Jessica Gruber, CEO of Buzzworks Featured on The Nonprofit Show

In a recent appearance on The Nonprofit Show, co-hosted by Julia Patrick and Jarrett Ransom, focused on donor websites and donor relationships, Jessica Gruber talks about the importance of engaging with donors in significant ways online.

NPO websites, she says, are essential, and they also need to be to a high-quality standard in order to, she says, make the right impression on donors.

Gruber uses the analogy of dressing up at a black-tie event and says that it’s important to “respect your story” when creating your online footprint and user experience.

Donors, she said, will not just look at a website, but will also look at the non-profit’s social media channels.

In addressing how to separate the signal from the noise, Gruber talks about the power of localization and customized communications, as well as automation in donor engagement processes. Talking about the wide spectrum of NPO websites out there, she underscores the importance of developing a good budget for website maintenance, and all of the extras that go into specific engagement steps.

As an example of important donor engagement work, Gruber describes a situation where an initial donation is followed by a soft call to action that is fun and engaging and speaks directly to the donor.

“You want to welcome them into your world,” she says.

This can be done with various kinds of automation that create those customized and personalized engagements, along with a human-in-the-loop element to guide the system in the right way.

Gruber also talks about newsletters and push notifications as the kinds of outreach that keep everyone in the loop, more or less in real-time, and how the updates are a key way to keep in touch with donors.

With the right infrastructure in place, she says, NPOs also have ways to reach donors when they need them.

“You have direct access to ask,” she says.

In thinking about how nonprofits can optimize their outreach, Gruber also addresses aspects of the client journey and how online communications have thrived in recent years. She talks about how covid changed everything when it comes to nonprofits and donors.

Now, she says, people are comfortable with the online experience, but at the same time, many are craving more in-person contact and giving those opportunities to them, she suggests, will boost engagement in a big way.

That led to her recommendation that nonprofits should “take things in-person” with website outreach and provide on-ramps from the website to public events and volunteer opportunities.

Gruber also mentions other connections with donors – for example, the process of allowing people to learn about a nonprofit through good editorial strategies, and how to put together a content calendar that works, not just in topical material, but in formats and thought leadership strategy.

She talks about announcing staff changes, outlining the achievements of an NPO in content, and making sure that content is tied to the objectives that the nonprofit has recognized.

“It should be aligned with your goals,” she says, suggesting nonprofit writers should “avoid fluff” and instead share things like annual reports.

Donors, she says, like nonprofits that are open about their financials.

There’s also the element of getting people directly involved, with a simple volunteer form, which, she says, a lot of nonprofits miss. The form can be simple and direct and will unlock a lot of participation in many cases.

Nonprofits can also track changes more closely to identify their goals and see how things are going.

Gruber mentions a compelling strategy for online nonprofit content – making larger articles and content into bite-sized pieces.

Specifically, she recommends using subheads and linking them out to other more detailed content, in a type of mapping process that will keep people interested and engaged.

Good headlines, she says, are also key – if writers can hook an audience with a headline, more web users will be inclined to read through a longer article and increase dwell time on the site.

Throughout the discussion, Gruber acknowledged how there is a twofold objective to reach human readers, while also optimizing for Google rankings.

Specifically, though, she talked about the “power of people” to make a difference in the nonprofit world.

“People are not our piggy banks,” she says. Instead, they are vital pieces of the puzzle.

In terms of most useful website elements, Gruber encourages nonprofits to winnow down larger sites with a lot of pages and pieces, and look at what’s most useful, getting rid of the rest.

In a website overhaul, she says, analytics will guide the process.

“Look at what the data is telling you,” she says.

In general, Gruber says, looking at things from the donor’s perspective helps nonprofits to blaze a path forward in creating engagement through a website and social media channels.

That process, she says, is critical in building the kind of nonprofit that planners want – achieving that success that’s based on relationships between people.

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