We quadrupled our blog traffic, can you? Simple guide to content marketing for nonprofits

With each nonprofit client that comes through ArcStone’s doors, we encourage them to either start a blog or give their existing blog more attention. Now, we wouldn’t risk wasting nonprofit’s already slim budget and tight schedule if we didn’t truly believe in the value of content marketing. But at points, it’s hard to convince clients that this effort is really worth it.

That’s why today, we are going to tell you a story: the story of how we implemented the strategy we encourage others to and as a result, saw an increase of 4x the traffic to our blog in just two years. Our story can serve as a general guide to content marketing for nonprofits.

Where we were with our content marketing strategy

Before we dive into the glory of the here and now, let’s rewind and be real with where we were at. Like many of you, we were posting at most 2 to 3 times per week, whenever someone felt inspired to do so or had the bandwidth. In addition to this lack of posting frequency, we weren’t monitoring engagement.

We knew we should do more, but we just weren’t allocating time or attention to it when there were other, more immediate business goals to which to attend.

For the total month of May 2015, we saw about 600 blog views.

2 years later we’re seeing over 2,800.

The simple content marketing strategy we implemented that your nonprofit can, too!

Many of you have likely thought, “we should blog more” and encouraged your team to help write when they can. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually do much to help your nonprofit. You need a nonprofit content marketing strategy that will keep you focused and consistent.

Here are 11 essential + manageable tasks to add to your content strategy that will take you to that next level.

1. Set goals:

Rather than risk finding ourselves right where we started in a couple months, we decided to set some lofty, yet manageable, goals. One of ArcStone’s digital strategists, Jenna, and I sat down and decided we’d post five blogs a week and then come review the results after six months. We also determined we’d spend more time on designing images for this content, promoting it and then checking in on our Google Analytics each week.

2. Create audience personas:

As a team, we took the time to map out distinct audience types. For your nonprofit, this likely includes a few different types of donors, volunteers, community members and other users. Once we had each audience member in mind, we were able to brainstorm content that could speak to each of them. Get going on this aspect by using our Nonprofit Audience Persona Ebook »

content-marketing-audience-personas

3. Designate blog ownership to a leader/editor:

One way many content strategies collapse is a lack of consistent execution. To avoid this, we assigned one final editor/project lead. Though we would be pulling content written by several team members, I was given the role of ensuring the content was ready to go and implement correctly into our CRM. This also helped us ensure our brand voice was prevalent across all posts and the formatting looked right.

If you have any trouble structuring your team or your content development workflow, take a look at Lisa’s, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, post on Content Team Roles »

content-strategy-roles

4. Utilize a (free!) content management tool:

We recognize that it can be hard to get the whole team on board with yet another tool, but we promise this one is worth it! We use Trello to implement and track all our content marketing efforts. You can read the full review here but we’ll also show you some snippets on how to make it work for your nonprofit below.

free-content-marketing-tool-for-nonprofits

5. Organize content by strategic categories:

A blog with just a list of all posts can be overwhelming to users. If you’re a donor, you may want the latest report on where their money went whereas a volunteer wants to hear about the next volunteer opportunity. Make sure these users can get the content they want when they land on your blog. Better yet, make sure that when they click on their blog category, that section is filled with good content for them to look through.

Trello makes it easy to label all your content. Here’s an example of how we segment ours within the tool. Each month we try to have each color represented across the calendar at least a couple of times:

6.  Assign due dates:

Without a due date, it’s easy to push things off for a later date. We used the calendar “power-up” tool in Trello to track these.

content-strategy-calendar

7. Focus on collaboration:

Through the communication capabilities in Trello, we were able to tag each other on cards and have conversations about posts when necessary. Being able to keep these conversations organized in one place is helpful as it allows you to stay organized and if need be, look back at the conversations later.

trello-free-content-management-tool

8. Promote:

Though we’d like to believe, “if you build it, they will come” it’s not entirely true with content marketing. In fact, Lisa wrote a whole post on why this is and how you can make up for it with promotional and SEO work.

This being said, couple your awesome new production strategy with a content promotion strategy.

Across social networks, we posted not only on ArcStone’s account, but also some of our team members’. This not only reached a larger audience but showed the personality behind our team.

