McSweeney’s Internet Tendency took aim in February at nonprofit websites, and hit a chord. Their post entitled We Dare You to Figure Out What Our Nonprofit Does is snarky, biting, and in our experience not entirely unfair.

Our sense is that organization websites, especially viewed through a fundraising lens, seem to have become more disorganized and less user-focused in recent years. Cases for giving are hard to find or non-existent. Donate options, especially at the midlevel and up, are buried or non-existent. And more and more websites feel like vanity sites instead of thoughtful and strategic efforts to connect with the outside world.

This matters. Our newly-released megastudy of midlevel donor attitudes and habits found that visiting an organization’s website is the most common way potential midlevel donors research a possible gift. If your website is not making a compelling and readable case to give and an easy way for a donor to complete their gift, you are losing money.

My biggest pet peeve is the writing. Here’s an experiment you can run right now to illustrate the problem. Take your “About Us” copy from your website. Cut and paste it into Hemingway Editor, a well-regarded (and free) tool you can use to measure the readability of your copy. And see what it says. If it says your copy is past 8th or 9th grade, it’s probably extremely difficult for the average reader to skim, no matter how educated the reader is. If it says ‘post-graduate,’ a score I see a large percentage of the time, it is effectively unreadable.

Go do it now, I’ll wait…

Here’s what McSweeney’s says (trigger warning – it’s merciless):

You would think we could convey our purpose in plain human language, but that isn’t the case. Our initiatives exist in a realm beyond comprehension. Our activities can be understood only by using a particle accelerator, an AI supercomputer, and a fifth-century Benedictine codex. Even the description you’re reading now should only be viewed with special glasses, like an eclipse.

So, how does our staff spend its time? We can describe it in three simple words: we drive change. There, we told you. You want to know more? Fine, here you go. We leverage resources to build capacity. We align partners for impactful solutions. We address needs, embolden stakeholders, empower the powerless, and give voice to the voiceless





I recently asked the owner of a web company how many of their nonprofit clients user test their websites. She just laughed.

When something is so off that McSweeny’s finds a rich enough target to go after it, you know you have a problem. It’s a fixable problem. Time to go fix it.


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