5 Steps to Facilitate the User Journey For Your Nonprofit Using Your Website

5 Steps to Facilitate the User Journey For Your Nonprofit Using Your Website

As a nonprofit marketing professional, your web design and research efforts are probably driven by a desire to get to know your audience better. When you know your audience inside and out, you can craft your website in a way that resonates with them. One of the most effective ways to appeal to your online audience is to design your website to facilitate your users’ journeys. 

The user journey is the way your online visitors interact with your website, from the time they land on your homepage until they complete their intended action or gather the information they need and leave the site. 

The best nonprofit websites offer clear user pathways that guide visitors through quickly and efficiently, allowing them to connect more deeply with causes that mean the most to them. To improve your website’s user pathways and experience, get started with these five tips:

  1. Conduct audience research.
  2. Chart user pathways. 
  3. Optimize your web design. 
  4. Choose metrics to track. 
  5. Test, adjust, and test again. 

Clear and streamlined user pathways offer visitors a convenient, engaging browsing experience. This can increase their appreciation of your organization and encourage them to use your website to get more involved in your cause, whether through volunteering, donating, or connecting on social media. 

1. Conduct audience research.

Your messaging is more impactful when you speak directly to individuals, not vast, formless groups. When you get to know the individuals who make up your nonprofit’s audience, you can design your website in a way that appeals to their motivations and preferences. 

That’s why the first step of developing your user journeys is to conduct audience research. Audience research involves using tools like your nonprofit CRM, along with engagement data such as social media and website analytics, to determine your audience members’ defining characteristics, motivations, and interests. 

Use these resources to identify your major audience segments, and then create personas based on each group. Nonprofits typically have several types of website visitors that are similar across organizations. These include:

  • Current and prospective donors
  • Current and prospective volunteers
  • Community members looking to use the organization’s services
  • Corporate partners

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes to determine your major audience segments and how they will use your website. For instance, volunteers will want to find more information about upcoming volunteer opportunities and use your registration page to get involved. Community members might be looking for ways to get in touch with your organization to start using your services. 

Create a persona for each unique audience segment within your organization. Bring your personas to life with plenty of detail describing each ideal audience member, what they want from your site, and how your organization can meet their needs. 

2. Chart user pathways. 

Once you’ve got a strong grasp of who your audience members are, you can start to map out the user pathway for each segment. 

For instance, let’s take a look at the donor journey. The donor journey is the steps your donors will take to learn more about your organization by investigating your website and ultimately deciding whether or not to give. Kanopi defines the five stages of the donor journey as:

  • Awareness: Individuals become aware of your organization for the first time, whether through word-of-mouth advertising, visiting your website, or seeing your social media posts. You can support visitors during the awareness phase by promoting your website with SEO strategies or keeping your website up-to-date with recent news and events. 
  • Research: Visitors conduct further research to learn more about your organization. Help visitors learn more about your cause by describing your mission with success stories and statistics, sharing testimonials from community members, and publishing a transparent annual report.
  • Decision: Visitors decide whether or not to contribute to your organization. Encourage prospects to give by making your donation form easy to find and fill out and creating a streamlined user experience. 
  • Acknowledgment: Your organization shows appreciation for donors’ gifts. You can do this by setting up automatic email thank-you messages after donors click “submit.”  
  • Repeat: The donor journey should be designed so that the process is repeatable and the first step of a larger stewardship strategy. It should set you up to continue engaging with donors and offering them new ways to get involved. 

The process will look similar for your other audience personas as well. Create a map for each of your user personas to ensure you’re considering the needs of each audience member in your web design process. 

For example, take a look at how the Boys & Girls Clubs of America website appeals to each of its user groups. The “I Am” homepage call-to-action (CTA) allows users to choose if they are a parent, teen, educator, alumni, or supporter. Then, no matter which option they choose, visitors are directed to a comprehensive page listing all of the information they need to get involved. 

If you don’t have a lot of experience working through the process of conducting user research and developing user pathways, consider working with a website design firm. Double the Donation’s list of top nonprofit website design companies offers a thorough overview of the different types of consultants available and what each one specializes in. Review the list to find a partner that has the necessary experience to meet your needs. 

3. Optimize your web design. 

Your web design elements and strategies are the visual and interactive features that will help guide your visitors from point A (when they first arrive on your site) to point B (when they take the intended action). These elements should work in harmony to ensure each user has plenty of opportunities to learn more about your cause and get involved in areas that interest them. 

Design your website to facilitate a smoother user journey by including: 

  • Compelling CTAs. If you want someone to do something while on your site, don’t make it a secret. Include a large “DONATE” button on your homepage along with multiple links that take visitors directly to your online donation page. Use prominent widgets to encourage visitors to connect with you on social media and email. Overall, make it as easy as possible for visitors to engage more deeply with your organization. 
  • Clear, fast user experience (UX). The minimalists may be on to something, at least when it comes to website design. Be sure to design your website with streamlined page structures and generous use of white space, which will keep your website from appearing cluttered and facilitate easy navigation. Also, leverage accessibility best practices such as including descriptive alternative text for images, sufficient color contrast between the text and background, and offering simple and accessible forms. 
  • Any additional features that allow users to more easily browse your site. This might include a search function, an interactive calendar, a staff directory, or a clearer resources webpage. If you feel your site is lacking in any of these areas, adding new features can make it a more useful resource for visitors.

Everything you choose to include on your website should facilitate a simpler user experience. Focus on optimizing the elements that are working and adjusting or eliminating the ones that are cluttering up the site or offering little value. 

4. Choose metrics to track. 

How do you know if you’re on the right track with your revitalized user journeys? This is where your metrics come into play. Tracking metrics is an important part of any nonprofit marketing campaign because it tells you whether your efforts are making a positive difference. 

You might choose to track website metrics like:

  • Conversion rates for important pages (like your donation form or volunteer sign-up page)
  • Average page session duration
  • Total website visits/page visits for important pages
  • Bounce rate
  • Top traffic source (where your website visitors come from the most, such as social media, organic search, referral, etc.)

Set up recurring reports using platforms like Google Analytics to track your metrics in a streamlined, centralized system that all team members can access. Use team meetings to assess these reports and revamp your strategy as necessary. 

5. Test, adjust, and test again. 

If your metrics aren’t what you expected, change up your approach to get back on track. Continually review how visitors are interacting with your website and what you can do to make your site more engaging or easier to use. 

Leverage tools such as user research platforms like Hotjar. With user research solutions, you can access visitor heatmaps, visitor session recordings, and other testing tools. You can also create quick website polls for visitors to fill out to provide direct feedback on your website’s user experience. Ask users questions like:

  • How did you find our website? 
  • What did you come to our website to do?
  • Did you easily find what you needed?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how we can improve our website?

Feedback from visitors, whether direct or indirect, is your greatest asset in determining the effectiveness of your user journeys. These are the individuals you’re designing your site for, so their opinions are key to creating a better experience. 

These five steps will allow you to construct more relevant, useful, simple user journeys for your nonprofit’s website visitors, but they aren’t the end of the road. Your organization’s audience and their needs might change over time, so you can always conduct further audience research to update and refine your user pathways. Even the top nonprofit websites aren’t set in stone — there’s always room to evolve!

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Nonprofit Tips
Anne Stefanyk

As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. As someone at the intersection of business development, marketing, and technology, Anne provides digital strategy to clients and organizations in the nonprofit, higher education, government and corporate sectors. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, translating it all into plain language, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute stunning website solutions that strengthen brands and help companies succeed.

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