When it came to Twitter, we posted 3-4 times a day, often tagging relevant accounts. This created some major upticks in traffic to our blog. social-media-strategy

3 times a week, we’d also post on Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn. For LinkedIn we focus on more professional-oriented content and thought leadership, whereas Facebook we try to post more on office culture and community.

If you’re unsure of what social media platform is right for you, listen to co-owners of ArcStone talk through how you can determine this with The Nerdy Nonprofit Podcast.

Lastly, we sent out our newsletter once-monthly with the top-performing posts from that month. We found we were faster at getting these sent out since we already knew what content to use.

9. Analyze:

All this effort doesn’t get you very far if you’re not monitoring it. You may see a bit more traffic but it’s going to come and go at an unpredictable rate if you’re not making changes to your strategy based on it.

Learn some of the basics in Google Analytics with this post “Nonprofits Using Google Analytics—Get tracking the Right Metrics.”

10. Redesign (when the budget allows):

Once you have some significant insight on aspects like what type of content your audience likes and what areas of the site they go to after the blog, you can consider making design changes. We used heat-mapping tool CrazyEgg to see what parts of the blog users clicked on and paired that with our user behavior insight in Analytics to make strategic design enhancements.

nonprofit-blog-design

11. Keep trying new things:

Once you get started for a few months, the above tips will get you to a great place. However, in a year or so you’ll want to round up your team and come up with fresh ways to approach your nonprofit’s blog strategy. This will help you get your most creative juices flowing and aid your nonprofit in standing out amongst the crowd.


As proof that the above really can work, here’s a snapshot of before and after:

MAY 2015
MAY 2017
Blog Views /Month: 641 2,298
Pageviews /Month: 4,289 8,941
Sessions /Month: 1,831 4,985
% New Sesssions: 70.6% 85%
Organic Traffic: –––> Up 155%
Traffic from Social: –––> Up 74%
Newsletter Subscribers: ~250 ~1030

You can see that the increase in blog views also contributed to an increase in overall website sessions and pageviews, as well as traffic from organic searches and social media. What’s more, all this traffic also lead to 4x as many newsletter subscribers. It’s a lovely trickle down effect!

We hope your nonprofit sees the value in a well-executed content marketing plan. More importantly, we hope you are encouraged by the fact that we, too have a small team. This strategy is crafted around keeping things manageable and simple. Successful content marketing for nonprofits is possible as long as you stick to your strategy, monitor it and continually work to improve it.

Get help with your nonprofit’s content strategy from our team by reaching out here »

Nonprofit blogging mistakes you might be making (+ how to stop)

Besides ensuring you have user-friendly forms for donors and volunteers, the digital strategists at ArcStone would argue that having a well-executed blog is the best thing your nonprofit can do in terms of your website. Unfortunately, nonprofit marketers get so busy that blog posts get written hastily, whenever there’s a spare second. That’s understandable, and we don’t want that predicament to prevent you from writing as it’s better than not writing. However, there are a few negative trends we’d like to point out that, when avoided, could help make the little blog development time you have more worth your while.

1. Not scheduling your posts in advance (and not publishing consistently)

Given that you have many other spinning plates, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have time to plan out your content calendar. But time and again, marketing experts state that scheduling out posts and executing them consistently can create huge gains for your blog. What’s more, studies show readers see inconsistent publishing as a sign that a brand is “out of touch or not up to date” with their habits and needs.

There are so many FREE tools out there to help you stay on top of publishing. We tested and reviewed 3 popular content management tools and wrote a recent post on why we recommend Trello.

free-tools-for-nonprofits
Image Source: CoSchedule

2. Forgetting the importance of authenticity & your brand voice

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your blog. You post about your upcoming event or you comment on a recent occurrence in your field of work, however there’s so much more to write about than that. When people come to your site, they are trying to learn about you and your cause. They want to hear your unique voice otherwise, you’ll blend with the crowd and they won’t know why they should pay attention to you specifically.

Be sure you hone in on what your brand voice is and you consistently write with that in mind. For inspiration on topics, take a look at our go-to sources for when ArcStonian’s get writer’s block. You can derive inspiration from what other successful nonprofits are writing about; charity:water, Save the Children, St. Jude and Kiva all post a wide array of topics that speak to who they are and who they serve.

nonprofit-blogging
Image source: Save the Children

3. Trying too hard with your headline

Though it’s important you stand out and readers feel excited by your headlines, it’s more important your headlines do their job. A title’s main role is to tell readers what your post is about. Don’t get too caught up in being clever or humorous as that’s not the point.

