Drive engagement on your nonprofit’s website with a good Call To Action

If you are like most people, your college training didn’t prepare you for all the hats you have to wear for your work at a nonprofit. I majored in music in college and I can tell you that I never thought about the many things I’d have to do related to running a business. I wish that I had been required to take a business course or two when I was in college.
Particularly a course in marketing.
I hope to share some things I’ve learned along the way building websites for myself and nonprofits to maximize your organization’s mission online.
When I first started learning about marketing, particularly internet marketing, I just kept hearing and reading about this thing called a Call to Action. “Wait, a call to what?” It confused me. I had no idea what it was.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “call now”, “find out more” or “visit a store today”.
A CTA can be a simple non-demanding request like “choose a color” or “watch this video”, or a much more demanding request. An obvious CTA would be requesting the audience to purchase a product or provide personal details and contact information.

You might be asking, “Why does this matter to me? We don’t have anything to sell.”
You might not be selling Books, coffee mugs, or stickers; but, at the minimum, you are selling your organization’s mission, you are making connections with the community. Maybe you want to get more people to volunteer, maybe you are trying to get more donation, maybe you are looking for more people who need your services. All of these can benefit from a good call to action.
If you have not been getting the results you want on our website maybe you should take a look at your CTAs.

Why CTAs matter

Help visitors to take action

When visitors are reading your content  you want them to know what to do. A well crafted Call To Action will guide them in the right direction.  You want it to be extremely clear what the next action is.

Create a sense of Urgency

Something has drawn the visitor to your site, now you need to capture them before they leave.  If your site has a clear urgent Call To Action it can be more effective.

Let’s say you are collecting donations to feed hungry families you could have a call to action that said ‘Donate Now’  there is nothing wrong with that, but what if instead the call to action read “Feed a Family tonight.”

Isn’t that so much more powerful?  It gets to the point. It says what the donation is going to do and it has a sense of urgency.

Higher Conversion rate

Let’s leave the virtual world for a minute.

When you walk into a big box store the stuff at the front of the store changes depending on the time of the year.  If it is fall, they are pushing pumpkins or coats. In the spring they might have flowers in that same place. You get the idea.

Whatever your organization’s most important project is should be front and center on your site.

Now the next step is how to convert more.

If you are having a fundraising event, a good CTA might be “Buy Tickets Today” or “I want to be at the best party of the year.”

What makes a good Call To Action?

It’s all about being clear and concise.  You don’t have a ton of time to get your point across, so it is important to get straight to the point. Let your audience know exactly what you want them to do – start the CTA with the desired action.

Start your CTA with a STRONG command verb

  1. Trying to sell something? Start your CTA with words like “buy,” “shop,” or “order”
  2. Promoting your newsletter? Start your CTA with words like “download” or “subscribe”
  3. Want someone to book you for a gig? Try “book us now…” or “find out more…”

Provoke Emotion or Enthusiasm

You want your CTA to elicit a strong response from the visitor to your website.  If your CTA is enthusiastic, then your visitors will be, too. A small, yet effective, element here is adding an exclamation point to the end of your Call To Action.

Don’t be afraid to be creative

It’s important to make sure the copy on your website is fresh.  While the traditional CTA’s will definitely get you clicks, you can try using more colorful language, as well.

I recommend that you test different CTA’s. If your audience isn’t responding as well as you had hoped, maybe you need to be more creative with the language that you are using.

Some Example Calls To Action

I want to show you some real life examples of Calls to Action.  I reviewed a lot of prominent nonprofits and have assembled some of the best CTAs.  For me, I’ve always been a show me and I’ll learn it kind of guy. 

1.  American Red Cross

American Red Cross Call To Action

The Red Cross has a great CTA here directing the visitor to enter there zip code and “FIND A DRIVE.” The CTA is very clear and drives visitors to do what they need most, for people to give blood.  A CTA like this could be used by organizations which have multiple locations or who are serving multiple communities.

What is your primary objective?

How can the right CTA help with that?

2. Teach for America

The Primary objective of the Teach for America website is clear with their CTA.  Apply to become a teacher.  The CTA is simple and to the point “Apply Now.”

3. Room to Read

Focused on girls’ education and children’s education, Room to Read has a series of Calls To Action connected by a line running down their home page.  Following the line down the page is like a trip through the organization for the visitor.  I love the story that the page tells and how the CTAs let you choose how to continue learning about the organization.

4. Nashville Zoo

The Calls To Action on the Nashville Zoo’s website does a great job of dealing with three options, “Plan Your Visit,” “Become A Member,” or “Buy Tickets.”  For the visitor the zoo has setup a clear path to take.

What path do you want your visitors to take?

How can you change your call to action to lead your visitor?

5. Boys and Girls Club

I really like how the Boys and Girls Club handled dealing with the different groups of people they serve.  They are asking the visitor to make a choice: Are you a Parent, a Teen, an Educator?  By taking action and selecting what group best describes you, they are able to direct you to the most relevant content.

If you have an organization that serves one group of people, like children, but receive support from another, such as parents, allowing your visitors to choose which content is tailored for them from the home page is a great choice.

These are just a few examples of good Calls to Action.  Take a minute and look at how you are using CTAs. How could you change to market more effectively?  If you don’t have a CTA on your homepage, now’s the time to add one.

Understanding Calls to Action is a great way  to make your marketing more effective. By focusing on CTAs, you think about your audience, your market, and your competition.