You are probably familiar with this real estate maxim. People who know the housing market business will always tell you that where a house is located is a HUGE determinant of its value.

The same is true of your charity’s website – and especially the legacy giving section of your site.

I look at legacy giving website pages almost every day and I see two fundamental problems across the board: both involving the charity’s use of its digital real estate.

Actually, it’s not so much digital real estate as the real estate of the prospect’s mind. When someone comes to the legacy section of your site, you have a very limited amount of time to:

1. Get them to the pages they’re looking for

2. Start giving them the information they’re most interested in

When you get them to the right place – and start appealing to their interests – you are going to keep them there longer, build their interest and increase the chance that they will get closer to making a legacy gift.

You can’t get there from here!

The first issue revolves around how easy or difficult it is for me to get to your legacy giving pages once I’ve landed on your site’s home page. Can I find legacy giving easily? How many clicks do I have to make to get to the page that gets me started?

I’m constantly surprised at how difficult we seem to want to make it for our constituents to learn more about legacy giving. I remember calling a new client and telling him that there was no legacy giving information on his site at all. He insisted that there was. I told him that I had clicked on the DONATE button – and that there was nothing about legacy giving at all. He then told me that the legacy pages were found when I clicked on the GET INVOLVED button on the home page menu. Now I don’t know about you but when I think about leaving a bequest, I think I’m donating more than getting involved!

The second issue here is what we should call the legacy giving section of your site. The simple rule is that it should resonate with what the constituent already knows. For that reason, the best language you can use for your tab name is LEAVE A GIFT IN YOUR WILL. Recent research by Russell James at Texas Tech University shows that ‘gift in will’ is the language that our donors understand best. Our experience in donor focus groups over the last eleven years tells us the same thing.

You want me to do what?

The second problem I see ALL the time is that once I get to your legacy section, you start talking about a bunch of things I don’t care about and don’t understand. Most ‘front pages’ of legacy sections start out with a focus on the planning of estates and then move on to a menu of planned giving choices like wills, insurance, gifts of securities, annuities and so on.

There are two things to remember here:

  • The donor isn’t coming to your site to learn about planning her estate (much less realize tax saving). She’s coming to your site to find out how she can make the world a better place by deepening her support to your mission. The initial page should focus on the donor’s humanity/generosity and the primacy of your mission.
  • Ask anyone who works in planned giving. A minimum of 90% of their planned giving revenue comes from BEQUESTS! I believe strongly that if you want to talk about those other giving vehicles, you should bury them much deeper in your site, and not put them on the front page. So, rather than talking about complex gift vehicles, why not tell a story about a donor who made a bequest? Or start answering the question ‘Is a Bequest Gift Right For Me?’.

If you’d like to look at a site that’s made great use of its real estate (on a limited budget) I suggest you visit Catholic Missions In Canada. This is a small organization with limited resources that has made great use of its digital real estate – and has kept the focus on the donor and the mission.

Fixing your site needn’t be complicated or expensive. Why don’t you make it your mission to do a makeover in 2015? Have fun!

This article first appeared on Hilborn.