ArcStone wrote a helpful post on how you can craft a title that is primarily descriptive, secondarily SEO-friendly and then if there’s room for it, clever: “Optimize your blog post titles for search, but don’t be boring.”

4. Assuming your readers have all day

This isn’t true for everyone or every post, but for the most part, people like when you get to the point efficiently. Sometimes, you can tell that in-depth full story. But when you’re writing a post on donations or volunteering, explain your point concisely and point your audience towards action quickly. When it comes to these posts directed towards taking action, always keep the goal of your post in mind and include a call to action.

5.  Neglecting to implement the SEO and user-friendly details

Writing the post is work enough, we know, but a blog won’t get far if you neglect some important additional steps. Each post should have alt tags, metadata and titles on its photos and in other areas. You can do so with some of the strongest, free SEO tools for nonprofits out there. Here’s a solid review of SEO tools done by Search Engine Land.

6. Ignoring dialogue

For many in the nonprofit space, community engagement is super important to the very mission of an organization. Community takes hold in many forums and your blog can totally become a catalyst for that. If you have a comment section, pay attention to it. If people comment on your posts on social, always respond. If they don’t participate in either of these, consider prioritizing this. There are tools that can help like Hootsuite and Disqus. We also have a post that reviews the best ways and tools to encourage conversations.

free-community-forum-tools
Image source: Lithium

7. Overlooking Google Analytics

If you take away anything from this article, we hope it’s this last point. Pay attention to your Google Analytics data! We see so many clients post content and then let it sit there. They don’t know what’s working and what isn’t. They don’t base their strategy off of this data. As our digital strategist, Jerod put it,

“Only you know your story well enough to tell it, but on the flip side, only your visitors know what they want.”

If you don’t look at what posts are getting the most attention, how long users are reading them and where they go next, you are not listening to them.

Need help getting started with Google Analytics?


We hope we didn’t overwhelm you with corrections. Instead, this is supposed to serve as a way to make the time you do have more effective. We want to highlight areas that are often neglected so that you know where you can make simple gains.

If you’re struggling to implement any of these aspects but you recognize their importance, ArcStone would love to work with you to come up with a more manageable content marketing strategy and set you up with the tools that will help. Contact our team »

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & finally understand your mysterious audience

Let’s face it: your nonprofit’s audience can be very mysterious. Sometimes they donate, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re excited to be a part of your work and other times you can’t get their attention. Instead of letting yourself become discouraged, we want to encourage you to talk to your audience. Granted, you can’t sit down with each of them to uncover answers to all your questions, but you can conduct a nonprofit survey.

First, why a nonprofit survey?

Maybe you already believe in the power of this type of interaction, but if you don’t, boy do we have a case for you!

Marketing guru, Kissmetrics, points out how it may be true that you can learn a lot by studying data about users out there, but at the end of the day, you don’t get the answers to one very important piece of the puzzle: the why. Why did or didn’t your donor finish filling out the donation form? Why does or doesn’t your volunteer read your email newsletter?

If you can get the answer to these questions, from real users, you’ll have the information you need to start removing any of the obstacles between your audience and the action they take with your nonprofit. You can edit your website forms, tweak your content strategy and rephrase your copy in ways that resonate with your audience.

What’s just as notable about nonprofit surveys is that by taking the time to ask your audience questions, you go from constantly talking at them to opening up the conversation. In doing so, you demonstrate you care how they feel and what they have to say.

How to conduct a nonprofit survey & get the answers that count

1. Select a tool.

First, check the software you currently use to see if they have an option. You may be surprised that the tool was available to you this whole time. Otherwise, ArcStone has used and been satisfied with Survey Monkey and Google Survey. Capterra wrote up a post on five free survey tools for nonprofits to help uncover additional options.

2. Determine where you’d like to place the survey

We recently had a client come to us to check on the best practices for a short survey they wanted to send out. Note that the answer to this largely depends on context—how long the survey is and to whom you’re asking questions.

For this client, they originally thought sending it out in their newsletter would be best, but we advised against it. Instead, we suggested creating a distinct, simple landing page. This way, the survey would be void of distractions and they could lead to it from other sources besides email.

3. Think about how you will use this data

You don’t want to blindly ask questions before knowing where this data will be used.

