Do you understand your nonprofit’s web audience? We’re not just talking about knowing their names and basic characteristics — we’re talking about truly understanding your audience and what draws them to your organization’s website in the first place.
Any successful nonprofit marketing endeavor requires a significant amount of background knowledge on your supporter pool. When you know your audience, you can identify the best ways to connect with them and design your website in ways that appeal to them.
In this post, we’ll highlight some strategies and resources that you can use to understand your website audience on a deeper level. Specifically, we’ll cover these top four tips:
- Conduct audience research based on your current data.
- Identify your main traffic sources.
- Investigate indirect audience feedback.
- Gather direct audience feedback.
According to Kanopi, the best nonprofit websites are rooted in audience research. The marketing teams that develop these websites ask questions about their unique audiences, identify trends, and update their websites to facilitate a smoother user experience. You can emulate these sites by incorporating the following tips into your web design processes.
1. Conduct audience research based on your current data.
The data in your nonprofit’s constituent relationship management system (CRM) can help you understand your organization’s overall audience.
NPOInfo recommends storing information about your supporters’:
- Demographics. Demographics include age, level of education, employment status, etc. This information can provide insights into the motivations, communication preferences, and giving potential of your supporters.
- Interests. Keep track of the events, campaigns, and initiatives your supporters have shown interest in. That way, you’ll know which engagement opportunities to feature on your website.
- Involvement history. Consider how your supporters have engaged with your organization over the years. This includes past donations, volunteer involvement, and event attendance. This can let you know what type of conversion pages and forms to feature prominently on your website.
These insights can reveal a diverse range of insights into your audience and the best ways to engage with them online. For example, are your audience members mostly young adults with college-level education? They may be interested in learning about ethical fundraising opportunities to support causes they care about. Are they busy working professionals with families who want a more casual way to support their favorite nonprofit? They might be drawn to passive fundraisers that don’t ask them to change their daily routines.
Your data can also give you a deeper understanding of what your audience members feel when they visit your website. For example, if your website offers healthcare services and information, audience members might feel more stressed or anxious while browsing your site. In this case, your site should help visitors access information quickly and contain messaging that will put them at ease.
Use your existing data to create profiles for your primary audiences— whether donors, volunteers, advocates, community members in need, etc. To develop these profiles, think about the needs and motivations of each audience segment and how you can design your website to appeal to their interests. This can help you plan more strategically when making website updates and changes.
2. Identify your main traffic sources.
How are web audiences finding your website? Understanding how supporters access your website can tell you about their communication preferences. And, when you identify your most popular traffic sources, you can double down on your marketing efforts on these channels.
Using a research tool like Google Analytics will be crucial in this process. These are the principal web traffic sources defined by Google Analytics:
- Social media: A social media user clicks a link in a post that leads to your website. This can be from any social media platform — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
- Email: An email recipient clicks a link in an email that leads to your website.
- Direct: A visitor types your website URL into the search bar.
- Referral: A user clicks a link on another website that leads to your website.
- Paid advertising: A visitor clicks on a link in a paid advertisement that leads to your website.
- Organic search: A user types a search term into a search engine such as Google, then clicks on your website link from the search results.
Understanding your most popular traffic sources reveals the communication platforms your audience prefers and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts on each platform. For example, you might see a lot of website traffic from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, but not as much organic search traffic. You can then focus on maintaining your social media presence while building your SEO strategy to increase your search visibility.
3. Investigate indirect audience feedback.
Your web visitors reveal various behavioral insights just by browsing your website. Gathering indirect web audience feedback involves using research tools to track and analyze website patterns and audience behavior.
Follow these steps to collect audience input and act on the insights you collect:
- Review your website’s heat maps. If you’re a Drupal or WordPress user, you can install a module or plugin such as HeatMap or HotJar to view your site’s heatmaps. These maps track visitors’ actions on your website. You can find out what users look at the longest, what they click on, when they tend to drop off your site, and more. This can help you understand how engaging different parts of your website are. For example, do visitors spend a lot of time looking at your homepage infographic? If so, it might be worth it to continue using tech tools like Canva to build engaging infographics for other site pages. Or, if visitors tend to drop off while visiting your event calendar, you might spend some time revamping this resource to be more user-friendly.
- Track conversions. Conversions happen when visitors complete a desired action, such as donating using your online giving form or signing up for a volunteer opportunity. Track your conversion rate by dividing the number of completed desired actions by the total number of website visitors. If you have a low conversion rate, make adjustments to your site. For example, you can improve the appearance and wording of your call-to-action buttons and links and make your forms easier to find and complete.
- Map user journeys. With these data insights, you can start mapping your website visitors’ journeys. Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes to understand what they’re looking for when they arrive on your site and how long it takes them to complete their intended action. Then, you can adjust your site’s elements as needed to ensure all audience members — whether donors, volunteers, community members, etc. — have a positive user experience on your website.
Set up a standing meeting with your web team to continually review indirect audience feedback and adjust your website strategy accordingly. Keep track of your most relevant website analytics and assess change over time to give your team quantifiable metrics to measure progress.
4. Gather direct audience feedback.
If you still have unanswered questions after collecting indirect feedback or feel like this data doesn’t tell the whole story, consider asking directly for audience feedback. Many of your supporters will be willing to take a minute to answer a few questions about your website’s user experience.
Using HotJar’s popup survey tool, you can create a short survey that appears on your website as a small widget or full-page overlay. Or, you can send out a survey via email to a group of supporters who you know have used your website in the past, using a tool such as Google Forms or SurveyMonkey.
Choose your questions carefully based on the website elements you’re most uncertain or curious about. You might ask questions like:
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our website’s user experience?
- How quickly did you find what you were looking for on our website?
- Were you unable to find anything you were looking for on our website?
- What would you change about our website?
- On a scale of 1-10, how well does our website explain our mission and values?
This type of survey allows audience members to explain what they like and dislike about your website in their own words. You can identify trends and make changes based on the most common responses. Follow up with survey respondents via email to thank them for their input and let them know how you plan to address their feedback.
Your nonprofit’s website can help maintain engagement with audience members between events or other in-person interactions. When you understand how website visitors interact with your website and what they want out of the experience, you can design a more user-friendly, streamlined browsing experience.
About the Author
As Founder and CEO of Kanopi Studios, Anne helps create clarity around project needs, and turns client conversations into actionable outcomes. She enjoys helping clients identify their problems, and then empowering the Kanopi team to execute great solutions.
Anne is an advocate for open source and co-organizes the Bay Area Drupal Camp. When she’s not contributing to the community or running her thoughtful web agency, she enjoys yoga, meditation, treehouses, dharma, cycling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and hanging with her nephew.