Taking Action: Optimizing your Online Communications

Let’s be honest: monetary donations are great, and for many non-profits the most critical element of their operations. Money represents real value in any cause-related mission, allowing an organization to make tangible things happen, whether it’s feeding the hungry, teaching the underserved or rescuing animals in danger.

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But too often non-profits have trouble seeing beyond the almighty dollar and miss the opportunity to publicize—through email campaigns, regular blog posts or in a highlighted fashion on their websites—the CTA: that is, the “Call to Action. Indeed, non-profit marketing experts lament that fact that many non-profits view a monetary donation as the end response to a CTA, but in fact there are many other ways supporters can respond to appeals, as long as such appeals are stated clearly and efficiently.

To understand how a CTA complements and enhances the normal monetary “ask,” consider these five standards when crafting your non-profit’s message.

  • Don’t be afraid to be clear and concise about what you want a reader of your website to do. Is it simply to sign an online petition? Subscribe to an email list? Share a post with friends? Say it loud and concisely by writing, for example, something along the lines of “by signing this petition you are helping save a severely endangered species!”
  • Use links within your text to your advantage. Non-profit marketing guru John Haydon makes a very important distinction between a FYI and an CTA: one provides more information about a particular idea and one informs the reader that you want to them to do something, hence “take action.” Therefore, link a CTA to the exact place you want them to go, such as “click here to sign the petition” or “click this button to share this with a friend.”
  • Haydon also trumpets the importance of optimizing links, noting that “for more information or “FYI” redirects should open in a new window while CTA links should open in the same window the reader is already on. Why? “You direct the reader down the path you want to take them,” he says, “When they click on a CTA link, you want them to keep going, with no other options.”
  • Also in regards to blog posts, remember that properly using the aforementioned links is a great way to keep your entry shorter and therefore more likely to be read in its entirety—if someone wants more information, they can direct themselves there on their own. And with a CTA link, readers should see a really big to-do when the link opens.
  • Remember this one hard-and-fast tenet of the CTA: you are encouraging people to act. And the action you’d like them to take doesn’t end with just offering up a donation. Therefore your CTA may be something relatively simple, even as simple as asking them to change or adopt a particular habit.

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