Why Your Nonprofit’s Call-to-Action Doesn’t Inspire Donors
by Mike Montalto
November 7, 2019

We know how much work goes into building an effective communication strategy for your nonprofit. You tell a powerful story and connect with donors on a personal level. And you clearly explain the direct impact a donor’s gift has on your mission.

But if you don’t make the action you want donors to take clear and easy to follow, you won’t see the benefits of your work! Your nonprofit’s call-to-action requires as much attention as the other elements of your communications strategy.

Whether we’re talking about direct mail appeals, email asks, or how you guide donors to give on your website, you’ll need an effective call-to-action!

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is the Action?

First, it is important to ask yourself, “what is the action I want my audience to take?”

The obvious answer is to donate. And although “Donate Today” or “Support Us” can work, you might be overlooking stronger options.

If you’re familiar with our blog, you’ll know that we’re big believers in a mission-centric approach. This means that every communication should tie into why your organization exists and why your work is so important.

The mission-centric approach is crucial for your nonprofit’s call-to-action.

Is donating really the action you want donors to take? Or, are you encouraging them to further your mission and achieve your goals?

Your nonprofit’s call-to-action should reflect the impact a donation makes on your mission. This is the first step in inspiring your donors to act.

Your audience will be more excited to “Feed a Family,” or “Educate a Child” than to “Donate Now.”

For Direct Mail Appeals

Obviously, you can’t use clickable buttons for your nonprofit’s call-to-action in your appeal letters and reply cards. So, when you make the ask, you’ll need a strong, in-text call-to-action to inspire donors to go online and donate, or mail a check.

It takes some extra effort to inspire donors with only text. You need to re-state why your work is important, evoke an emotional reaction, connect with donors on a personal level, communicate urgency, and show how their gift will make a difference. And you only have a few words to do it!

You will also need to decide where to place your nonprofit’s call-to-action in your letter. The key is using it a few times throughout. That way, those who skim through will not miss your call-to-action.

So, what does this look like in action? Here’s an example:

“Your donation of $X will change lives in your community by helping the less fortunate find meaningful employment.”

On Your Website

There are many reasons someone would visit your website. But no matter what brought them there, your goal is to secure a donation. You need to make this as clear and easy as possible, without detracting from the other content on your site.

Your call-to-action should feel like a logical next step for your online visitors.

Make clickable buttons stand out from the other elements of your web site. Use colors that contrast against the background and fonts that are large and easy to read. You can also take advantage of white space. An empty area around the button will help draw the user’s eye to this section of your page!

Be strategic when determining where to place your nonprofit’s call-to-action buttons on your web pages.

For example, placing a button that leads to your online donation page on the top right corner of your homepage makes a lot of sense. It fits in with the natural way we read a web page. It also keeps your call-to-action above the fold, so users won’t have to scroll to find out what you want them to do.

And like your print appeals, try to go beyond the generic “Donate Now” button. You can raise more by reminding donors what they accomplish with their gift!

In Your Emails

The calls-to-action in your email appeals should combine the strategies we’ve discussed above for your print appeals and web page. This is true, whether you go for a design and image heavy piece, or an email that resembles something that was drafted minutes before pressing send.

For example, in the body portion of your email, include an in-text call-to-action as a clickable link leading to your online donation page. This should resemble the type of language you use in your appeal letter call-to-action.

However, you should also include a more obvious call-to-action button, like on your website. Place this button up top in graphic-heavy emails, so the action you want donors to take is immediately clear.

If you’re sending an email version of your appeal letter, place this button below the main text, but before the sender’s signature!

Be Straightforward and Simple

Your appeal needs an effective call-to-action if you want the donations to roll in. Whether they’re opening a letter, reading an email, or browsing your website, there shouldn’t be any uncertainty about what you want your audience to do!

So be sure to cut the clutter from your communications. The stories, images, and other elements in your outreach should all tie into your nonprofit’s call-to-action.

And while it is important to state your call-to-action several times in each communication, you never want to ask your audience to do more than one thing!

So, if you send out an end-year appeal email, make sure all links in your calls-to-action lead to your annual fund donation page. This isn’t the time to ask your audience to sign up for a newsletter, or to register for an event!

You will confuse and overwhelm donors if you divide their attention. So, keep it simple, tie your call-to-action to your mission or a tangible goal, place your call-to-action somewhere it can’t be missed, and watch the donations flow in!

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