For example, if you’re using this data for your yearly nonprofit report, you want to ask questions that will get you concrete numbers rather than open-ended responses. If it’s merely an opportunity to receive feedback on your most recent fundraiser, you can ask questions that give your audience space to reflect. With this, it’s likely you’ll get some unexpected ideas as they answer questions you didn’t even think to ask. Be open to these ideas as they could help expand your nonprofit’s creativity.

Similarly, you’ll want to think about who needs this data. If it’s for your Board of Directors, the language used might look different than if it’s for your web team. With each stakeholder, bring them into the survey development stage so you can ensure you’re asking useful questions in an appropriate way.

5. Choose optimal questions to get you honest, useful responses

Surveys rely on a lot of strategy to get answers you need. You don’t have much time before your audience gets bored or busy so your questions need to count. You’ll want to ask specific ones so that your audience understands what you’re looking to know. SurveyMonkey provides templates with tried-and-true survey questions for donors, volunteers and general organization feedback.

You also should avoid asking leading questions like, “why did you like coming to our gala?” Questions like these assume something about your audience which can both turn them away and provide incorrect data.


In the end, you’ll want to ensure your survey sounds like it’s coming from you. Ask questions you would ask if you were sitting down with each and every survey recipient. As you develop the survey, be patient, ensuring each question will get you the information you need to better serve your nonprofit audience. Need assistance setting your survey up? ArcStone’s happy to help! 

Prepping for your new nonprofit website launch? How to get the word out.

nonprofit-website-launch-promotion

You’ve been stressing about this nonprofit website launch for months. There was so much time, money and energy spent, all in hopes that this website could have a major impact on your nonprofit. But you launched and nothing really seemed to change. In fact, your traffic has gone down!

First off, read about how this dip in traffic is totally normal and there are ways to help you minimize this tendency.

Secondly, it’s likely your frequent visitors have seen your redesign but didn’t have a way to tell you, so take comfort in that.

For the rest of the world, they need to be told about your nonprofit website redesign to take the time to come review it. How do you do this in a tasteful, effective manner?

8 ideas for getting your nonprofit website launch noticed

1. Tell the full story (well, at least most of it)

Launching a website is exciting from your perspective, but that’s because you’ve been part of the story behind why you needed a new site. If you could include your audience in on that narrative, they’ll likely feel more of an emotional pull towards the project. They could sympathize with your prior pains and be relieved to see them alleviated. As they navigate the site, they’ll be more curious about the various features as they see how problems were solved. You can explain this story via an email, blog post, infographic, video or a combination of the above.

2. Start with a soft launch

Everyone wants to feel like they’re a part of something exclusive. Your nonprofit is the same; gather a list of your biggest donors, most active volunteers and community members. Send out a note introducing your new site, stating that you’d like them to be the first to try it out. Walk them through why you made the strategic changes you did so they can feel like they’re included in they have insider information.

This will get you a good amount of visits right from the start and could make these supporters feel excited to share your site with friends and visit it more frequently.

Images source: Warren Camp Design

3. Get the whole nonprofit involved

It’s not just your communications team’s job to get this site out there. It affects your entire nonprofit, so everyone should take part. To make it easier for them, give them ideas. Encourage them to share it on their social networks, via their emails, during their phone calls with donors / volunteers / the community, and in their email signatures. The last idea could look something like this:

Chloe Mark
Digital Marketing Strategist
ArcStone
P.S. Our website is launched!! We can’t wait to see its impact on our cause. Take a look at the transformation [link to website here]

4. Give something away

So all these ideas are great, but sometimes people need a little extra incentive. This could include tickets to an upcoming event, a free item donated by a local business, free nonprofit merchandise or a free resource like a webinar. In order to win, have them come to a landing page on your new site and fill out their contact info. Here’s some advice on how to request donations for nonprofit giveaways »

5. Never neglect the opportunity to talk about your nonprofit website launch

It may get tiring to constantly bring up your new website launch at all your meetings and during phone calls, but in doing so, we promise it makes a difference. When people hear someone talk about a project that has tangible results, they are more likely to check it out. People like to see others excited about their work.


