5 simple ways to increase Catholic donations through your website
I’ve been approached by Catholic parishes (and organizations) to re-design their websites. With nearly everyone streaming the internet these days, your website is one of the best resources for attracting people to your parish, your ministry and your mission.
Websites, however, have experienced a paradigm shift in recent years which most Catholics are not aware of. A few years ago, the focus was on providing loads of information to a generic audience. The focus has now shifted. Rather than seeking information, people now search for content that communicates with them, NOT AT THEM. Web design has responded, making content interact with the user.
Many Catholics have unfortunately not followed suit. Instead of providing a platform for dialogue, they still overwhelm the reader with a flood of links, photos, details and outdated material. Instead of engaging with their readers, they encourage them to tune out and click ‘close’.
I offer 5 ideas to improve your website. These ideas will increase the dialogue you have with your readers (visitors), which will subsequently increase engagement. Increased engagement is the root of all increases in donations.
By increasing engagement, readers recognize your value and therefore take the next step, asking, “how can I get involved?”. When a reader reaches this question, this means real opportunities for engaging with your mission and donating.
Here are the 5 ways to increase donations through increased website engagement:
1. Publish your Sunday sermon on your website.
Blogging has become the rave in recent years. What the world doesn’t recognize is that priests have been blogging for 2,000 years! Priests should publish their blog each week, allowing parishioners to read the sermon throughout the week. They can forward it to a friend or family member, and if they missed Mass altogether, they know the sermon is accessible. If someone visits the website, they can read it and engage with what the priest is preaching about on Sundays.
Posting a sermon as a blog allows you to keep in touch with people the entire week. A key reason why people donate is that they value how you nourish them. If they have access to the sermon 7 days a week, that’s six more days they can be inspired.
Not sure how to build a website or how to improve yours? Check out this step-by-step article I wrote on how to do just that.
2. Buy the domain name.
Too often I see parishes whose domain name has ‘.wordpress.com’ or ‘blogspot.com’. From the laity’s perspective, this looks unprofessional. A domain name costs less than $15 for the year. It also allows you to improve your website’s visibility on the web, meaning people can find your website (your parish) much easier. So, for $15, you can dramatically increase your website traffic, which will lead to more foot traffic to your parish.
3. Replace the donate button with ‘Mass Intentions’.
Let me explain through an analogy. When a person places a donation in the basket or collection box in the church, it’s connected to prayer. The person is, therefore, engaging both spiritually and physically with your parish.
The same should be for your website. People come to your website for two things in particular: Mass times and location. Why not display next to the Mass times a button that says ‘Mass Intentions’ rather than a ‘donate’ button? This allows the reader to immediately interact with you as if they were in your church. Along with the ‘Mass intention’ button, you could also have a ‘Light a candle’ button.
I wrote an article which outlines and debunks the misconceptions around online donations. Yes, online donations (and getting a lot is a reality). However, not in the way you think- check it out.
4. Place Mass Times and location directly on your homepage.
As I mentioned, people visit your website primarily for two reasons. They want to know when Mass is and where you are located. Most parish websites, however, make you hunt for this information. They hide it as a link in a dropdown menu (which are not practical for smartphones, so I recommend not using them at all.
This is web design from the 90s and outdated…), between blurry/dark photos of past events and a long description of its history. Why not keep things simple and give people what they want immediately without overflowing them with information? By designing your website for the reader, they will more than likely do two things. One, they will visit your parish, and two, return to your website to find the next Mass time.
5. Track your web traffic.
There is little reason to have a website if no one is visiting it. Today, a website is one of the most effective methods for reaching out to people. Knowing how many people visit your site (‘web traffic’) can help you understand if you are reaching out to people. It’s very similar to tracking your ‘foot traffic’ in your church.
With a website, people don’t have to physically enter your church. They can ‘come in’ from the comfort of their home, their work and even the local restaurant. By tracking your website statistics, you can know how well you are doing to attract people. Google Analytics and SEO statistics (all free with a domain website) allow you to easily track these statistics for and help you learn how to increase your web traffic.
You can learn how to track and improve your web traffic in 2 minutes by reading this article.
I hope these ideas have been helpful. I have used them to improve Catholic websites and see the results.
What do you think would increase Catholic donations through your website?
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