July 9, 2012

Microsites for Nonprofits: Your Questions Answered

It’s easy to get lost on the homepage of many nonprofit websites. Everyone in an organization is competing to get their content “above the fold” on the homepage, not to mention the multiple menus and sidebars, a news feed, social media buttons, and a ton of other bells and whistles.

What do you do when you want to give extra publicity to a specific cause or campaign? Featuring one campaign too prominently could distract from other things. If you don’t feature your campaign enough, it could get lost in the mix. So what’s the solution?

Microsites

One proven method quickly growing in popularity is the microsite. A microsite is a mini-website, generally two to four pages, focused on a specific topic or campaign. These mini-websites are usually graphic-heavy and have very straightforward, action-oriented copy. Actions can include making donations, social media sharing, signing a petition, and more. Microsites can also promote dynamic content.

What are the advantages?

If executed the right way, microsites are proven to garner more action. This means more donations, more shares, and more awareness for your cause. Here’s why:

  • Because microsites are so focused and action-oriented, they can hold a visitor’s attention on one thing without getting distracted.
  • Microsites sometimes allow you to work outside the lines of an organization’s “brand.”
  • They are far more sharable than a full website and therefore more likely to go viral.
  • They allow you to build a large campaign without redoing your entire website.
  • Microsites can stand alone as a primary donation tool when the website isn’t fundraising-focused.
  • Microsites are able to reach a wider audience that may not be familiar with your organization.
  • They are great when the featured campaign is not the primary focus of the organization.

What do you need to build a microsite?

Although microsites are simpler than websites, they need certain features in order to be effective:

  • A creative concept with goals.
  • An outline of what you need: Donation form? Infographics? Photo gallery? Links?
  • Use HTML 5 rather than Flash. It is far more mobile-friendly.
  • Use Google Analytics and include meta-data for search engines.

How do you promote your microsite?

A microsite is not a stand-alone tool. If it isn’t promoted, it won’t get visitors on its own. No one should invest in a microsite without a strategic plan to promote it.

  • Email is the second driver of traffic to nonprofit websites (after organic search from Google), so there’s no doubt that it should be used to promote microsites too. It is a great way to show an audience your organization’s diverse priorities. It is also a great acquisition and renewal tool.
  • Infographics are another great way to bring visitors to a microsite through email.
  • Social media is one of the best ways to not only reach your supporters, but expand your audience through sharing.
  • Promote your microsite through a lightbox on the main website. A lightbox is a roadblock or transparency over the homepage that alerts a visitor about the microsite and allows them to click over to it. These are very effective as long as they are not overused.
  • Write a blog post about the cause or campaign and have a link to the microsite.
  • Use Care2 or Change.org petitions to drive traffic to your microsite.

How do you reuse a microsite?

Just because your campaign is over doesn’t mean you have to throw it all away.

  • If your microsite is within your website’s URL, you can save your microsite for next year and just refresh the content.
  • If your microsite has a separate domain, keep updating it and promoting it through your social media for SEO purposes.
  • Update your microsite with current news and facts about the topic.
  • Write a blog post recapping the campaign.
  • Reuse the images and graphics in social media outlets.

Microsites vs. Landing Pages

What’s the difference between microsites and landing pages?

They are similar, but there are features that set them apart. A typical landing page is a single page where a visitor comes from an ad or email and “lands” on the page. The goal of most landing pages is to convert visitors (e.g., donate, take action). Landing pages are less expensive and much easier to set up, making them a great alternative to microsites. They are connected to the main website and are often more branded than a microsite. Generally, landing pages are focused on one action, while microsites focus on a variety of actions.

Additional Microsite and Landing Page Tips and Features:

  • Don’t make your microsite too text heavy. Bite-sized chunks of information are an eye-catching way to quickly keep your audience engaged.
  • Microsites can sometimes break away from the organization’s regular branding to increase the visual impact.
  • Although microsites can deviate from the brand somewhat, always include a logo or some mention of your organization to introduce yourself to visitors who are unaware of who you are. This also creates credibility.
  • Test everything! The results can sometimes even lead to changes on your main website.
  • Consistency of user experience is very important. Embed donation forms rather than linking to a main website form. This has been proven to improve results significantly.
  • Microsites can be a great cultivation tool for contests or other engagement activities.
  • After gaining new supporters through a microsite, have a plan to integrate these people into your regular messaging cycle.

If your organization wants a fresh new way to promote a campaign – a way to think outside the box – then think about investing in a microsite. The results can really be surprising!

If you didn’t get a chance to join me and my colleague Carla Chadwick on our webinar on microsites, “No Small Thing: How a Microsite Can Achieve Big Goals for your Nonprofit!“, you can still listen to the recording!

Like what you're reading?
Sign up to receive the latest articles and updates on nonprofit tech from NTEN and its community of experts.

Subscribe

Paul Habig
I'm currently President of Sanky Communications and specialize in interactive/integrated fundraising and communications for nonprofits. I have more than a dozen years of Internet marketing and fundraising experience. Developing multi-faceted integrated online strategies for more than 50 non-profit organizations such as The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Covenant House, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Institution. My background in the nonprofit world not only includes consulting, but I also held marketing and fundraising positions at the YMCA, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), and Pontifical Mission. I also ran my own Internet marketing business working with brands such as VitaminWater and SmartWater. Today, I'm an active member of the Greater New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and serves as Chair of the website for Fund Raising Day in New York and also serves as Board Member for the Direct Marketing Fundraising Association. And, I frequently speak about online fundraising and integrated marketing at workshops and conferences around the country.