Best of luck with your redesign! We hope these ideas help you to see an increase in traffic right after your launch. If you need help with post-website launch SEO, social media strategy, Google Analytics setup or the like, contact ArcStone »

Nonprofit branding: 5 pieces to make your nonprofit brand work for you

nonprofit-branding

Branding is not the hottest topic in the nonprofit sector. According to Standford Social Innovation Review, skeptics tend to see it as a “commercial pursuit of monetary gain” or they fear the pursuit of a strong brand will overshadow the pursuit of the greater good. In some ways, such opinions are admirable; no one wants to see the nonprofit realm become commercialized.

However, there are ways to make your nonprofit branding efforts work for you that go beyond monetary gain. If your nonprofit brand had a strong presence – as in public recognition without promotional work – you could advance your cause without as much time and money. If the focus is on creating a brand that pulls on your audiences’ emotions, inspires them to act and, as a result, makes a positive change in the world, it’s a worthy endeavor. In this post, we’ll talk through how you can make your nonprofit brand speak for itself.

nonprofit-branding
Stanford Social Innovation Review

How to build your nonprofit brand

1. Know your objectives

You can be the smartest and most clever branding guru out there, but all the work in the world won’t get you very far if you haven’t honed in on what your nonprofit stands for. A brand is an identity, so when it comes to your nonprofit, your cause is what makes you uniquely you.

This being said, once you determine that, you have to stick to it. If you’re claiming you bring clean water to people in developing countries, you should show that through all your branding and messaging efforts. This might also mean you don’t post images or messages that go off topic – as in a photo of your nonprofit helping at a local food drive.

When your nonprofit is clear about its passion, others can see that and put their passion towards your cause. If your mission is muddled, it’s more likely they won’t identify their commonalities with you.

It helps to write it out. Take time revisiting your mission statement to ensure it’s concise and still represents the actual work your nonprofit does. This post from Nonprofit Hub walks through strong and weak mission statements, what best practices to keep in mind and how to evaluate your own.

2. Master your audience

At the core, your audience is the people who care about your cause. But in reality, your audience is full of various types of people who play multiple roles.

Break down your audience into types – donors, volunteers, Board of Directors, the community, people who need your services. Then study what would bring them to your nonprofit, how they would like to be communicated with, what they want to see and most importantly, how they feel about it all.

Your brand is made up of your nonprofit and your audience’s reaction to it; more specifically, it’s your cause and how your audience feels about how well you’re serving it. If you understand their feelings, your brand can speak directly to those.

Study your audience with our free audience persona ebook »

3. Have a mascot

Ideally, your nonprofit has a CEO or spokesperson who’s charismatic and respected. People love putting a face to a name. They don’t relate to just words on a page.

If possible, sign your email newsletters and messages from this person. Have them write for your nonprofit blog or at least contribute a quote here and there. Include images and video of them partaking in your nonprofit’s work.

nonprofit-brand-spokespersonBill & Melinda Gates

If you don’t have this one leader – not all of us can have Bill Gates – use your people. Your nonprofit has real workers with stories for as to why they care about your cause.

Either way, when your audience sees someone fighting for the rights of others, they may feel the desire to help and fight, too.

4. Highlight your supporters

Similar to needing a “mascot,” your brand needs to show it has fans. If you can highlight people who support your nonprofit, it’s more likely people will be able to identify with you and see themselves as potential supporters and advocates of your cause.

This shows your audience you’re not just talking about your cause. You’re in the community, getting people organized and making an impact beyond your four walls.

nonprofit-branding
Susan G. Komen, Orange County

5. Show your brand consistently

Peter Frumkin at NPQ says one of the best things you can do for your nonprofit brand is to,

“invest serious time and money in a website and collateral materials that truly communicate what you want people to understand your organization does, why it is different from other organizations in the field, and why people should care about the impact you are pursuing.”

Take Amnesty International for instance. They use their black and yellow colors and bold, capitalized font across each of their branded materials. Sure they have a bigger budget than many nonprofits, but it doesn’t take a lot of money to be consistent. In highlighting their brand, every time people see the combo of black and yellow and this font, they think human rights and standing up for others. By putting their brand across these causes, people feel an emotional pull, and hopefully a call to get involved.

nonprofit-branding
Amnesty International USA Homepage

 

nonprofit-branding
Amnesty International Instagram

 

Your challenge:

Instead of putting all your focus on adding more content and features to your site, posting more on social media and getting your name out there more frequently, take a step back. Reassess how consistent your brand is, how much you pull on it for inspiration and whether or not your audience has an emotional feeling from it. If you can bring it all back to a strong brand, the brand will start to do the work for you.

