Sometimes I’m asked, What makes a good Giving website? Without the intention of sounding flippant, the answer is, the same things that make any website great.

For some reason, people have difficulty translating the best of the web to fundraising. I even get the sense that some think a special potion is needed to produce an effective giving site. I understand that giving sites have a distinct purpose. Still, what works generally for all websites also works specifically when communicating about institutional fundraising goals.

Recently, I’ve spent time digging through a few fundraising sites of educational institutions. I’m not suggesting that these websites are just right top to bottom and through and through. Instead, for each one, I’ll highlight certain aspects that I think are worth consideration.

Don’t confuse me with your lingo.
Often, websites use labels that make sense internally but are confusing to target audiences. Like any world, the fundraising world is full of insider terminology; examples include words like annual giving, stewardship, or corporate and foundation relations. I am drawn to the simple but compelling navigation options on the Giving to Humboldt State University site. The labels are understandable and that’s recommended for any type of website.
Humboldt State University

Give me just the right mix of choices.
Putting together all the right elements on a home page takes a bit of genius, right? In the best of circumstances, you need a mix of content that will produce an emotional response as well as content that allows people to immediately find what they came to the site to do. I think the Giving to University at Buffalo site offers just the right blend of compelling stories and practical tools.
University at Buffalo

Give me some (white) space.
Elegant web design includes the exceptional use of color and white space. When done well, white space provides a clean, professional site that is both uncluttered and fresh. I think the Campaign for the University of Virginia website fits the bill. I also like the way that nearly all the color on the site comes from vibrant photography.
University of Virginia

Let me focus on a narrow area of interest if I want.
The right-column feature on the Support Ensworth site surfaces an option to name a seat in the new theatre. I like that just enough information is offered so that I don’t feel tricked into clicking to find some detail about the amount of money necessary to participate.
The Ensworth School

Give me something that matters to me.
Personalized communication works, and getting inside the heads of your visitors goes a long way. Think about what you can show and tell that will connect people to your goal, and perhaps, encourage them to act. The Ithaca College Building the Rowing Center website includes a blog chronicling the construction of the rowing center, 40 years of newsletters from the crewing program, and thoughts from alumni about the project.
Ithaca College

Let me tell it my way.
People have been making a point through storytelling for centuries. Digital storytelling brings any website to life and more and more there is an expectation that you’ll ask me to share my own. The Annual Giving website at University of Oregon features a [email protected] blog and a way to Share Your Duck Story.
University of Oregon

How about you? What have you discovered in your own research of giving sites for education? Do you have any favorites to share?

mStoner Staff

AUTHOR - mStoner Staff

mStoner, Inc. helps clients to tell their authentic stories by clarifying their unique brand value proposition, creating a content strategy to communicate the brand effectively, and implementing compelling and dynamic communications across the web, mobile, social media, print, and other channels. We focus on research, data, and results.


  • Christopher Pollock

    Susan, I’m honored to be included on this list. You get at the exact reasons why my team designed the Rowing Center website the way we did. The crew team itself is a major success story for Ithaca College, and it had very humble beginnings—the first crew members in the ’70s found themselves changing in junked cars—so we wanted to use the campaign site to help tell that story and explain why a new rowing center was the next natural evolutionary step for IC’s crew team.

    The campaign finished this summer, having exceeded its $1 million goal, and we’ll be using the website over the next couple years to keep donors and other stakeholders informed about the building’s progress, sharing photos and testimonials along the way. Thanks again!

    Christopher Pollock
    Director, Advancement Communications
    Ithaca College

  • Susan Evans

    I really liked your site – keep up the good work. Congrats on exceeding the campaign goal!

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