actual transaction was fairly easy, especially when the process was similar to the merchant sites many were accustomed to using.
    And here’s the benefit of sticking to your New Year’s resolution: Nielson found that fixing even minor usability problems could increase donations by 10 percent.


    Cathi Mohan is founder of Glendale-based Brand on the Run. She is a nonprofit consultant specializing in providing an integrated approach to resource development and marketing communications strategies that deliver to brand goals. She can be reached at (414) 534-4688 or

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