Most charities are recruiting fewer than 18 new donors a year through the Internet according to a news item in the Third Sector (a magazine for the UK voluntary sector). This is obviously an average, and the World Land Trust is clearly way ahead of most other charities, getting an average of that many new donors each week. The average donation made was £26, which is also way below the £40 or more made to the World Land Trust on average. The news item was based on research carried out at the Henley Management College by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay. Although the report is based on rather superficial research, it seems to reflect the views of most charity fundraisers.
According to John Burton, the CEO of the World Land Trust, there are several reasons for the success of the WLT. "First and foremost, we have invested time and staff in a long-term commitment to the Internet. As soon as it became obvious that the Internet was going to dominate communications, we started to take it very seriously. We monitor trends and developments, and we also invest in advertising on the Internet. Perhaps most important of all, we have ensured that our web site design is appropriate. By looking at other charity and commercial websites, it is easy to see what works and what doesn't work. But it also means constantly reviewing and modifying the site - on an almost daily basis."
In 1999 the World Land Trust was contracted by the UK's Department for International Development to create a website on tropical forest issues (www.focusonforests.org), which enabled a considerable expertise in web design to be developed at the same time. The research carried out in the course of developing the website has proved invaluable in developing a website that attracts donors as well. According to John Burton "Many charities pride themselves on their web design, and some even win prizes, but these sites do not always attract donors. In fact, very often the fanciest, most gimmicky and up-to-date sites are the least effective at fund raising."
The World Land Trust remains committed to improving its website and would welcome suggestions on contents and ease of navigation and use. We would particularly welcome feedback on the use of the Trust's online donation forms, which are currently being reviewed as part of the ongoing quest to make the Trust's website as user-friendly as possible.
The World Land Trust website can be found on: www.worldlandtrust.org