Jennifer Charney

We love hearing and sharing real stories from the world of nonprofit communications. So when Jen Charney, communication manager at Save the Redwoods League, said she would like to blog about how they redesigned their website in an effort to gain more potential supporters and online donations, I was all for it. The icing on the cake: the redesign worked beyond their expectations!  ~Kivi

Guest Post by Jennifer Charney of Save the Redwoods League

You can redesign and rewrite your organization’s website like we did at  Save the Redwoods League, and raise 30 percent more online donations — without spending much money. See my free- and low-cost resources below.

We revamped SaveTheRedwoods.org  in 14 months using best marketing communication practices.  Here are our outcomes and how you can achieve them.

Comparing periods April 6, 2011 to January 31, 2012, and April 6, 2012, to January 31, 2013 

Objectives Outcomes
Attract 124,000 unique visitors 173,817 unique visitors, exceeding objective by 40%
Raise 20% more online donations Raised 32% more online donations (gifts totaled $238,874), exceeding objective by 12%
Raise the number of prospects on our email list by 5% Raised the number of prospects on our email list by 51% (email signups totaled 570) exceeding objective by 46%

 

First, we used research to substantiate the need and inform the direction of our communication strategy. Save the Redwoods League has for several years been using the Convio web software system for engaging nonprofit constituents and collecting donations. The 2011 Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study of 600 nonprofit organizations says that websites are a cost-effective and compelling way to grow audiences, engage constituents and convert them to donors. Key findings of the study:

  • Online is the fastest growing fundraising channel for nonprofits. In 2010, Convio’s clients raised 40 percent more than in 2009.
  • Website traffic is, for most nonprofit organizations, the best source for gaining new prospects. Web traffic growth in 2010 was 2 percent.
  • Email files (number of prospects to email) continued to grow. The median total email file grew 22 percent

If you can’t afford Convio for such research, Pew Internet is an excellent source of the latest research on Americans’ Internet use. And Nonprofitmarketingguide.com is a source of best practices, of course.

Meanwhile, our outreach director Jennifer Benito led the effort to hire Fenton,  a communications company specializing in messaging for conservation nonprofits. After surveying our audiences and reviewing best practices among conservation organizations, Fenton revised our key messages using more emotional storytelling. Fenton also recommended that we target four new key audiences.

If you can’t afford to hire a communications company, check out Kivi’s storytelling tips.  In addition, pro bono marketing consultants are available from Taproot Foundation.

Before incorporating our new key messages, we wanted to ensure our website’s design was optimized. Pro bono consultant Diana Madrigal, a user experience strategic planner, recommended changes such as simplifying navigation; moving popular tools and information where readers look first; shortening content and adding photos. We also incorporated recommendations from a Nielsen Norman Group workshop on website usability.

Our web contractor Patrick McMahon designed the template for our web pages; our outreach manager Regan Ranoa built pages; and I rewrote 75 first-, second- and third-level pages.

After we finished work on the site, seven people (two of our organization’s board members and five “average web users” from usertesting.com) tested the site; their suggestions were incorporated; and the site was launched in April 2012.

The total cost of redoing our website: $36,000. And we exceeded our objectives.

Save the Redwoods League Site Before and AfterWhat’s your advice for revamping a website?

Jennifer Charney is  the communications manager for Save the Redwoods League.  She’s an award-winning professional communicator with substantial experience in writing, editing, training, presenting, developing and implementing programs, recruiting and leading personnel, and creating successful electronic and print communications for corporations and nonprofits. Get more marketing communications tips by following her on Twitter @JenniferCharney. Jen previously blogged for us on surveying your supporters about your publications.

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