It’s one of the most frustrating situations to be in with a website.

You’re getting traffic and know your nonprofit is doing amazing work to make the world a better place. But your website visitors aren’t taking meaningful action once they’re on your site!

We call this “hollow traffic” because it doesn’t ultimately help your nonprofit fulfill its mission.

If that’s your situation, you’re not alone. I’ve talked to hundreds of nonprofits that are facing the exact same challenge.

The good news is there are some common website conversion rate killers that may be acting like roadblocks for your visitors. Below I’ve outlined some of the most common ones I’ve seen, along with how you can go about fixing them.

What is a Conversion Rate?

Before we get to the meat of this post, let’s make sure we’re clear on what we’re even talking about here.


A key action you’ve defined for your nonprofit’s website.

This often includes actions like making a donation or registering to volunteer. But it can also include actions for visitors earlier in their supporter journey, like signing up for your email newsletter or downloading one of your resources.

These conversions will ultimately help you define “success” for your website.

Conversion Rate

The number of website visitors who converted out of the total number of visitors.

Put another way, you take the number of visitors that took your key actions, and divide that by the total number of visitors. This gives you the percentage of visitors that have taken the key actions on your website you’d like them to take.

(If you’re just getting started with analytics, check out How to Make Website Analytics Reports for Your Nonprofit.)

So What’s a Low Conversion Rate?

Simple question. Nuanced answer.

The short answer is there’s no such thing as a universal conversion rate benchmark. At least not one that’s helpful.

Every nonprofit is different. Different websites. Different audiences. And different actions you’re defining as conversions.

You can find benchmarks out there that’ll give thresholds your site should exceed. But site-wide conversion rates are so easy to inflate by simply defining conversions that are easier to achieve.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and a place for using conversion rate benchmarks. For pages like donation pages or landing pages, some idea of how you stack up against industry averages can be helpful. But that’s just not useful across an entire website.

Instead of relying on data from other nonprofits, use your own current conversion rate data as a benchmark. And then optimize your site to beat it.

The rest of this post  is aimed at helping you identify common website conversion rate killers and turn more visitors into supporters.

Nonprofit Website Conversion Rate Killers

If not enough of your visitors are converting on your nonprofit’s website, these conversion rate killers could be to blame.

Below each, we’ve also shared tips on how to overcome it.

#1. Targeting Everyone. Connecting with No One.

One of the most common issues we see is a nonprofit unclear on who they’re trying to reach with their website in the first place. This lack of definition often leads to casting too wide a net.

I totally get why this approach is so common. You want your potential supporter pool to be as wide as possible, so you want your website to appeal to everyone.

The problem is, if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re likely resonating with no one.

Targeting everyone will lead your messaging to get broader, your calls to action to get less specific, and your tone to get more generic. All of that makes it harder for your nonprofit to differentiate itself and stand out from the crowd.

How to Fix It

Start by getting clear on who you’re targeting with your website.

Create target audience personas to lay out who your website is for. Focus on what they care about and what motivates them to get involved with your organization over all the other options out there.

As you’re defining your ideal website visitors, it can be incredibly helpful to conduct interviews with existing donors and supporters to learn more about what motivated them to get involved.

Then make website decisions with their needs in mind, even if that means sacrificing the needs of other audiences. Resonating more completely with your ideal visitors is going to lead to a much larger lift in conversions than trying to target everyone, and ultimately speaking to no one.

#2. Your Pitch Isn’t Clear

I talk to a lot of nonprofits about building websites. And I always ask some version of “tell me how you explain your work to someone that’s never heard of you before.”

The best answers are short and clear, even to me as someone that’s unfamiliar with their cause.

If you struggle to succinctly answer this question in a way your mom/partner/buddy can easily understand, there’s no way your website visitors will get it.

Actual footage of visitors browsing your site

If visitors don’t get what you do or how you help, they’re gone.

How to Fix It

First off, strip away the jargon. Unless you’re targeting a technical audience, like scientific researchers, use language everyone will understand as much as you possibly can.

If you’re struggling to distill your work down into a few sentences that get your target audience to lean in and want to hear more, start by interviewing your staff or board. Ask them how they’d describe your work to someone that’s never heard of you before. You’ll hopefully start to see some trends emerge.

But don’t stop there. Take it a step further, and talk to some of your best supporters. These could be donors, volunteers or champions of your cause. Ask them to describe your work, and key in specifically on the language they use. How does it compare to the language on your site now? Or the language your staff and board used?

