Nonprofit Talk: SEO Best Practices to Help with Fundraising

The world is filled with digital noise. For nonprofits, it can be difficult to cut through the clatter to reach potential donors with the right message at the right time. Fundraising is crucial to meet operational and mission-focused needs, but the internet is crowded with competing messages and priorities that draw the attention of donors away.

Luckily, there are tools and strategies to help draw the focus back to your nonprofit organization. Search engine optimization (SEO) may be the most powerful tool in your fundraising arsenal. SEO is simply a strategy and set of tactics for helping your website to score as highly as possible in search engine results. And the best news? In many cases, improvements to SEO won’t cost anything more than your time. Here are a few strategies you can begin to use immediately to see a lift in search engine rankings and fundraising results.

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Start with a strong website

Your website is the hub of your fundraising and marketing efforts. Without a responsive, organized website, web crawlers won’t understand your content or how to rank it. To truly move the needle on search engine rankings, you need an SEO-friendly site acting as a solid foundation for all of your digital fundraising activities.

First, make sure your domain name is simple and maps directly to your organization. Don’t try to stuff your domain name with keywords. It’s ineffective and will confuse both web crawlers and visitors. Secondly, find a hosting service that will optimize site speed to help pages load quickly and completely. Third, as you index your site, use a text-based framework instead of images or flash. Web crawlers will be able to quickly pick up content from your page and use it in ranking algorithms.

While there are countless ways to optimize your website for search rankings, there is one central mantra to keep at the forefront as you build: simplicity. Keep everything simple, from navigation to page URLs. You’ll not only improve SEO so that visitors can find your fundraising site, but you’ll also keep your audience engaged on your site long enough to complete a donation.

Create high-quality content

While it may be tempting to view your website as simply a mechanism for collecting donations, you must give it the consideration it deserves when it comes to content. Online audiences expect to receive some sort of value from visiting a website, no matter what type it may be.

Nonprofits must present information in a way that resonates with the reader and answers the question “why should I give to this cause?” If you make them scour your website for a reason to donate to you, they won’t. Instead, keep your mission statement and call to action front and center. Offer supporting information about the benefits of donating and connect the reader to your cause. Use simple, web crawler-friendly language, and don’t overstuff it with keywords.

One last word of caution on content– quality is always preferred over quantity. For every piece of content you publish, ask yourself “what value will my audience gain from reading this?” The goal is to create articles and resources that your audience will share. As they do, SEO improves and web traffic increases.

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Use the right keywords

Keywords help communicate the message of your content to search engines. With that in mind, it may seem like “more is better” when it comes to keyword usage. Not the case. Remember that when you write content, you’re writing for the benefit of your reader– not the search engines. You’ll be punished by web crawlers if you try to cram too many keywords into a piece of content.

To choose the right keywords to support your fundraising efforts, start with a list of all relevant keywords that support your organizational mission and fundraising call to action. Next, narrow the list with help from Google’s keyword tool to better understand which keywords are the most popular and will lead to the best SEO outcomes. It will also give you a better understanding of who else is using the keyword and how you might be able to differentiate yourself from competitive searches.

Organize content thoughtfully

As you structure your content and organize it on your website, there are some simple ways to help web crawlers find the right content to return the right search results. First, use keywords in the headings of your content. It sends a cue to search engines that the header keywords are indicative of the context of your content and will be relevant to a user’s query. Make sure the keyword actually supports the theme of the document or you’ll be penalized by search engines.

Secondly, offer alternate text for any images you use on your website. This enables web crawlers to understand the intent and relevance of the image since they can’t interpret the meaning of an image without descriptive text. Feel free to use keywords in image text for an added boost.

Use links to your advantage

Anchor text, or words linked to another page inside your document, are a simple way to add value to your website. It allows you to cite resources and create a better experience for readers. Web crawlers read anchor text to check for relevance between your page and the cited page and reward you for adding this additional layer of value to search results. Be sure that your anchor text is accurate, describing the linked page correctly. You should also link to your own relevant content and insert keywords in your anchor text when possible.

Another often-overlooked strategy to boost search rankings is to ask others to backlink your content in external pages and websites. This is especially important for nonprofits without vast marketing and advertising budgets. Think of backlinks as organic advertising for your content. Web crawlers search for backlinks and raise your credibility score and page ranking as a result. Don’t be afraid to ask like-minded organizations for backlinks to your content, and offer to return the favor.

Keep the reader in mind

As you build your SEO strategy, remember to write and organize your content with the goal of creating value for your reader. Web crawlers and search engine rankings are tied closely to the user experience. Search for ways to connect your content to your mission with a simple call to action for your readers. You’ll increase web traffic, donations and build a loyal audience to share your message with others.

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Bobby Keys is a Content Producer, Digital Marketer, and Creative Strategist in the Kansas City area with over 24 years experience in the broadcast industry and over 15 years of marketing experience. His diverse skillset in the creative world combined with his keen understanding of the marketing and the science behind “the why”, allows him to create content that connects with and inspires your audience and grows business. Over the last 5 years, his videos, creative content, websites, and digital strategy, have helped generate over 3.5 million dollars in funding for local nonprofits.