The problem with visiting many nonprofit websites is that there's nothing to DO when you get there. Sure, you can read staff bios, peruse the mission statement and look at a few pictures of clients — if you're lucky.
But to say that most nonprofit websites are interactive is a stretch.
One way to make your website more "sticky" and engage more prospective donors in your work is to offer opportunities for advocacy or to take action. Advocacy is defined by Wikipedia as an activity that "aims to influence public-policy and resource-allocation decisions within political, economic and social systems and institutions." But the term also can be defined more loosely as "active support of an idea or cause."
Advocacy is an important component of a nonprofit's work because it can lead to long-term structural change. But it's also a great fundraising tactic. Why?
First, advocacy campaigns require consumers to provide contact information, including e-mail addresses. This helps you to grow your list. Second, advocacy campaigns educate consumers about your issues and make them feel a part of your success. Finally, research shows that people who take action on an issue are seven times more likely to become donors over time. In short, for many consumers, advocacy leads to philanthropy.
Leads to follow
Here are two examples of online advocacy campaigns. First, Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that works to eliminate the environmental causes of cancer, provides new site visitors with an opportunity to sign a petition to ban BPA (the "endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A") from all food and beverage containers. Second, Slow Food USA, a movement to "link the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment," engages prospective members with Time for Lunch, a campaign to bring healthy and nutritious lunches to kids in school.
I know what you're thinking. This sounds great, but my nonprofit doesn't do advocacy.
Not to worry, this doesn't preclude you getting people to take action. Consider a different approach.
American Cancer Society's More Birthdays campaign engages visitors by asking them to honor those who have been affected by cancer. The ASPCA's "I Fought Cruelty" campaign invites visitors to share stories of how they prevented animal abuse. By hosting a pledge on your site or inviting people to send you an e-mail, you can make your site more interactive, build your e-mail list, educate people about your cause and get more folks in the "donor door."
If you don't have the capacity to build and host your pledges and petitions via your own site, you can work with a company like Care2 to do the hosting on your behalf. Then you can link to your petition or pledge from your website, Facebook Page, e-mail newsletter or blog.
Advocacy is a powerful strategy for making progress on your issues. It's also a powerful tactic for finding new donors. By giving people the opportunity to engage in your work and join with others to build a better world, you help them take the first step toward becoming long-term supporters of your organization.