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December 22, 2020

Charity Microsites: The What, Why, Where, When, and How

Imagine a scenario: You’re planning for your annual fundraising event. This is your biggest event of the year, helping you raise the bulk of your revenue in order to reach your goals. As you’re planning your marketing campaign and outreach strategy, you hear that creating a charity microsite, a separate website still associated with your core organization, might be your best bet.

Even if you haven’t created a microsite before, you’ve probably already encountered numerous ones without realizing it. Many businesses (and increasingly more nonprofits) are using microsites as a creative and engaging marketing strategy. 

Take Adobe’s Creative Types microsite as an example. This microsite is a “What Creative Type Are You?” quiz, which encourages visitors to figure out the type of creator they are and provides specific advice on how to flourish with the Adobe Creative platform. It exists as its own site but ultimately stems from Adobe and promotes its services.

So, how can you leverage microsites as a charitable nonprofit organization? At Kanopi, we often help nonprofits with developing, designing, and supporting their websites. Drawing on our experiences, we’ve written this dedicated guide to help you answer this question and many more. 

Table of contents

Contact Kanopi to see if a charity microsite would benefit your organization!

What Is A Charity Microsite?

In the simplest terms, a charity microsite is an individual web page or a small cluster of pages that function as a separate site either within or to complement an existing nonprofit’s website. 

What Is A Charity Microsite Used For?

Microsites are often used as a focused marketing strategy to reach a specific audience or meet a specific need. Having the power to design and customize a separate site enables nonprofit leaders to:

  • Target specific audiences and individuals who require specific messaging
  • Experiment with different media formats (e.g. blogs, video, audio)
  • Create another platform to gain online visibility
  • Bring attention to a new event or program they are launching
  • Create an alternative way to grow their email lists or gain social media followers
  • Show another side of the nonprofit organization (this can include a change in tone of voice)
  • Provide a platform that functions as one part of a whole service they provide (e.g. specific nonprofit campaigns, webinars)

But a microsite won’t perform all of these functions unless you develop it with a few key qualities and factors in mind.

What Makes A Good Charity Microsite?

While you can probably quickly create a microsite using your dedicated content management system (CMS), that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually contributing to your organization. Without upkeep and careful planning, a microsite can end up being pushed to the wayside.

To ensure that your charity microsite will effectively reach your target audience, it needs the following qualities:

  • Flexibility. Once you create your charity microsite, that doesn’t mean your work is done. As people interact and engage with your site, you’ll learn a little more about how to best reach them and meet their needs. Your site should be flexible, and able to pivot if circumstances or your focus changes.
  • Unique content. The microsite should have content that’s as unique as possible, standing alone and distinguishing itself from your regular website. Since it is independent of your core site, your content should be more focused and direct, focusing on what furthers the purpose and mission of the microsite. For example, if your microsite is dedicated to a blog roll, don’t repeat the same content from your core site. Your microsite’s audience doesn’t necessarily need to know about your fundraising initiatives or your organization’s history.
  • Intuitive navigation. If a microsite has more than one page, it should be easy and intuitive to navigate, directing users to key areas. This is the same as your regular organization’s website. The more you streamline your navigation, the better your user experience (UX) will be and the more likely supporters will continue engaging with the microsite.
  • Shareability. Because of its unique nature, your microsite should be easy to share on social media, mobile apps, email, and more. As a key marketing tool, this shareability is key if you want to expand your target audience. This is especially critical if the charity microsite is for a nonprofit campaign/event.
  • Clear and actionable CTA. Microsites don’t exist for no reason — there is always a purpose. Ensure that your microsite has a clear call-to-action so that as soon as users land on it, they immediately know what they should do. If your microsite is for an event, display your event registration button and form clearly.
  • Analytic capabilities. A huge benefit of microsites is the ability to develop very specific reports targeted to specific campaigns and projects. Ensure your microsite is integrated with your nonprofit CRM and performance analysis tool to track any key performance indicators (KPIs). This way, you can have an accurate and comprehensive view of who accesses your site, what pages are most popular, and more.
  • Optimized URL name. Since you want your microsite to stand on its own, it definitely needs an optimized URL name. The URL should be a direct reflection of the mission and purpose of the microsite, whether it’s the slogan, campaign name, or target keyword.

Additional Resources:

Why Are Charity Microsites Beneficial?

Oftentimes, nonprofit leaders grapple with whether making a charity microsite is truly worth it. After all, it’s going to take a bit of time to plan out its purpose, develop, and design it.

However, adding a charity microsite to your digital nonprofit strategy brings multiple benefits that other marketing efforts might struggle more to achieve.

Here are a couple of unique benefits to keep in mind:

  • Increased brand visibility. Because there’s another whole site representing your nonprofit brand, this means more opportunities for people to find and engage with you.
  • New lead generation. Your charity microsite can often be one of your largest lead drivers. Because of its unique quality to target a key audience, there’s a good chance that many of your new supporters will find out about your organization through the microsite.
  • Seamless part of the donor journey. The donor journey describes how a supporter engages with your organization before they ultimately make a gift. Your microsite can be an intuitive step in this journey. Prospects can learn about your organization through the microsite, and then with key CTAs become introduced to your other online offerings.
  • Boosted supporter engagement. Because you can host unique content that strays from your normal brand on your charity microsite, there’s a huge opportunity to increase supporter engagement. Elements like interactive slides, videos, or even a fun quiz can engage your audience in a fun and interesting way, while still introducing them to your brand.
  • Improved SEO performance. If your microsite has genuinely valuable content that differs from your main site, it can potentially drive your SEO ranking with carefully chosen and placed backlinks. However, that doesn’t mean you should be creating microsites for the sole purpose of SEO. Search engines favor sites with high-quality content, and if that is spread thinly between too many microsites, you won’t be driving as much value to your core website.
  • Help with measuring success. As mentioned earlier, a microsite is great for analysis reasons. Because it is dedicated to a specific project or purpose, you can easily determine its success with KPIs. Get a better sense of the number of leads you’re getting and how people are finding out about the microsite.

