Imagine for a moment that you’re no longer a fundraiser for a charity. Imagine instead that you own a vintage clothing shop on a quaint main street of a charming small town just outside a major Canadian city.

Obviously, your customers are the lifeblood of your business. And, as your mother taught you, you know that you’ll never have a second chance to make a good first impression.

So how do you – how does your store – make that first impression?

By the way it looks of course.

People will have done all sorts of mental processes, made assumptions and come to conclusions about your store – and you – before they even open your door. Every retailer knows the the appearance of the storefront – from lighting to displayed product, from promotional signs to clean windows – is critically important to making a great first impression.

The purpose of a retail storefront is strategically singular. It’s one and only role is to get people to step inside. If it succeeds you might make a sale. If it doesn’t, you definitely won’t.

Now, let’s make you a fundraiser again…especially a fundraiser for a provincial/territorial or national charity. Obviously, most of your donors and prospects aren’t going to walk by your office and think ‘hey, I think I’ll pop in and check them out’.

Your donors and prospects are going to go first to the storefront that we call your website.

Rather than offer tips this time, I’m just going to ask you a handful of questions:

  1. Is your storefront (website home page) so cluttered that it takes me too long to figure out what to do? Where to go? Whether I’m interested? (Keep in mind that you’ve got about 9 seconds to make that critical first impression, or the visitor will go someplace else.)
  2. Is your ‘news’ three or four months out of date?
  3. Does it give me a very quick and simple menu that allows me to choose what I’m most interested in?
  4. Does it tell me that you’re happy to see me?
  5. Oh yeah. If I came to give money, is it easy for me to do that? Is your donate button big enough? Is it in the right location? And – once I click on it – is the donation form satisfying for me to use?

The data keeps pouring in from every source. Prospects are checking out websites BEFORE making their gift decision (or deciding on the AMOUNT of their gift). Donors are checking your site to see what you’re doing with donated money.

Take a walk down any main street in Canada. Walk into any shop. Ask the store owner if her storefront is a critically important element of her sales/marketing strategy. I think you already know what she’ll tell you.