These folks have decided, out of all the nonprofits out there in the world,  your cause is one they want to support. Use their language and motivators in your website content and other marketing efforts. There’s a good chance it’ll resonate with others like them, and make those visitors more likely to get involved.

#3. Broken or Slow Conversion Paths

A conversion path is the journey a visitor takes on your website that ultimately leads to a conversion. It may seem obvious, but visitors can’t complete an action on your website if steps in the process are broken or frustratingly slow.

If there are actions on your website that visitors suddenly stop taking, that’s a clear signal to do some digging into what may be going on.

On a similar note, if your website (or any third-party tools you use) are slow to load, most visitors won’t wait around. If it takes more than a few seconds for something to load, many visitors will give up and leave.

How to Fix It

Start by testing the entire conversion path for all of your key website actions on a semi-regular basis. For most conversions, testing the process quarterly is a good place to start.

Complete the entire process, from starting on a popular landing page of your site all the way through completing the conversion.

I also recommend testing on not only your computer, but also your phone. This can help uncover any device-specific issues your visitors may be running into.

Obviously prioritize fixing anything on your website that’s broken. Especially if it’s preventing visitors from taking an important action, like submitting a form.

But don’t underestimate the power of speed. Faster is always better when it comes to converting visitors on your website. First, test your site’s speed using a tool like GTmetrix. To speed things up across your website, check out these tips from Moz.

If the issue you’re facing is with a third-party tool, try reaching out to the tool’s support to ask how to optimize the load speed.

#4. Overwhelming Visitors with Too Many Choices

When faced with too many choices, many people won’t do anything. If you’re asking visitors to join your email list, donate and volunteer all in the same breath, it could be causing visitors to leave without taking any of those actions. 

I get why this happens too, and it comes from a good place. You want to meet your visitors where they’re at, and provide a way to get involved that feels right to them.

But too much choice quickly gets overwhelming. As the number of choices increases, so does the mental energy it takes to make a decision, making it less likely your website visitor will ultimately convert.

How to Fix It

Each page on your site should have one primary call to action.

On each page, identify the most important next step for visitors to take based on the problem they’re looking to solve. You can then zero in on that one ask to make it as compelling as possible to the page’s target audience.

Some pages (like your homepage) may be aimed at a wide variety of audiences looking to accomplish different things. For these pages, it’s alright to include more than one call to action. But it’s still helpful to pick a primary call to action and give it more weight on the page. You can then present alternative actions visitors can take if that primary action isn’t right for them.

To see what that looks like in practice, here’s a recipe for a successful homepage.

But even on these pages, limit your calls to action as much as possible. Remember, simplicity typically performs better when it comes to converting website visitors.

#5. Your Actions Are Too Complicated

Again, simplicity is key. (Seeing a theme here?)

If an action feels like too much work or takes a long time to complete, fewer people are going to complete it. Do you really need to ask for a visitor’s full name when they sign up for an email list or will a simple email address get you where you need to go?

How to Fix It

Simplify! Spend some time completing every action on your website that you’re asking visitors to take and look for opportunities to remove unnecessary complications:

  • Cut the number of fields in online forms
  • Shorten the content you’re asking visitors to read
  • Ask for information that’ll be easy for visitors to enter
  • Reduce the number of steps in signup or onboarding processes

Be ruthless. If a piece of information is simply a “nice to have” data point as opposed to something crucial to your workflow, cut it.

You can always get additional information from visitors later.

#6. Visitors Don’t Trust You

If you haven’t gained a visitor’s trust, you better believe they aren’t about to hand over their personal information.

This includes trust in you as a good steward of their sensitive information. But also trust that you can deliver on the promises you’re making about your mission and the work you’re doing to make the world a better place.

Building trust and credibility with your visitors takes time, but there are signals you can offer newcomers to your website to help speed up that process.

How to Fix It

Trust is fragile. It’s slowly built and erodes quickly.

That said, there are plenty of ways you can build trust with your website visitors:

With a bit of thought, your website can help your nonprofit boost your credibility in a big way. And a bit of trust goes a long way in convincing visitors to get involved.

There you go. Six of the most common website conversion rate killers standing in the way of your visitors becoming supporters of your cause.

None of them are insurmountable. Tackle them one by one, and watch your conversion rates tick up.