Is your nonprofit newsletter getting flagged as spam? How to avoid the spam folder.

nonprofit-newsletter

There’s something liberating in flagging an annoying marketing email as spam—that act gives you the power to ignore such messages in the future. However, on the flip side when you’re sending out your nonprofit newsletters, you cross your fingers that no one marks your emails as spam. Not only does this mean the recipient won’t receive your future messages, but it can also hurt your nonprofit’s ability to send email newsletters in general.

Despite the problems with spam, email marketing is still one of your nonprofit’s best bets for reaching your volunteers, donors and prospects. In fact, according to Econsultancy, three-quarters of companies agree that email offers “excellent to good” ROI.

So how do you avoid having your nonprofit newsletters being flagged as spam?

Lisa, VP of Marketing at ArcStone, offers some best practices to avoid being put in the Promotions tab or marked as spam. If you avoid spammy email tactics and come from a more personal place, your nonprofit newsletter should be in the safe.

Be authentic: Write to donors and volunteers as you would a friend.

Instead of getting so caught up in your “audience” and sending your email out to so many people, write it as if you’re talking to a friend or supporter. If you look at your email as an outsider, does it feel salesy or conversational? If it doesn’t sound authentic, it’s likely it’ll come across that way to your email list and they’ll avoid your emails in the future.

Be clear: Tell them what you’re writing about in your subject line.

If you pull the “bait and switch” trick, you risk losing reader’s trust. Don’t rely on deception to get people to click on your email.

Be clever: Compel them to open your email.

Instead, take time to craft an email subject line that’s accurate AND clever. Here are some fun tools for generating a better subject line.

Be real: Find a real human from whom to send and sign your emails.

Even if people know your nonprofit’s email was sent out in bulk, they don’t want it to feel like it’s coming from a robot. Try to have someone from your nonprofit sign it or include your contact info in the email. If possible, give them someone to contact for questions and comments.

Don’t go crazy: Too many images or links can hurt your emails

Many email marketers attempt to make things stand out with several types of fonts and funky formatting, Not only will too many links and images cause each feature to lose power, emails full of these can come across as spam. Plus, with so many email servers out there, you can’t be quite sure if your formatting will register correctly.

Make it pretty: Use a well-designed email template

Similarly, switching up your formatting and not sticking to a template can cause your nonprofit to look inconsistent. It can be hard for your reader to navigate and process your email. To help them get the information they want as well as to align with your brand, have a professional design your email template and stick to it.

Avoid trigger keywords: Don’t rely on old tactics

When you think through how you process your own inbox, it’s likely there are certain words that immediately sound like sales to you. Make sure you avoid these overused phrases and are being original.

Keep unsubscribe available

It’s sad to lose those email addresses you fought so hard for, but removing the unsubscribe capabilities from your email will only hurt you. It should be up to the reader whether or not they are contacted. Some email marketing software, like MailChimp, will even remove your ability to send emails if you do so.

In the end, like many pieces of your nonprofit marketing puzzle, it comes back to being authentic. If your readers identify with your nonprofit and feel as though your email communications are coming right from you, they won’t feel the need to flag your newsletter as spam.

Get help with your email marketing strategy from the team at ArcStone. Learn more »

Top ways to reach new volunteers & donors so far this year

You post on social media, send out newsletters and even sometimes write a blog, but times are changing and you’ve noticed these tactics just aren’t doing what they used to. That’s why Digital Marketing Philippines did a whole lot of research to help us all uncover what is working these days.

Though B2B marketing contrasts with nonprofit marketing, there are a few of these trends that are relevant to nonprofits. Take a look at the infographic and grab some ideas to try out.

nonprofit-marketing-trends-2017

Not ready for a new nonprofit website design? Start with a landing page instead

Not many nonprofits have the budget for a full-on website redesign, at least not until a lot of grant writing has been done. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for any site tweaks, if prioritized above other expenses. This post highlights the necessity of quality landing pages and why they might be more worth their weight in gold than other digital marketing moves.

Nonprofit-Site-Design

Here’s how we know.

A client, Hunger Solutions, was seeking to drive attention to their campaign, Minnesota Food Helpline. They had spent time and effort developing a form and landing page and coupled that with promotion via social media and AdWords. Even with all of this effort, they weren’t seeing the results they thought they could.