Further, microsites are generally pretty affordable to create. You don’t have to break your budget; all you need is your capable CMS. You can even use the one you already depend on for your main site. And, the time and effort you put into your charity microsite will surely pay off once you meet your fundraising targets and notice an increase in conversions.

Additional Resources:

Where Are Charity Microsites?

As you already know by now, a charity microsite exists outside your main nonprofit website. It is not a landing page on your website or in any way a part of your page structure and navigation. However, it is still branded to your organization.

When you think about where to find your charity microsite, you’ll have to understand the key differences between a microsite and your regular one:

  • Different domain or subdomain name. Your microsite shouldn’t just be your regular domain name and a page title. Make sure your domain or subdomain is different so that it stands out.
  • Microsites are usually temporary.  Once that is over, the microsite no longer needs to exist. It’s common for microsites to only be temporary. However, in special cases like a microsite for a blogroll, you might keep the site around and regularly update it so that it is continuously having a purpose.
  • Microsites hold different content. You already know this, but it’s crucial that your microsite doesn’t host the same content as your regular site. It should be able to stand alone as an entity, without visitors needing to be familiar with your original brand to meaningfully engage.
  • Microsites require their own strategy. Your website marketing and outreach strategy should not be the same as your microsite. After all, they are serving very different purposes. Your microsite strategy should be much more targeted to meet the needs of a very specific audience.

Where you might find a charity microsite will depend on its purpose and role in your digital strategy. If you want to make it easier for supporters to find, add clear links to it within your regular site.

Additional Resources:

When Should You Develop A Charity Microsite?

Now that you know the purpose and benefits of a charity microsite, it’s time to consider why and when you might create one.

Here are some of the common scenarios in which nonprofits will develop a charity microsite:

  • Campaign-based microsite.
  • Large events or conferences microsite.
  • Published media (blog or webinar) microsite.
  • Online donation microsite.

However, just because these are great opportunities for a charity microsite, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s worth creating one. Remember, only a good and valuable microsite will bring any of the benefits you’d want. Before creating a microsite, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will you be reusing content from your main website?
  • How long will you have the microsite up? Is it worth the time and resources to maintain it?
  • Do you struggle to support your existing site?
  • Does the microsite’s purpose stray from your nonprofit’s brand? 
  • Is your microsite audience different from your primary audience?
  • Do you have enough content to create a microsite?

If you answered yes to the first three questions, you might want to rethink creating a charity microsite. You might be better off developing a new page within your regular site. If you answered yes to the last three, then a microsite is something you should seriously consider.

For more in-depth help on whether a microsite is best for your nonprofit, consider speaking to a nonprofit tech consultant.

Additional Resources:

How Can You Develop A Charity Microsite?

If you’ve decided that a charity microsite is in your future, it’s time to start planning and developing. A microsite will require some thoughtful consideration, especially if you want it to be genuinely successful and valuable to your organization.

Here are the general steps you might follow:

  1. Set the purpose of your microsite. Are you promoting a fundraising campaign or hosting another nonprofit project? What do you want your microsite to accomplish?
  2. Research your target audience. This way you have a clear understanding of how to best reach them and meet their needs.
  3. Decide on a domain or subdomain name and take the necessary steps to own it. This might require purchasing a domain.
  4. Implement an SEO strategy with keyword research. This ensures that your microsite will show up on relevant internet searches and increase accessibility.
  5. Think about microsite design and structure. What do you want your microsite to look like? Should it have multiple pages?
  6. Use a CMS to start creating content. Popular CMS platforms that you might use are WordPress and Drupal. WordPress is great for smaller builds with more compressed timelines, while Drupal might be better for more complex microsites that plan to grow over time.

Creating a microsite is similar to your regular website. It just requires a much more specific and targeted marketing strategy, especially if you want it to accomplish the goals you set in place.

To ensure that your charity microsite is leveraging all opportunities and reaching your target audience, consider partnering with a nonprofit tech consultant like Kanopi.

Partner With Kanopi For Your Charity Microsite

We at Kanopi Studios are passionate about taking websites to the next level. As a top partner for nonprofits, we’ve developed more than 150 sites with our thorough research and a continuous improvement approach.

If you’re looking for help in development, maintenance, and support for your microsite, Kanopi has the perfect services to meet those needs:

  • Research to evaluate your nonprofit’s internal needs and ensure your charity microsite is helping reach major goals, improving your overall website UX.
  • User persona discovery to become familiar with your target audience and design your microsite in a way that invites them in and leads them to the target action in an intuitive manner.
  • Microsite design, development, and support. Kanopi even offers a website growth plan to ensure that your site is sustainable for as long as possible.
  • Staff augmentation thanks to our talented team members. If you need additional help when it comes to designing or developing your microsite, we’re here to help.

The Kanopi Studio team has an average of 11 years of experience for both the Drupal and WordPress platforms and is ready to help you begin your microsite journey. Explore our portfolio of nonprofit clients to see the great work we’ve done and the results we’ve helped to create.

Contact Kanopi to get started with your microsite today!