Getting Engaged: The most popular non-profit web strategies of 2015

When it comes to building your non-profit’s online presence—a critical element of success as organizations jockey for attention in our ever-increasing virtual world—there are a host of marketing tactics you can take, and any one or a combination of all can greatly increase an NPO’s visibility to a wider audience, a fact that easily translates into donor and volunteer recruitment and earned monetary support.

But according to 2015 Digital Outlook Report, a whitepaper collaboration between NTEN (a community of more than 50,000 nonprofit professionals that “transforms technology into social change”); HJC (which helps charities maximize their fundraising potential); and Care2 (a progressive online community of 27 million individuals that supports and encourages others to make a difference in the world), there are a handful of ways highly successful organizations are fine-tuning their websites, and all of these ways are built around the heavy use of visual marketing.

The findings in the whitepaper may be surprising to some, especially those who have long believed in the value of words—in the form of blogs, testimonials, e-newsletters, case studies etc.—over sound bites and pictures. But the reasons behind stressing visuals in marketing strategies are obvious when one considers that most of the platforms used for communications today have a strong analytical function: essentially, it’s easy to track what’s working and what isn’t in terms of a marketing strategy. And, as they say, the people have spoken: visuals are definitely working.


According to the findings of the whitepaper, nearly 70 percent of organizations surveyed have put more focus on incorporating a video component into their online marketing in 2015. And again, the reason behind this fairly obvious: in our ever-evolving tech world, so much of the information we receive on a daily basis comes from multimedia snippets, and a quick one- or two-minute video can speak volumes over a page of text. Videos have the power to evoke strong emotions in a short period of time—important in today’s world of shrinking attention spans due to the constant bombardment of things vying for our attention—in ways that the written word cannot. It’s little wonder, therefore, that many successful NPOs uses this marketing element to their advantage on their websites, whether it be in the form of a simple appeal for donations, a clip showing all the good things an organization is accomplishing or one that demonstrates that there are real and dire needs to be addressed locally or globally.

In much the same way videos can send a message loud and clear, so to can the proper still images. Indeed, more than 63 percent of the whitepaper’s surveyed groups report increasing their use of images to tell their stories of success, need, appeal etc. Of course NPO brochures and web pages have long used pictures to draw in readers, but such imagery should be seen as something to use across all marketing platforms. Find the right image or images—use A/B split testing or survey panels if necessary—and use those images as the benchmark of every aspect of a marketing strategy, from written communications to social media efforts to e-newletters. Much like a company logo or letterhead, an effective picture can become synonymous with your organization, giving you instant name recognition no matter where it appears or how it’s disseminated.

The charts and graphs of two decades ago have given way to dynamic and powerful infographics that can help simplify complicated subjects and make users understand an organization’s mission, goals, successes and failures. And today’s infographics, especially if designed by highly creative and talented graphic artists, are more than mere images relaying information: they’re interactive content that is visually engaging and contains a subject matter that is appealing to your target audience. Additionally, a good graphic or website designer can best leverage such infographics by engaging your supporting content across your entire site as well as over social channels, effectively making these informational tools a mainstay of your overall marketing campaign.

Of course, the authors of the 2015 Digital Outlook Report are quick to caution organizations not to abandon other forms of marketing in favor of an all-encompassing visual strategy. In reality, NPO principals should take the time to study their supporter bases and determine what marketing tools work best. Often, age demographics play a huge part in marketing plans, as well they should: what appeals to the 20-year-old may not translate to the over 60 crowd. And so, the authors recommend a well-balanced marketing and communications strategy across all platforms, while at the same time folding in strong visual tactics of videos, images and infographics based on what shows the most success for their target audience.

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