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How To Use Proven Psychology To Improve Your Nonprofit Website

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How to Use Social Media to Improve Donor Loyalty

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Small, easy tweaks to improve your nonprofit website that add up to a better donor experience

In the world of GP motor sport, they call it incremental gains. It’s the minute alterations which over time accumulate to large advances. Shaving fractions of a second off lap times by examining and improving every nut, bolt, piston and aerodynamic angle.

I find that analogy helpful in how we in the nonprofit world can look at our own performance. Everywhere there are small changes to be made using evidence-based ideas to increase our long term success. In sports, the smallest improvement is seen as incredibly important. In nonprofits, the same mindset can be applied; small, easy adjustments that make a difference to your donors and your mission’s bottom line.

Emphasis on getting the virtual presence up to speed. 

The design of our websites is a great place to begin implementing the philosophy of incremental gains. Our virtual presence has never been more important. It is the primary shop window. What and how we display needs close attention. Large for-profit companies spend billions every year on this effort. Those of us in the nonprofit sphere may not have such luxurious budgets but there are many subtle changes to make with little or no extra expense.

Learning from advertising psychology to improve your nonprofit website.

Here is a compilation of some of the most useful ways to find incremental gains as you tweak and improve your nonprofit website based on the latest available research.

1. Enlarge images which convey emotion 

In 2006, a research team at Bologna University discovered the bigger the image we see, the greater the emotional impact. They concluded this was a hangover of evolutionary times when the closer a predator appeared, the greater the urgency was to act. 

By increasing the size of your images, the viewer will register it with more power and feeling. This is why watching a movie on your seven inch smartphone is a very different experience to watching it on a thirty foot movie theater projection. Its emotional impact – to some degree – relies on how much of the field of vision it consumes.

Bottom line: Keep your images larger and clear! There’s more than aesthetic value behind it, there’s hard science!

2. Use assertive language as a call to action 

Psychological reactance is the subconscious opposition to an attempt of persuasion. Counterintuitively, being less forceful in your language actually can work against you. As a polite person, it’s easy to be inclined to frame a call for action as a suggestion because we may feel asking directly and assertively could alienate our audience or come across as abrasive. However, research shows the phenomenon of Psychological reactance means the opposite is likely to happen.

For example: Do help us today or Make sure you make a difference is more effective than Try helping us today or Will you help us today? Sometimes the subconscious reacts better to a clear direction given, rather than a choice offered.

3. Position images on the left hand side and the text on the right

Obscure as it may sound, research has proven in the field of vision what we see processed in the left eye is sent to the right hand side of the brain and vice versa. Text seen on the right is sent to the left hand side of our brains which is better suited to process and respond to it. 

It’s like a knife and fork both are working together but both are doing a slightly different job, one on the left and one of the right. The two fields of vision have their own strength and weaknesses, just like with our left and right sides of our bodies do when using utensils, playing sports, or writing with a pen. 

Use psychology of color

  • The look over the logic! Surprisingly findings show first impressions are made primarily through color and not text. Up to 90% of what we feel overall about any particular branding is color based. So with this in mind, keep it consistent and clear; a unified color pallet is most appealing and professional looking.
  • Try the color blue! Counter to cultural expectation, research indicates blue is highly appealing to both genders more than any other and a good call for the frames and background gradients of your nonprofit website. Side note: Orange and brown were found to be the least appealing to either gender.
  • The donate button: contrasting color. Studies indicate contrast is more important than color. Use bright color for your donate now button contrasting with the theme of your site. If your site and logo already have red and/or brighter colors, then go with the contrasting bright blue. Pick a color that is different to your website’s predominant pallet. Make that all important donation button ping.

Getting into the fine-tuning of any ad campaign or inner workings of a website has never been that much of a pleasure but even if it’s a chore, chores are necessary. In the end, incremental gains are a continuous process activity to improve your nonprofit website. 

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  • Valerie Harris

    Sounds good! I'm going to check my site and see where I'm on point and where I can make an adjustment. Thanks!
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