Appealing to all of the audiences on your nonprofit’s website is a tall order.  We’ve talked about the importance of knowing your audience before on this blog, but it’s not generally easy to do.

After much conversation, many organizations can whittle this list of audiences down to a couple of primary ones (say donors and those that utilize your services).  From this point, we hear a common line of thinking that goes something like this:

“Our audiences want distinct information.  We’re thinking to make it easier to find what they’re looking for, we’ll have two paths they can travel.  And we’ll make it easy for them to choose what audience they’re in on the homepage.”

This seems logical.  And at times (very, very rarely) it may make some sense.

But it’s likely not the right choice for your nonprofit.  Here’s why.

1. Doesn’t Allow for Audience Overlap

Such an approach puts you in a funny position of organizing your content by reader, not by subject area.  As a result, you’ll be in a tough spot when a page applies to both audiences.

For instance, let’s say you’re constructing your site around the two audiences mentioned above (donors and those seeking services).  The pages that detail your services will perhaps be more applicable to those seeking your services, but many potential donors will want to read about your services in depth before making a contribution.  Making this information hard for donors to find could negatively impact your online fundraising in a serious way.

If you go this route, you’ll either run the risk of making overlapping information difficult to find, or create a ton of duplicate content to make it accessible to both audiences.

Not only does duplicate content get confusing to visitors really quickly, it’s also not great from a search engine optimization perspective since the two pages are essentially competing with one another for search traffic.

2. Doesn’t Account for Those Not in One of Those Audiences

Organizing content by primary audience can also quickly alienate your visitors that don’t fall within one of the audiences you’ve identified.  For instance, if you present “Donors” and “People Seeking Services” as your audience choices, where do volunteers go?  Or members of the press?  Or those interested in applying to work for your organization?

When you explicitly dictate who your website’s intended audience is, you also indirectly dictate who it isn’t.

3. Most Visitors Won’t Land on Your Homepage

Finally, and perhaps most compellingly, it’s important to remember that most of your visitors likely won’t land on your homepage.  Sure, those that search for the name of your nonprofit likely will get the homepage.  But what about those landing on your services pages?  Or all of that blog content you’ve been producing?  Or coming to your website by clicking a link you shared on social media or in your email newsletter?

There are a ton of roads leading into your nonprofit’s website.  And only some of them lead to your homepage.  Don’t rely on every visitor entering through your homepage.  If starting on your homepage is a necessary step in navigating your website, expect many of your visitors to be lost, frustrated, and leaving your website quickly.

Instead, Organize Content by Subject (and Make it Easy to Find)

It’s probably obvious we’re not generally advocates for relying on visitors to select their audience affiliation.  So what should you do instead?

Focus on the topic of each page.  Group your pages logically by topic and make page titles ridiculously easy to understand.  Doing so allows your visitors to find all information regardless of audience affiliation.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t consider your audience.  You absolutely need to know who you want to drive to your website and what they’re likely looking for.  Doing so will help you know what content to produce, what tone to use, how to drive traffic, and how to thoughtfully link between content on your website.

But don’t organize your content by audience.  Your visitors will thank you (or at least view more pages, make more donations and have a better overall experience on your site).

Have you dealt with organizing your website content by audience in the past?  Or have you successfully done so on your organization’s site?  Let me know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Petr Magera


    • Thanks a lot Brad! In terms of the distinction, I think it depends on your situation. I tend to think of niche applying more to a business model and audience applying more to those visiting your site. There could certainly be a ton of overlap, but they could also be somewhat distinct, especially if you’re creating a website for a specific purpose (other than to promote your organization).