When they came to ArcStone we decided the best use of their budget was not in promotional techniques or content marketing, but instead a completely redesigned landing page.

The priorities of this design included:

  • Simplify the language and remove much of the text. We wanted all the users’ attention to go to the call to action.
  • Change the call to action to a very specific direction. It was, “do I qualify for SNAP?” and we switched it to a more active phrase, including a verb, “find out if you qualify for SNAP.”
  • Remove distractions. We took all the unnecessary navigation items and really only kept the link to submit the form.
  • Provide insight through imagery. Although icons aren’t always a bad idea, we noticed they weren’t doing much to inform the user what their action would do.

A few of the results:

  • An increase in conversions of 178% the month after the redesign.
  • 3x as many calls to their helpline.

Where can your nonprofit start when it comes to its site design & landing pages?

1. Talk with your development team and nail down your most important priorities.

For Hunger Solutions, it was helping those in need find their helpline.

Maybe it’s driving donations for a campaign or getting more volunteers at your event. Whatever it may be, try your best to ensure your landing page focuses on a specific audience. If this is keyed into, you’ll better be able to redesign the layout and rewrite the copy with them in mind, making it more likely you’ll capture their interest.

2. Find examples from other similar nonprofits and determine what you do and don’t like.

For example, I admired the landing page below, as it is beautiful and gets right to the point:

nonprofit-landing-page-design
Image source: Leadpages

This works well as they state exactly what they want you to do at the get-go. The main information is kept at the top with an elegant design. If the donors want to learn more about where their money is going (which they often do) they can easily look below on how this helps reach the nonprofit’s goal.

3. Audit your current design. Whether you conduct this audit yourself or have an agency’s help, ask questions such as:

  • If you were a new visitor to the page, is it clear what your organization is trying to do?
  • How specific is your call to action? Is it easily found by a new user?
  • How is the page performing currently? Where would you like this conversion rate to be?
  • What’s the bounce rate? Learn about what might be the cause of a high bounce rate here »

We hope this encourages you to take a close look at what we believe is one of the best investments. By having a well thought out landing page, your nonprofit can better achieve its goal: getting people the information they need to make the world a better place.

How much does your nonprofit lose with your outdated website?

Many think of a nonprofit website design as an expense that would eat up too much of a tight budget. However, as we’ve seen with several of ArcStone’s nonprofit clients, the cost of not redesigning a site can actually be higher. How can you tell if your nonprofit falls into this camp? Our digital strategist Jenna wrote out four factors to assess and we wanted to share them with your nonprofit.

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4 questions to ask in determining the value of a nonprofit website redesign.

1. Are you missing out on signups and donations due to your poor site experience?

It goes without saying that an old, hard-to-use website leaves a bad first impression. People may interpret your website as a reflection of your organization.

Beyond just the negative impression, it could negatively impact the amount of visitors who read more about your organization or sign up for an event. Moreover, if your forms aren’t user-friendly or mobile, people may drop off before completing a donation.

What’s encouraging is that small site tweaks can go a long way: “Nielsen’s research has shown that fixing even minor usability problems can increase donations by 10%” (The Balance).

2. Are you missing out on visitors due to your outdated site?

With a poor website design, not only will people leave your site, they might not get there in the first place. Google takes into account your site structure and user experience in determining your search rankings. If your site hasn’t been edited in years, all your efforts to get people to your site aren’t paying off as they could.

3. Has your AdWords campaign suffered?

If you’re one of the wise nonprofits using your free AdWords money (learn more if you’re not!), but your site is out of date, you’re losing money. A poor site can negatively impact the effectiveness of your ads. Google ranks it lower and your conversion rates go down.

4. Does your organization spend hours on tasks that could be automated?

We’ve ran into several nonprofits that spend countless hours each week on processes that could be automated.

For example, one such nonprofit had never automated their volunteer sign-up process. They spent much of their time coordinating followup. This lead to not only confusion and missed opportunities, but also time that could be spent elsewhere.

Learn more about how a simple form plugin like Gravity Forms has automated the volunteer sign-up process.

Curious about the cost of a website design for your nonprofit? Send us a note »

We also have an ebook to help you see what’s involved in a redesign.

