5 Tips for Effective Nonprofit Calls to Action

Video Transcript:

Hi! I’m Julia McDowell, marketing and advertising strategist with Five Ones. Welcome to The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas, my video series dedicated to nonprofit marketing and fundraising. Today’s topic is Five Tips for Effective Nonprofit Calls to Action.

Have you heard the expression “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”? The horse probably would drink were he given a call to action: “Drink up!”— “Hydrate now!”—”Wet your whistle today!” As you know, a call to action—a “CTA,” for short—is a statement designed to get the reader to take a specific action. Don’t assume that someone on your nonprofit’s website or social media feed knows what you need them to do! That would be like leading a horse to water and assuming he knows that you need him to drink—as opposed to just enjoy the scenery or stretch his legs.

Nonprofit missions vary but they all require support, be it financial, volunteer, advocacy or membership. So, while there is no one-size-fits-all “set” of nonprofit CTAs, there are broad themes around information-seeking, donating, joining, getting in touch and subscribing. Regardless of your nonprofit’s priority or campaign, you can help people help you by creating engaging CTAs for online and offline communications. Here are my High-Five Tips for Effective Nonprofit Calls to Action.

It’s a call to action, right? So, use robust language in your CTAs to spur potential supporters to convert to action heroes. Think “fight”­—“transform”—“invest”—“combat”—“inspire.” Sure, the essence is that you want potential donors or members to support your mission. But why say “Support our cause” when you could say “Feed a hungry child,” “Fight racism,” or “Transform healthcare delivery”? Descriptive phrases will compel visitors to take the specific action your nonprofit needs them to.

Less is more. Make calls to action simple and direct. In our scanning, swiping, scrolling society, your target audience may not be inclined to linger, so be succinct: “Subscribe to our blog.” “Give $25.” “Plant a tree.” “Volunteer now.” Provide context for your nonprofit’s needs or benefits near the call to action, not within the call to action itself.

The clock is ticking. Your nonprofit wants potential supporters or members to convert ASAP.  Include the word “now” or “today” in your CTA to encourage immediate action. Mix it up by specifying a matching-gift deadline, a relevant calendar observance or a fundraising goal. Deadlines, dates or goals convey the urgency of your ask. When creating a CTA about fundraising, keep this in mind: research suggests that people are more likely to support a fundraising campaign that is nearing its goal than one just getting off the ground. Consider that “Goal Proximity Effect” as you word your CTAs.

Give people the feels. Use emotional elements to motivate potential donors, members or volunteers to convert. They’re not simply making an online donation. They’re honoring a teacher or changing the lives of disabled veterans. Volunteers aren’t just picking up trash from a riverbed; they’re protecting vulnerable wildlife. Sometimes a straightforward “Subscribe here” or “Give today” is all you may need to say. In many others, sparking emotion inspires people to feel more motivated to act. But don’t overdo it; a little emotion goes a long way.

Don’t let your CTA go MIA. To answer the call to action, people need to get. the. call. Put your CTA in a prominent position (or positions) appropriate for the medium. A standalone call to action button works at the top of your site’s homepage—consider putting it in the upper, left-hand quarter; that’s where eyeballs land first. In emails or social media, include in-text CTAs that are clickable links to your online subscription center or donation page. And you can ask more than once by having CTA buttons throughout your website in addition to on your donation landing page. Your email can have one or more in-text calls to action and a CTA button above the signature line, too. Experiment and test to see what works best for your nonprofit.

Those are my High-Five Tips for Effective Nonprofit Calls to Action. And now for a BONUS: Five Ones’ massive list of nonprofit CTAs or use by copywriters, landing-page creators and anyone else on a nonprofit mission. Download it now!

Thanks so much for joining me for today’s High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas. Look for my next video in a few weeks. Until then, please feel free to leave a comment below, at julia@fiveones.com or on LinkedIn. I’d love to hear if you have a CTA to add to my downloadable list—remember to get your copy by clicking the button above. Thanks again!