A Website is Just a Tool

"Make the donation button more prominent."

I hear this phrase often when someone wants to increase online donations. It's a variation on a theme. When someone says something like this, they think that updating an interface will solve business problems.

But a button on a website is just a tactic. And a website is just a tool. What you really need to look at is the strategy behind the tactic or the tool.

If the goal is to increase the amount of online donations, the following things need to be addressed before deciding if the button is the problem and needs to be changed.

1) How much is "increase"? $10 more on a single day is an increase, but that's not what anyone means. Define "increase" explicitly and realistically. Maybe the goal to "increase online one-time donations 5% month over month for the next 12 months." Now you know what success looks like. We have a target.

2) Who is likely to make a one-time online donation? Previous donors? New donors? People in their 70s? Maybe the likely candidate for this type of donation is "alumni aged 35-50 living in the US who work in technology and have not given to us before." Now we know who to engage with.

3) How will you reach those people? That prominent donation button isn't going to magically appear in those people's living rooms! Find out where those people are online and what triggers them to visit your site. Or better yet, work to understand what will motivated them to donate. Meet them where they are with a meaningful targeted message.

4) Make the website easy to use. You got your likely donors to the website. Maybe they are ready to donate. An easy-to-see button will help that person. But maybe they want to know a bit more about what their money will do. Does your website support that journey too? Once they click or tap the button, what happens? Has the path to make an online payment been made as smooth as possible? Or will people get frustrated half-way through and give up? Making the site usable is a never-ending task.

5) Measure and iterate. The best thing about doing online campaigns is you can track everything! If you don't know which ads, posts, or emails are providing the most conversions, shame on you. Figure out what works and why and do more of that.

Making a good website is just one piece of the puzzle of your business strategy. A website cannot perform miracles. To make the website successful, you need to surround it with the right supports: good marketing and communications strategies, good technology infrastructure, an omnichannel customer experience strategy, and a cross-functional team that works together to solve problems.