Incorporating eCommerce into Your Non Profit Website Design

If you want to do fund raising online, your non profit website design needs to incorporate eCommerce. That may sound like a term reserved for the for profit world, but your non profit can benefit greatly from not only learning from your for profit colleagues but also taking the concept to new heights in your non profit website design. Here are some tips.

  1. Plan your online store carefully. As with everything else you do – including driving across town – you need to know where you want to go before you understand how to get there.Your eCommerce strategy needs to include traditional products that non profits offer (e.g., books, mugs, pens, t-shirts, hats, etc.) along with “products” that only a non profit could offer. These include sponsorships, memberships, and aspects of your projects (e.g., buy a cow for a family in a third world country, plant a tree in the rainforest, save a whale, etc.).

    Key components of your non profit store design strategy include (1) understanding the resources necessary (people, finances, education, etc.) and (2) getting commitment from the decision makes to provide and maintain these resources.

  2. Set up your store as professionally as the for profits do. The days are gone when you can simply create a static page on your non profit website that tells people to call to make a donation. Your non profit website design needs to include a store with a catalog, search and browsing functions, a shopping cart (and don’t be concerned that people will be offended by putting your virtual products in a shopping cart – if they buy things online, they know what this concept means and are comfortable with it) and an easy checkout process.The search/browse function is vital to making it easy for people to find your products, whether they be t-shirts or trees in the rainforest.

    Checkout is often where non profits lose donors. You need to make the process simple and collect enough information without over doing it. Initially, you may only need the name and email address, but you will be collecting more inforamtion as part of taking a credit card.

  3. Cross promote. You see it happen on “People who bought this product also liked these.” You can do it too: “People who bought this hat also liked this book” or “People who proudly wear this t-shirt often also like to sponsor this event or provide funding for this project.” You can also offer certificates to people who buy the virtual products.
  4. Build relationships. As you collect information about people, find out what parts of your non profit interest them. Be sure to include a privacy policy on the site to ease people’s concerns about providing their information.Once you’ve gotten their permission, keep them informed about what your non profit is doing and what kinds of funding needs you have. Don’t abuse them by selling their information or sending too many emails, but stay in touch. You’ll want to email them a couple times a month with information that they will find valuable.

    As you craft your relationship-building messages, remember people want to know “what’s in it for me.”

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