Download for free »

Start a nonprofit blog to increase engagement with your cause

When first helping nonprofits develop their marketing strategy, one of ArcStone’s primary objectives is getting them set up with a blogging strategy. Nonprofit blogs hold huge potential. They contribute to huge gains in several main goals such as spreading the word about your cause, reigning in donors, and getting people to subscribe to your newsletter. Our VP of Marketing at ArcStone, Lisa, recently wrote a post on how to get started with this process, which I repurposed for you all below.

start-a-nonprofit-blog

Before we offer tips, 3 reasons why to start a nonprofit blog

  • You know that search tool, Google? The one that gets people to find your nonprofit in the first place? When you have a blog, and frequently post on it, your site will be more heavily indexed. This means a higher chance of people finding your site. Additionally, research from marketing giant HubSpot, found that sites that have a blog also have 97% more inbound links. Again, this means higher online visibility.
  • Turns out, people actually trust blog content. BlogHer found that 81% of U.S. consumers trust the information they find on blogs. If you’re worried people won’t take your content seriously, think again.
  • If people are coming to your blog, you have a higher chance of engaging with them. Whether your messaging is about fundraising or volunteering, you’ll be able to speak to an audience you wouldn’t have otherwise reached.

We recognize you may already be convinced, but there’s a reason your nonprofit hasn’t launched a blog (or kept up with your current one). It’s challenging and it takes time to see results. Through the following 10 tips, we hope to help you start a nonprofit blog that is successful.

10 tips towards starting a nonprofit blog

1. Develop personas.

Nonprofits often struggle as they have vast audiences. The problem is, their content speaks to everyone at once. This also means they’re not really reaching anyone at an individual, engaging level. Jake, the liberal arts student who’s interested in volunteering will have one set of needs and goals. Whereas Mary, the finance professional who’s interested in making a donation to your organization will have her own. Whenever you start writing, know who you’re target reader is.

Use our infographic to develop your personas »

start-a-nonprofit-blog

2. Write for your audience.

If you want to pull in traffic from Google, you’ll need to write content that answers people’s search queries. If possible, use a keyword research tool such as SEMRush to find out what people are typing into Google. If you can’t afford investing in a tool right now, you can even just rely on Google Suggest. See below:

start-a-nonprofit-blog

Based on the search above, a popular topic for a blog post might be “Why volunteering is good for your health” as people are already searching for content regarding that topic.

3. Study your keywords.

If you’ve found a strong key phrase to write about, do some more research on what other wording you can use throughout your post. You’ll want to do this in a natural way so as not to “keyword stuff.” Learn more about SEO strategy here »

4. Determine your call to action.

Now that you know who you’re writing for, you have to decide what you even want them to do after they read your post. If you’re trying to get more volunteers like Jake for your next event, write a post on how volunteering is good for your health, and then include a call to action that asks him to sign up. Craft a killer CTA »

5. Map out a draft.

Once you have your audience, your goals and keywords, include it all in a draft. This will help you stay focused on your nonprofit’s goals as you develop more content.

6. Decide the length.

Nonprofit clients often ask how long their blog post should be. There’s not one right answer here. If you have time for longer format blog posts (2000+ words), you’ll have more keyword targeting opportunities. This type of post also tends to give you more room backlinks.

Shorter posts often are more attainable when you’re low on time or budget. They also have an advantage many don’t realize: Google likes fresh content and according to HubSpot, organizations that blog more than 20 times per month get five times the traffic than those who blog less than four times per month.

Lisa’s formula: 8 short posts to every long post.

7. Find your writer.

The writing process gets tricky. If you’re too busy to write a post yourself, consider outsourcing. Review the pros and cons »

If it’s more of a matter of not having the knowledge base of the subject, find yourself a subject matter expert. To save time and budget, ask them specific questions so you get the answers you need quickly.

Another way to save time? Use content management tools. That way, you can communicate with your team and stay organized. See our favorite writing tools for nonprofits »

8. Optimize your post for SEO.

Don’t worry, there’s a hack for that. We recommend the Yoast SEO Plugin. Learn about how this and other plugins work here »

9. Be ready to analyze.

If you’re not analyzing how well your content does, you’re going to miss out. Install Analytics and be ready to study how your posts are doing. Learn how to get started with Google Analytics with this ebook»

10. Create your publishing plan.

The chances of people finding your content go way up if you have an adequate social media plan. We have some tools to help:

Blogging is one of the most effective routes to helping your nonprofit gain visibility. We hope you feel ready to start a nonprofit blog and that you reach out for help!