Appealing to your charities' community through website design and engagement

Sam McGuire
  • Sam McGuire
  • Web designer

Charities are very different from most other organisations. They’re not just about a business and its customer, or a service and the service user. Charities are more multi-stranded, part of a wide community that includes supporters, users, partner organisations and charity workers.

A charity’s website is at the heart of much of the communication within that community and your charity website design can do much to ensure that you really do engage with everyone involved; maximising support and building commitment.

But how do you get the most from a charity website when it comes to design and engagement? Here are three ways that charity website design can create the kind of user experience that broadens and strengthens appeal across your charity community.

Use video to tell stories

The use of real-life stories should be at the heart of every charity website.

Why? Because stories have the tremendous power to ‘show, not tell’.

A story shows exactly how charitable donations are spent, clearly demonstrating the benefits to the recipient of your charitable work. By being explicit you can pack an emotional punch that a broad brush overview of your work cannot do.

Think about using video as part of your charity website design to tell stories. Keep it simple. Connect with your viewers by telling them an easy-to-follow short story that centres on just one or two people (or animals, or buildings or whatever it is that your charity supports).

Many organisations are hesitant to make a video; it can be expensive, time consuming and technical. But in actual fact it’s not high production values that make an effective online charity video. Focus instead on the quality of the story and engaging the viewer. Make it human, not corporate. When it comes to videos for charities, the human factor can have the emotional impact that a slick corporate video might lack.

Be transparent

Donors love to know where their money is going and what impact they’re making on someone’s life. What’s more, people are far more likely to want to be involved in a charity when there is transparency.

You may feel awkward when talking about money but when it comes to charities, donors and supporters really want to know where the money goes. Information about how funds are spent is also important to partner organisations and those who use the charity’s services. Plus, it can also be used as a valuable story for a range of marketing and branding activities.

Use your website design to tie donor actions to numbers. Don’t be afraid to detail where the money and time is spent and how that makes a difference.

Work with your charity web designer to create a simple graphic that spells out how money is spent. Pay particular attention to things that supporters might not think about such as utility bills and transport. (There’s a good example of this on the St Wilfrid’s Hospice website.)

Tie transparency to your real-life stories – showing the impact fund raising has on a specific person. For example, you might tell the story of a person with a disability being bought a device for £100 that enables them to take part in a sport. Tell the story of how their new hobby has changed their life.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It may seem obvious, but sometimes we worry about being too pushy.

People are generous and often very willing to give their time to helping others, but you can’t always rely on them coming to you.

When you’re loud and upfront about announcing opportunities for volunteering, fundraising and community events, you’ll reach more of those willing community members. Work with your web design agency to create calls for community action that really inspire action. Show the fun and fulfilment that people get from volunteering or taking part in events. Use personal quotations and vibrant photography that captures the achievement and enjoyment. Highlight some of the aspects of getting involved that people might not have thought of. For example:

‘I trained for the Charity Fun Run to help children with learning difficulties. But I also lost half a stone and feel ten times fitter!’

Or

‘The skills I learned from volunteering as a fund raiser have really helped me to create a good CV. It’s helped me to build my career and given me a whole new circle of friends.

Your charity website is one of the most important hubs of your charity’s community. It needs to feel tangible; part of real-life. Work with your web designer on our three tips and you can create a user experience that builds appeal throughout your community, which in turn will help create more stories and funds for you to tell your community about.