How to tweak a great site for even better fundraising performance

publication date: Nov 16, 2011
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author/source: Fraser Green, Kori Brus
Kori Brus  joins Fraser Green each month to review the website of a selected Canadian charity, focusing on its fundraising effectiveness. It's a chance for the charity to receive personal coaching from two experts in online communication and fundraising. To submit your site for review, contact the Hilborn eNEWS Editor.

This month's candidate is the Caring and Sharing Exchange.

Fraser
: Hey, Kori. The Caring and Sharing Exchange, located here in Ottawa, is a smallish local charity. I'd never heard its proper name, but I (like most people) certainly know of The Christmas Exchange, its signature program.

I really, really like this site. It's clean. It's simple. It's easy. I actually found it dead easy to navigate (which always seems to be a challenge for me!)

Here are some features that stood out for me:
  1. I love the photo of the little girl and the "miracle" quote that hit me when I arrived at the home page.
  2. I love it that there's a button - front and centre on the home page - called "stories." These guys get it. Stories raise money!
  3. I always look for the fundamental stuff. Vision, mission, values and all that. These were easy to find - and compelling once I found them.
  4. I loved reading the stories. Some of them had me thinking, "My God, that could be me in five years." I was able to imagine myself at the receiving end of their work. That's empathy. And empathetic donors give gifts.
  5. The volunteer page is awesome: a catalogue of volunteer needs laid out simply and invitingly.
  6. I also like it very much that annual reports and financial statements are accessible and easy to find.
  7. The way they say thank you to their partners is truly imaginative!
  8. The "history" tab leads me to the story of how the organization was founded and how it evolved over the years. This makes them more credible to me.
  9. I think the donate options are well presented - and there are lots of them. I'm a big believer in letting the donor decide how she wants to give!
Now this wouldn't be a critique if I didn't find some areas where I think there's room for improvement.
  1. I'd love to see more video and/or audio components to the site.
  2. I'd like to see a little more in the way of encouragement for the visitor to the site to interact with the charity. We live in the Web 2.0 age after all.
  3. I found the Planned Giving page as dry as Melba toast. For a site that tells stories so well, I think they missed the boat on this one.
  4. Finally, for my taste, there's a lot of stuff on the home page. I found it cluttered as I scrolled down my laptop screen.
Despite my criticisms, I think these guys have done a great job. I'm especially impressed because I know it's not a large organization with a marketing and communications department and a big budget.

So Kori, since they've put me in the Christmas spirit, I'm giving this site an A rating. Now, are you going to be Santa? Or Grinch?

Kori: Hey Fraser! Great write-up. There's a lot to be positive about here, and I also gave them rave reviews throughout. I'll be a little bit more nit-picky with this group though - only because they've already done so much so well.

Fundraising

Their fundraising button is up front, and their donation page is clean and clear. I absolutely love the way the main donate tab opens to show all of their giving options. The descriptions on their program areas make a great case for giving too.

Like you, I also noted that their Planned Giving page needs improving. Number one, change that label to Legacy Giving. Nobody but fundraisers knows what a planned gift is! (We've been saying that one a lot lately.) They can also use some of those great stories to bring the legacy page to life.

Engagement

They've done really great work here. The social media options are numerous, and there's great verve and energy in each. They've also done some great work with video, their events are well placed, and their Flickr profile shows off some good shots of past events.

I'd like to see the video expanded and used to complement their program and story pages. The YouTube clip on their home page is particularly good - I'd like to see it have higher profile.

Messaging

Simply outstanding. It's story-driven, diverse, and focused. They've obviously spent a lot of care and energy deciding exactly what they want to say, and they've done it consistently from website through social media.

I'd like to see a stronger connection between their stories and their calls to action. The headers "Christmas Exchange Program," "Sharing in Student Success" and "Coordination Services" don't tell me that they need my donation. Incorporating some language that says "where you can help" would snap that into focus.

Voice

Again outstanding. First person voice, stories and messages that inspire care and empathy.

The site

They've done an excellent job with clean design and focused storytelling. The top three things I'd improve next would be
  1. animate the main banner so that it scrolls through the stories;
  2. highlight the program areas on the home page with stronger calls to action; and finally
  3. show off those videos front and centre.
We both know I'm the Grinchier of the two of us Fraser. I'll give the site an A-, only because there's always room to improve.

Fraser Green is chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that teaches charities how to tell their stories with more passion, emotion and soul. He specializes in donor listening and coaching charities on how to meet their donors' expectations, wants and needs.

Kori Brus is philanthropic counsel and marketing specialist at Good Works, where he focuses on nonprofit campaign strategy and online engagement. He's the former communications director of Ecojustice Canada and also former community manager for Web of Change.

Their website is www.goodworksco.ca - in case you want to pronounce your web jury judgment on them!


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